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Crypto firm Pantera Capital is looking to raise up to $175 million for a new venture fund

Crypto firm Pantera Capital is looking to raise up to 5 million for a new venture fund

Pantera Capital, which has made its mark in recent years by investing early and often in a wide variety of digital assets, is looking to raise up to $175 million for its third venture fund — an enormous jump from the $25 million it deployed for its second venture fund and its $13 million debut venture fund, which it closed in 2013.

Firm partner Paul Veradittakit says the target amount is a “function of how fast the space is moving, the talent coming in, the opportunities, and the sizing of rounds. With more interesting later-stage investments [on our radar], too, we want to be flexible and able to move with the market.”

Whether the firm closes with $175 million or another number is an open question. A newly processed SEC filing shows it has so far rounded up more than $71 million in capital commitments from 90 investors, an amount that Veradittakit calls a “first close.”

Certainly, Pantera is accustomed to managing meaningful sums of money. In addition to its venture funds, which are structured like most traditional venture funds — they feature a 10-year investing period, similar economics, and involve good old-fashioned checks to startups in exchange for some amount of equity — the firm is also juggling three other strategies.

As we reported last year, one of its newest funds is a hedge fund that’s focused exclusively on initial coin offerings. As firm founder Dan Morehead told us at the time, Pantera buys pre-sale ICOs, “basically getting a discount to the ICO price by getting in early, when it’s just a team and a white paper.” Meanwhile, Morehead had added, “We help provide the right connections, whether in terms of marketing or recruiting or business development.

The vehicle is evergreen, says Veradittakit, meaning it has an indefinite fund life that lets investors come and go.

The other two other funds that Pantera currently oversees are also structured like hedge funds. One is a Bitcoin fund that has attracted plenty of investors over the years, and returned a lot to them, too, according to the calculations of Morehead. In fact, he wrote two weeks ago that the fund, launched five years ago, has enjoyed a lifetime return of 10,136.15 percent net of fees and expenses.

The very last fund invests in cryptocurrencies that are already trading on exchanges — an approach that includes machine learning to algorithmically invest in crypotcurrencies, as well as allows for some discretionary input by Pantera’s top brass, which includes Morehead, Veradittakit, and Joey Krug, who joined Pantera last year after cofounding the market forecasting startup Augur. (It went on to orchestrate the first ICO on the ethereum network.)

Explains Veradittakit of this last pool, it’s for “if you are’t sure that Bitcoin will remain the dominant cryptocurrency, or you’re interested in other use cases that may arise, or you just want to build a diversified portfolio of assets that have asymmetrical returns as bitcoin, or maybe return even more because they feature lower valuations.”

In some ways, the venture efforts of Pantera —   which employs 38 people altogether in San Francisco and Menlo Park, Ca. —  may be its most challenging given the nature of VC. Investors in the asset class are typically willing to wait a handful of years for a firm to produce returns; in Pantera’s case, because it is betting exclusively on ventures, tokens, and projects related to blockchain tech, digital currency, and crypto assets, some of those returns could potentially take even longer.

Veradittakit doesn’t sound concerned. Rattling off some of Pantera’s venture investments to date, including in BitStamp, Xapo, Ripple, and Circle, not to mention more recent investments in Chain, Abra, Veem Polychain, and Z Cash, he sounds more like a proud parent. Pantera has invested in “lots of wallets and exchanges focused around the world, in Coinbases of different geographies, in enterprise-related blockchain companies. More recently, we’ve funded everything from big data to decentralized application platforms.”

It’s still very early days, he acknowledges. But “in terms of returns, there will be companies that create something completely disruptive. There will be M&A [opportunities] more often and that [come together] more quickly than other companies.”

If everything goes as planned, Pantera will be there when they do, and it will have more resources to deploy than ever.

Crypto firm Pantera Capital is looking to raise up to 5 million for a new venture fund
Source: TechCrunch

Uber is on a hiring spree in Singapore despite ‘exiting’ Southeast Asia

Uber is on a hiring spree in Singapore despite ‘exiting’ Southeast Asia

Uber agreed to sell its Southeast Asia business in March, but it isn’t leaving the region. In fact, the U.S. firm is doubling down with plans to more than double its staff in Singapore.

That’s right. Uber is currently in the midst of a major recruitment drive that will see Singapore, the first city it expanded to in Asia, remain its headquarters for the Asia Pacific region despite its local exit. Unfortunately for customers who miss having a strong alternative to Grab, Uber won’t be bringing its ride-hailing app back in Singapore or anywhere else in Southeast Asia.

Uber’s own job portal lists 19 open roles for Singapore, but the company has contacted headhunting and recruitment firms to help fill as many as 75 vacancies, three sources with knowledge of Uber’s hiring plans told TechCrunch.

The new hires will take Uber’s headcount in Singapore to well over 100 employees, the sources claimed.

Ironically, of course, Uber let most of its staff in Southeast Asia leave when it stopped serving customers across its eight markets in Southeast Asia in April — although it was forced to extend into May in Singapore. As part of its exit deal, Grab got first dibs on 500 or so Uber Southeast Asia staff but that strategy didn’t pan out as planned, as TechCrunch previously reported. Indeed, a recent report suggested that fewer than 10 percent of ‘Uberites’ moved over to become ‘Grabbers’.

And yet, here we are, Uber is aggressively hiring in Singapore — but why?

The original plan following the Grab deal was for Uber to relocate its regional headquarters to either Japan or Hong Kong, two sources told TechCrunch, but in recent months that strategy has shifted. Just weeks ago, the remaining Singapore Uber collective — which consists of managers and executives — secured budget to staff up and find a larger office in the name of creating a support team for its remaining Asia Pacific markets.

The plan is for the Singapore-based employees to provide services such as HR, accounting, admin, marketing and PR across Uber APAC, which includes Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia and India — although the latter has more sovereignty with its own president who reports into the U.S..

An Uber spokesperson acknowledged that the company is in the process of hiring in Singapore, but declined to provide further details.

Sources with knowledge of discussions inside the company told TechCrunch that the decision to stay in Singapore is down to a number of reasons.

Hong Kong, which had been a frontrunner to become Uber’s new APAC HQ, was ruled out because Uber’s legal status in the country is unclear — a number of drivers have been prosecuted — while Japan and Australia were deemed to be too remote to be regional hubs. That left Singapore, as an established city for business with an existing Uber staff, as the remaining option.

Sources also told TechCrunch, however, that a degree of self-service was involved. Those executives and managers who managed to remove themselves from the “shame” of being shipped to Grab dug their heels in to avoid relocating their lives and families elsewhere, two sources claimed.

Talking to TechCrunch, some former Uber staff questioned whether the remaining Asian markets require remote services from Singapore, which is one of the world’s most expensive cities. Together the countries are hardly huge revenue generators for Uber and could be handled locally or other global cities. There’s certainly an argument that the continued investment in Singapore is at odds with the widely-held theory that Uber left Southeast Asia, a money-losing market, to clean up its balance sheet ahead of a much-anticipated IPO next year.

One former Uber employee who did transition to Grab noticed that the U.S. firm is now hiring for their previous role. That situation is made worse by a ban that prevented Uber’s Southeast Asia employees from applying to transfer to other parts of the firm’s global business. That’s despite many being allowed to do so in the case of previous Uber exit deals in China and Russia.

The result is that Uber is hiring in Singapore, a market where it no longer offers its service and gave up most of its staff to its rival. Anything can happen in the ride-sharing space!

Uber is on a hiring spree in Singapore despite ‘exiting’ Southeast Asia
Source: TechCrunch

Carbyne raises $15M for its next-gen 911 service, as Founders Fund invests in its first Israeli startup

Carbyne raises M for its next-gen 911 service, as Founders Fund invests in its first Israeli startup

911 and other emergency numbers have been a key route for people to contact medical, police or fire services, with some 240 million calls are made for urgent help in the US alone each year. But while calling the numbers is a breeze, sometimes passing on crucial information is far from that, with most of these services built and operating on legacy infrastructure that makes pinpointing accurate locations and getting more detail about the problem (including to determine whether the call might have been in error) is a challenge.

Now a company that has developed a system to improve emergency response is announcing a round of funding in the race to update those platforms.

Carbyne, a startup out of Israel that has developed a new emergency callout platform that helps providers pinpoint a callers’ exact location and enable other services to improve and speed up communication and response times — by some 65 percent on average — has raised $15 million in Series B funding.

The round is significant not just because of the boost that it will give to Carbyne itself, but because of who is doing the backing. Led by Elsted Capital Partners, it also includes Founders Fund, the VC that has backed the likes of Facebook and Airbnb, but also startups that have made strong inroads into working with government and other public sector organizations on data-based services, such as Palantir, Anduril and Deep Mind (now a part of Google).

Previous backers of Carbyne have included the former prime minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, who is also the company’s chairman, and the company has now raised about $24 million, with a valuation that I understand to be in the region of $100 million, although the company is not commenting on the number.

Most of the emergency calling services that are in place around the world were built to be used with legacy wired phone networks. In many countries, however, not only are people doing away with their fixed lines, but they are making these calls from mobile phones — in some cases up to 80 percent of all emergency calls are coming from mobile phones. This means that not only are some inbound calls to public safety answering points (PSAPs) unable to provide the data that the legacy systems need, but — coming from smartphones — they potentially could provide a far richer set of data, if the systems were set up to receive it.

On top of this, it can simply take too long, or be impossible, for a reporter of an emergency to convey crucial information through a phone conversation. (Indeed, the idea for the service was hatched after founder Amir Elichai discovered how long it took to identify his location and other details to emergency services after he was mugged.)

Carbyne — originally called Reporty and rebranded earlier this year to the word for what is now considered to be the world’s strongest substance — lets emergency response providers connect with reporters through two products to fill that gap.

There is an app, called C-Now, that people can download on iOS or Android to provide instant video, down-to-one-meter location data, and lots of other details when making a report to emergency response call centre. (This potentially can include whatever an emergency response organization might want to collect, within the scope of a phone and the data that it can pick up either directly or via APIs from other devices, such as heart rate monitors.) The app is live in 161 countries.

There is also a service, C-Lite, that plugs directly into legacy 911 services, which lets PSAPs send links to reporters to collect additional information without the reporter needing to download an app, and without the PSAP needing to upgrade its legacy systems. Both C-Lite and the app are cloud-based to create more redundancy in case of service outages. The company also says that it is GDPR compliant and uses “military-grade” security protocols to protect people’s information when they call.

Between all of that, the company has also developed technology to pinpoint locations in indoor spaces, and also a platform that monitors all calls and other data (such as video coming from a surveillance camera) at a specific location in order to build a more comprehensive picture of the emergency.

Carbyne is not the only startup that is looking to fill the gap between legacy 911 offerings and the promises of what the next generation of cloud-based communication and mobile technology can bring to improve efficiency in these services. RapidSOS provides a bridge between mobile phone calls to 911 and legacy 911 PSAP services, so that those making calls on mobile can still provide location data. RapidSOS also serves as a supplement that works just on mobile in the event that the legacy system falls over, and it really came into its own during the trio of tropical disasters last autumn across Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida.

Like Carbyne, RapidSOS has some big-name supporters: it is backed by former FCC chairmen Tom Wheeler and Julius Genachowski, in addition to a range of other investors. It’s also now integrated with services like Uber and Apple’s iOS for faster reporting of location.

One of the points of differentiation between RapidSOS and Carbyne is that the latter is potentially a full replacement for the 911 system in the event that an organization was considering that route. Elichai said that there are several organizations evaluating Carbyne now in across Europe, and it is already rolling out its service in Fayette County in Georgia.

But by and large there aren’t many startups looking to disrupt this area, which was one reason why Founders Fund was interesting in backing the company. “I’m looking for businesses that aren’t massively competitive, and Carbyne stands alone in a really unpopular industry,” Trae Stephens, a partner at the firm who is leading the investment, told TechCrunch. “In the world of emergency services, it’s really important for tech to contribute to fixing some of the antiquated systems, and that is what excited me. I definitely looked at other companies in emergency services, but but nothing came remotely close to the approach that Carbyne has taken, which is platform-agnostic.”

Longer term, Elichai said that while emergency services will remain a primary interest, there are potential other areas where its technology could be applied.

“We see ourselves connecting any device to the platform,” he said in an interview. “Because of the fact that we have a strong real-time communications platform, we have received request from other industries.” These have included, for example, insurance companies.

“If you ski in Aspen or Chamonix, you get extreme sports insurance. If you have to make a claim, most people ski with their cell . phones now, and if you use Carbyne you would be able to open the claim automatically with evidence from the scene, making checking and processing much more efficient.”

Carbyne raises M for its next-gen 911 service, as Founders Fund invests in its first Israeli startup
Source: TechCrunch