Show, don’t tell: Tips for robotics startups raising a Series B during a downturn

Raising a Series B for any startup is challenging right now, with many VCs pulling back on investments — funding for Series B rounds across all sectors fell 55% in August compared to a year earlier, for example.

But raising a Series B for a hardware startup can be even tougher. It has simply always been more difficult to get venture investors to fund a robotics project compared to a software-only venture, given robotics’ high capital requirements and the greater risk.

However, the climb uphill can get much easier if a robotics startup can showcase a solid business model, measurable metrics and a plan for the next 18 months. As an investor in AI and automation companies for over 20 years, I’ve backed dozens of robotics companies, and I continue to be bullish on the space.

You need to show that customers are deriving real value from your robots — saving time, money or both.

Here are several strategies founders can use to prepare their robotics companies for a successful Series B.

Show how your robot works

Robots are inherently visual (can anyone forget that video of Boston Dynamics robots dancing?) So when you pitch VCs on your automation company, it pays to demonstrate your robots in action.

If your robots are large installations in warehouses or on manufacturing lines, invite VCs to come to see them working. If they are small enough to transport, bring them with you to the pitch meeting. And always have high-quality video available to share on a computer or tablet during in-person pitches or online for virtual meetings. Seeing your product in action is critical to getting investors excited about it.

Show customer ROI

Show, don’t tell: Tips for robotics startups raising a Series B during a downturn by Ram Iyer originally published on TechCrunch

How to create a due diligence road map for Series B investors

I previously wrote about the “holy trinity” of materials that startups should have in their Series B data room: memo, deck and forecast. These three key documents should do the heavy lifting of capturing attention and communicating information across the partnership with high fidelity.

Now, I want to highlight how founders can tie these materials together for investors. If done well, these materials, along with various phone calls and presentations, will create the blueprint and backbone for an in-depth Series B due diligence process.

This blueprint is important because someone will likely read every single document in your data room, and you do not want them to get lost. Instead, you want to make their job very easy. The next set of materials falls squarely under the “minimize work” objective. By making things easy, you increase the chances of the outcome being in your favor.

Series B companies generally have sales, detailed cost breakdowns, forecast actualization records, patents, board presentations and more. There is a lot of information to go over because you have been around for a lot longer than a seed stage or Series A company.

The best offense is a strong due diligence questionnaire

Don’t make your data room so complicated that investors can’t find their way out of the details into accepting your arguments.

As an investor, I’m shocked that I don’t see DDQs more often. Not to be confused with a legal DDQ, this DDQ is often a 60- to 80-page document divided into sections and answering questions that investors will invariably ask.

Some questions will be straightforward. For example:

  • When and how was the company founded?
  • Please discuss the company’s vision and values.
  • How many employees does the company currently employ?
  • Please summarize the relevant expertise and experience of the management team.

The DDQ offers a good reference guide for such simple questions. It also should include some preemptive questions that investors like to ask, such as:

How to create a due diligence road map for Series B investors by Ram Iyer originally published on TechCrunch

Getting serious about Series B: 3 documents that will help founders control the narrative

I have now been an investor for two years after 15 years of entrepreneurship. If I had instead been an investor for two years and then gone out on my own, I would have saved myself a lot of heartache!

I have spent most of the last two years investing at Series B and helping portfolio companies prepare for this first “growth-y” round. There is a marked difference in what a Series B company is expected to look like versus a Series A company. As an entrepreneur, you have limited time to project that maturity to prospective funds.

This is one of the lessons I wish I understood when raising a Series B, so I hope you find this advice helpful when you navigate your larger raises. In this column, I will cover the key materials and collateral that will help you communicate your ideas successfully across a partnership.

A key complication as you progress from seed to Series A and then to Series B is that the bigger check size invariably means more people are involved in getting to a “yes.” Every venture firm has its own idiosyncrasies in how it votes, but understanding that you are truly “dating” the entire firm when you get to larger rounds is a vital insight that I never appreciated. This means you need to understand how to create materials that survive a brutal game of telephone from associates out to prove their smarts to founding GPs managing insane travel schedules.

A good strategy memo becomes the guideline for how the entire diligence process unfolds.

A Series B data room can be overwhelming. You want to proactively manage the order in which people access information and focus their attention on a few key documents that they can return to when they fall down a rabbit hole. Founders should think of three primary documents as their “holy trinity”: the deck, the strategy memo and the forecast model. These documents should do most of the heavy lifting for capturing people’s attention and ensuring that information is transferred within the partnership with high fidelity.

You want people to focus the vast majority of their attention on these three pieces of information. This is a great way to control the narrative and ensure that what you want to be transmitted is received by the other parties.

An elegant strategy memo is your most important document

Over the past few years, the strategy memo has emerged as a key part of initial diligence packages. Some people refer to it as a company-written investment memo, but I prefer the “strategy memo” title, because it’s not really an investment memo, which comes with scenario analyses, exit plans and other sections that would be awkward and a bit presumptuous for a company to externalize.

I have also heard it referred to as a “narrative deck” — basically a detailed, written version of your pitch. I also do not think this fully captures a great strategy memo, as it is more than just the deck. I see the deck almost as a derivative of the strategy memo.

Getting serious about Series B: 3 documents that will help founders control the narrative by Ram Iyer originally published on TechCrunch

AI-powered competitive enablement platform Klue lands $62M led by Tiger Global

Klue, an AI-powered competitive enablement platform, has raised $62 million in Series B funding led by Tiger Global, with participation from Salesforce Ventures. The Vancouver-based company combines intel collection capabilities with a modern approach to content distribution aimed at providing users with the insights needed to drive revenue and business impact.

The platform automatically gathers competitive data from public and private external sources such as the news and competitor web page changes, as well as data from internal teams through integrations with platforms like Slack, Highspot and Salesforce. Klue aims to enable product marketers and competitive intelligence teams to increase their coverage of competitors.

“Our platform makes it easier to update competitive content, keep the organization informed on market changes, and enables sellers with real-time access to insights to improve competitive deal performance,” Jason Smith, the CEO and co-founder of Klue, told TechCrunch.

Smith outlined that Klue plans to use this latest round of funding to invest heavily in product development. The company will double down on its AI capabilities to make insight generation easier in order to unlock opportunities to expand its user base through new market development. Klue also plans to invest in product experience for its end-users to create a seamless connection between revenue teams and their access to competitive insights. It notes that the funding will also fuel its expansion into new verticals and markets.


Image Credits: Klue

Klue’s Series B funding follows its $15 million Series A round announced in September 2020. The round was led by Craft Ventures with participation from HWVP, existing investors OMERS Ventures, Rhino Ventures and BDC Ventures, along with several angel investors.

In terms of growth, Klue has seen 3x customer growth since its previous funding round. The company has served nearly 400 enterprise clients and more than 110,000 users since its launch in 2017.

“Our vision is for every department of every business to have a relevant, personalized and continuously updated lens into their competitor’s world. This system will be machine and human-driven, automatically pulling raw intel from your co-workers, internal systems and across the web and curating it into organized, actionable insights,” Smith stated.

Regarding future plans, Klue plans to find ways to reduce the burden of collecting intel and also automate insights. The company wants to introduce deeper integrations with enterprise tools like Slack, Salesforce, Gong, Highspot and Gainsights. Klue also plans to launch multi-user, collaborative and security features in the future. These features will allow users across departments to work independently and collectively within the same system.

The company also sees a future where Klue will support smaller companies with a lighter self-serve product. It also sees itself supporting B2C companies, such as retail and CPG companies that are concerned about competitive pricing, positioning, packaging and distribution. 

“We truly see Klue becoming the standard operating system for companies to see and know their competitor’s every move,” Smith said.

K Health raises $25m for its AI-powered primary care platform

K Health, the startup providing consumers with an AI-powered primary care platform, has raised $25 million in series B funding. The round was led by 14W, Comcast Ventures and Mangrove Capital Partners, with participation from Lerer Hippeau, Primary Ventures, BoxGroup, Bessemer Venture Partners and Max Ventures – all previous investors from the company’s seed or Series A rounds.

Co-founded and led by former Vroom CEO and Wix co-CEO, Allon Bloch, K Health (previously Kang Health) looks to equip consumers with a free and easy-to-use application that can provide accurate, personalized, data-driven information about their symptoms and health.

“When your child says their head hurts, you can play doctor for the first two questions or so – where does it hurt? How does it hurt?” Bloch explained in a conversation with TechCrunch. “Then it gets complex really quickly. Are they nauseous or vomiting? Did anything unusual happen? Did you come back from a trip somewhere? Doctors then use differential diagnosis to prove that it’s a tension headache vs other things by ruling out a whole list of chronic or unusual conditions based on their deep knowledge sets.”

K Health’s platform, which currently focuses on primary care, effectively looks to perform a simulation and data-driven version of the differential diagnosis process. On the company’s free mobile app, users spend three-to-four minutes answering an average of 21 questions about their background and the symptoms they’re experiencing.

Using a data set of two billion historical health events over the past 20 years – compiled from doctors notes, lab results, hospitalizations, drug statistics and outcome data – K Health is able to compare users to those with similar symptoms and medical histories before zeroing in on a diagnosis. 

With its expansive comparative approach, the platform hopes to offer vastly more thorough, precise and user-specific diagnostic information relative to existing consumer alternatives, like WebMD or – what Bloch calls – “Dr. Google”, which often produce broad, downright frightening, and inaccurate diagnoses. 

Ease and efficiency for both consumers and physicians

Users are able to see cases and diagnoses that had symptoms similar to their own, with K Health notifying users with serious conditions when to consider seeking immediate care. (K Health Press Image / K Health /

In addition to pure peace of mind, the utility provided to consumers is clear. With more accurate at-home diagnostic information, users are able to make better preventative health decisions, avoid costly and unnecessary trips to in-person care centers or appointments with telehealth providers, and engage in constructive conversations with physicians when they do opt for in-person consultations.

K Health isn’t looking to replace doctors, and in fact, believes its platform can unlock tremendous value for physicians and the broader healthcare system by enabling better resource allocation. 

Without access to quality, personalized medical information at home, many defer to in-person doctor visits even when it may not be necessary. And with around one primary care physician per 1000 in the US, primary care practitioners are subsequently faced with an overwhelming number of patients and are unable to focus on more complex cases that may require more time and resources. The high volume of patients also forces physicians to allocate budgets for support staff to help interact with patients, collect initial background information and perform less-demanding tasks.

K Health believes that by providing an accurate alternative for those with lighter or more trivial symptoms, it can help lower unnecessary in-person visits, reduce costs for practices and allow physicians to focus on complicated, rare or resource-intensive cases where their expertise can be most useful and where brute machine processing power is less valuable.

The startup is looking to enhance the platform’s symbiotic patient-doctor benefits further in early-2019, when it plans to launch in-app capabilities that allow users to share their AI-driven health conversations directly with physicians, hopefully reducing time spent on information gathering and enabling more-informed treatment.

With K Health’s AI and machine learning capabilities, the platform also gets smarter with every conversation as it captures more outcomes, hopefully enriching the system and becoming more valuable to all parties over time. Initial results seem promising with K Health currently boasting around 500,000 users, most having joined since this past July.

Using access and affordability to improve global health outcomes

With the latest round, the company has raised a total of $37.5 million since its late-2016 founding. K Health plans to use the capital to ramp up marketing efforts, further refine its product and technology, and perform additional research to identify methods for earlier detection and areas outside of primary care where the platform may be valuable.

Longer term, the platform has much broader aspirations of driving better health outcomes, normalizing better preventative health behavior, and creating more efficient and affordable global healthcare systems.

The high costs of the American healthcare system and the impacts they have on health behavior has been well-documented. With heavy copays, premiums and treatment cost, many avoid primary care altogether or opt for more reactionary treatment, leading to worse health outcomes overall.

Issues seen in the American healthcare system are also observable in many emerging market countries with less medical infrastructure. According to the World Health Organization, the international standard for the number of citizens per primary care physician is one for every 1,500 to 2,000 people, with some countries facing much steeper gaps – such as China, where there is only one primary care doctor for every 6,666.

The startup hopes it can help limit the immense costs associated with emerging countries educating millions of doctors for eight-to-ten years and help provide more efficient and accessible healthcare systems much more quickly.

By reducing primary care costs for consumers and operating costs for medical practices, while creating a more convenient diagnostic experience, K Health believes it can improve access to information, ultimately driving earlier detection and better health outcomes for consumers everywhere.