Gen Z doesn’t want to get drunk. Millennials are tired of the obligatory after-work drinks.
Haus, a new startup selling apéritifs online, has a solution for them. The company’s beverages have a lower alcohol content than standard hard liquors on the market, which means you can drink one, even a few, without getting wasted. Made from distilled grapes, fresh herbs and botanicals, its natural ingredients and A-plus branding are sure to appeal to the younger demographic.
Launching today with pre-seed backing from venture capital funds Combine, Haystack and Partners Resolute, customers can begin ordering Haus’ citrus & flower-flavored debut apéritif (15% ABV), priced at $70 apiece. The goal, co-founder Helena Price Hambrecht explains, is to be the first fully direct-to-consumer player in an industry dominated by digitally-novice incumbent alcohol brands and distributors.
Haus enters the market at an opportune time. VCs — more than ever — are funneling cash to innovative beverage projects. This year, Bev, a canned wine business, raised $7 million in seed funding from Founders Fund. Liquid Death, which sells canned water for the punk rock crowd, attracted nearly $2 million in funding from angel investors like Away co-founder Jen Rubio and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. And More Labs, the company readying the launch of Liquid Focus, is backed with $8 million in VC funding, among others.
Haus is run by husband-and-wife duo Helena Price Hambrecht and Woody Hambrecht. The former has established herself in Silicon Valley, developing the brands of consumer-facing companies including the likes of Airbnb, Dropbox, Facebook, Fitbit and Instagram. Woody Hambrecht, for his part, has been a bona fide “booze guy” since a young age, making wine and managing 67 acres of wine grapes at the pair’s Sonoma County, Calif. ranch, where Haus is also headquartered.
“We joke that it must have taken a Silicon Valley type to marry a wine & spirits guy because no one has done this before; it’s crazy,” Price Hambrecht tells TechCrunch. “I can make something that gets a shit load of users and press in my sleep and I married this wine & spirits guy who understands the compliance, fulfillment, legal and finance elements. The amount we can do together is insane.”
By “this,” she means launch a direct-to-consumer apéritif brand. It’s generally illegal to sell spirits online D2C aside from a small subset of liquors with lesser alcohol contents. Knowing this loophole, many restaurants across the U.S. have begun making cocktails using only this subset of liquors (thus avoiding the steep fees required to obtain a liquor license) but Price Hambrecht says no one has thought to create an online store for apéritifs for fear of going up against the old guard of the alcoholic beverage market.
Because Haus handles every part of the process, including a patent-pending production model, the old guard isn’t an issue, nor is scaling. Currently, Haus is making and bottling its beverages in a 3,000 square foot warehouse just North of the couple’s farm, with plans to purchase another 2,800 square foot warehouse as orders increase. Unlike wine or whiskey, which must age years before going to market, it only takes hours to make apéritifs, simplifying one of the more complex features of the wine & spirits business.
Later this year, Haus plans to raise additional seed capital to launch a subscription product in 2020, begin constructing brick-and-mortar apéritif shops for the millennial and Gen Z cohort and release a second and third product line. Ultimately, Haus wants not only to disrupt the liquor business but provide alternative beverages to young people looking for better options.
“I was going through my own dilemma of drinking,” Price Hambrecht said. “If you’re a person that is career-focused, you’re possibly drinking 4-plus nights per week. I love how it brings people together; it’s a foundation of society, but you’ve got all these downsides. I never want to be drunk, I never want to be hungover.”
“It’s a cultural problem that we are solving.”
If you’re serious about starting and scaling your business in school, treat your time in school like an extended incubator. While you may experience high levels of academic stress, your “real world” financial stress and transition to adulthood are buffered.
Understand why you’re in school
The key advantage of starting your business in school is that you have the time to test different ideas and evaluate which idea generates traction without high stakes. You will also gain key subject matter and operational knowledge that you can carry throughout your career.
The challenge of starting a business in school is that it is not easy to devote adequate focused energy to the growth of that business. Student founders cannot attend to the needs of their business whenever they feel like it. It’s a 24/7, 365 job that needs to be managed on top of rigorous schoolwork.
When I started Terravive, I spent at least 4-5 hours throughout each day speaking with our partners and customers and solving problems. Sometimes you must leave class and drop everything to put out fires.
The key to surmounting this challenge is to understand why you want to start this business. If you just want the recognition of starting a business, then I would recommend a different line of work to get the recognition you’re seeking.
If you want to solve a problem that you see in the world and are willing to do anything and everything to realize your vision, then starting a business may be the right path. When you run into problems in the future or question why you’re making all these sacrifices, remember why you started.
Founder and CEO Zak Normandin said the money will go towards launching new beverage brands developed internally at Iris Nova, as well as investing in beverages created by other companies, which will then distributed via the Iris Nova platform.
“This is the way for us to compete with the bigger beverage companies,” Normandin said.
He added that he’s open to working with both established companies and startups taking advantage of the shift away from “high calorie, high sugar beverages.” Either way, they’ll get access to the Iris Nova platform, which allows them to accept orders via text message, and to distribute their beverages next-day or same-day to every major U.S. market.
Normandin said that by linking the investment and the platform partnership, Iris Nova is forcing itself to be “highly selective” about which beverages will be part of the portfolio.
He also said the company won’t work with directly competing products — for example, he won’t partner with two different coconut water brands, but he would work with a coconut water brand and a sparkling water brand. In exchange, the brands have to commit to using Iris Nova as their only e-commerce platform, aside from Amazon.
Although Normandin brought up The Coca-Cola Company several times as a point of comparison (“I think that if Coke were to start today, it would do things exactly the way we are”), he also emphasized that he isn’t trying to turn Iris Nova itself into a consumer brand. There will be advantages for consumers who order across the Iris Nova portfolio — namely, they won’t have to reenter their payment and shipping information — but Normandin said, “I don’t think there will ever be an Iris Nova marketplace.”
The company said it will start adding new beverages to the platform on July 1. The goal, Normandin said, is to introduce 12 brands by the end of the year. He isn’t sure what the internal-external mix will be, but he said the company has already made two external investments, while also having a few beverage brands of its own ready to go, including the Tres Limón line of non-alcoholic apéritifs.
“What we think is that billion-dollar brands will not exist in the future,” he said. “I have no specific loyalty to Dirty Lemon as a brand. Our goal is to meet the needs of consumers right now. Eventually, if it goes away, that’s fine — we’ll create new selections for that same consumer group.”
Hustle up, hackathon fans. The TechCrunch Hackathon at Disrupt San Francisco 2019 on October 2-4 may be more than three months away, but it’s filling up fast. There’s no application deadline. Instead, we’re capping the number of participants at 800 — and we have approximately 100 spots left. Don’t get shunted to the waiting list. Apply to the Hackathon today.
It doesn’t cost anything to compete in the hackathon. You’ll get free Expo Only passes for days one and two, and then we’ll upgrade you to an Innovator pass for day three of Disrupt SF.
Here’s how it all works. The TC hackathon sponsors offer a variety of contests — real-world challenges that require working solutions. Each sponsored challenge comes with its own prizes, including cash money.
You can bring a team of 4-6 people, or you can come solo and we’ll help you find a team when you arrive. Teams will use a variety of APIs, data sets and other tools to design, create and submit a working product in approximately 24 hours.
You’ll need talent, focus and stamina to build something out of nothing under this kind of intense pressure. We’ll do our part to keep your blood sugar levels up with free food and drink — including plenty of Red Bull and coffee. Plus, one of our hackathon sponsors, Kinship, will be hosting a custom contest at the Hackathon to explore how data could enrich the lives of pets to help them live healthier and happier. With access to unique pet data, and a puppy lounge (!!!) with animal shelters for much needed puppy love, they are looking to engage with founders, developers, designers and anyone passionate about pet space to create a brighter future for pets around the world. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be announcing more sponsors, contests and prizes.
When the time runs out, all teams submit their work. The judges will review all completed projects — science-fair style — on day two. They’ll pick 10 finalists to step onto the Extra Crunch Stage and deliver a two-minute product pitch.
After the judges consult, the sponsors announce their winning teams and award their prizes. And then — drum roll please — TechCrunch announces its grand prize winner for the best overall hack. The grand prize? A cool, $10,000. You’ll find more details and the event agenda on the Hackathon website.
We have just about 100 hackathon seats left at Disrupt San Francisco 2019 on October 2-4. Don’t miss your chance to dazzle us with your mad coding skills, compete against some of the world’s best devs, solve a real-world problem and maybe even win some cool prizes. Fill out the Hackathon application now.
Is your company interested in sponsoring the Hackathon at Disrupt San Francisco 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.
Instead of emailing a term sheet, Ilya Fushman paid $150 to have ‘Deep Blue Sea’ actor Michael Rapaport send the Cameo founders Steven Galanis, Martin Blencowe and Devon Townsend a video message congratulating them on their $50 million Series B. A general partner at Kleiner Perkins, Fushman tapped Cameo’s own service, which sells personalized video messages from celebrities, influencers, athletes and thought leaders, to win over the startup amid what he says was a “highly competitive deal.”
Fushman and Galanis, Cameo’s chief executive officer, declined to disclose the startup’s valuation with the new funds, but Delaware stock authorization filings uncovered by PitchBook, as well as previous reporting from Axios’ Dan Primack, indicate a valuation of $300 million. The Chernin Group, Spark Ventures, Bain Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners also participated in the round.
Chicago-based Cameo emerged in 2017 and quickly popularized a new type of thank you note, at least among the Gen Z crowd. For a low price of $5 to a whopping fee of $3,000, customers pay Cameo for lightly scripted messages from some of their favorite personalities. On the high end, messages from Snoop Dogg, a Cameo investor and member of its talent lineup, have sold for $3,000. A few words from the former basketball star and author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar run for $500. And for the low price of $55, YouTube star Joe Santagato will tell your best friend happy birthday.
At about two years old, Cameo’s growth is exploding. In December, the company recorded roughly 100,000 transactions. By the end of this month, they will have done over 300,000, fulfilling an average of 2,000 video requests per day.
“People use Cameo as often as they used to go to Hallmark to buy a card,” Galanis tells TechCrunch. “We have power users that have literally bought hundreds of these and we have these interesting use cases. A lot of enterprise sales teams are buying these to get in front of a contact that maybe went cold. We are seeing customers using these as job offers.”
Cameo takes a 25% cut of every transaction made on its website. The team prefers to sell a higher volume of videos rather than make big sells, like that of Snoop Dogg, because the more videos delivered, the more are shared on social media and the more shared on social media, the more free advertising for Cameo. Because they’ve prioritized volume, they’ve increased revenue 5x year-over-year, Galanis explained, without detailing specific revenue figures.
With its latest infusion of capital, which brings its total to $65 million, Cameo plans to revamp its mobile app and implement purchasing features (currently, one can only buy Cameos on the company’s website). The real focus, however, will be on the international market.
Cameo has a roster of 15,000 celebrities that they believe could expand to 5 million. For now, the roster is majority American icons of sorts. To hire talent acquisition teams abroad, Cameo, which already has offices in London and Australia, is sending co-founder Martin Blencowe to London. He will focus on developing the London team, as well as identifying additional talent in Europe, South America and Asia.
In addition to grand global ambitions, Cameo is looking to expand its range of talent. There is no shortage of B-list celebrities available for booking, but when it comes to CEOs, investors and business influencers, for example, Cameo is lacking. Kleiner Perkins’ Fushman recently became available for booking and to his surprise, an engineering team paid to have him give a shout out to one of their lead engineers almost immediately.
“Everybody’s got role models and this is a way for you to be more directly impacted,” Fushman tells TechCrunch.
What emerged as a friendly way to treat friends has become an avenue for wedding proposals, “promposals,” baby gender reveals, teens coming out to their parents, sports fans roasting their nemeses and more.
“It’s a new way for people to connect and the delight generated from this platform is unparalleled,” Galanis said.
At Uber’s Elevate summit in Washington, DC earlier this month, researchers, industry leaders and engineers gathered to celebrate the approaching advent of on-demand air service. For Dr. Anita Sengupta, co-founder and Chief Product Office at Detroit’s Airspace Experience Technologies (abbreviated ASX), it was an event full of validation of her company’s specific approach to making electric vertical take-off and landing craft a working, commercially viable reality.
ASX’s eVTOL design is a tilt-wing design, which is distinct from the tilt-rotor design you might see on some of the splashier concept vehicles in the category. As you might’ve inferred from the name of each type of aircraft, with tilt-wing designs the entire wing of the aircraft can change orientation, while on tilt-rotor, just the rotor itself adjust independent of the wing structure.
The benefits of ASX’s tilt-wing choice, according to Sengupta, is speed to market and compatibility with existing regulatory and pilot licensing frameworks – and that’s why ASX could be providing cargo transport service relatively quickly for paying customers, with passenger travel to follow once regulators and the public get comfortable with the idea.
“Depending upon the aircraft configuration you selected, like us, for example, we’re basically a fixed wing aircraft,” Sengupta explained. “So we would not be classified as a rotorcraft, we’d be classified as a fixed wing aircraft with multi-engine, just with obviously special certification features for the VTOL capability. And of course, special check out for the pilots, but the pilots also would be fixed wing aircraft, pilots, they wouldn’t be helicopter pilots.”
ASX’s vehicle design means that it can either take off vertically when space is tight, or do a more traditional short horizontal take off like the airplanes we use every day. That not only makes it easier to use for pilots with more conventional training and experience, but it also means it can slot into existing infrastructure relatively easily and make use of underused regional airports that already dot the U.S.
“Most people who don’t fly for fun don’t realize that there are general aviation airports all over the place, that are underutilized, because only people like me, who fly for fun [Sengupta is also a pilot], use them frequently,” she said. ” Like where we’re located at Detroit City Airport, on a given day, there could sometimes only be like three planes that go in and out of it. So this is infrastructure, which is already funded, paid for and operated by governments, but isn’t utilized. And you can use them in this new UAM [Urban Air Mobility] space, whether it’s for people or for cargo, it’s actually a really good thing, because the challenge of any new transportation system is the cost of infrastructure.”
ASX has also moved quickly to get aircraft up in the sky, which is better help in terms of its own path to commercialization. It’s built six scaled down demonstration and testing aircraft, including five one-fifth scale and one that’s one-third the size of the eventual production version. These testing aircraft can demonstrate all their modes of flight within easy view of the Detroit City Airport airspace control and monitoring.
“We believe, and when you’re really cash strapped your small company, getting a lot of work at the subscale just allows you to do a lot more iterating, prototyping, and learning, basically how to control the vehicle,” Sengupta told me. “From a software perspective, it’s only when you get to that point, when you’re comfortable with a configuration, that it’s really worth your while to go off and build the full scale one. So with this next round [of funding, ASX’s second after raising just over $1 million last year]we’re going to go off and build this out at scale.”
Ultimately, Sengupta and ASX want to help usher in an era of air travel that creates efficiencies by changing the economics of regional and electric flight, and its attracting interest from investors and industry partners alike, including global transportation service provider TPS Logistics, with which it just signed a new MOU to work together on sussing out the opportunities of the eVTOL logistics market.
“Right now you you see a lot of congestion in airports, within beings, you’re going to have congestion coming in, you’re going to have to build a different professional parking lots and runways and all kinds of huge expense, if you can use these general aviation airports as regional centers to do that travel, you can take it away from the commercial, so they actually solve a lot of other problems,” Sengupta said. “For routes of let’s say 300 miles, you probably would need to do a hybrid power solution first, just because the energy density better isn’t there yet. But that’s the whole nicer than having it be fully fueled. And then hopefully […] hydrogen fuel cells is obviously something where you can get the energy needed in each of those regional flights. So by kick-starting this electric aviation use case for the shorter range, urban flights, you kind of kickstart the industry to push it over to fully electric vehicles for regional travel.”
Technology never stops evolving and neither do we. That’s why we’re excited to tell you about the new Extra Crunch Stage at Disrupt Berlin 2019. Our premiere tech conference dedicated to early-stage startups takes place 11-12 December. Now’s the time to book your super early-bird ticket, because the earlier you buy, the more you save.
Okay, it’s time to get extra crunchy. We named the Extra Crunch Stage after the eponymous how-to content we create for our most engaged readers. It offers in-depth exclusive content on topics like startup building fundamentals, resources and recommendations, unicorn deep dives, and much more.
The Extra Crunch Stage replaces last year’s Next Stage, but with more programming. You’ll still hear fireside chats and panel discussions focused on founder and investor success. You’ll also see and hear lots of how-to content and take away practical insights — the kind of advice you can actually use when the conference ends and the real work begins — from the folks who’ve done the hard work of getting things done.
If you want to glean every speck of startup knowledge from the Extra Crunch Stage programming, you’ll need to buy an Innovator, Founder or Investor pass. You’ll also have access to the speakers, panelists and founders on the Main Stage, the Showcase Stage in Startup Alley and the Q&A Stage.
Don’t miss all the action that Disrupt Berlin offers. Starting with our legendary pitch competition, the crown jewel of Disrupt — Startup Battlefield. Where else can you find bold, innovative, and dare we say unique, startups competing for $50,000 cash, glory and the Disrupt Cup? We’re not kidding about unique. A startup called Legacy won the Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin 2018, with its focus on addressing reduced sperm motility.
Join more than 3,000 attendees from more than 50 countries as they flow through Startup Alley, our exhibition floor. Hundreds of boundary-pushing, early-stage startups will display their talent, products, platforms and services.
Come ready to network, because you never know when or where you’ll meet that special someone who can change your business trajectory. And with a crowd that size, you’ll be relieved to have CrunchMatch, our free business networking platform, to help you connect with the specific people who share your business goals, criteria and interests.
Disrupt Berlin 2019 takes place on 11-12 December. Come check out the new Extra Crunch Stage and all the other opportunity just waiting for you. We have super early-bird tickets priced for every budget, and the sooner you buy your passes, the more you save.
Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt Berlin 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.
Sales teams have long turned to tech solutions to help improve how they source leads, develop relationships and close deals. Now, one of the startups that helps out at a key point in that trajectory is announcing a round of growth funding to help fuel its own rapid growth. Showpad, a sales enablement platform that lets salespeople source and organise relevant content and other collateral that they use in their deals, has raised a Series D of $70 million.
The funding, which brings the total raised by Showpad to $160 million, is coming in the form of debt and equity. The equity part is co-led by Dawn Capital and Insight Partners, with existing investors Hummingbird Ventures, and Korelya Capital also participating. Silicon Valley Bank is providing debt financing. This is one of the first big investments out of Dawn’s Opportunities Fund that we wrote about last week.
The company is not disclosing its valuation but Pieterjan Bouten, the CEO who co-founded the company with Louis Jonckheere (currently CPO), confirmed that it has doubled since the $50 million Series C that it raised in 2016, with the company growing 90% year-on-year at the moment in terms of revenues.
And as a point of reference, another sales enablement player, Seismic, last December raised a Series E of $100 million at a $1 billion valuation.
Founded in Ghent, Belgium, Showpad today operates across two main headquarters, its original European base and Chicago. The latter was the homebase of LearnCore, a company that Showpad acquired last year that focuses on sales coaching and training, which has been used as a strategic acquisition to expand Showpad’s primary product, a platform that acts as a kind of content management system for sales collateral. (Today, while Chicago is where Showpad builds its go-to market efforts and professional services, Ghent focuses on engineering and product, he said.) As it happens, Chicago is also the headquarters of Seismic.
As Bouten sees it, Showpad is part of what he considers to be the fourth pillar of the technology marketing stack: storage (the cloud services where you keep all your data), CRM, marketing automation and sales enablement, where Showpad sits.
While the first three are key to helping to manage a salesperson’s activities and work, the fourth is a crucial one for helping to make sure a salesperson can do his or her job more effectively. Traditionally a lot of the content that salespeople used — presentations, white papers, other materials — to help make their cases and close their deals would be managed offline and directly by individual salespeople. Showpad has taken some of that process and made it digital, which means that now teams of salespeople can more effectively share materials amongst each other; and interestingly the material and its link to successful sales becomes part of how Showpad “learns” what works and what doesn’t.
That, in turn, helps build its own artificial intelligence algorithms, to help suggest the best materials for a particular sales effort either to someone else in that team, or to other salespeople using the platform.
“To date there has been enormous innovation in automating the marketing and sales workflow. However, in the end, sales comes down to one person selling to another,” said Norman Fiore, General Partner at Dawn Capital and member of the Showpad Board, in a statement. “Historically, this has been an offline process that has been wildly inconsistent and opaque. Showpad’s suite of products succeeds in bringing this process online for the first time with data-rich feedback loops on the effectiveness of teams, managers, salespeople and even individual pieces of sales content.”
This is a crowded area of the market with a number of standalone companies building sales enablement solutions, but also other companies within the sales stack also adding on enablement as a value-added service. For now, though, Bouten notes that these are more strategic partners than competitors. Salesforce is a partner, he says, and “We integrate with Salesloft to make sure sure emails that are sent out are using the right content. We become the single source of truth but also are being used for outreach.”
Today, the company has around 1,200 enterprise customers, including Johnson & Johnson, GE Healthcare, Bridgestone, Honeywell, and Merck, and the plan going forward will be to continue building out the services that it offers around its sales enablement software.
“You can equip sales people with the best content, but if they are not trained and coached in the right way, it goes nowhere,” he said.
Motorway, the U.K. used car marketplace, has raised £11 million in Series A funding. Leading the round is Marchmont Ventures, the fund managed by Hugo Burge and Alan Martin (the former CEO and CFO of Momondo Group, respectively), along with participation from existing backer LocalGlobe.
Founded by the team behind Top10 — the mobile and broadband comparison site that exited to uSwitch in 2011 — Motorway has set out to make it easier to sell your used car online. The website lets car sellers instantly see live offers from multiple car buying services and specialist dealerships. You can compare headline offers, buyer reviews, and fees and collection options to find the best deal.
It competes with a number of other used car selling options including having to visit multiple car dealers to negotiate a sale, or list privately on websites like AutoTrader or eBay. The other option is to use one of a number of online car buyers, such as WeBuyAnyCar, that provide a quick disposal option but where prices paid are typically low. Motorway says that by comparing offers, consumers can get up to £1,000 more than going direct to one buyer.
The London and Brighton-based company has also launched a dedicated product for dealers, dubbed “Motorway Pro”. Sellers complete a detailed online profile of their car and if it is relatively new or higher priced they have the option to make it accessible to dealers on the Motorway Pro platform. Dealers then have 24 hours to bid for the vehicle, after which the winning dealer is connected to the seller to complete the transaction.
The Pro platform is built on mobile messaging: dealers get alerted about vehicles that fit their requirements via text message or WhatsApp. “The process removes middlemen from the sale process, making it much more efficient, resulting in a better deal for both the car seller and the dealer,” says Motorway.
Meanwhile, Motorway co-founder and CEO Tom Leathes tells me the startup is now driving over 100,000 sales enquiries per month — a sales enquiry every 30 seconds, apparently. A year ago that sat at 25,000 per month, representing 4x growth. “We’ve closed over £130 million in completed car sales,” he adds.
To help achieve this, Motorway on-boarded online buyers to the site, including Arnold Clark and Motor Depot. The startup also has partnerships with major car buying websites such as motors.co.uk and Parkers. Last month, Motorway’s first TV ad launched too.
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