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Benchmark’s Mitch Lasky will reportedly step down from Snap’s board of directors

Benchmark’s Mitch Lasky will reportedly step down from Snap’s board of directors

Benchmark partner Mitch Lasky, who has served on Snap’s board of directors since December 2012, is not expected to stand for re-election to Snap’s board of directors and will thus be stepping down, according to a report by The Information.

Early investors stepping down from the board of directors — or at least not seeking re-election — isn’t that uncommon as once-private companies grow into larger public ones. Benchmark partner Peter Fenton did not seek re-election for Twitter’s board of directors in April last year. As Snap continues to navigate its future, especially as it has declined precipitously since going public and now sits at a valuation of around $16.5 billion. Partners with an expertise in the early-stage and later-stage startup life cycle may end up seeing themselves more useful taking a back seat and focusing on other investments. The voting process for board member re-election happens during the company’s annual meeting, so we’ll get more information when an additional proxy filing comes out ahead of the meeting later this year.

Benchmark is, or at least was at the time of going public last year, one of Snap’s biggest shareholders. According to the company’s 424B filing prior to going public in March last year, Benchmark held ownership of 23.1% of Snap’s Class B common stock and 8.2% of Snap’s Class A common stock. Lasky has been with Benchmark since April 2007, and also serves on the boards of a number of gaming companies like Riot Games and thatgamecompany, the creators of PlayStation titles flower and Journey. At the time, Snap said in its filing that Lasky was “qualified to serve as a member of our board of directors due to his extensive experience with social media and technology companies, as well as his experience as a venture capitalist investing in technology companies.”

The timing could be totally coincidental, but an earlier Recode report suggested Lasky had been talking about stepping down in future funds for Benchmark. The firm only recently wrapped up a very public battle with Uber, which ended up with Benchmark selling a significant stake in the company and a new CEO coming in to replace co-founder Travis Kalanick. Benchmark hired its first female general partner, Sarah Tavel, earlier this year.

We’ve reached out to both Snap and a representative from Benchmark for comment and will update the story when we hear back.

Benchmark’s Mitch Lasky will reportedly step down from Snap’s board of directors
Source: TechCrunch

Nigerian logistics startup Kobo360 accepted into YC, raises $1.2 million

Nigerian logistics startup Kobo360 accepted into YC, raises .2 million

When Nigerian logistics startup Kobo360 interviewed for Y-Combinator’s 2018 cohort a question stood out to founder Obi Ozor. “‘What’s holding you back from becoming a Unicorn?’ they asked. My answer was simple: ‘working capital,’” said Ozor.

Kobo360 was accepted into YC’s 2018 class and gained some working capital in the form of $1.2M in pre-seed funding round led by Western Technology Investment announced this week. Lagos based Verod Capital Management also joined to support Kobo360.

The startup — with an Uber -like app that connects Nigerian truckers to companies with freight needs — will use the funds to pay drivers online immediately after successful hauls.

Kobo360 is also launching the Kobo Wealth Investment Network, or KoboWIN—a crowd-invest, vehicle financing program. Through it Kobo drivers can finance new trucks through citizen investors and pay them back directly (with interest) over a 60 month period.

Ozor said Kobo360 created the platform because of limited vehicle finance options for truckers in Nigeria.  “We hope KoboWIN…will inject 20,000…[additional] trucks on the Kobo platform,” he told TechCrunch.

On Kobo360’s utility, “We give drivers the demand and technology to power their businesses,” said Ozor. “An average trucker will make $3,500 a month with our app. That’s middle class territory in Nigeria.”

Kobo360 has served 324 businesses, aggregated a fleet of 5480 drivers, and moved 37.6M kilograms of cargo since 2017, per company stats. Top clients include Honeywell, Olam, Unilever, and DHL.

Ozor previously headed Uber Nigeria, before teaming up with Ife Oyodeli to co-found Kobo360. They initially targeted 3PL for Nigeria’s e-commerce boom — namely Jumia (now Africa’s first unicorn) and Konga (recently purchased in a distressed acquisition).

“We started doing last mile delivery…but the volume just wasn’t there for us, so we decided to pivot…to an asset free model around long-haul trucking,” said Ozor.

Kobo360 was accepted into YC’s Summer ’18 batch—receiving $120K for 7 percent equity—and will present at an August Demo Day in front of YC Investors. “We were impressed by both Obi and Ife as founders.  They were growing quickly and had a strong vision for the company,” YC partner Tim Brady told TechCrunch.

Kobo360’s app currently coordinates 5000 trips a month, according to Ozor. He thinks the startup’s asset free, digital platform and business model can outpace traditional long-haul 3PL providers in Nigeria by handling more volume at cheaper prices.

“Owning trucks is just too difficult to manage. The best scalable model is to aggregate trucks,” he said. “We now have more trucks than providers like TSL and they’ve been here….years. By the end of this year we plan to have 20,000 trucks on our app—probably more than anyone on this continent.”

On price, Ozor named the ability of the Kobo360 app to more accurately and consistently coordinate return freight trips once truckers have dropped off first loads.

“Logistics in Nigeria have been priced based on the assumption drivers are going to run empty on the way back…When we now match freight with return trips, prices crash.”

Kobo360 is profitable, according to Ozor. Though he wouldn’t provide exact figures, he said reviewing the company’s financial performance was part of YC’s vetting process.

Logistics has become an active space in Africa’s tech sector with startup entrepreneurs connecting digital to delivery models. In Nigeria, Jumia founder Tunde Kehinde departed and founded Africa Courier Express. Startup Max.ng is wrapping an app around motorcycles as an e-delivery platform. Nairobi based Lori Systems has moved into digital coordination of trucking in East Africa. And U.S. based Zipline is working with the government of Rwanda and partner UPS to master commercial drone delivery of medical supplies on the continent.

Kobo360 will expand in Togo, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, and Senegal. “We’ll be in Ghana this year and next year the other countries,” said Ozor.

In addition to KoboWIN, it will also add more driver training and safety programs.

“We are driver focused. Drivers are the key to our success. Even our app is driver focused,” said Ozor. Kobo360 will launch a new version of its app in Hausa and Pidgin this August, both local languages common to drivers.

“Execution is the key thing in logistics. It has to be reliable, affordable, and it has to be execution focused,” said Ozor. “If drivers are treated well, they are going to deliver things on time.”

Nigerian logistics startup Kobo360 accepted into YC, raises .2 million
Source: TechCrunch

VR blockchain startup founded by Second Life co-creator raises $35M

VR blockchain startup founded by Second Life co-creator raises M

If VR on the blockchain is all a bit too disruptive for you to handle, close the tab and carry on you luddite.

High Fidelity, a social VR startup founded by one of Second Life’s original creators has bagged a $35 million Series D led by Blockchain investment firm Galaxy Digital Ventures. Also participating in the round were Breyer Capital, IDG Capital Partners, Vulcan Capital and Blockchain Capital.

The startup is building the framework for a linked universe of user-generated worlds where people can meet up in VR with a backbone that the company’s leadership believes will allow the company to scale quickly once VR hardware catches up with expectations.

Lately, the company has put plenty of resources towards building out the blockchain side of its technology to drive in-game transactions and other aspects of the service. The usage is one of the company key differentiators even as it devotes resources to tech advances surrounding latency, 3D audio and high-detail environments. Of the company’s 60 employees, 7-8 of the engineers are focusing on blockchain tech currently, Rosedale tells me.

Second Life was well-known for its bustling in-game economy built on its Linden currency that still manages to drive a staggering $700 million in peer-to-peer transactions annually according to CEO Phillip Rosedale.

In High Fidelity’s case, blockchain tech means a way for users to actually own the digital goods they’ve purchased, tying their digital goods to a digital persona. Their Digital Asset Registry does this all in a decentralized capacity. The startup has also founded the Virtual Reality Blockchain Alliance (VRBA) a supergroup of early adopter companies that is basically aiming to let users’ avatars move freely between platforms and bring their blockchain-linked purchases with them.

Virtual reality may offer a worthwhile testbed for the often cagey theoretical real-world use cases for blockchain technology, with platform creators having the opportunity to structure a closed environment with blockchain at the heart of its governance.

High Fidelity’s version of the future doesn’t just look different in theory, it’s a little uncanny visually as well. While Facebook Spaces and Microsoft’s AltspaceVR have opted for game-like floating head avatars, High Fidelity has chosen to approach a more realistic design style that seems more closely aligned with the slightly disconcerting avatar style of Second Life.

Linden Labs’ Sansar

Second Life creator Linden Lab, which is also an investor in High Fidelity, has already introduced its own VR play called Sansar. The similarly beta effort loosely integrates various user-created environments into a sort of world wide web of game engine worlds that users can jump between. It isn’t the most polished solution which is fairly in keeping with the company’s assertion that it’s the “WordPress for VR” though there are certainly metaverse ambitions at its core much like with High Fidelity.

For a virtual reality startup that hasn’t talked usage numbers and remains in beta, $70 million is a pretty hefty amount of total funding, especially when they have the looming specter of Facebook investing billions into eating their aspired lunch.

Rosedale acknowledges the challenges, but seems to think that privacy concerns with Facebook are only going to grow more pronounced as more users dive into virtual worlds.

“I believe that when you move into VR, peoples’ concerns about privacy and security and identity are going to be very different than what they are with something like Facebook,” Rosedale told TechCrunch in an interview. So I think that Facebook’s focus on advertising as their revenue model and their focus on centralization of the services certainly creates an opportunity for competition with them and we intend to be in that space.”

Goals are just that, but no one can accuse Rosedale of being conservative in his. He foresees VR reaching an audience of 1 billion over the coming decade and the market for in-game goods in those worlds hitting $1 trillion with High Fidelity leading the way.

VR blockchain startup founded by Second Life co-creator raises M
Source: TechCrunch