ClassPass plans to add nine international cities by the end of 2018

ClassPass, the studio fitness platform that gives users access to thousands of boutique fitness classes, has said it plans to expand internationally into nine new countries by the end of 2018. The company’s top priorities are consolidating its position in the UK and launching in three countries in Asia, according to chief executive Fritz Lanman. Lanman declined to disclose which countries the fitness subscription service was targeting.

ClassPass’s further international expansion isn’t exactly a surprise. The company already serves parts of Canada, the UK and Australia alongside its 50 cities within the US. ClassPass also raised a whopping $70 million Series C last year which Lanman tells me was purposefully large to fuel this type of expansion without being dependent on another round of financing.

As part of the expansion initiative, ClassPass has hired Chloe Ross as VP of International. Ross has worked on international strategy at Microsoft and has helped in developing policy in the UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit.

In 2014, ClassPass found its footing with a brand new model for the fitness world. The company aggregated fitness classes and studio partners while offering a subscription model for users, letting them pick and play as they choose across a wide variety of classes. In essence, the company brought a media model, not unlike Netflix, to the real world industry of fitness.

Lanman says that this kind of business model innovation has spurred a large number of clones, both domestically and internationally, and that international expansion is integral to cementing ClassPass’s spot at the top of the heap.

As it stands now, ClassPass currently has 9,000 studio partners, but Lanman and founder Payal Kadakia see the opportunity to grow that to 90,000 as the company ventures outside of the U.S.

Moreover, ClassPass has played with the idea of expanding into new verticals for quite some time, with wellness being first in line. But before ClassPass can dive deep into a wellness vertical, it must first solidify its place as a global aggregator of studio fitness.

The company recently unveiled a new at-home workout program called ClassPass Live, letting users stream classes from the comfort of their own home. No word yet on when ClassPass Live will debut in new international markets, Lanman said.

ClassPass has raised a total of $154 million since launch.

Crowd Cow, offering ranch to table meats, picks up $8 million from Madrona, Ashton Kutcher

Most high-end restaurants don’t get their beef from the local grocery store. Well-regarded chefs and restauranteurs build relationships with small farms and family ranchers to procure what’s known in the industry as craft beef.

Just like coffee or chocolate or wine, the smallest differences (type of grass, breed of cow, lifestyle, etc.) can make a big difference in overall taste. But you and I have never had easy access to this beef outside of hitting up a Michelin-star restaurant.

And then Crowd Cow came along.

Crowd Cow, based in Seattle, works with small family farms to let users choose their cow and their cut. Crowd Cow then ships this craft beef directly to a user’s home.

Before Crowd Cow, five or six families would have to go in together on more than 500 LBs of beef in order to be a compelling customer to these small farms. That means they need a large meat freezer, upfront cash, and all the time and resources necessary to get the product from the farm to the home.

Crowd Cow founders Joe Heitzeberg and Ethan Lowry realized the whole process would be much better for everyone if they could crowdsource 50 families, instead of four or five, to buy a cow. The company handles logistics and offers users a way to learn about the ranch, the cow, and more via the app.

Today, the company is announcing that it has closed an $8 million Series A funding led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Ashton Kutcher of Sound Ventures and existing investor Joe Montana of Liquid 2 Ventures.

Since launch, Seattle-based Crowd Cow has expanded to offer chicken, olive wagyu, and pork and now serves the entire contiguous United States. The company generates more than $1 million in revenue a month and revenue has grown 10x over the last year.

The greater vision is to de-commoditize beef.

The Seattle-based company isn’t the only startup to raise money in an attempt to get people to eat better beef. Earlier this month, Porter Road closed on $3.7 million to go after the market with a similar mission.

Backed by a slew of New York venture firms including Slow Ventures, Max Ventures, BoxGroup, Tribeca Venture Partners and the Collaborative Fund, Porter Road was founded by trained chefs and butchers Chris Carter and James Peisker. Originally working out of a butcher shop in Nashville, Tenn. since 2011, the two partners work with sustainable local farmers to source the best meat.

Both companies are putting a new spin on a model made famous by Omaha Steaks, the meat packer and mail order distributor founded over 100 years ago, which is now pulls in $450 million in revenue a year.

“Before Starbucks and microbrew, coffee was 50 cents and there were a handful of beers and no one really cared,” said Crow Cow’s Heitzeberg. “The reality is that beef is varied. There are 300 breeds, and there are different types of grass in these pastures, and these factors will lead to a very different taste. Beef doesn’t have to be a commodity.”

Crowd Cow plans to use the funding to continue expansion into different proteins and new markets, as well as opening new distribution centers to speed up delivery to customers.


Sentry raises $16M Series B from NEA and Accel to help developers squash bugs more quickly

Created to help app developers find and fix bugs more efficiently, Sentry announced today that it has raised a $16 million Series B led by returning investors NEA and Accel. Both firms participated in Sentry’s Series A round two years ago.

Co-founder and CEO David Cramer tells TechCrunch that the new round puts Sentry’s post-money valuation at around $100 million. The company recently launched Sentry 9, which, like its other software, is open source. Sentry 9 lets app developers integrate error remediation into their workflows by automatically notifying the developers responsible for that part of the code, letting them filter by environment to hone in on the issue, and manage collaboration among different teams. This reduces the amount of time it takes to fix bugs from “five hours to five minutes,” Sentry claims.

The company will “double down on developers and their adjacent roles,” in particular product teams, Cramer says. Next in the pipeline is tools that will answer more in-depth questions related to app performance management.

“Today we answer ‘this specific thing is broken, why?’ Next we’ll expand that into deeper insights whether it’s ‘these sets of things are broken for the same reason’ as well as exploring non-errors. For example, if you deploy an update to your product and traffic to your sign-up form goes to zero that’s pretty serious, even if you’re not generating errors,” Cramer says.

Sentry’s technology originated as an internal tool for exception logging in Djana applications while its founders, Chris Jennings and Cramer, were working at Disqus. After they open-sourced it, the software quickly expanded into more programming languages. Sentry launched a hosted service in 2012 to answer demand. It now claims to have 9,000 paying customers (including Airbnb, Dropbox, PayPal, Twitter and Uber), be used by 500,000 engineers and process more than 360 billion errors a year.

In a press statement, Accel partner Dan Levine said “Sentry’s growth is a testament to the now-universal truth that app users everywhere expect a flawless experience free of bugs and crashes. Poor user experience kills companies. In order to keep moving forward as quickly as possible, product teams need to know that customers will never leave because of a broken app update. Sentry lets every developer build software that is functionally error-free.”

InVision design tool Studio gets an app store, asset store

InVision, the startup that wants to be the operating system for designers, today introduced its app store and asset store within InVision Studio. In short, InVision Studio users now have access to some of their most-used apps and services from right within the Studio design tool. Plus, those same users will be able to shop for icons, UX/UI components, typefaces and more from within Studio.

While Studio is still in its early days, InVision has compiled a solid list of initial app store partners, including Google, Salesforce, Slack, Getty, Atlassian, and more.

InVision first launched as a collaboration tool for designers, letting designers upload prototypes into the cloud so that other members of the organization could leave feedback before engineers set the design in stone. Since that launch in 2011, InVision has grown to 4 million users, capturing 80 percent of the Fortune 100, raising a total of $235 million in funding.

While collaboration is the bread and butter of InVision’s business, and the only revenue stream for the company, CEO and founder Clark Valberg feels that it isn’t enough to be complementary to the current design tool ecosystem. Which is why InVision launched Studio in late 2017, hoping to take on Adobe and Sketch head-on with its own design tool.

Studio differentiates itself by focusing on the designer’s real-life workflow, which often involves mocking up designs in one app, pulling assets from another, working on animations and transitions in another, and then stitching the whole thing together to share for collaboration across InVision Cloud. Studio aims to bring all those various services into a single product, and a critical piece of that mission is building out an app store and asset store with the services too sticky for InVision to rebuild from Scratch, such as Slack or Atlassian.

With the InVision app store, Studio users can search Getty from within their design and preview various Getty images without ever leaving the app. They can then share that design via Slack or send it off to engineers within Atlassian, or push it straight to to get real-time feedback from real people.

InVision Studio launched with the ability to upload an organization’s design system (type faces, icons, logos, and hex codes) directly into Studio, ensuring that designers have easy access to all the assets they need. Now InVision is taking that a step further with the launch of the asset store, letting designers sell their own assets to the greater designer ecosystem.

“Our next big move is to truly become the operating system for product design,” said Valberg. “We want to be to designers what Atlassian is for engineers, what Salesforce is to sales. We’ve worked to become a full-stack company, and now that we’re managing that entire stack it has liberated us from being complementary products to our competitors. We are now a standalone product in that respect.”

Since launching Studio, the service has grown to more than 250,000 users. The company says that Studio is still in Early Access, though it’s available to everyone here.

Airbnb quietly launches its own Stories for users to build video montages of their travels

The stories format has been one of the most sticky features of social apps like Snapchat and Instagram, letting users stitch together video, photo and text overlays to convey moods and experiences to friends and followers; even Google has incorporated stories into its services. Now Airbnb is becoming the latest adopter of the format: the travel and accommodations startup has quietly launched a new feature called Travel Stories, a way for guests to create video sequences of their Airbnb experiences to post on the site.

The company has sent out invitations for a beta of the service to a pool of users (pictured below, sent to us by reader Matteo Gamba, who runs an Airbnb blog). A FAQ page about the new format says that for now Story making is only available on the latest version of its iPhone app, under the Travel Stories tab of your profile. Video clips are limited to 10 seconds each and are taken from your camera roll and can be edited in the Airbnb app.

You can then look at the Stories either directly on Airbnb’s site, or through the Travel Stories tab in the app. In both cases, these are similar to extended travelog slideshows, and they appear to automatically link up to places featured in the Stories, along with related accommodations. Here’s one about a trip to Cuba.

I’ve reached out to Airbnb to see if I can get more information about this. One big question I have is how and if Airbnb will vet what people post as stories. If the content is NSFW, or if it’s extremely insulting about a home a person has stayed in, for example, will that still get posted? Also, will users be able to import and export stories to other platforms?

Stories can serve a couple of purposes for Airbnb when they are rolled out more widely. They could become another way of creating more engaged feedback from visitors of a particular destination or experience or property, and this in turn could be another way of getting subsequent users to also book the same experiences, and even refer to the site while on those trips for tips. “Airbnb stories are for inspiring other travelers like yourself!” as the company notes. 

And it’s another way of drawing in the story makers themselves to use the Airbnb app more.

Airbnb has been on a long-term mission to increase the stickiness of its platform. The aim is to make it more than a place that you visit once in a while, when you are planning at trip. That has led to the company launching experiences — events that you might get involved in without even living the city you live in — as well concierge-style services to help guide you around while you are on your trip; and other travel services to get you to and from your destination.

The company is expected also to launch in the coming weeks and months a loyalty program, also for the same end. There haven’t been many details released about how it will work, but one potential route it could take is to create a platform where you can make leisure activity and travel purchases through the Airbnb platform to accrue points for discounts on future Airbnb purchases, much like current air miles/points programs.

Stories is arguably part of the same strategy. By creating a trove of travel content that links users back through to the Airbnb platform, Airbnb is creating something that is aimed at entertaining its users, while at the same time providing some practical functionality in the form of links to places. It will be interesting to see if Airbnb manages to get people to shift their behavior to think of Airbnb as a place where people might come to browse, and not just purchase.

Adyen confirms an IPO in Amsterdam, valuing the payments giant at $7B-$11B

The floodgates are definitely open for IPOs in the tech world right now, and the latest is coming out of Europe. Adyen, a company that powers payments for large and smaller e-commerce merchants and others, has said that it plans to publicly list on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange, keeping the company’s financial future close to where Adyen itself was founded and is based rather than taking it to the US markets as some other European unicorns, like Spotify, have opted to do.

The news comes in the wake of reports that it was planning to announce its plans this week.

Adyen’s offering prospectus does not detail how much it plans to raise, or what sort of valuation it’s likely to reach in a public listing. It confirmed will be selling up to 15 percent of its shares, valued at a valuation of between €6 billion and €9 billion ($7 billion – $11 billion) after the IPO. We have reached out to the company for further detail on that front.

For some context, Adyen last confirmed its valuation publicly back in 2015, when it raised funding from Iconiq, the investment firm that manages funds from Mark Zuckerberg’s family and other high-net-worth tech leaders, at a $2.3 billion valuation. In other words, it’s a big jump, reflecting the company’s growth over the last couple of years.

Adyen to date has raised $266 million in outside funding, with other investors including Index (its largest shareholder), Felicis, Temasek and General Atlantic.

Adyen said in the prospectus that its net revenues for the year that ended December 2017 were €218 million, up 38 percent on 2016, with total processed volumes of €108 billion in 2017 up from €66 billion in 2016, or 63 percent growth. It’s also profitable, with an EBITDA of €99 million, or a margin of 45.5 percent. Net income for Q1 was €24.1 million, up €10 million over the same period a year before.

Adyen has also clinched some key deals that point to continuing growth. Competing against the likes of Worldpay and PayPal, Adyen stole a march on the latter when it moved in to become the primary payments provider to eBay. After the former parent of PayPal spun out the company, it subsequenly put the deal out for tender and Adyen clinched it. (PayPal will still remain an option, but will not be the main provider.)

“We feel that we are still in the early stages of a remarkable journey. Our focus remains on building new functionality and on helping our merchants grow,” Pieter van der Does, the CEO and co-founder of Adyen, said in a statment. “This offering provides us with the freedom to keep building the company, while offering our shareholders a path to liquidity. Adyen will remain a company that is driven by a long-term vision and strategy.”

Other key customers include Uber (itself still growing like a weed, despite its many setbacks and divestments), Netflix, Facebook, Spotify, Etsy, Vodafone, Sephora, Tory Burch, L’Oréal and — underscoring how the company’s own growth is mirroring the increasing ubiquity and acceptance of digital payments.

The other area to watch and note with Adyen is that it’s looking to extend beyond basic payment processing technology: the company picked up a banking license at the end of last year and plans to expand in settlement services that would have previously been provided by banks. This will also help it grow its margins and overall revenues.

It will also be worth watching to see what happens next: last week, just one week after another European payments company iZettle announced its own IPO plans, it got snapped up by PayPal. I can’t help but wonder if someone is waiting in the wings again, and also what sort of a role Adyen’s bullish move played in PayPal’s own deal to secure growth.


Disrupt Berlin 2-for-1 passes go live next week: Sign up today

Achtung, meine Damen und Herren! Dust off your German, hop on a plane, a train or the Autobahn and join us, along with thousands of tech founders, makers, innovators, investors and early-stage startups, at Disrupt Berlin 2018 on November 29-30. Better yet, join us at our most affordable price. On May 30 at 12pm CEST / 6am EDT we’re offering a limited number of two Innovator passes for just €695Sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll send you an email letting you know when they are available for purchase. You’ll want to act quick as we are only releasing a limited quantity of these passes.

Disrupt Berlin features two program-packed days focused on the latest technology innovations, rising-star startups and world-class networking opportunities. As always, you’ll get to hear a phenomenal group of European and international speakers talking about the critical issues facing technology, venture capital strategies and what it takes to build a successful startup. We’re still finalizing the list, so if you have someone you’d like to hear speak, head on over to our Disrupt Berlin speaker nomination page.

Watch a curated cohort of pre-Series A companies compete for the $50,000 grand prize in the Startup Battlefield competition, a world-class pitch competition that’s launched over 800 companies — including Dropbox, Yammer, TripIt and Mint, to name just a few. Or don’t just watch: apply to compete. Sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll tell you when applications open.

Don’t miss out on Startup Alley, where you’ll find more than 400 early-stage startups from all around the globe showcasing a remarkable range of products, services and talent spanning the tech spectrum. It’s the energetic heart of Disrupt that generates inspiration, ideas and opportunities.

Last year more than 2,600 people passed through the Alley at Disrupt Berlin, which makes exhibiting there one of the best ways to get your early stage startup in front of potential customers and investors. You might even score media coverage from one of the many accredited media outlets or your company might be selected to be a Wildcard competitor in the Startup Battlefield competition. How cool would that be?

There’s so much more we could list, but one thing is crystal clear. Disrupt Berlin offers outstanding value. And you can double that value with two-for-one pricing on Innovator passes. Here’s what an Innovator Pass gets you:

You receive access to three Disrupt stages — The Main Stage, the Next Stage and the Q&A Stage — all of which offer distinct types of content. You receive the complete Disrupt attendee list and you can contact attendees using the Disrupt Mobile App. You can take part in interactive workshops, network your way through Startup Alley and enjoy the infamous TC After Party. But even when Disrupt Berlin ends, the value lives on. After the conference, you’ll receive access to our library of exclusive event video content.

Disrupt Berlin takes place on November 29-30 at Arena Berlin. Next week we’ll release our limited-time offer on Innovator passes: two for €695. Sign up for our newsletter today, so you don’t miss out.

Klevio launches its smart intercom and app that lets you open doors remotely

Klevio, a smart home startup out of the U.K., is officially launching its first product: a smart intercom system that lets you control your front door lock via an iOS and Android app on your phone and remotely.

Dubbed “Klevio One,” the device is designed to be retrofitted to existing electric strike-enabled locks, and also interfaces with intercom systems found on the communal doors of apartment blocks. This, say its makers, means that it is better suited to flats than smart locks already on the market.

In a call with Klevio co-founder and CEO Aleš Špetič, he explained that the approach the London-based company has taken is different to smart locks that typically use a motor to turn the lock and require tearing out and replacing your existing lock. In contrast, if you already have an electric strike as part of your lock — which a lot of apartments do — the Klevio One can simply be wired to interface with it. If you don’t, a Klevio installer can fit one to your existing lock for you.

This major upside of this approach is that Klevio isn’t re-inventing the whole wheel, but taking years old, tried and tested electric strike technology, and simply adding smart connectivity to it.

It means the Klevio One works with multiple doors and there’s no need to modify the communal area of apartment buildings when installing it, since the device is located within an individual apartment. You can also still use your old physical keys as a backup, and the company says the use of Klevio won’t be obvious to anyone outside the building.

And as you’d expect, the Klevio system is cloud-connected so that you can control your lock remotely, and issue virtual and one-time use keys. It comes in a WiFi only version, and a subscription version with added 4G.

The startup’s back story is noteworthy, too. The Klevio’s original concept and eureka moment came at Onefinestay, the ‘upscale Airbnb’ acquired by Accor in 2016. After the exit, Onefinestay co-founder Demetrios Zoppos teamed up with CubeSensors’ Aleš Špetič and Marko Mrdjenovič to start the new company, including purchasing the needed patents from Onefinestay.

In addition, Onefinestay co-founder Greg Marsh is an investor in Klevio, alongside LocalGlobe’s partner Robin Klein (who I’m told has invested in a personal capacity). To date Klevio has raised £1.2 million in funding.

Meanwhile, Špetič tells me that prior to today’s wider launch — where it can be ordered via the Klevio website — the Klevio One has been piloted with 1,000 users across London.

Microsoft and Publicis unveil Marcel, an AI-based productivity platform for the ad giant

Microsoft under CEO Satya Nadella has refocussed to double down on enterprise, artificial intelligence and cloud services, and today the company took the wraps a new project for advertising giant Publicis that shows how it is leveraging all three to expand its business. At an event in Paris, the CEOs of the two companies unveiled Marcel, a new platform comprised of multiple apps using AI, social networking mechanics, voice recognition, predictive analytics and more aimed at getting Publicis’ 80,000 employees to be more productive and work together better.

The first three apps on Marcel — named after Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, the founder of Publicis who had an interesting second career as a fighter in the French Resistance — will be Daily Six, Expert Match and Open Brief, with plans to add more apps over time, CEO and chairman Arthur Sadoun said in an interview this week. They’ve been trialled so far with 100 employees and will be rolling out more widely from today.

The move is an interesting turn for Publicis, currently the world’s third-largest advertising agency, to defragment and improve how its organization works.

In keeping with the norm in the ad world, Publicis has been built up by way of acquisitions, and operates essentially as a holding company for all of them to largely continue working in their silos. While that might have been a useful model when the organization was smaller, at 80,000 employees it runs the risk of being inefficient, and could easily lead to many missed business opportunities for Publicis.

Now the aim will be to try to disrupt that model with technology. “We are committing to learn more, to share more, and create more,” Sadoun said.

Or as Microsoft’s Nadella put it today at the Marcel event in more — err — flowery words, “Our job is to find rose petals in a field of shit,” he said, describing how he talks about motivating teams at Microsoft to think in a more forward way. “Our job is to find, in a constrained world, ways to make things happen. That’s what this is all about.”

For Microsoft, working on Marcel is something of a home run for the company, in that it hits all three key bases — AI, enterprise and cloud — that Microsoft has been hoping will help propel the company into the future and away from being relegated to a role as a has-been in the software world best known for Windows and Office.

Playing on the concept of ‘consumerization of IT,’ where apps and mechanics that have proven popular are used in enterprise services to get employees more engaged in them, each app in Marcel has echoes of services that you might have seen and used in the consumer world.

Daily Six presents six pieces of content to the user that is tailored to him or her. They might include key updates from a current account, suggestions for creative activities, and reading recommendations — selections that are based on what a specific employee is already working on, and what he or she might want to do next.

Expert Match, meanwhile, is a very LinkedIn-style service that helps connect employees who are looking for answers or advice on specific questions, or mentorship, with those who are willing to help out.

Lastly, Open Brief will be a way for outside clients to put out requests for input or work to the wider group, and for a small selection of people who might have skills relevant to those requests to put in offers to work on them. Both this app and Expert Match use voice and video, and are powered by Cortana to pick up cues from the requests to power the recommendations that are made.

All three are opt-in — that is, employees, in keeping with GDPR data protection principles, will have to consent to using them and having their data be a part of the Marcel mix.

Sadoun would not go into too much detail about who else might have put in requests to build Marcel — which it first said it wanted to work on a year ago, and announced in January that Microsoft had clinched the deal to build it — and nor would he be drawn out about the business model behind it. (He did concede that Google, with its extensive ad business, remains a “frenemy”, so while Publicis and Google do work together, this that might have kept it out of the running.) What he did say is that Nadella personally got involved with the pitch and lured Sadoun and his team over to Seattle to help seal the deal.

“One day I received a call from Satya saying Microsoft wanted to be a part of this,” Sadoun said. “We had a great time in Seattle. I understodod his vision of Microsoft, and saw that it was close to our vision of Marcel. That’s how we started this partnership.”

While there is not detail about the financial terms of Marcel, it’s likely that there will be several elements at play: the building the apps; moving data in and out of Azure; licensing technology to run the apps; and so on.

And as Publicis and Microsoft bring more of Microsoft’s AI smarts into the mix to help Publicis work better, it’s worth pointing out that — at least for now — the AI has a limit. I asked, and was told in no uncertain terms by Sadoun that there are no intentions of building AI products that might actually create the ads themselves.

“I think that AI will never replace emotional intelligence,” he said. “It will help us to leverage the talent in the room, tapping people who deserve to do and grow more.”

Executives from Israel’s entrants into the flying car business are landing on our stage in Tel Aviv

Of all of the visions of the future that have been rolled out over the years, perhaps none have had as persistent a hold on the imagination as flying cars (well… maybe jetpacks… But flying cars are right up there).

As these technologies move from the realms of the plausible to the probable, they’re finding a launching pad in the Israeli startup scene.

At our upcoming conference in Tel Aviv you’ll hear from two of the designers of our grand flying future.

Rafi Yoeli, founder and chief executive of Urban Aerospace

Joining us to discuss the promise and perils of the aerial alternative for passenger technologies are Omer Bar-Yohay, the co-founder and chief executive of the electric aircraft manufacturer Eviation, and Rafi Yoeli, whose Urban Aeronautics business is trying to make flying vehicles a viable alternative to taking the bus.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Yoeli is one of the founding fathers of the unmanned aerial vehicle industry. He established Urban Aeronautics in 2000 to develop a high performance, internal-rotor aircraft, and the first of these — the AirMule — is currently in flight testing.

Before launching Urban Aeronautics, Yoeli spent several years working with Israel Aerospace Industries and The Boeing Co. where he worked on various fighter and business jets and the world’s first UAV — the Scout.

And Bar-Yohay has his own storied career in aviation that includes membership in the U.S. government’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s On-Demand Mobility Working Group, as well as on the electric-aviation committees of the Federal Aviation Administration and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

They’ll both be landing on our stage in Tel Aviv to discuss what’s ahead for flying cars. It’s sure to be one heck of a trip that’s only available to our attendees. Get your tickets now.