Yubo raises $12.3 million for its social app for teens

French startup Yubo has raised a $12.3 million funding round led by Iris Capital and Idinvest Partners. Existing investors Alven, Sweet Capital and Village Global are also participating. The startup has managed to attract 25 million users over the years — there are currently tens of thousands of people signing up to the platform every day.

Yubo is building a social media app for young people under 25 with one focus in particular on helping teenagers meeting new people and creating friendships. Compared to the most popular social media apps out there, Yubo isn’t focused on likes and followers.

Instead, the app helps you build your own tiny little community of friends. Yubo wants to become a familiar place where you belong, even if high school sucks for instance.

More details in my previous profile of the company:

In addition to meeting new people, you can start conversations and create live video streams to hang out together. Each stream represents a micro-community of people interacting through both video and a live chat.

Since 2015, Yubo users have sent each other 10 billion messages and started 30 million live video streams. Overall, the user base has generated 2 billion friendships.

Soon, users will be able to turn on screensharing to show something on their phones. And at some point in 2020, Yubo should release Yubo Web in order to expand Yubo beyond your smartphone and enable new use cases, such as video game live streaming.

With today’s funding round, the company wants to attract users in new markets. Yubo is mostly active in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Nordic countries, Australia and France. Up next, the startup is going to focus on Japan and Brazil. The company plans to hire 35 new people.

When it comes to a business model, the company started monetizing its app in October 2018 with in-app purchases to unlock new features. In 2019, the startup has generated $10 million in revenue.

Yubo will also use this funding round to improve safety. It’s a never-ending process, especially when there are young people using your platform. The company already partners with Yoti for age verification. Users will soon be able to create a blocklist of certain words to customize their experience.

In addition to continuous work on flagging tools and live-stream moderation algorithms in order to detect inappropriate content, the company will also increase the size of its moderation team. The company has also put together a safety board with Alex Holmes, Annie Mullins, Travis Bright, Mick Moran, Dr. Richard Graham and Anne Collier.

Here are the five Startup Battlefield finalists at Disrupt Berlin

Fourteen startups presented onstage today at Disrupt Berlin, giving live demos and rapid-fire presentations on their origin stories and business models, then answering questions from our expert judges.

Now, with the help of those judges, we’ve narrowed the group down to five startups working on everything from productivity to air pollution.

These finalists will be presenting again tomorrow (at 2pm Berlin time, viewable on the TechCrunch website or in-person at Disrupt) in front of a new set of judges. The winner will receive $50,000 and custody of the storied Disrupt Cup.

Here are the finalists:

Gmelius


Gmelius is building a workspace platform that lives inside Gmail, allowing teams to get more bespoke tools without adding yet another piece of software to their repertoire. It slots into the Gmail workspace, adding a host of features like shared inboxes, a help desk, an account-management solution and automation tools.

Read more about Gmelius here.

Hawa Dawa


Hawa Dawa combines data sources like satellites and dedicated air monitoring stations to build a granular heat map of air pollutants, selling this map to cities and companies as a subscription API. While the company notes it’s hardware-agnostic, it does build its own IoT sensors for companies and cities that might not have existing air quality sensors in place.

Read more about Hawa Dawa here.

Inovat


Inovat makes it much easier for travelers to get reimbursed for the value-added tax, through an app that employs optical character recognition and machine learning to interpret receipts, determine how much VAT you should be owed for your purchase and prepare the requisite forms for submission online or to a customs officer.

Read more about Inovat here.

Scaled Robotics


Scaled Robotics has designed a robot that can produce 3D progress maps of construction sites in minutes, precise enough to detect that a beam is just a centimeter or two off. Supervisors can then use the software to check things like which pieces are in place on which floor, whether they have been placed within the required tolerances or if there are safety issues like too much detritus on the ground in work areas.

Read more about Scaled Robotics here.

Stable


Stable offers a solution as simple as car insurance, designed to protect farmers around the world from pricing volatility. Through the startup, food buyers ranging from owners of a small smoothie shop to Coca-Cola employees can insure thousands of agricultural commodities, as well as packaging and energy products.

Read more about Stable here.

Gtmhub raises $9M from CRV after posting 400% ARR growth in the last year

This week Gtmhub announced a $9 million Series A led by CRV. The investment was not a large round, even for an A. But the capital found its way into one of the fastest-growing SaaS companies that we’ve spoken with recently, which made it interesting all the same.

And, the firm was willing to talk about its financial performance in some detail. The combination made its Series A impossible to ignore.

TechCrunch caught up with Gtmhub’s CMO Seth Elliott this morning to learn more. 

What it does

Let’s start with OKRs. Objectives and key results, better known as OKRs, are a method for organizational planning. They are famous thanks to their roots in Google’s success, but have since broken free of the technology world and become a well-known planning method for corporations of all sizes and types.

Gtmhub deals with them, providing software and services around OKR implementation, training and tracking. (If you an OKR neophyte, head here for a quick overview of what they are.)

Making OKR software isn’t a differentiator in today’s market. Ally does it (it also raised capital recently), along with WorkBoard, Koan and Lattice, among others.

Given the crowded market, Gtmhub stressed during our call how it thinks of itself as differentiated. The company has three things that it hopes will give it an edge in the market. The first is a focus on enterprise customers. According to Elliott, enterprise-sized clients are his company’s “bread and butter,” from a revenue perspective. Instead of starting with a small or mid-sized business target market and later targeting enterprise-scale customers, Gtmhub is going after the top-end of the market first.

Second, the company’s software is designed to interface with external tooling, allowing for real-time OKR tracking as it ingests information to help teams vet how they are progressing against their goals. And, the firm is working on a marketplace where, over time, customers will be able to learn from existing OKR setups and leverage analytics setups that help with data importation and visibility.

In its own words, Gtmhub is an OKR-centric software company, while “provid[ing] a long-term vision and the execution process necessary to bridge the strategy/execution gap,” according to Elliot.

Notably, Gtmhub, despite its enterprise focus, is not abandoning smaller companies. According to Elliot, the startup is announcing a new, stripped-down, $1 per user per month plan next week called START, aimed at smaller firms.

If START is an attempt to onboard companies when they are small so they can be upsold later, or if it is more a contra-competitor move, isn’t clear. But the new, cheap plan (priced at about 10% of other Gtmhub tiers) could shake up the OKR software space by making table-stakes features worth less than they were before.

Gtmhub’s round

Gtmhub is a distributed company, with offices in Denver, Sofia, Berlin and London for its roughly 60 workers. You might think, given its global footprint and number of employees, that the company had raised lots of capital to fund its operations. The opposite, as it turns out.

The startup’s $9 million Series A dwarfs its preceding rounds, including about $1.3 million in seed capital raised (here) in February of 2018. Aside from those checks and the new capital, all we know about Gtmhub’s fundraising history is that it picked up $100,000 in angel money in early 2017.

All told, Gtmhub has raised just over $10 million to date, making its Series A about 87% of its known raised capital. That’s not the mark of a company built on burn.

Of course, if Gtmhub kept a lid on its expenses by growing slowly, its parsimony might be more sin than virtue; after all, private companies backed with venture dollars are built for expansion.

The opposite, as it turns out.

Growth

Elliot shared a number of notable metrics with TechCrunch that we’ve prepared for you below, in an ingestible format:

  • ARR growth: Over 400% year-over-year (YoY)
  • Gross margin: Above 90%, up from over 80% YoY
  • ACV trends: +650% YoY

Take a moment and square those results with how much capital Gtmhub raised and ask yourself if the performance matches the raise. It doesn’t. I suspect that Gtmhub could have raised a lot more money than it chose to, given its growth rate and other marks of financial health.

But, after expanding to 60 people on less than $3.5 million in known venture, the company probably isn’t too unprofitable, and can do a lot with just $9 million. (Gtmhub could also raise more if it needed to, given its metrics.)

With Gtmhub and Ally each flush with new cash, it’s going to be enjoyable to watch the OKR and OKR-empowered software space grow over the next few years. There will be eventual consolidation, right?

Correction: This post misstated the amount of capital raised by Gtmhub before its Series A and has been corrected.

Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

Many smart home device makers still won’t say if they give your data to the government

A year ago, we asked some of the most prominent smart home device makers if they have given customer data to governments. The results were mixed.

The big three smart home device makers — Amazon, Facebook and Google (which includes Nest) — all disclosed in their transparency reports if and when governments demand customer data. Apple said it didn’t need a report, as the data it collects was anonymized.

As for the rest, none had published their government data-demand figures.

In the year that’s past, the smart home market has grown rapidly, but the remaining device makers have made little to no progress on disclosing their figures. And in some cases, it got worse.

Smart home and other internet-connected devices may be convenient and accessible, but they collect vast amounts of information on you and your home. Smart locks know when someone enters your house, and smart doorbells can capture their face. Smart TVs know which programs you watch and some smart speakers know what you’re interested in. Many smart devices collect data when they’re not in use — and some collect data points you may not even think about, like your wireless network information, for example — and send them back to the manufacturers, ostensibly to make the gadgets — and your home — smarter.

Because the data is stored in the cloud by the devices manufacturers, law enforcement and government agencies can demand those companies turn over that data to solve crimes.

But as the amount of data collection increases, companies are not being transparent about the data demands they receive. All we have are anecdotal reports — and there are plenty: Police obtained Amazon Echo data to help solve a murder; Fitbit turned over data that was used to charge a man with murder; Samsung helped catch a sex predator who watched child abuse imagery; Nest gave up surveillance footage to help jail gang members; and recent reporting on Amazon-owned Ring shows close links between the smart home device maker and law enforcement.

Here’s what we found.

Smart lock and doorbell maker August gave the exact same statement as last year, that it “does not currently have a transparency report and we have never received any National Security Letters or orders for user content or non-content information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).” But August spokesperson Stephanie Ng would not comment on the number of non-national security requests — subpoenas, warrants and court orders — that the company has received, only that it complies with “all laws” when it receives a legal demand.

Roomba maker iRobot said, as it did last year, that it has “not received” any government demands for data. “iRobot does not plan to issue a transparency report at this time,” but it may consider publishing a report “should iRobot receive a government request for customer data.”

Arlo, a former Netgear smart home division that spun out in 2018, did not respond to a request for comment. Netgear, which still has some smart home technology, said it does “not publicly disclose a transparency report.”

Amazon-owned Ring, whose cooperation with law enforcement has drawn ire from lawmakers and faced questions over its ability to protect users’ privacy, said last year it planned to release a transparency report in the future, but did not say when. This time around, Ring spokesperson Yassi Shahmiri would not comment and stopped responding to repeated follow-up emails.

Honeywell spokesperson Megan McGovern would not comment and referred questions to Resideo, the smart home division Honeywell spun out a year ago. Resideo’s Bruce Anderson did not comment.

And just as last year, Samsung, a maker of smart devices and internet-connected televisions and other appliances, also did not respond to a request for comment.

On the whole, the companies’ responses were largely the same as last year.

But smart switch and sensor maker Ecobee, which last year promised to publish a transparency report “at the end of 2018,” did not follow through with its promise. When we asked why, Ecobee spokesperson Kristen Johnson did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Based on the best available data, August, iRobot, Ring and the rest of the smart home device makers have hundreds of millions of users and customers around the world, with the potential to give governments vast troves of data — and users and customers are none the wiser.

Transparency reports may not be perfect, and some are less transparent than others. But if big companies — even after bruising headlines and claims of co-operation with surveillance states — disclose their figures, there’s little excuse for the smaller companies.

This time around, some companies fared better than their rivals. But for anyone mindful of their privacy, you can — and should — expect better.

Apply to the pitch-off at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI 2020

Mark your calendars and dust off your public-speaking skills. This year, there’s an exciting new opportunity at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI, which returns to UC Berkeley on March 3, 2020. We’ve added a pitch-off specifically for early-stage startups focused on AI or robotics.

You heard right. In addition to a full day packed with speakers, breakout sessions and Q&As featuring the top names, leading minds and creative makers in robotics and AI, we’re upping the ante. We’ll choose 10 startups to pitch at a private event the night before the show opens. Here’s how it works.

The first step: Apply to the pitch-off by February 1. TechCrunch editors will review all applications and select 10 startups to participate. We’ll notify the founders by February 15 — you’ll have plenty of time to hone your pitch.

You’ll deliver your pitch at a private event, and your audience will consist of TechCrunch editors, main-stage speakers and industry experts. Our panel of VC judges will choose five teams as finalists, and they will pitch the next day on the main stage at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI.

Talk about an unprecedented opportunity. Place your startup in front of the influential movers and shakers of these two world-changing industries — and get video coverage on TechCrunch, too. We expect attendance to meet or exceed last year’s, when 1,500 people attended the show and tens of thousands followed along online.

Oh, and here’s one more pitch-off perk. Each of the 10 startup team finalists will receive two free tickets to attend TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 the next day.

TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 takes place on March 3. Apply to the pitch-off here by February 1. Don’t want to pitch? That’s fine — but don’t miss this epic day-long event dedicated to exploring the latest technology, trends and investment strategies in robotics and AI. Get your early-bird ticket here and save $100. We’ll see you in Berkeley!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Robotics & AI 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.