AI-powered parking platform Metropolis bags $167M

Metropolis, a startup building payment infrastructure for parking facilities, today announced that it raised $167 million in a Series B round co-led by 3L Capital and Assembly Ventures with participation from Dragoneer, Eldridge Industries, Silver Lake Waterman, UP Partners, and former deputy mayor of New York Dan Doctoroff. CEO Alex Israel told TechCrunch via email that the proceeds will be put toward product development, expanding the company’s team, and expanding into “new mobility adjacent verticals.”

Israel contends that parking payment infrastructure is outdated on the whole. Parking garages are stuck in the pre-internet age, he asserts — disconnected from the digital payments ecosystem (e.g., schemes like Apple Pay and Google Pay). Certainly, there’s on-demand systems like SpotHero. Meanwhile, FlashParking, Passport, AirGarage, and REEF Technology (formerly ParkJockey) have raised hundreds of millions from SoftBank and others for tech-forward parking management. But these don’t create the same experiences Metropolis can, Israel claims.

“Metropolis is a mobility commerce company, building infrastructure that allows us to transact in the physical world with the seamlessness and ease we experience online,” Israel told TechCrunch via email. “Our platform powers more than 600 parking facilities, we have more than 1.8 million users, and we connect both to thousands of surrounding restaurants, coffee shops, and retail stores in more than sixty cities.”

Israel, a serial entrepreneur, sold his last company, ParkMe, to Inrix back in 2015. He said that the experience drove him back to the drawing board to develop a new kind of parking payment and management service.


Image Credits: Metropolis

“Metropolis was founded in 2017 with the vision of creating the foundation for future modes of transportation which would allow for seamless transactions and movement,” Israel said. “In order to realize a future with cars that are electric or autonomous, you have to build the infrastructure for them to operate within, and that starts by bringing brick and mortar locations online. Parking and movement within urban environments have not changed in the past 70 years and we set out to change that.”

To this end, Metropolis — which equips existing parking structures with its systems — enables customers to “drive in and drive out” without having to swipe a credit card or pay with cash. Using computer vision systems trained on an in-house data set, the platform can recognize cars via cameras equipped with Metropolis’ software, automatically charging the corresponding customers’ online account. (To use a Metropolis parking facility, customers have to provide their name, license plate, phone number, and payment method.)

From an app, customers can review their visit and know the price in real time. Metropolis emails the receipt after they drive out.

That’s a convenience, to be sure. But Metropolis is investing heavily on the analytics, sales, and marketing side of the business, where it sees a larger addressable market. According to Israel, the high-rise and parking structure owners and municipalities that Metropolis does business with can better inform pricing, staffing, and maintenance with the insights from the platform. And local businesses can gain visibility — promotions and discounts from grocery stores, coffee shops, and other local merchants that choose to partner with Metropolis appear in the aforementioned app.

“Our data means real-time, accurate, and reliable visibility into usage of, and revenue derived from, built environment assets. For commercial real estate businesses, it’s vital to have visibility into both individual property performance, but also portfolio-wide trends,” Israel said. “We have only scratched the surface of the economic opportunity within our cities. For businesses, Metropolis is able to connect them with new customers and revenue opportunities. For people moving around our cities, Metropolis delivers a checkout-free, just-drive-out experience, facilitating a remarkable journey, while connecting them to the local business around them.”


Image Credits: Metropolis

Gearing up for expansion, Metropolis recently acquired Premier Parking, a Nashville-based company that operated hundreds of parking garages and spaces around the U.S. And last November, Metropolis announced a partnership with Uber, Uber Park, which allows Uber riders to use the Uber app to access locations within the Metropolis network.

Israel says that Metropolis plans to expand its workforce of 2,000 employees to 2,500 by the end of the year to support the expansion. It would appear to have the capital to do so; to date, Metropolis has raised $226 million in total.

“Parking, while historically recession resistant, was not COVID-resistant. So commercial real estate owners and operators turned to Metropolis during the pandemic to find efficiencies and opportunities; as people return to work and travel, we are on a major upswing,” Israel said. “Metropolis built its core business in the middle of a global financial crisis, so while others are hitting the brakes to cut burn, our business is built on solid fundamentals, which is why we attracted so much interest from such a range of investors.”

Proving that contact center tech remains desirable, Invoca raises $83M

Invoca, a platform that uses AI to analyze calls for marketing, sales, and customer agent training purposes, today closed an $83 million funding round that values the company at $1.1 billion post-money. Invoca has raised $184 million to date, the bulk of which is being used to support product development focused on Incova’s contact center offerings, international expansion, and potential acquisitions, according to CEO Gregg Johnson.

There’s evidence to suggest that poor customer service experiences, like long hold times, can affect revenue. Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to put a strain on call centers in particular, which have had to contend not only with the “new normal” of remote work but a historic labor shortage. For example, in 2020, T-Mobile was forced to move 12,000 customer care employees out of 17 call centers to work-from-home platforms. Last July and August, the company’s annualized attrition rate — a measure of how many employees leave over a year — reached 65%, up from around 20% before the pandemic.

Invoca doesn’t claim to solve all of these problems. But through services like agent coaching and “automated contact center quality assurance,” the company aims to boost conversion rates, customer satisfaction, and service levels in a largely hands-off fashion.

“Business-to-consumer (B2C) brands are laser-focused on driving revenue growth, delivering great customer experiences, and reducing churn. And at a time when they are experiencing more incoming calls and have fewer qualified reps to manage them, delivering a quality customer experience is vital,” Johnson told TechCrunch in an email interview. “The contact center has re-emerged as a strategic solution and this is increasing investment in technology to modernize the contact center.”

Invoca was founded in 2008 by Colin Kelley, Jason Spievak, and Robert Duva in Santa Barbara, California. The founding team worked together at CallWave, a communications firm that was ultimately acquired by Voice over IP company 8×8.

According to Johnson, Kelley, Spievak, and Duva foresaw the intersection of two broad trends: the shift of advertising and marketing into digital and internet-enabled telephony. Johnson joined in 2016 from Salesforce, where he was SVP of product management at Marketing Cloud, with a vision to expand the Invoca platform and take advantage of emerging technologies around AI, natural language processing, and voice.

An IPO was in the works. But Johnson and the management team ultimately decided that the timing wasn’t right.

“Invoca solves a critical problem for businesses – the broken customer experience,” Johnson said. “Invoca’s technology enables revenue teams to better understand the end-to-end consumer buying experience and immediately act on the information consumers share via phone conversations. In our case, ‘revenue teams’ encompass marketers, sales and retention teams in the contact center, as well as digital commerce and customer experience teams.”

Invoca aims to deliver “actionable” data from phone calls between sales or service agents and customers in real time. Entirely cloud-based, Invoca acts as a centralized platform that combines AI-powered speech analytics, automated call scoring, call routing, and conversational interactive voice response (IVRs) capabilities.

Invoca customers get metrics for call handling, call intent, and conversational outcomes, as well as a searchable database of transcripts and call recordings.

“Invoca’s flagship product is used by acquisition marketers at large consumer brands, such as AutoNation, Banner Health, DirecTV, ORKIN, Rogers Communications, Mayo Clinics, and University Hospitals,” Johnson said. “Over the past year, Invoca added AI-powered products for contact center teams to enhance customer experiences through improved quality management, agent coaching & performance, call routing, conversational IVRs (virtual agents), and handling of unanswered calls.”

The market for call center technologies has undergone something of a revitalization in recent years as startups and incumbents pursue what is — and will be — a lucrative opportunity. Grand View Research anticipates that global contact center software revenue will grow to $149.58 billion in 2030, up from $28.09 billion in 2022. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft offer products that automate common contact center tasks and perform analytics on call data. So do newer entrants like Replicant, Tenyx,, Loris, and Level AI. Earlier this year, Uniphore, which uses AI to suggest actions to service agents, raised $400 million in one of the largest transactions to date in the call center technology space.


Image Credits: Invoca

Johnson claims that what sets Invoca apart is its machine learning capabilities, specifically its classification systems. The platform can detect call outcomes such as purchases made, appointments set, or applications submitted, he explained, and group conversations into topics based on speech similarities — identifying call topics (e.g., claim filing) and top-spoken words (e.g., “best price”) and optionally pushing and pulling the data to/from third-party marketing apps including Google Ads. For instance, an ecommerce customer might see data from Invoca like their estimated household income, their last-viewed webpages, and the number of times they’d called before. Post-call, the retailer might be notified if the caller mentioned or purchased a product of theirs.

“[We’re] seeing multi-location chains and large scale businesses begin to use or even double down on contact centers so that workers can focus on in-person guests,” Johnson said. “The contact center is representative of something much larger – a business fundamental. As a result, Invoca [has seen] a dramatic spike in customers calling businesses, handling over 337 million calls — the equivalent of 1.579 billion call minutes.”

One of Invoca’s less-advertised features is automatic call scoring, which allows customers to define criteria to “quantify agent performance and track script compliance” and “monitor how agents … are performing against core KPIs.” While scoring is par for the course where it concerns call center analytics software, the feature might not sit well with agents already under pressure from increasing call volumes. An 2021 ExpressVPN survey of 2,000 workers found that employees were unhappy with workplace monitoring software, on the whole, with 43% seeing it as a violation of trust.

Johnson defended automatic call scoring as a way to improve agents’ performance through teachable moments — despite, too, the technical challenges inherent in speech recognition. When an agent doesn’t meet expectations, a manager can swoop in to review the conversation and provide feedback, he said, ostensibly saving time.

“[Invoca] is driving huge efficiency gains in our customers’ quality assurance process, enabling them to be much more effective without added resources,” he continued. “It’s also helping our customers improve morale and elevate their agent coaching programs by improving access to data and facilitating increased collaboration between agents and their supervisors.”

Customers haven’t been dissuaded. Johnson said that Invoca has surpassed $100 million in revenue run rate, with annual recurring revenue reaching $97 million. The company was break-even on an EBITDA basis in the last fiscal year (ending January 2022) and plans to expand its 380-person workforce by 50 this year, targeting new customers beyond its core markets of the U.S. and Canada into Europe, Mexico, and South America.

Signaling its broader ambitions, in 2020, Invoca expanded with the launch of Invoca Exchange, a portal where businesses can find third-party integrations for applications like ecommerce and sales. And last year, Invoca made its first acquisition in DialogTech, a startup that builds tools for marketers to analyze inbound phone calls and other contacts.

“As tech company valuations have retracted by 50% year-to-date, investors have a critical eye on verified business fundamentals and long term market potential,” Johnson said. “They’re stepping back from investing in lofty vision-based companies and returning to companies that are strong, steady, and proven. Invoca’s round bucks the current trend in tech valuations and validates the strong long-term fundamentals propelling its business.”

Silver Lake Waterman led Invoca’s latest funding round with participation from Upfront Ventures, Accel, and H.I.G. Capital.

Brazilian fintech infrastructure company Dock closes on $110M in funding, now valued at over $1.5B

If there’s one area that has thus far felt insulated from the global venture downturn, it’s infrastructure. Companies that offer banking as a service and help other businesses offer their own financial services and products in particular continue to rake in the dollars.

The latest such company in Latin America is São Paulo-based Dock, which operates a full-stack payments and digital banking “platform” across the region, where demand for financial infrastructure that can help boost inclusion is massive. The startup has raised $110 million in a growth funding round led by U.K.-based Lightrock and Silver Lake Waterman, bringing its valuation to over $1.5 billion. Existing backers Riverwood Capital, Viking Global Investors and Sunley House Capital also participated in the financing.

Dock is the product of a unification of three brands — Conductor, Dock and Muxi — that were combined in August 2021 to offer “complete” financial services and end-to-end tech for the payment and digital sectors. Conductor was a 25-year-old, 80-person company that processed credit cards and had annual sales of about $4.3 million (not to be confused with a company called Conductor based in the U.S.). In 2014, Riverwood Capital and Antonio Soares — who now serves as Dock’s CEO — bought out 100% of Conductor and essentially created the company that is Dock today. The company raised $170 million in 2020 in a round led by Viking Capital after landing an undisclosed amount from Visa Ventures in 2018.

Dock says its open API and cloud-native offering allows “any business” to offer financial services, including the launch and management of custom cards, payment processing and banking as a service with digital accounts, mobile payments and fraud management. 

The company’s client base includes fintechs, retailers, banks and technology companies that are focused on not only improving the customer experience for the currently banked population, but also on helping bring previously unbanked and underbanked consumers into the digital payments and banking systems. 

Today, Dock operates 65 million active accounts through relationships with more than 300 clients. It processes more than 5 billion transactions annually through its cloud offering. The company says the number of total monthly active accounts it processed in December 2021 was up 55% year-over-year to 48.4 million. Meanwhile, its number of active digital banking accounts climbed by 380% year-over-year.

Co-founder Marcelo Jacques noted that when the company started to talk to the market about what it did, essentially explaining what infrastructure in fintech and payments meant, “it was difficult.”

“People didn’t get it,” he told TechCrunch. “And so we spent a lot of time talking about the value that we bring to the market. It’s interesting to see that it is now something that is relatively understood by the market.”

As such, the company has shifted its efforts from explaining what it is that it does to what are additional growth avenues for the business.

“There’s a big demand and need for high-quality infrastructure for newcomers to launch new businesses and also for current players in the market to launch new products,” Jacques told TechCrunch. “So the demand is there and we’re filling in that gap.”

Last year, as part of its efforts to expand, Dock acquired Cacao, a Mexican card processing startup, and BPP, a payments institution regulated by the Central Bank specialized in banking as service (BaaS).

Dock plans to use its new capital to accelerate its product development roadmap and global expansion plans, as well as to do more hiring. Presently, the company has 1,936 employees, with offices in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City. Outside of Brazil, it has operations in Mexico, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

“Dock is now the biggest, most modern fintech partner available in Latin America. We are enabling any company of any size and at any stage to deliver financial services for their clients,” Soares told TechCrunch. “We really understand our clients’ business problems and we understand that we need to create products not only for our clients, but for the clients of our clients. This is only the beginning for us.”

Francisco Alvarez-Demalde, co-founder and managing partner of Riverwood Capital, said when his firm initially invested in what is today Dock in 2014, its first thesis was that the platform could become a local “next generation champion” for card issuing offerings in Brazil, which he viewed as being ripe for digital transformation at that time.

“Dock had a vision as early as 2016 to create a banking-as-a-service offering on top of its digital payments platform, or ‘Bank in a Box’ as we called it at the time, providing all the software and service layer components necessary for clients to offer embedded banking and payments,” Alvarez-Demalde told TechCrunch. “As a result, Dock is not only powering their innovative clients to embed full-stack digital financial services in their offerings but they have become a reference in the fintech infrastructure space globally.”

Certainly, Latin America has continued to attract venture dollars generally in recent years. LAVCA — the Association for Private Capital Investment in Latin America — recorded a preliminary total of $2.7 billion invested across 157 transactions in Latin American for the first quarter of 2022. That marked the fourth largest quarter on record for investment in Latin America, according to the organization. That represented a 66% increase compared to the $1.7 billion invested in the first quarter of 2021 and 371% increase compared to the $582 million in the first quarter of 2020.

ZeroFox acquires dark web threat intelligence company Vigilante

ZeroFox, a cybersecurity startup that helps companies detect risks found on social media and digital channels, has announced it has acquired dark web threat intelligence company Vigilante. 

Vigilante — not to be confused with the controversial crime reporting app — scours the dark web to source intelligence that helps to protect organizations from cyberattacks. The deal, terms of which were not announced, will see ZeroFox take on Vigilante’s global team of operatives and analysts to create “the industry’s most robust” dark web intelligence solution. 

Building on Vigilante’s decades-old dark web monitoring tools, the joint solution will combine datasets from the two companies to deliver risk intelligence on compromised credentials and botnets, network intelligence on infected and vulnerable hosts, and intelligence on threat actors and indicators of compromise (IOCs). The product, which will have ZeroFox’s AI processing capabilities baked-in, will also provide botnet exposure monitoring, threat monitoring, and client-specific investigations and incident response on threat actor engagement and asset recovery. 

“The combination of our otherwise inaccessible datasets, our team of researchers and operatives, along with ZeroFox’s scale and artificial intelligence, provides a compelling dark web intelligence service,” said Mike Kirschner, co-founder of Vigilante. 

The acquisition, which the firms claim will help better protect organizations at an even greater scale, comes amid a huge rise in criminal activity on the dark web, according to recent research. As a result of pandemic-fueled cybercrime, Risk Based Security said in its recent annual data breach report that the number of comprised records surpassed 37 billion in 2020, a 141% increase over 2019, and ransomware was up by 100%. 

“The dark web and criminal underground are critical requirements of modern threat intelligence programs,” said James C. Foster, CEO of ZeroFox. “Our customers need a clear view of the underground economy, how bots may be attacking them or if their credentials, credit cards, personally identifiable information (PII) and other information could be traded there, as well as understanding emerging tactics, exploits and vulnerabilities.

Foster said the acquisition of Vigilante increases “the scale and comprehensiveness” of its dark web intelligence gathering capabilities, which helps to protect customers’ information.

In February last year, ZeroFox announced it had raised $74 million in a Series D funding round led by Intel Capital, which it planned to use to accelerate its global expansion and product strategy. Prior to this, in 2017, the startup raised $40 million Series C led by Redline Capital Management and Silver Lake Waterman.

ThoughtSpot hauls in $248M Series E on $1.95B valuation

ThoughtSpot was started by a bunch of ex-Googlers looking to bring the power of search to data. Seven years later the company is growing fast, sporting a fat valuation of almost $2 billion and looking ahead to a possible IPO. Today it announced a hefty $248 million Series E round as it continues on its journey.

Investors include Silver Lake Waterman, Silver Lake’s late-stage growth capital fund along with existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Sapphire Ventures and Geodesic Capital. Today’s funding brings the total raised to $554 million, according to the company.

The company wants to help customers bring speed to data analysis by answering natural language questions about the data without having to understand how to formulate a SQL query. As a person enters questions, ThoughSpot translates that question into SQL, then displays a chart with data related to the question, all almost instantly (at least in the demo).

It doesn’t stop there though. It also uses artificial intelligence to understand intent to help come up the exact correct answer. ThoughtSpot CEO Sudheesh Nair says that this artificial intelligence underpinning is key to the product. As he explained, if you are looking for the answer to a specific question like ‘What is the profit margin of red shoes in Portland?” there won’t be multiple answers. There is only one answer, and that’s where artificial intelligence really comes into play.

“The bar on delivering that kind of answer is very high and because of that, understanding intent is critical. We use AI for that. You could ask, ‘How did we do with red shoes in Portland?’ I could ask, ‘What is the profit margin of red shoes in Portland?’ The system needs to know that we both are asking the same question. So there’s a lot of AI that goes behind it to understand the intent,” Nair explained.

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Image: ThoughtSpot

ThoughtSpot gets answers to queries by connecting to a variety of internal systems like HR, CRM and ERP and uses all of this data to answer the question as best it can. So far, it appears to be working. The company has almost 250 large company customers, and is on a run rate of close to $100 million.

Nair said that the company didn’t necessarily need the money with $100 million still in the bank, but he saw an opportunity, and he seized it. He says the money gives him a great deal of flexibility moving forward including the possibility of acquiring companies to fill in missing pieces or to expand the platform’s capabilities. It also will allow him to accelerate growth. Plus, he sees the capital markets possibly tightening next year and he wanted to strike while the opportunity was in front of him.

Nair definitely sees the company going public at some point. “With these kind of resources behind us, it actually opens up an opportunity for us to do any sort of IPO that we want. I do think that a company like this will benefit from going public because Global 2000 kind of customers, where we have our most of our business, appreciate the transparency and the stability represented by public companies,” he said.

He added, “And with $350 million in the bank, it’s totally [possible to] IPO, which means that a year and a half from now if we are ready to take the company public, we can actually have all options open including a direct listing, potentially. I’m not saying we will do that, but I’m saying that this kind of funding behind us, we have all those options open.”