#22: monoDrive, Caribu & more📍

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Recent Startup Funding Announcements 💰

US— Austin, Miami, St-Louis

monoDrive (Celite Milbrandt, founder and CEO)

monoDrive, an Austin-based platform designed for autonomous vehicle manufacturers to simulate vehicle use in a virtual environment, raised a USD 1m seed round recently.

  • How long did the round take to close: 

    Six months.

  • How much capital and round type:

    We raised $1 million, and this was the seed round.

  • How many firms did you speak with: 

    A handful. We were really very selective, as we were looking for people that understood the artificial intelligence space and could make a meaningful contribution beyond just the capital.

  • Who participated in the round:

    ATX Seed Ventures led the round and few others participated.

  • Was the round euqity, debt, or a combination:

    Equity-based.

  • Comment on valuation after the round:

    This is fluid as we have a memorandum of understanding with a very large, publicly-traded technology company that could propel us well above $100 million overnight.

  • What capital will be used for: 

    Marketing and technology.

  • Total amount raised to date: 

    $1 million.

  • Competitive landscape:

    The competitive landscape is modest because no one has produced a technology, like the Ultra High Fidelity (UHF) Simulator, which has the capacity to eliminate the use of experienced drivers, which are typically required to test for system errors. System errors can lead to fatal accidents, like the one that occurred last March involving Uber. There are open source solutions, but the world’s largest vehicle makers are typically looking for a more refined technology that will give them a competitive advantage in the race to deploy AV.

  • Macro trends: 

    The traditional approach for pursuing artificial intelligence initiatives require significant human involvement when it comes to collecting and tagging data. Simulators, like ours, can gather the data quickly and more cost-effectively.

  • Other details:

    The key to any successful startup is having good investment partners and being in a city with a vibrant workforce. We are very fortunate to have both.

Caribu (Maxeme Tuchman, CEO)

Caribu, a Miami-based interactive reading and drawing platform, raised $1.3m in funding earlier this month.

  • How long did the round take to close: 

    6 months.

  • How many firms did you speak with: 

    About 40.

  • Valuation after the round:

    Between $3M- $7M.

  • What capital will be used for: 

    With this capital, we will look to grow our team and begin promoting the app through marketing and PR. We will also bring on new publishers, refresh the iOS app and build out the app for Android.

  • Total amount raised to date: 

    $1.3M.

  • Competitive landscape:

    We see “static/solo e-readers” and video-calling apps as our indirect competitors. There are two small companies that have combined the video-call and book onto a shared screen, but we continue to maintain the market lead in the space.

  • Macro trends: 

    We’re riding the macro trend of everything moving to mobile. Entertainment is moving to the phone and tablet, and so is education. We’re a mobile-first company, so we’re taking advantage of the macro trends and the fact that people are separated by distance more and more and are staying connected by these mobile phones and tablets.

  • Other details:

    Caribu is being used in 148 countries, and we have over 30 publishers including brands like Sesame Street, Barbie, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Santillana, the world’s largest Spanish language publisher. We’re poised to raise a Series A in 2019 and would love to start conversations now.

Coolfire Solutions (Don Sharp, CEO)

Coolfire Solutions, a St. Louis-based creator of a situational awareness delivery platform, raised $11.5m in Series B financing earlier this month.

  • Recommended productivity hack or rule:

    Fail fast and often. Establish an environment that accepts failure as part of the learning and growth process. Give teams the flexibility to explore and find new solutions. Make sure your incentive programs are built with some failure in mind.

  • Recommended book:

    Predictable Revenue​​ by Aaron Ross and MaryLou Tyler. Great resource for startups as they ramp up their sales and marketing efforts. Also, ​​The Lean Startup​​ by Eric Ries provides helpful lessons on how to scale an early stage technology company.

  • How long did the round take to close: 

    We regularly talk to and build relationships with potential investors. The Series B process was three months.

  • Seems as though the process of raising money isn’t efficient. Your thoughts:

    The fundraising process is a fundamental part of being a founder or CEO and centers around relationship building and establishing trust with potential investors. It’s a complicated process and finding the right fit with investors is key.

  • How many firms did you speak with: 

    We have ongoing discussions with multiple venture funds and spoke to multiple during our process but identified the lead strategic investor relatively early in the process. We value the expertise a strategic investor brings to our business and have had a fantastic experience working with Enterprise Holdings’ venture fund (Clayton Venture Partners) over the last two years (since our Series A round). We were excited to identify another strategic partner to lead this round and excited for Enterprise Holdings to make an additional investment as both share our long-term strategic vision.

  • What capital will be used for: 

    Invest in growing the sales and marketing team as well as additional product development.

  • Total amount raised to date:

    A little over $20M raised since we were founded.

  • Competitive landscape:

    Our platform fits within several growing technology categories: Edge Computing, IoT Platforms, Situational Awareness Platforms and Operations Intelligence Platforms. We monitor the key players in each of these categories but have not identified a true direct competitor checking the boxes in all four. We often get compared to point solutions–companies that do one task exceptionally well–but we’ve taken a platform approach to address many of the same challenges. With our platform, we deliver 80%-90%+ of the functionality an organization needs off-the-shelf and then customize the remaining 10%-20% to tie into the existing business process. With many point solutions, a customer is forced to change critical, market-differentiating process to work around limitations of the solution or more often they see low adoption rates due to it being outside a natural workflow. By having the bulk of the solution already built, the team quickly moves into customizing the solution to fit with an existing business workflow–allowing us to deploy most pilots in just a couple of weeks.

  • Macro trends: 

    Situational awareness - increasing need to predict, understand and respond to operational issues in near real-time. Holistic Visibility - the need for real-time data visibility for the entire operation in one holistic setting versus disparate alerts from individual devices and systems. Buy versus Build In-house - the trend for more companies to use one commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) platform versus multiple solutions with custom code and integration handled by internal IT departments. The Internet of Things (IoT) - Increased number of data-producing devices and data entry points for a business to consider. Organizations need the ability to integrate this new data with existing legacy data and real-time user inputs.

US—New York/California

ioTium (Ron Victor, CEO and Founder)

ioTium, a Santa Clara-based Software-Defined Converged Infrastructure company for the IIoT, raised $13.6m in Series B financing back in September.

  • What capital will be used for: 

    Capital will be used to accelerate ongoing technology leadership and to fuel rapid market expansion in the U.S. and abroad. The new funding will be used to open offices on the East Coast of the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. The company will also increase headcount at its Chicago and Houston locations. Geographies are specifically targeted to maximize ioTium’s presence in heavily industrialized areas.

  • Total amount raised to date: 

    $22 million.

  • Competitive landscape:

    While there are organizations that are tackling components of what ioTium brings to industrial enterprises, no other company has a complete Software-Defined Converged Infrastructure solution for IIoT. Organizations must combine elements of security, network, and edge computing in a multi-tenanted, scalable and open way to realize their deployment. Our customers and investors recognize that we are the only commercially deployed zero-touch solution to bring these elements together.

  • Macro trends: 

    ioTium began because of our hands-on understanding of industrial IIoT networking. We saw that there was a growing trend toward the convergence of IT and OT. That convergence is one that we anticipated with the introduction of our solutions three years ago and an issue that has now come to the forefront for many of the industrial enterprises that we work with in building automation, manufacturing and energy.

  • Other details:

    The funding validates the strength of the company’s Software-Defined Converged Infrastructure solutions for IIoT, a vision actualized within industrial Fortune 500 deployments worldwide. ioTium solutions have been deployed by major industrial enterprises in building automation, energy and manufacturing environments, uniquely positioning the Company as a trusted partner for a spectrum of digital transformation initiatives.

  • Hiring:

    We are currently hiring for a Marketing Campaigns Specialist, Senior Solutions Engineer, Senior Software Engineer, Software Engineer and a Senior Network Support Engineer. You can find open positions listed on our Careers Page: https://www.iotium.io/company/careers/

France

Shine (Nicolas Reboud, CEO and co-founder)

Shine, a Paris, France-based management app for freelancers, raised €8m in Series A funding back in September.

  • How long did the round take to close: 

    It took about a month to raise the round.

  • What capital will be used for:

    Recruit (team x 2 on 12 months) - Improve product with a Premium version - Go international (2 countries next year).

  • Total amount raised to date: 

    EUR 10.8m.

  • Competitive landscape:

    Crowded, we don't look at competitors, we are the first one building a product from the ground up for independent workers. It's on the way that we realized there was no good professional bank account and that we needed that to build the product we wanted.

  • Macro trends:

    The number of independent professionals rose by a quarter (24%) from 7.7 million to 9.6 million between 2008 and 2015. Shine is here to serve this growing market, as we provide a tool to help them focus and their job and personal development, instead of wasting time on administrative and boring tasks.

VC firms & early-stage investors

Northern Ontario Angels (Mary Long-Irwin, Executive Director —Thunder Bay)

  • How did you make your way into early-stage investing:

    I was self-employed for 10 years, then 10 years small business lending, then worked at CEO/President with the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce. Sat on several Board and when I left the Chamber the NOA Board asked if I would work with them. They need experience in lending, connections to Investors and small business experience.  

  • Recommended productivity hack or rule:

    Be honest, tell it like it is, it makes it so much easier for others to make decisions. Also, know what you know, know what you don’t know and know where to find the information.

  • Recommended book:

    I would recommend two books The Start-up Checklist by David Rose and The Invested Investor by Peter Cowley.

  • Areas of investment that NOA focuses on:

    Approximately 65% of all NOA deals have been in technology. Some other communities like to focus on mining technologies and others do well in med tech. The rest of our investments have been mixed, some with real estate that are in up and coming neighborhoods, some (very little) forestry, manufacturing etc. We look at all deals across the board.

  • Seems as though the process of raising money isn’t efficient. Your thoughts:

    I agree, not efficient. Too many times the founder is not investment ready (way too early), they do not have everything in place, for example, no prototypes or patents, do not have a complete business plan, do not have proof of concept, do not know their numbers, do not have an elevator (short) pitch, have not sought out other funding opportunities. This slows the process down. Our investors are quick to make decisions then they do their due diligence. If the founder is not forth coming, this also slows the process down. Founder should have the conversation with lawyer and accountant before they seek an investor. Makes things faster and smoother.

  • Number of new NOA investments this year:

    To date we have had 32 deals completed this year and I expect another 12 to year end.

  • Number of deals expected between now and the end of the year:

    12 more deals.

Martlet (Peter Cowley, Investment Director)

  • How did you make your way into early-stage investing:

    I stumbled into angel investing over ten years ago.

  • Recommended productivity hack or rule:

    Find co-investors that bring deals, lead those deals and support the companies as they grow – and reciprocate by doing that for your co-investors – I and Martlet do that on a ratio of about 5 to 1 – ie i/we do it once and other trusted investors do it 4 times.

  • Recommended book:

    And I am allowed to promote my own book? The Invested Investor – aimed at early stage investors and entrepreneurs.

  • Seems as though the process of raising money isn’t efficient. Your thoughts:

    My average is 5.2 months from first contact to closing the deal.  Personally I don’t think that can’t be shortened – a couple of months for legals and 3 months to get to know and trust each other – ie the investees must also do due diligence on the investors. Crowdfunding also takes a few months and the outcomes are often likely to be poor

  • Area of investment:

    Deeptech and B2B.

  • Geographic focus:

    Cambridge, London and Oxford.

  • Capital left for future investments:

    Unlimited.

  • Number of new investments thus far this year:

    We have made about 6 new ones, so far this year.

  • Number of deals expected between now and the end of the year:

    2 or 3.