Startup Monday: 10 news to follow this week in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 37–26 April 2021)
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While earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Seyeob Kim realized that the biggest hindrance to developing artificial intelligence is the time-consuming task of collecting and annotating vast amounts of data, which he says takes up 80% of AI developers’ time. So Kim recruited three classmates- Haseung Jeon, Munhwi Jeon and Howook Shin-to launch Selectstar and fix the data problem. Its solution: Crowdsource it.
The SelectStar quartet are among the entrepreneurs in the Enterprise Technology category of this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list that are using AI technologies to improve everything from customer service and drafting legal documents to job hunting and even the way AI itself is trained.
Launched in 2018, SelectStar develops mobile and web applications that pays users to upload their annotated photos, which SelectStar then uses to teach computers to recognize what’s in the photos, a form of AI companies then pay SelectStar for. So far, almost 90,000 people in Korea have uploaded photos, and Kim expects about 200,000 people will be on the platform by the end of the year, while SelectStar is already selling the results to LG, Samsung, internet giant Naver and 130 other customers. The startup raised $4 million last year from Korean VC firms, including the venture arm of internet giant Kakao, in a deal that valued it at almost $22 million. You can find the full list of 30 Asian startups under 30 in Forbes
2. Hive, which has built a training data trove based on crowdsourced contributions from some 2 million people globally, which then powers a set of APIs that can be used to identify automatically images of objects, words and phrases — a process used not just in content moderation platforms, but also in building algorithms for autonomous systems, back-office data processing and more — has raised $85 million in funding, and the startup has confirmed that it is now valued at $2 billion.
3. Cybersecurity startup Deep Instinct, an Israeli cybersecurity company that uses machine learning to predict, identify, and prevent cyberattacks, said Thursday it has raised $100 million in Series D funding.
The new capital raised by the startup in its D round doubles the funds raised from investors to date, bringing the total funding to $200 million, the company said in a statement. The money raised will fuel the company’s growth plans for 2021 and beyond, the statement said.
The Tel Aviv-based startup is one of the first to use deep learning algorithms to predict cyber threats and advanced attacks. Deep learning is inspired by the brain’s ability to learn.
4. Versant Ventures banked $950 million in its latest raise to invest in 20 or more biotech startups and chip into later-stage rounds for its portfolio companies.
The capital will be split into three funds, including $560 million to form a primary fund, known as Fund VIII, and $140 million for Voyageurs II, a “booster” fund to supplement Versant’s investment in early-stage startups. The firm will use the remaining $250 million to invest in series B or later rounds through its Vantage II fund.
Versant will invest Fund VIII in biotech startups in the U.S., Canada and Europe. It expects to create the majority of these companies from scratch using its discovery engines that are dotted around those regions.
5. Endeavour Vision has announced the closing of Endeavour Medtech Growth II (EMG II) LP at around €311 million in capital commitments. The fund will pursue the same strategy as its predecessor: to support growth-stage Medtech and digital health innovations that advance the standard of care and bring efficiencies to healthcare systems.
Both new and returning investors supported EMG II LP, including public pension funds, multi-manager funds, family offices, and high-net-worth individuals. EMG II LP builds on Endeavour Vision’s two decades of healthcare investing, which to date has included over €415 million invested in 42 companies — 21 of which have exited via acquisition or IPO.
In less than a decade, Ornikar has revolutionized the traditional driving school model to become the go-to online driver education platform and training marketplace in France, with a fast-growing presence in Spain. Ornikar’s platform — which offers comprehensive online driver education courses and matches students with independent driving instructors — has helped over 1.5 million people learn the rules of the road.
In 2020, the company expanded into France’s €17 billion car insurance market with the launch of Ornikar Assurance, a product designed for the digital world with a highly intuitive user experience and services tailored to each individual driver’s needs.
7. CoinSwitch Kuber, a startup that allows young users in India to invest in cryptocurrencies, said on Thursday it has raised $25 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand its reach in India, the world’s second-largest internet market, and also the place where the future of private cryptocurrencies remains uncertain for now.
Tiger Global financed the entire Series B funding round of CoinSwitch Kuber and valued the three-year-old Indian startup at more than $500 million. The announcement of Series B comes just three months after CoinSwitch closed its $15 million Series A round from Ribbit Capital, Sequoia Capital India and Kunal Shah. The Bangalore-based startup has raised $41.5 million to date.
8. U.S. House Passes Bill To Create First Crypto Task Force On Digital Assets.
House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill called the ‘’Eliminate Barriers to Innovation Act of 2021'’ (H.R. 1602) that, if passed by the Senate and enacted into law, would create a digital assets working group between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The bill is co-sponsored by Majority Leader Patrick McHenry (R-NC) of the House Financial Services Committee and Chairman Stephen Lynch (D-MA) of the Task Force on Financial Technology.
The digital asset working group would be the first of its kind in the United States if passed by the Senate and enacted into law by President Biden. According to the bill, the members of the digital assets working group must be made up of a combination of employees from both the SEC and CFTC as well as at least one representative from the following six categories:
I) Financial technology companies providing digital assets;
2) Financial firms under the jurisdiction of the SEC or CFTC;
3) Institutions or organizations engaged in academic research or advocacy on digital assets;
4) small businesses engaged in financial technology;
5) investor protection organizations;
6) Institutions and organizations that support investment in historically underserved businesses.
9. Crypto markets pulled back sharply after reports US president Joe Biden is planning to raise capital gains tax for the wealthy.
Bloomberg reported on Thursday that Biden is considering nearly doubling tax to as high as 39.6%, an increase from the current 20%. Cryptocurrency investors face higher taxes if Biden presses ahead.
Bitcoin crashed 10% to $49,332 (£68,482) on Friday morning in London, Ethereum slumped 11% to $2,227 after hitting record highs of £2,613 on Thursday.
Dogecoin’s price continues its downward spiral after a few days of gains, slumping as much as 28%, it is currently trading 26% lower. XRP plummeted 20%.
Meanwhile, Coinbase struggled to stage a rebound in New York overnight, pushing 6% lower for the fourth consecutive day.
10. Bitcoin tumbled more than 4% on Friday after Turkey’s central bank banned the use of cryptocurrencies and crypto-assets for purchases citing possible “irreparable” damage and transaction risks.
In legislation published in the Official Gazette, the central bank said cryptocurrencies and other such digital assets based on distributed ledger technology could not be used, directly or indirectly, to pay for goods and services.
The decision could stall Turkey’s crypto market, which has gained momentum in recent months as investors joined the global rally in bitcoin, seeking to hedge against lira depreciation and inflation that topped 16% last month.
Bitcoin was down 4.6% at $60,333 at 1117 GMT after the ban, which was criticized by Turkey’s main opposition party. Smaller coins ethereum and XRP, which tend to move in tandem with bitcoin, fell between 6%-12%.
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