LimeBike raises $70 million as the bike-sharing battle rages on


Bike-sharing turned multi-modal transportation company LimeBike has raised an additional $70 million from its previously announced $50 million Series B round. This brings LimeBike’s total funding to $132 million.

The funding comes shortly after LimeBike announced its entrance into the e-scooter and pedal assist, e-bike games.

“We’re interested in bike-sharing because it’s something real estate owners really want,” Fifth Wall co-founder and Managing Partner Brendan Wallace told TechCrunch about the firm’s decision to invest in LimeBike.

There are a number of competitors in the bike-share space, including Spin, JUMP, Ofo, Motivate and, most recently, Uber via a partnership with JUMP. As you can see below, many of LimeBike’s competitors have a significant amount of capital.

Before making the investment in JUMP, Wallace said Fifth Wall looked at all the competitors before making its first and only investment in the bike-share space.

“Docked bike-sharing is insufficient or underutilized, Wallace said. “We became excited about LimeBike because it’s moving toward growth. We also like partnerships with cities and how they approach where they’re launching, as well as how they approach partnerships with real estate owners.”

It’s worth noting Fifth Wall’s limited partners include real estate titans like CBRE, Equity Residential, Lennar, Prologis and others. In partnership with real estate owners and developers, Wallace and Sun envision a world in which there are LimeBike-specific parking lots or hubs located outside office buildings. Then, building owners could subsidize rides or offer other incentives for people to visit their shops.

The aim is to move toward more livable cities, where both parking and car ownership are on the decline, Wallace said.

Nationwide, 40 percent of LimeBike rides start and end at a public transit station, LimeBike CEO Toby Sun said. And another 25 percent start and end at commercial and shopping areas.

Earlier this week, LimeBike’s electric bikes hit the ground in Seattle just earlier this week. Right now, LimeBike has over 4,000 bikes in Seattle. Down the road, the company envisions 40 percent of its bikes in Seattle being electric.

Sun added, “We are building LimeBike as an option for everyone and people who are underserved, who don’t typically get access to these types of transportation options.”

LimeBike raises $70 million as the bike-sharing battle rages on


Bike-sharing turned multi-modal transportation company LimeBike has raised an additional $70 million from its previously announced $50 million Series B round. This brings LimeBike’s total funding to $132 million.

The funding comes shortly after LimeBike announced its entrance into the e-scooter and pedal assist, e-bike games.

“We’re interested in bike-sharing because it’s something real estate owners really want,” Fifth Wall co-founder and Managing Partner Brendan Wallace told TechCrunch about the firm’s decision to invest in LimeBike.

There are a number of competitors in the bike-share space, including Spin, JUMP, Ofo, Motivate and, most recently, Uber via a partnership with JUMP. As you can see below, many of LimeBike’s competitors have a significant amount of capital.

Before making the investment in JUMP, Wallace said Fifth Wall looked at all the competitors before making its first and only investment in the bike-share space.

“Docked bike-sharing is insufficient or underutilized, Wallace said. “We became excited about LimeBike because it’s moving toward growth. We also like partnerships with cities and how they approach where they’re launching, as well as how they approach partnerships with real estate owners.”

It’s worth noting Fifth Wall’s limited partners include real estate titans like CBRE, Equity Residential, Lennar, Prologis and others. In partnership with real estate owners and developers, Wallace and Sun envision a world in which there are LimeBike-specific parking lots or hubs located outside office buildings. Then, building owners could subsidize rides or offer other incentives for people to visit their shops.

The aim is to move toward more livable cities, where both parking and car ownership are on the decline, Wallace said.

Nationwide, 40 percent of LimeBike rides start and end at a public transit station, LimeBike CEO Toby Sun said. And another 25 percent start and end at commercial and shopping areas.

Earlier this week, LimeBike’s electric bikes hit the ground in Seattle just earlier this week. Right now, LimeBike has over 4,000 bikes in Seattle. Down the road, the company envisions 40 percent of its bikes in Seattle being electric.

Sun added, “We are building LimeBike as an option for everyone and people who are underserved, who don’t typically get access to these types of transportation options.”

HackerRank raises $30M to match developers with jobs


HackerRank, the skills-based recruiting platform and online coding challenge community, today announced that it has raised a $30 million Series C funding round led by JMI Equity, a fund that specializes in helping software companies scale. Exiting investors Khosla Ventures, Battery Ventures, Randstad and Chartline Capital Partners also participated in this round.

As HackerRank co-founder and CEO Vivek Ravisankar told me, the company now has over 3.4 million developers in its community, which has grown organically since the company’s launch in 2012. What’s maybe just as important, though, is that the service has also brought on a wide variety of companies to its HackerRank for Work program that are looking to use the services platform (and community) to recruit developers. According to Ravisankar, these customers include five of the top eight commercial banks, for example, as well as auto manufacturers, retailers and others. Ever company is now a software company, after all, and they are all looking for talent. With these customers, HackerRank was actually cash flow-positive for a part of 2017 and expects to return to that in the near future.

Over the course of the last year, HackerRank also expanded beyond core programming skills and adding support for other technical roles, including DevOps positions, database specialists and others. 

“To be frank, we didn’t think we needed $30 million,” Ravisankar told me, but JMI looked like a good match for HackerRank and this round, which brings the company’s total funding to $58.2 million to date, gives it a long runway to expand its product portfolio.

Specifically, Ravisankar is focussing on three areas: doubling down on customer acquisition and HackerRank’s go-to-market strategy, investing more in its community, and using machine learning and data science to better match employer and job seekers.

It’s this last part that’s probably the most interesting. HackerRank sits on a trove of data about what skills job seekers possess and which ones employers are looking for. “It’s very hard for a lot of companies to quantify what makes a great developer,” Ravisankar explained — and the same goes for developers who don’t always know what they are looking for. So at this point, the HackerRank team is trying to figure out how it can best use its data to say whether a developer is a good fit for a job.

HackerRank currently has about 150 employees but this new round will allow it to hire a few more, too. Chances are, it’ll use its own platform to do so.

Featured Image: Vicki Been / EyeEm/Getty Images

Andrew Ng officially launches his $175M AI Fund


As the founder of the Google Brain deep learning project and co-founder of Coursera, Andrew Ng was one of the most recognizable names in the machine learning community when he became Baidu’s chief scientist in 2014. He left there in early 2017 and quickly launched a number of new AI projects, including the Deeplearning.ai course and Landing.ai, a project that aims to bring AI to manufacturing companies. It turns out that what he was really working on, though, was his AI Fund (which isn’t really a fund in the traditional sense), which we first reported last summer.

This fund is now official. Ng has raised more than $175 million for the fund, but this isn’t going to be a traditional venture fund. Instead, Ng and his team will use the money to initiate new businesses and build new companies in a model that’s maybe more akin to the early Betaworks model. The investors in this new fund include NEA, Sequoia, Greylock Partners and the SoftBank Group. Ng is leading the fund as a general partner, with Eva Wang serving as partner and COO and Steven Syverud also joining as a partner.

“One of my philosophies of building companies is the importance of velocity,” Ng told me. In his view, AI businesses are also different from regular startups because you generally get a closed feedback loop that allows you to quickly see what works (and what doesn’t). “Depending on the vertical, I really value the ability to inject velocity into that positive feedback loop,” said Ng. He also believes that building AI businesses is a more repeatable process than building other startups. Indeed, he stressed that at Baidu, his job was essentially to build a series of teams for building potential AI-related businesses.

For the fund, this means that Ng plans to create teams that can then immediately start experimenting with new ideas. And because the team is already funded, there’s no need to worry and get distracted about raising funds.

As for raising his own fund, Ng told me he was able to raise the money pretty quickly. “There is so much capital globally that wants to go into AI, so frankly, our fundraising process was very painless,” he told me. “If you see this wave of value creation coming, there aren’t a lot of investment vehicles for them. If you look around the world, there are only some investors to really build AI businesses.”

Ng isn’t yet talking about what new businesses we should expect from his fund, but the first company to come out of the fund is, unsurprisingly, Landing.ai, and he told me there are currently two more projects in the works.

He also stressed that part of his staff is dedicated to thinking about the societal impact of AI, with a special focus on retraining the existing workforce to create “not just a wealthier but also fairer society.”

Tigera raises $10M to help enterprises secure their cloud native applications


Tigera, a San Francisco-based startup that helps businesses connect and secure their container-based applications, today announced that it has raised an additional $10 million in a funding round led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from New England Associates (NEA) and Wing Venture Capital. Madrona managing partner Soma Somasegar will join the company’s board of directors. With this, Tigera has now raised a total of $23 million.

As enterprises have started to adopt containers and the microservices model they enable, it’s become increasingly clear that the complexity of managing and securing these remains an issue. That’s especially true for large enterprises that want to integrate these “cloud native” capabilities into their existing infrastructure or as part of a multi-cloud strategy that can include both public and private clouds.

“While containers have been the rage for the last 18-24 months, the complexity that grows from this technology quickly escalates to an unmanageable level from an application connectivity and security perspective,” writes Madrona’s Somasegar in today’s announcement. “In fact, this has often been the talking point of those who are hesitant to adopt them too deeply.”

Tigera offers these enterprises a solution for secure application connectivity based on its CNX platform. CNX combines a service mesh (based on the Istio project) with management, security and networking solutions (based on Project Calico‘s flannel). The service puts an emphasis on securing the applications — and not just the infrastructure underneath it.

It’s basically a Zero Trust approach to application connectivity. The good old firewall that used to protect your intranet isn’t going to be of much use when your applications live on multiple clouds, after all.

All of the large cloud providers have already integrated Tigera’s open source tools as the network policy provider for their managed Kubernetes container engines, including AWS, Microsoft, Google and IBM.

Tigera’s VP of Marketing Andy Wright tells me that the company plans to use the new funding to invest in product management and to expand its engagement with new and existing customers. “We want to be sure that every organization on the planet, that is building modern application architectures, is aware of the value that we can create for them,” Wright tells me. “In order to achieve this, we need to build an enterprise marketing organization to deliver valuable content to help educate the market and drive demand.”

Like most enterprise companies, Tigera wasn’t able to disclose its customers, but Wright tells me that they include “two of the largest SaaS companies,” as well as two large financial services companies and a large automotive company.

Tigera decided to go with an “open core” model that combines open source with the company’s closed-source tools as it’s building out its business. “We are deeply passionate about open source and believe the fastest way to drive innovation and adoption is through the open source community, Wright tells me. “We are equally passionate about building the next great enterprise software company. We are now working with mainstream enterprises that have very different needs than others in the cloud native world. In order to meet these two objectives, we have adopted an open core model.”

Featured Image: Mint Images - Art Wolfe/Getty Images

Natural home products startup Grove Collaborative bets niche wins over the Amazonization of everything


Who needs Amazon when you can make your own online distribution channel? At least, that’s the idea behind Grove Collaborative, a natural home care products company that ships natural cleaning brands like Method and Mrs. Meyer’s.

Co-founder Stuart Landesberg started the company in 2014 after working with retail brands during his time as an investor at TPG. He noticed how limited shelf space was for brands in brick-and-mortar stores and the idea came to him to launch a tech company that could help move products by prompting consumers to buy at the ideal time. The company pivoted to online retail products in 2016 and rebranded itself as Grove Collaborative.

But consumers have a lot of choices in this space and the brands offered through Grove could just as easily get to your door through same-day shipping on Amazon.

As unlikely as it seems a customer would turn to Grove when there’s the convenience of Target or Amazon, Landesberg tells TechCrunch the company has raked in “tens of millions of dollars” in revenue and that it has “hundreds of thousands” of active customers. He also says more than half of Grove’s customers have never shopped natural before.

Still, he admits there’s no special sauce here. The company is not trying to compete with lower prices and it offers similar prompts as Amazon to re-up supply when you’re likely to be out. But he says the difference is incumbents often prioritize profit over customers and environmental health.

Those numbers also look promising and VC’s have been eager to support Grove on its journey. The startup just pulled in $35 million in Series C funding led by Norwest Venture Partners. The funding comes right on the heels of a $15 million Series B, which quietly closed last March and was led by Mayfield VC.

The primary use of the funding will go toward marketing, which Landesberg told TechCrunch is mostly through influencers such as health bloggers and Youtube personalities with a following in the space.

The startup will also use some of that money to build out new offerings from the main Grove brand, which include items such as hand sanitizer, essential oils, moisturizers and natural sponges.

“Families want to make safe, sustainable, informed choices, and that’s how e-commerce can catalyze real progress,” Landesberg said. “This funding allows us to bring natural products to more homes, and help us build a brand that can serve our community unconstrained by the realities of offline sales.”

CircleCI raises $31M Series C for its DevOps platform


CircleCI was recently in the news because its founder, Paul Biggar, wrote about his experience at the now infamous Silicon Valley sex party at was also attended by the likes of Elon Musk (who said it was just nerds on a couch). In less salacious news, CircleCI also today announced that it has raised a $31 million Series C round for its software automation platform.

Top Tier Capital Partners was the lead investor for this round, which brings the company’s total funding to $56.5 million. Other investors include existing investors Scale Venture Partners, Harrison Metal Ventures, DFJ Ventures and Baseline Ventures, as well as new investors Industry Ventures and Heavybit.

CircleCI is one of the better-known players in the continuous integration and delivery space. Like its competitors, including the likes of Travis CI, Jenkins and Codeship, the service makes it easier for developers to automate their processes for building, testing and deploying their code. The company offers both a hosted service, as well as an on-premise solution for enterprises that want to use the service behind their firewalls.

According to the company’s own data, CircleCI now has 25,000 customers, including GoPro, Spotify, Blue Apron, Lyft, Facebook, Coinbase, Docker, Heroku and Change.org. In total, 300,000 developers now use the platform and the company says that’s a 100 percent increase year-over-year. The platform now processes over 7 million builds per month.

“With the rise of microservices architectures and agile product development, CircleCI is well positioned to continue helping developer teams deliver excellent products to consumers,” said Garth Timoll, Sr., Managing Director of Top Tier Capital Partners, in a canned statement today. “We are excited to partner with CircleCI as they enter their next stage of growth while continuing to facilitate a more streamlined testing and software shipping experience for startups and large enterprises across multiple industries.”