Category Archives: Spark Capital

Postmates lines up another $100M ahead of IPO

Postmates, one of the earlier entrants to the billion-dollar food delivery wars, has raised an additional $100 million in equity funding at a $1.85 billion valuation, as first reported by Recode and confirmed to TechCrunch by Postmates. The round comes four months after the eight-year-old startup drove home a $300 million investment that finally knocked it into “unicorn” territory.

New investor BlackRock has joined the funding round alongside Tiger Global, which served as the lead investor of Postmates’ September financing. Led by co-founder and chief executive officer Bastian Lehmann, the company has garnered a total of $681 million in venture capital funding from investors, including Spark Capital, Founders Fund, Uncork Capital and Slow Ventures.

In line with several other tech unicorns, Postmates has begun prep for an initial public offering that could come this year, including tapping JPMorgan to advise the float. As Recode pointed out, the $100 million capital infusion was probably less of a necessary funding event but rather an opportunity for existing investors to liquidate stock ahead of an exit.

Postmates, which completes 3.5 million deliveries per month, reportedly expected to record $400 million in revenue in 2018 on food sales of $1.2 billion. The company has not confirmed that figure nor disclosed any other 2018 revenue numbers. The company currently operates in more than 500 cities, recently tacking on another 100 markets to reach an additional 50 million customers.

It will be interesting to see how Wall Street responds to a Postmates public listing. Though it was an early player in what has become an extremely crowded market, Postmates never emerged as the leader in food delivery. Now, with supergiants like Uber dominating via Uber Eats and SoftBank funneling loads of capital into Postmates competitor DoorDash, it shouldn’t count on an oversubscribed IPO.

This company wants to put “brains” in electric scooters and bikes to keep riders safer

Superpedestrian, a Cambridge, Ma.-based company, has been known until now for its electric Copenhagen wheel, which a user attaches to his or her bikes and operates through an app. It’s essentially a hub that houses a motor, a battery and sensors and is placed in the middle of the rear wheel, measuring how fast and how forcefully someone is riding and adding a little electric oomph when a bike’s pedals are pushed.

Riders love the wheel, but now, Superpedestrian is shifting gears. It isn’t abandoning its consumer base. Instead, it’s taking the wraps off an entirely new second business that plans to use the one million kilometers of data the company has amassed from its Copenhagen customers to improve the offerings of urban mobility companies. More specifically, it wants to sell them hardware and software that will keep their fleets up to snuff.

It doesn’t matter if these companies are renting out electric bikes, scooter, mopeds or all three. Superpedestrian is “micro vehicle” agnostic, suggests its founder, Assaf Biderman — who’d earlier spent 10 years working at MIT’s Senseable City Lab. In fact, he says Superpedestrian has been quietly modeling out this business-to-business diagnostics business since nearly the company’s launch five years ago, but that it was waiting for small motorized vehicles to gain momentum.

Now, of course, scooter and e-bike sharing services are suddenly booming. Enter Superpedestrian. It says it’s time for the companies that are peppering city streets with them to improve the quality of these vehicles, and that Superpedestrian can help make them more reliable, easier to track, and more cost-effective over time.

Biderman is, alas, a little vague on some of the specifics. For competitive reasons, he declines to discuss how much Superpedestrian will charge for its technology or precisely how a customer like an Uber or a Spin or a Scoot would incorporate its tech into their products. He also won’t say whether Superpedestrian is already selling to any of these, or other, mobility companies already.

He is comfortable talking broadly about are the sensors, embedded controllers, and software that Superpedestrian has created and protected thanks to the “dozens of patents” that the company has secured over the years, “from Japan to China to Europe to the U.S.” He suggests that what Superpedestrian has built in some ways mirrors the smarts in self-driving cars.

When a car opens in front of a rider, for example, that person’s natural inclination might be to slam on the brakes, but Biderman argues they aren’t always able to do this on pedal-assist bikes, which are actuated by sensing rider pedaling but have “very limited ability when it comes to sensing what the rider is actually doing with his or her feet.” Delays in power output due to controls, or gear lag, can also prove dangerous if the expectation is that a bike will push in synch with how the pedals are pushed. Superdestrian’s tech gives riders more control over the bike because it ensures the power is better synchronized with pedaling motions, he says.

The technology doesn’t just protect riders. Bideman says companies that work with Superpedestrian can also better protect their products. For one thing, he says, its technology can ensure their batteries don’t overheat. (As we’ve seen with autonomous cars, laptops and mobile phones, lithium-ion batteries can, on rare occasion, catch fire and explode.)

Investors certainly like Superpedestrian’s new direction. The company, which employs roughly 50 people, just closed on $16.5 million in Series B1 funding expressly to introduce its products and services into the e-bike and electric scooter sharing market. Designer Tony Fadell, investing from his investment and advisory firm Future Shape, participated in the round. So did Spark Capital, General Catalyst, and Charles Kim of Extol Capital, who also serves as managing director at China Renaissance in the U.S.

The new round brings the company’s total funding to $44 million. Biderman sounds highly motivated to put it to work, too.

“It’s great that micro mobility is becoming a reality in cities,” he says. He’d become obsessed long ago with how to squeeze more capacity out of roads, and nothing makes him happier than “one-person vehicles, because they’re occupied at 100 percent,” unlike cars that are “usually 60 to 80 percent unoccupied” and the “wrong scale as cities become more congested.”

Still, he continues, these new vehicles “need to have a different brain in them.” If he has his way, Superpedestrian will design it.

Hivemapper, The Waze For Drones, Lands $3M Seed Led By Spark Capital

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 11.45.37 AM Flying a drone is kind of like driving a car that only has a windshield. You can only look in one direction at a time, and when the drone gets out of visual range, the user is left with one a single view through the lens of a camera. HiveMapper, a company that just raised a $3 million Series A led by Spark Capital, is looking to make that a bit safer. You can think of Hivemapper as a Waze… Read More

With Water Running Out, Freight Farms Launches 2015 Farm-In-A-Box

LGM2015 Climate change is real, and it is getting uglier. Global temperatures are continuing to rise, placing enormous strain on water and food supplies throughout the world. Many areas have been hit hard by the climate disruption, but none more prominently than California, where the state has entered its fourth year of drought with massively diminishing water supplies and hectares of fallow land.… Read More