Here’s how far VCs have lowered revenue expectations for seed through Series B

New data from Kruze Consulting shows just how much the venture capital fundraising market has changed for startups in the last few quarters.

Kruze, which provides accounting, tax and venture capital-related services to private tech companies, has access to hard data regarding startup performance. Healy Jones, vice president of financial planning and analysis at Kruze and a former venture capitalist, put some of that information to work, using aggregated, anonymized data from startup funding rounds to detail how much revenue startups are reporting at various fundraising benchmarks over time.

We took a look at how rapidly revenue averages have declined for startups approaching early-stage fundraising events in the last nine months compared to the preceding few years.

The results are simple: Software startups are generally raising early-stage rounds (through Series B) with lower revenue totals in recent quarters than in prior years. Data from several hundred early-stage software (SaaS) fundraises indicates that startup growth rates are not accelerating — though there is a key exception that we’ll discuss.

I don’t want the data behind the paywall, so before we get into what’s happening and why, here’s the raw information from Jones and Kruze. Note that the percentage changes to ARR levels were recalculated by The Exchange from shared data to allow a few more decimal points:

Data via Kruze. Numbers are averages. Data from more than 200 SaaS fundraises.

What does all that mean? Let’s talk about it.

Slimmer revenues and evolving growth rates

The data indicates that seed, Series A and Series B rounds have seen a recent and rapid decline in revenue reported by the SaaS startups raising. It also shows that seed and Series A software companies raised with slower growth rates from 2019 through Q1 2021.

Quan raises $1.15M from YC to tackle post-pandemic employee burnout

With post-pandemic burnout on the rise, the shift to remote working, and the ‘Great Resignation’ now passing into the lexicon, companies are struggling to hold onto talent.

Culture platforms like Culture Amp and Glint were built for a different era, offering insights and reports to HR, but many are less tailored to 2022. And employee well-being is still going up the agenda.

New startup Quan has raised $1.15M in pre-seed funding from Y Combinator, along with a Netherlands-based impact fund and several unnamed angels to address the gap between engagement surveys and well-being perks.

The first female-led Dutch startup to be accepted into YC, founders Arosha Brouwer and Lucy Howie say they researched the issue with doctors, psychologists, and therapists to identify over 20 sub-dimensions of well-being underpinned by more than 200 predictors.

Quan launched its beta product in March 2021, and says it is now working with 12 organizations, over 1,000 paid users and a platform engagement rate of 88%.

Brouwer told me: “For far too long, players in the ‘people and culture platforms have been measuring ‘employee engagement’ and ‘employee experience’ without providing ways to effectively manage well-being and linking it directly to business metrics. Hence the reason why issues such as burn-out and toxic corporate cultures have been trending in the wrong way. Quan knows that to effectively fix a social problem we have to make it a financial problem (or incentive) too. The cold hard truth is we get companies to care about their employees when they can directly measure how it impacts their bottom line.”

Quan is now offering a free access trial for company leaders.

Messenger upgrades its end-to-end encrypted chat experience

Although default end-to-end encryption won’t fully arrive on Facebook Messenger until sometime in 2023, the company says today its feature offering end-to-end encrypted group chats and calls in Messenger is now fully rolled out. In addition, Messenger is adding another security feature with the launch of screenshot notifications in end-to-end encrypted chats, similar to rival Snapchat, that will alert you if someone snaps a photo from Messenger’s disappearing messages. Users will also now be able to add GIFs, stickers, and reactions to their encrypted chats, too.

Support for end-to-end encrypted (E2EE) group chats and calls was first announced in August 2021, promising Messenger users a way to keep their personal conversations safe from criminals and nation-state surveillance. Many governments, however, have not necessarily been on board with the idea, saying that Messenger’s plans to expand its encryption efforts would complicate law enforcement’s ability to investigate crimes. But Meta has pushed back, noting that E2EE was already widely used by apps like WhatsApp and was becoming an industry standard.

E2EE for group calls and chats wasn’t fully launched at the time of last year’s announcement, though. Instead, Meta said it would first begin testing the feature for friends and family who already had an existing chat thread and were already connected. It also said it would begin a test for delivery controls that would work with E2EE encrypted chats, allowing users to prevent unwanted interactions so they could decide who went to their chat list, their message requests folder, and who couldn’t message you at all.

Now, months later, the feature is fully rolled out to Messenger users globally, who can choose to turn on E2EE for their private conversations.

Soon, Messenger will also warn users if someone screenshots a disappearing message in E2EE chats. This is the same feature that’s already offered in Messenger’s vanish mode — a feature that functions much like Snapchat, where messages will disappear after they’ve been seen. If someone takes a screenshot of a vanish mode chat — and now a disappearing message in E2EE chats, as well — you’ll receive a notification so you can address this with the other party, or even block or report the conversation if need be. The company says these notifications will roll out “over the next few weeks.”

Image Credits: Meta

Finally, E2EE chats will also gain access to other features that have been available to non-E2EE before, including GIFs, stickers, and reactions, as well as support for replies to a specific thread, typing indications, and forwarding options. Verified badges will also be available to E2EE chats to help you identify authentic accounts, when chatting. And users will be able to save media with a long-press and edit photos and videos before sending. These features are not new, but they’re new to end-to-end encrypted chats.

Image Credits: Meta

Meta says all the features are available on all platforms, including web and mobile, for all users. But the rollout is ongoing, so some people won’t see all of the features immediately.

Subscript wants to rid the world of subscription revenue metric spreadsheets

Sidharth Kakkar knows all about the pain of relying on a giant spreadsheet. While building his previous company, Freckle Education, it got to the point where the master spreadsheet full of data that everyone was using would not load anymore or would crash the computer.

His company eventually was bought, but that pain point stuck with him, so when Kakkar left, he started doing discovery interviews on how other companies dealt with what he called “spreadsheet nightmares.”

“One of my favorites was a CFO who took a company public, and on the roadshow, people would ask for all of these cohorts, and his team would go nuts putting them together just for the roadshow and literally never did anything with them again,” Kakkar recalled.

That’s when he and Michelle Lee, his first bizops hire, decided to start the subscription intelligence startup Subscript in December 2020. Targeting subscription-based SaaS companies, Subscript develops APIs that grab data from CRMs, general ledgers and billing products and organizes it so the data is not only easy to find, but provides up-to-date subscription revenue metrics.

Kakkar says subscription business has been on a “ridiculous tear” recently, but while they like the idea of returning or recurring customers, not everyone wants to use the language of subscriptions to make business decisions.

The company, still in beta, brought in $3.75 million in seed funding, led by First Round, with participation from 40 angel investors, including Plaid CTO Jean-Denis Greze, Pilot founder Waseem Daher, CircleCI + Dark founder Paul Biggar, Postman’s head of growth Jesse Miller and Gusto’s head of growth Allen Wo.

Subscript

Subscript product dashboard. Image Credits: Subscript

Subscript creates custom data pipelines, and the pipelines create what he called a “revenue source of truth” in Subscript. For example, if someone closes a deal in Salesforce for $1 million in bookings, the system will separate out what is considered one-time revenue and recurring revenue. The finance person will have the final say on what they are seeing.

From there, the user can slice and dice the data into what they need for investors, board of directors and leadership teams to make data-driven decisions.

“You can have the big decision points that leadership teams are looking at and also use it for course-correction,” Kakkar said. “Sometimes you don’t know in the middle of a quarter whether you’re going to hit your number, where you’re headed and how things are going.”

Subscript is working with 21 customers right now, including Circle and Flipcause, and is tracking over $100 million of customers’ revenue. Kakkar said that is a number the company looks at internally as an indication of the scale of the business.

The company is opening up its beta and will use the new funding to build the team and product. Due to still being early in the journey and building a complex product, Kakkar said adding more people will be key in engineering and market support fictions.

As more companies structure their business models to accommodate the type of recurring customers that subscription-based businesses have, Subscript is seeing how expansive the opportunities are for accommodating those types of ideas, like usage-based billing.

“That model is becoming really common,” Kakkar added. “There is a depth of complexity in those types of businesses that we are diving headfirst into, but it’s impossible to do it without software.”

bloss, which connects expectant parents with experts, raises £1M Pre-seed led by Antler

bloss is a UK startup that connects would-be or existing parents to pre-vetted parenting experts. It has now raised £1million in a pre-seed round led by Antler, the early-stage VC and is also backed by angels including Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Narry Singh, footballer Andriy Shevchenko and British-Jamaican entrepreneur, Alexandra Chong. The funds will be used to launch the bloss app later this year.

The startup claims to have more than 95,000 users in 161 countries, with 530% growth and over 200 experts since launching 6 months ago.

Bloss is going up against existing apps in the space such as tinto which is aimed at expectant mums and already has an app.

The company was founded during the pandemic by one of Uber’s first employees and a member of the UK founding team, Stephanie Desmond, whilst pregnant with her third child. Desmond had struggled with multiple IVF rounds to get pregnant, finding trusted expert advice was lacking. So perhaps you could call Bloss an ‘Uber for child-rearing experts’? Her cofounder is ‘mummy influencer’ and reality TV star Binky Felstead.

On Bloss, parents are matched with experts such as midwives, sleep consultants, nutritionists, and child psychologists, to answer their questions within 24 hours.

Desmond said: “People want help but they just don’t know where to get it – the internet is a minefield of bad advice so we make parenting that little bit easier by democratizing access to hundreds of experts. From humble beginnings brainstorming around my kitchen table, we are now seeing a fast uptake of experts and users worldwide with an average growth of 88% month on month.”

Ollie Purdue, Antler VC Partner said: “Steph has grown the business exceptionally well in this initial period and we are excited to put all of Antlers’ resources behind it to help it reach more parents around the world. We see bloss being such a valuable product to many homes and we look forward to seeing the positive impact it will have on families.”

Parthean cares about personal finance so you don’t have to

The son of Iranian immigrants, Arman Hezarkhani spent his senior year of high school brainstorming a three-part thesis on what he wanted to dedicate his career to. First, he said that education is the most high-leverage way to make an impact on an individual, community and world. Second, he thinks that technology is the most scalable way to spread that impact. Third, and finally, he thinks that strong business incentives and for-profit businesses specifically are the most sustainable way to make impact last — not nonprofits or government organizations.

Hezarkhani’s early energy brought him to Carnegie Mellon, where he studied electrical and computer engineering, and Google, where he spent time on developer programs and Google for Education. Yet, fittingly, when it came time to join Google full time, he turned down the offer to build an edtech startup — one that would help young professionals like him create continuous, daily structured learning but without it feeling like a chore. After all, not every high schooler writes out a three-part thesis of goals, and even those that do, need a way to consistently execute on it.

“Anyone who tells you that people want to learn, largely they are wrong,” he said. “[Founders] want to believe in the best of humanity and that people are going to dedicate time to wanting to learn something, but we always come back to this vitamin versus painkiller problem.” A big area where this exists prominently is in finance, he argues, leaving consumers in a spot where they need a financial platform that helps them when they have a fever (overspend) instead of when they’re feeling ambitious (after their New Year’s resolution).

Today, Hezarkhani is the CEO and founder of Parthean, a personal finance monitoring and education app that just raised $1.1 million at a $12 million valuation by investors including Litani Ventures, Gaingels, Amino Capital, Morning Brew’s Alex Lieberman, Republic Venture partner Namrata Banerjee and others.

Parthean is trying to answer a far more complex question than simple productivity software might: How do you make consumers into better financial citizens — even if they are largely apathetic about the education it takes to get there? For Hezarkhani, alongside his co-founders Nikhil Choudhary and Jason Zhu, the answer lies in the intersection between fintech and edtech.

Activation edtech

Currently, Parthean lets users integrate their finances with the app, through Plaid, to show financial health metrics in real time. The data could help Parthean evolve to a platform that can offer consumers financial advice when they need it most, such as budgeting tips after a spend-heavy weekend or investment advice after a big crypto moment. Format-wise, Parthean modules are split up into bite-sized, modular videos that walk users through a complicated video — with quizzes and an action item, such as putting money into a crypto wallet, at the end of it.

Image Credits: Parthean

“The traditional learning model requires this very high level of activation energy from the student’s part; it requires the student to want to learn [something] so badly that they will pay some amount of money, dedicate a team and stick with it,” he said. A simple learning flow for Parthean consists of a trigger, recommendation and outcome. For example, the startup may notice that a user is paid on the first of every month, which results in high spending activity for the first two weeks of the month, and then they try to save as much as they can in the final week of the month.

“This overspending behavior highlights the user’s need to fix their spending habits by designing a budget. So in that final week, when the need is apparent to the user, we recommend a five to 10-minute module on budgeting,” the founder explained.

It’s a lofty goal — offering advice based on the timing and spending habits of a user — but one that personal finance fintech sorely needs. In the meantime, though, Parthean’s early-stage execution looks more like an edtech platform than a predictive fintech engine. Right now, the app opens up to an intro to crypto section, taught by Hezarkhani himself.

Metrics and the market

Similar to many startups in the education sector, Parthean’s success will depend on if it can provide true outcomes to users. Is success defined by saving someone money three months after using the service? Or making them NFT-fluent in 30 days? The founder said that he’s tracking completion rates, which currently rival cohort-based courses, and what he describes as “connection rates.” This means that part of Parthean’s progress is measured by whether users, after they complete a crypto course, end up doing the action item that’s tacked onto the end of the lesson, whether it’s setting up a crypto wallet on Coinbase or growing a credit score. Going with the prior example, the goal outcome would be that a user designs their budget on the app, and Parthean helps track spending month to month.

“That’s a metric we can measure, whereas other edtech platforms are just a content play,” he said.

Edtech and fintech have mixed in the past through NerdWallet, a recently public personal finance platform that offers product recommendations atop a high-margin content business. But instead of touting credit card recommendations and then making money off referral fees, Hezarkhani thinks the subscription business model is more aligned with consumers’ interests.

Hezarkhani said that during the fundraising process, some investors argued that the best way to make money is through basing revenue on advertisements or lead generation. Some even told Parthean to become a bank. But he stuck to the idea that there needs to be a third-party “omnipresent financial partner” that has consumers’ trust. In other words, he didn’t want to become another platform that recommends credit cards for referral cash.

“If you look at the financial market, you have crypto, you have stock investing, you have traditional retirement accounts, you have credit cards, debit cards, you even have rent — what we’ve done is we’ve said we’re not going to own any vertical here,” he said. “We’re just going to own the top layer. We want to own the user’s relationship with this market. It will consolidate, it’s going to get more competitive, but we’ll always be here as that layer.”

The.com launches a low-code, collaborative website builder that uses customizable ‘blocks,’ not templates

A startup with the easy-to-remember name of The.com aims to modernize website building while also ensuring that web creators get credit for their work. The company, which is today emerging from stealth with $4.4 million in seed funding in tow, has created what it calls a “low-code, website building platform” that aims to ditch the template-based approach that’s become an industry standard. Instead, The.com’s site builder uses community-created components you can drop into your site and share with others. Website creators can even collaborate with one another during the site-building process and chat directly.

The company has now closed on $4.4 million in seed funding led by NFX and with participation from Sound Ventures, VSC Ventures, Village Global and Harry Stebbings.

The idea for The.com comes from co-founders and brothers, Jeff and Clarke McKinnon. The founders have a background in website development and design, having run their own web development agency in Boulder from 2012 through 2019, before founding The.com. During this time, they experienced firsthand the frustrations that come with traditional web development, Clarke said.

“We were waiting for somebody else to come up with the perfect platform that will solve all our needs. It just didn’t happen,” Clarke told TechCrunch. “So we started to build it ourselves.”

Image Credits: The.com co-founders, Jeff & Clarke McKinnon

Initially, their platform was meant to be an internal tool, but it began to draw interest from their current customers who encouraged the brothers to make the product more broadly available and turn it into a business. So the brothers shut down their agency business in May 2019 to work on what has now become The.com.

Clarke explained that, with traditional web development and legacy platforms, there are speed and security issues. But there’s also a constant struggle with customers asking for deeper customizations, which then require hard-coding and continual work to keep updated. Plus, many of the current web-building platforms today are geared toward people who are already site designers. But the co-founders knew from their own experience that there’s often a big group of people who contribute to a website who aren’t designers.

“We just needed a website-building platform that put everyone on the same playing field,” Clarke said.

Starting a new website on The.com is as easy as pressing a “create site” button, which then immediately deploys the site infrastructure. Users can then invite other people to build with them as collaborators, and then click a button to start editing the site. Instead of starting from scratch or picking out a template, creators pick and choose the individual pieces and components they want to use. That means they can pick up a navigation element from one The.com creator, a footer from someone else, and other elements like hero images, headers, banners, body elements, and more from different community members. As you pick the elements, confetti bursts on-screen, giving credit to the original component’s creator. But in time, The.com will roll out a way of rewarding creators financially, as well.

Image Credits: The.com

“The goal there is to make sure the people who are building the block are getting the most out of it,” Clarke said. “When we were an agency, we built all these incredible sites — and then they’d get used once and we never earn from them again. And there’s a lot of stuff that never made it out to the live sites — stuff that the customers said they didn’t really like, or maybe it didn’t make the cut. So it would be great to earn from that, over and over,” he added, speaking to the motivation behind making these reusable building blocks.

The site builder itself has an interesting design, too. It’s a floating window that sits in front of the website being created. But it’s a bit more advanced than some WYSIWYG designers, with sections for managing the sites’ pages, blocks and sheets (essentially, freeform databases). After you add the individual website elements, you can customize them further — updating fonts, colors, images, text and more, just as you could if you were writing or editing website code. You can also make changes by adding raw JavaScript or creating new elements from scratch.

As you work on the site, the changes you’re making happen live on the screen — you don’t have to click a “preview” to see what things will look like. And the elements you’ve customized can be shared back to the community marketplace, if you choose.

Image Credits: The.com

The marketplace allows The.com to capitalize on the creator economy trend, where people are rewarded directly for their work. The founders believe some of the top creators may even become “website influencers,” encouraging others to customize their own sites using their tools.

“In the marketplace, people will get more and more popular based on the quality and the great design and impressive building that they do,” Clarke noted. “What we see going forward is that people want credit for their work.” As the blocks get re-used, The.com will allow the original creator to get credit, including in the community and on the website.

Currently, The.com claims its community is in the thousands, in terms of customers, and has a couple of hundred daily active users.

The other notable element to The.com’s website builder is the collaborative element. Many of The.com’s customers are agencies or small businesses, as opposed to individual users. That means multiple people will be able to update the site together. Currently, the builder will display a profile icon next to the part each person is editing, but in the future, users will be able to edit side-by-side. There’s also a native chat feature so you can talk to other site collaborators directly about your build.

Image Credits: The.com

As the startup comes out of stealth, it’s also announcing its debut pricing plans. The basic plan, for those who want to kick the tires, is free. Other tiers are priced monthly at $36, $1990 or $1,499 per month, depending on feature set, support needs and volume. The.com’s customers range from small businesses and startups to enterprises. At the higher end, some are using The.com on top of Shopify as a headless option, which increases their website speed and decreases their bounce rate, they found.

Though technically headquartered in San Francisco, The.com has a distributed team of 11 full-time employees, and a total of 15 working on the business. With their newly announced seed funding, they plan to hire in engineering and community, and work on further product development.

As for scoring such a coveted URL as The.com, the founders said a good friend helped them with the deal.

“It’s a friends-and-family discount. We’re lucky that this person was involved in the domain world for a long time and had access to a bunch of good stuff,” Clarke said, declining to share who the mentor may be.

“Unlike the Web 1.0 and 2.0 website building systems, The.com’s platform has network effects and composability,” said lead investor James Currier, General Partner at NFX. “It drives ownership to the creators and will allow creators to rebuild the web with new primitives. We’re long overdue for category innovation like this. If you’re still using WordPress to build websites today, you’re going to want to switch to The.com,” he added.

Why Black female CEOs lead 50% of the companies in our portfolio

One thing is for certain as 2022 kicks off – there are billions of dollars worth of opportunities ripe for investment that include women leaders.

Astia alone considered $3.024 billion in 2021 representing 1,103 companies, a 119% increase from the previous year, putting to rest any murmurings of pipeline problems. However, the dismal data regarding venture capital directed toward underrepresented founders, especially Black female founders, remains the same.

While only 2.3% of women-led startups received venture funding in 2020, that figure drops to just 0.64% for Black and Latinx women. Such disparities in venture capital fundamentally exclude women of color from the wealth, job creation and innovation impact that entrepreneurship provides – and continue to perpetuate systemic biases.

Three years ago, we decided to change that. We came to the realization that companies led by Black women were abundant in our pipeline and that the failure to invest was the only failure to be found.

Opportunities in venture are about finding hidden gems. Best-in-class venture seeks out the underinvested, outperforming companies that have the potential to change the world. In our efforts to find those hidden gems – and on the assumption that we had done this years ago – we found an entire class of them right in our midst.

While we were profoundly disappointed to learn that but for race, we probably would have invested in a number of companies that we did not, we were excited by the opportunity to correct something we had complete control and agency over – our own investment decision.

This led to our efforts to dive deep into our own data and identify specific actions that could be corrected as it relates to the intersection of gender and race in our investment activities. Three years on, we have implemented solutions for the critical findings uncovered through the Astia Edge investment pilot, and the results speak for themselves.

As a direct result of this self-examination and course-correction, the Astia Fund portfolio today is 50% Black female CEOs, and 17% of the Astia Angels’ capital deployed after the correction has been invested into companies with Black female CEOs.

The journey to get here did not come without many sobering moments of reflection.

The findings detailed in our new report provide an eye-opening insight into some of the core pieces missing from today’s venture capital model as it relates to racial equity. In a nutshell, pilot company deals took 245 days to close, compared to just 161 days in Astia’s broader women-led portfolio, and deals required more than 60 outside introductions by Astia to attract syndicate investment (compared to fewer than five for others in Astia’s portfolio), as well as over 100 hours of hands-on work on behalf of the Astia team serving as advocates to directly counter investor bias.

The softer data was equally disheartening. Throughout the pilot, Astia found that companies led by Black founders disproportionately came to Astia with less capital invested at the seed and “friends and family” rounds, although they had often accomplished far more with their limited funding. One can safely attribute much of this funding discrepancy to systemic pressures caused by the U.S. wealth gap. Adding insult to injury, investors often evaluated these entrepreneurs on “who else had invested” – a question rooted in bias against those without the access and networks to wealth – versus an appreciation of their progress, grit and potential.

The fact of the matter is that we as the investment community have to take responsibility for the racial disparity in funding and take proactive steps to rethink the model and the status quo. Data shows that 17% of Black women are in the process of starting or running a new business, compared to just 10% of white women and 15% of white men. This is not a pipeline issue. Black female founders exist in huge numbers – we just need to find them, fairly assess them and invest in them.

We have witnessed firsthand the discomfort of this realization, but we now recognize the power of breaking the cycle. We are calling on every venture firm to do the same. It’s a new year and it’s time for a new VC – one that works to everyone’s benefit, not just the few.

As Finmark finds its footing, it moves up market and takes on additional investment

When Finmark founder Rami Essaid built a previous startup, he saw firsthand how hard it is to build accurate financial models. When he sold that startup, Distil Networks, to Imperva 2019, he decided to build a new company that could help.

Finmark, which launched in July 2020, helps companies build sophisticated financial models without having to use Excel. “We had a thesis around helping startups from pre-revenue to pre-IPO build out financial models and get out of Excel,” Essaid explained to me.

He said they initially concentrated on really early-stage companies, startups that hadn’t raised yet or just snagged a seed round. There was a reason to keep the target market in that range — the models were less sophisticated, enabling Finmark to build the first iteration of the product faster.

The approach worked. Essaid reports that over 1,000 companies are using the product, of which about a third are paying customers. This early success pushed them to move further upmarket to medium-sized companies with between $5 million and $75 million in revenue with more complex modeling needs.

“We just crossed over being able to close some of those deals and bringing some of those larger companies on board. And so we’re continuing to build more sophisticated features into the product, and continuing to try to make it easier for founders to manage their finances without any help, even when they don’t have a sophisticated financial person in-house,” he said.

The company came out of Y Combinator last year, giving Finmark access to a bunch of startups that need its services, allowing it to refine the product with their input.

Today the company is working with other incubators and venture capitalists to offer the program for free or at a discounted rate for three to 12 months. That’s helping drive usage and raise product awareness.

The company also invested a lot of money into creating content to help early companies understand how to build more accurate financial models to make sure they don’t run out of money, which Essaid points out is the main reason that startups fail.

“​​The number one reason that startups fail is that they run out of money. Very few startups actually just shut down, right? If you know how much time you have left, that gives you more optionality. Understanding this stuff and planning more strategically to make sure that you don’t run out of money is, I think, a key component to making sure that startups get successful.”

The company already has almost 35 employees, so he’s ramped up quickly. It helps that he had another startup, allowing him to draw on that network to find people he knew and trusted, but he also wants to add more diversity.

“I gave it a lot of thought [to diversity] after we talked about it last time and one of the things that’s great about this time around for this company is that we’re building it remotely, so I have access to more diversity across the country than I did when I had my headquarters in San Francisco before, because that was such a homogenous environment,” he said.

The company raised $6.5 million for this tranche of seed money. The round was led by American Express, joined by existing investors Draper and Associates, Bessemer Venture Partners and IDEAfund. It previously raised $5 million in the first part of the seed investment.

Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance confirms plans to build 35 new EVs by 2030

The Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance has announced plans to spend $25.8 billion (€23 billion) with the aim of having 35 EVs by 2030. As part of that, the group will develop five new platforms shared across brands with 80 percent common usage as part of a “smart differentiation” strategy. Nissan teased one of the first cars based on one those platforms, an all-electric compact that will be sold in Europe to replace the automaker’s popular Micra.

The Alliance is focusing on pure EVs and “intelligent & connected mobility.” It aims to increase commonality between vehicles with a “smart differentiation” system that allows pooling for platforms, production plants, powertrains and vehicle segments. “For example, the common platform for the C and D segment will carry five models from three brands of the Alliance (Nissan Qashqai and X-Trail, Mitsubishi Outlander, Renault Austral and an upcoming seven-seater SUV),” Renault Group said in the press release.

To that end, it unveiled five separate platforms, including the affordable CMF-AEV that’s the base for Renault’s budget Dacia Spring model, the mini vehicle KEI-EV platform for ultra-compact EVs and the LCV for commercial vehicles like the Renault Kangoo and Nissan Town Star. Another is CMF-EV, currently used by the Alliance for crossovers like the Nissan Ariya and Renault Megane E-Tech.

Finally, the CMF-BEV platform will be used for compact EVs but reduce costs by 33 percent and consumption by 10 percent compared to the current Renault Zoe. It’ll be the base for 250,000 vehicles per year under the Renault, Nissan and Alpine brands, including the Renault R5 and Nissan’s upcoming EV to replace the Micra.

Nissan teased that vehicle in a separate press release, showing it off in a shadowy photo and brief video (above). While it has no name, price or launch date, it’ll be built at the Renault ElectriCity center in Northern France. “This all-new model will be designed by Nissan and engineered and manufactured by Renault using our new common platform, maximizing the use of our Alliance assets while maintaining its Nissan-ness,” said Nissan CEO Ashwani Gupta. “This is a great example of the Alliance”s ‘smart differentiation” approach.”

Renault Group said it would use a common battery strategy as well, aiming for 220 GWh of production capacity by 2030. It plans to reduce battery costs by 50 percent in 2026 and 65 percent by 2028. It’s aiming to develop all-solid-state batteries (ASSB) by 2028, with Nissan in charge of that project “based on its deep expertise and unique experience as a pioneer in battery technology.”

The Alliance also said it aimed to have 25 million vehicles connected to its cloud system by 2026 that would allow for Tesla-like OTA (over the air) updates. “The Alliance will also be the first global, mass-market OEM to introduce the Google ecosystem in its cars,” Renault Group said.

The news follows Renault’s announcement that it would electrify two thirds of its cars by 2025, with about 90 percent EVs in its lineup by 2030. Renault and Nissan ruled out a closer partnership last year, with Renault saying the companies “don’t need a merger to be efficient.” With the new platforms and cooperation announcement, it appears that the common platforms with “smart differentiation” will be key to that.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.