Tag Archives: raises

Pot luck: Hound Labs raises $8.1 million to combat stoned drivers with cannabis breathalyzers

Law enforcement agencies have been using breathalyzers to test motorists’ sobriety for decades, but a new startup is staking a claim to bring its cannabis version of the technology to market.

So far, the only reliable ways to test for cannabis use have been through saliva, blood, or urine, which aren’t always practical in a roadside setting. But more than that, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is known to remain detectable in the system long after a user would be impaired from its use. This is why Hound Labs is developing its breathalyzer, given that THC is detectable in the breath for only a few hours after marijuana use.

Oakland-based cannabis breathalyzer startup Hound Labs is today announcing an $ 8.1 million funding round led by Benchmark, the renowned Silicon Valley VC firm that has made early-stage investments in a number of notable startups, including eBay, Uber, Dropbox, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram. So Hound Labs, it’s fair to say, is in good company.

Hound Labs field-tested its Hound breathalyzer with law enforcement in California last year, and clinical trials started this month at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH). The company plans to begin manufacturing a market-ready device later this year.

“Over the past two and a half years, we have extensively tested our device with marijuana users and routinely correlated our results with state-of- the-art forensic laboratory equipment,” explained Hound Labs CEO Dr. Mike Lynn. “We are eager to demonstrate the Hound marijuana breathalyzer’s capabilities and to take the final steps toward commercial availability.”

The Hound breathalyzer is touted as being portable, as well as highly accurate, which means it could be used by police roadside or by employers in a place of work where drug-testing is standard.

Though the device is similar in look and feel to an alcohol breathalyzer, the Hound has to be more sensitive to detect THC — it claims to measure THC molecules in parts-per-trillion, as opposed to the parts-per-thousand measurement standard with alcohol.

Above: Hound Labs’ cannabis breathalyzer


Since the legal floodgates to sell cannabis have opened in several U.S. states, the fledgling weed industry has been gaining momentum. Indeed, a number of VC firms have plowed cash into marijuana startups — DCM Ventuers, Tusk Ventures, and 500 Startups are among the firms that have invested in medical marijuana delivery firm Eaze.

Elsewhere, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund took a minority stake in Privateer Holdings, a Seattle-based company behind weed startup Leafly.com.

But while some VC firms have been investing in technology startups that enable cannabis intake, Benchmark is looking to tackle things from the other side. With as many as 55 million Americans reportedly using marijuana to some degree, Hound sees an opportunity to take on the problem of stoned drivers.

“Cannabis legalization has created a new global market for employee and law enforcement testing,” stated Benchmark general partner Mitch Lasky, who will also join Hound Labs’ board of directors. “In the past, employers and law enforcement professionals focused on possession and use. After legalization, impairment — whether behind the wheel or on the job — becomes the new enforcement paradigm. Groundbreaking science is necessary to make an accurate measurement of recently used cannabis, and Hound Labs is uniquely positioned to deliver a solution to the market that respects the needs of the enforcement community as well as the rights of legitimate cannabis users.”

In addition to the clinical trials that have kicked off in San Francisco, Hound Labs said that it will continue carrying out field studies with law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

Today’s funding takes Hound Labs total cash injection past the $ 14 million mark.

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Home cleaning space hasn’t quite dried up yet as Nordic startup Freska raises €2M

 Nordic home cleaning startup Freska, which is headquartered in Finland but also operates in Norway, has picked up a modest €2 million in new funding. Read More
Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Swingvy raises $1.1M to give HR staff in Southeast Asia a break from paperwork

 Human resources paperwork is never fun to take care of—especially if it’s literally on paper. Swingvy co-founder Jin Choeh says that in Southeast Asia, many small businesses are still stuck with physical spreadsheets and piles of forms. Swingvy wants to help them with affordable cloud-based software. The South Korea and Malaysia-based startup just raised $ 1.1 million in seed funding… Read More
Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Helpling, Rocket Internet’s home services company, raises further €10M as on-demand space cools

 Helpling, the Rocket Internet-founded company that lets you book a range of home services online, is disclosing €10 million in new funding. The round was led by Asia Pacific Internet Group (APACIG), the joint venture between Rocket Internet and Ooredoo, and also includes a number of other existing investors. Read More
Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

My 1st Years, a startup that sells personalised gifts for babies and children, raises further £5M

my1styears My 1st Years, a U.K.-based e-commerce startup that offers personalised gifts for babies and children, has picked up £5 million in growth funding. Read More
Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Airfare prediction app Hopper raises $61.2 million to go global

Hopper: Flight Predictions

Hopper, an app for predicting airfare and booking flights, is now flush with cash: The 6-year-old Montreal- and Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company has raised a $ 61.2 million round led by Canadian fund CDPQ ($ 82M CAD).

“We are selling $ 1 million of air a day,” Hopper CEO Frederic Lalonde told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “We’re a full blown agency, not like Hipmunk, not like Kayak. Completely standalone.”

For every ticket Hopper sells, it takes a commission — the company won’t say how much. And Hopper also charges users a $ 5 fee per ticket. Lalonde says customers don’t mind the fee because “on average people save $ 50 a ticket.”

“Our main competitor is your laptop,” Lalonde added. He hopes Hopper, which is only available on mobile devices, will become the “largest and most used travel app in the world.”

That’s why Hopper raised $ 61.2 million (on top of the $ 38 million it’s already raised). Lalonde says Hopper will triple its staff to 120 people next year, and the company plans to set up a “local presence” in 120 countries in order to find and sell low fares outside the U.S. and Canada.

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Big data software company Databricks raises $60 million

Databricks cofounder and chief technologist Matei Zaharia at Spark Summit EU 2016.

Databricks, a startup that has pushed the commercialization of the Apache Spark open-source big data software, today is announcing a $ 60 million funding round.

Databricks offers cloud service based on Spark that can be used for data integration, data pipelines, and other tasks. The Spark data processing engine is considered faster than Apache Hadoop, which companies like Cloudera, MapR, and publicly traded Hortonworks sell distributions of. Earlier this year, Hadoop-as-a-service startup Altiscale was acquired by SAP.

NEA led the round, with participation from Andreessen Horowitz. Both firms also participated in Databricks’ previous funding round. To date, Databricks has raised $ 107.5 million.

Databricks was founded in 2013 and is based in San Francisco. Last year, it announced a partnership with IBM around machine learning capabilities in Spark.

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Blackmore raises $3.5 million to fit roof-mounted sensors for self-driving cars onto a single chip

Google Self-Driving Car

Blackmore Sensors and Analytics today announced that it had raised $ 3.5 million to further develop its frequency-modulated continuous-wave (FMCW) Lidar for use in self-driving cars. The company aims to reduce the primitive-looking radar and camera systems atop today’s autonomous car prototypes to a single semiconductor mounted inside the vehicle’s front grill.

“The typical American consumer does not want a self-driving car with roof-mounted instruments,” Randy Reibel, CEO of Blackmore, told VentureBeat. “We’re reducing this to be stamped out on a single semiconductor so that it can fit in the front grill of a car and we can squeeze it in there, out of sight.”

Lidar stands for “light detection and ranging,” and it is the technology that helps autonomous cars “see.” Blackmore’s differentiated approach to Lidar relies on frequency-modulation, much the way FM radio differs from AM radio. It allows self-driving vehicles to detect range (how far away another car is) and spatial details (the shape and characteristics of that car), as well as speed (how fast the car is moving away from or toward you).

Next Frontier Capital and Millennium Technology Value Partners participated in the investment. “Blackmore’s Lidar engine provides advanced capabilities not available in competing systems,” said Next Frontier Capital managing partner, Richard Harjes, in a statement, “such as single photon sensitivity and the capability to simultaneously measure an object’s range and speed. These advanced capabilities will open up a new era of computationally efficient Lidar analytics that will lower the total cost of autonomous driving systems.”

Blackmore is one of a new generation of auto parts suppliers preparing to meet the component needs of self-driving cars. Automakers like Ford, Fiat Chrysler, and BMW are investing heavily in self-driving car technology, and Google‘s self-driving car is seemingly everywhere. Tesla provides an Autopilot system, and everyone from Apple to Uber seems interested in the space. Blackmore estimates that the annual Lidar market will reach $ 10 billion by 2020, fueled, in large part, by the rapidly growing demand for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Blackmore’s competitors include Velodyne and Quanergy. Tesla, famously, has not adopted Lidar for its ADAS.

Blackmore is located in Bozeman, Montana and has 22 employees. The company will use the investment to begin manufacturing its Lidar engine using semiconductor processes, which will enable it to produce sensors at scale and at low cost. “Blackmore’s current plan is to deliver prototype automotive Lidar and deployable surveillance systems using our new Lidar engine in mid-2017,” said Reibel.


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Gay dating app Hornet raises $8 million, its first institutional funding

Hornet Logo

Hornet, a dating app that touts itself as “the world’s second largest gay social network,” announced that it has raised $ 8 million in its first round of institutional financing. The Series A round was led by Shanghai-based VC firm Ventech China, and adds to the $ 500,000 angel round Hornet raised back in 2012.

Founded out of San Francisco in 2011, Hornet serves to “strengthen” the gay community by “providing quality social interactions with more ways to meet and engage in local gay communities,” the company says. It recently made its first acquisition, snapping up gay city guide Vespa for an undisclosed amount, with Vespa’s places and events data integrated into Hornet in a major refresh earlier this month.

Vespa says that it’s now the top gay social network in some markets, including Russia, Brazil, France, and Taiwan, with three million active users each month across the board, or half of what Grindr counts. Indeed, Grindr is among the best-known gay online communities, and earlier this year it too nabbed its first ever institutional funding, closing a $ 93 million round after nearly seven years of bootstrapping. Similar to Hornet, Grindr’s investment also emanated from China, with gaming giant Beijing Kunlun Tech Company buying a 60 percent stake in the company, valuing it at around $ 155 million.

Hornet says that its cash influx will be used to “support rapid business growth and user adoption” around the world.

“We are excited to work with our new investors to further our mission and engage our community,” explained Christof Wittig, Hornet CEO, in a press release. “Hornet brings interaction and an experience that builds relationships and helps form meaningful connections to local communities. We will invest heavily into making our vision for a fully connected gay community a reality.”

Ventech China has invested in at least one other gay community app — it participated in the Series C round of China’s Blued in June this year. Blued is big in Asia, and has claimed to be twice as big as Grindr.

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to invest in Hornet,” added Eric Huet, a managing partner at Ventech who also now joins Hornet’s board of directors. “The platform combined with the user functionality is unparalleled. In such a short time, Hornet has claimed leader position in many markets across the globe.”

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Cloud-based connected car startup Otonomo raises $12 million


Self-driving car startup Otonomo has closed a $ 12 million series A round, led by Bessemer Venture Partners and Stageone Ventures, with participation from Maniv Mobility and LocalGlobe.

Founded out of Tel Aviv in 2015, Otonomo’s cloud-based platform connects service providers and app developers with millions of connected cars. For example, car manufacturers may use Otonomo to share and monetize car data, while offering drivers access to additional in-car services. The company says that it has already begun trials with manufacturers and service providers, and with an extra $ 12 million in its coffers, it plans to expand and scale its service as it gears up for prime time.

“Gartner has predicted that by 2020, a quarter of a billion connected vehicles will be on the road — all of which will depend on in-car digital apps,” explained Ben Volkow, CEO and cofounder of Otonomo. “But in order for cars to provide the best connected service for drivers, car manufacturers need a platform they trust to share and negotiate data between them and application providers while meeting different data and privacy regulations that respect and accommodate drivers’ privacy. That’s where Otonomo comes in, as our integrated cloud-based platform is a trusted gateway between the services and apps drivers want and the security the automotive industry needs.”

This year has seen a myriad of investments across the connected car and autonomous vehicle realm. Automile, a startup that helps companies manage their vehicle fleets, recently secured a $ 6.2 million investment; Civil Maps, a mapping startup that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and local vehicle-based processing to convert data obtained from a car’s sensors into “meaningful map information” for use in autonomous vehicles, raised $ 6.6 million; FiveAI closed a $ 2.7 million funding round for its machine-learning smarts that could underpin the autonomous cars of the future; and Drive Time Metrics raised $ 2.1 million to monetize connected car data.

Elsewhere, a number of startups have been snapped up by bigger companies as the autonomous vehicle land-grab enters overdrive — for example, Cruise Automation was acquired by GM for over $ 1 billion, while Uber acquired self-driving truck startup Otto.

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