India’s FreshToHome raises $11 million to expand its fish, meat, and vegetable e-commerce platform

Shan Kadavil, who spent early days of his career managing tech support firm Support and then heading India operations of gaming firm Zynga, says he had a calling of sorts when his son was born. Kadavil realized that much of the meat that sells in India is not exactly healthy. The perishables are loaded with chemicals to superficially extend their life by six months, if not more. He wanted to do something better.

Fast forward four years, Kadavil said today that FreshToHome, his new e-commerce startup that delivers “100 percent” pure and fresh fish, chicken, and other kinds of meat, has raised $11 million in Series A funding. The startup has raised $13 million to date.

The round was led by CE Ventures, with participation from Das Capital, Kortschak Investments, TTCER Partners, Al-Nasser Holdings, M&S Partners and other Asia and Valley based Investors. Some of the backers of FreshToHome include Rajan Anandan, the former head of Google Southeast Asia, David Krane, CEO of GV, and Mark Pincus, chairman of Zynga.

FreshToHome has already courted 400,000 customers across four cities — Bengaluru, NCR (Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad, Ghaziabad & Greater Noida), Chennai and Kerala (Kochi, Trivandrum, Calicut & Trichur) — in India. On the backend, the startup does business with 1,500 fishermen across 125 coasts.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Kadavil said the startup is trying to “Uber-ize farmers and fishmen in India. We are giving them an app — around which we have a US patent — for commodity exchange. What farmers and fishermen do is they bid with us (as mandated by local laws) electronically using the app.” By dealing directly with the source, the startup is eliminating as many as half a dozen middlemen to cut costs.

The startup has built its own supply chain network. … Read the rest

Famed founder Daphne Koller tells it straight: “With most drugs, we do not understand why they work”

Daphne Koller doesn’t mind hard work. She joined Stanford University’s computer science department in 1995, spending the next 18 years there in a full-time capacity before cofounding the online education giant Coursera, where she spent the following four years and remained co-chairman until last month. Koller then spent a little less than two years at Alphabet’s longevity lab, Calico, as its first chief computing officer.

It was there that Koller was reminded of her passion for applying machine learning to improve human health. She was also reminded of what she doesn’t like, which is wasted effort, something that the drug development industry — slow to understand the power of computational methods for analyzing biological data sets — has been plagued by for years.

In fairness, those computational methods have also gotten a whole lot better more recently. Little wonder that last year, Koller spied the opportunity to start another company, a drug development company called Insitro that has since raised $100 million in Series A funding, including from GV, Andreessen Horowitz and Bezos Expeditions, among others. As notably, the company recently partnered with Gilead Sciences to find medicines to treat a liver disease called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) because of all the related human data that Gilead has amassed over time.

Later, Insitro may target even bigger epidemics, including perhaps Alzheimer’s disease or Type 2 diabetes. Certainly, it has reason to feel optimistic about what it can accomplish. As Koller told a group of rapt attendees at an event hosted by this editor a few days ago, “We’re now at a moment in history where a confluence of technologies emerged all at around the same time allow really large and interesting and disease-relevant data sets to be produced in biology. In parallel, we see  . . . machine learning technologies … Read the rest

Where top VCs are investing in media, entertainment & gaming

Most of the strategy discussions and news coverage in the media and entertainment industry is concerned with the unfolding corporate mega-mergers and the political implications of social media platforms.

These are important conversations, but they’re largely a story of twentieth-century media (and broader society) finally responding to the dominance Web 2.0 companies have achieved.

To entrepreneurs and VCs, the more pressing focus is on what the next generation of companies to transform entertainment will look like. Like other sectors, the underlying force is advances in artificial intelligence and computing power.

In this context, that results in a merging of gaming and linear storytelling into new interactive media. To highlight the opportunities here, I asked nine top VCs to share where they are putting their money.

Here are the media investment theses of: Cyan Banister (Founders Fund), Alex Taussig (Lightspeed), Matt Hartman (betaworks), Stephanie Zhan (Sequoia), Jordan Fudge (Sinai), Christian Dorffer (Sweet Capital), Charles Hudson (Precursor), MG Siegler (GV), and Eric Hippeau (Lerer Hippeau).

Cyan Banister, Partner at Founders Fund

In 2018 I was obsessed with the idea of how you can bring AI and entertainment together. Having made early investments in Brud, A.I. Foundation, Artie and Fable, it became clear that the missing piece behind most AR experiences was a lack of memory.

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Bad PR ideas, esports, and the Valley’s talent poaching war

Sending severed heads, and even more PR DON’Ts

I wrote a “master list” of PR DON’Ts earlier this week, and now that list has nearly doubled as my fellow TechCrunch writers continued to experience even more bad behavior around pitches. So, here are another 12 things of what not to do when pitching a startup:

DON’T send severed heads of the writer you want to cover your story

Heads up! It’s weird to send someone’s cranium to them.

This is an odd one, but believe it or not, severed heads seem to roll into our office every couple of months thanks to the advent of 3D printing. Several of us in the New York TechCrunch office received these “gifts” in the past few days (see gifts next), and apparently, I now have a severed head resting on my desk that I get to dispose of on Monday.

Let’s think linearly on this one. Most journalists are writers and presumably understand metaphors. Heads were placed on pikes in the Middle Ages (and sadly, sometimes recently) as a warning to other group members about the risk of challenging whoever did the decapitation. Yes, it might get the attention of the person you are sending their head to, in the same way that burning them in effigy right in front of them can attract eyeballs.

Now, I get it — it’s a demo of something, and maybe it might even be funny for some. But, why take the risk that the recipient is going to see the reasonably obvious metaphorical connection? Use your noggin — no severed heads.

Why your CSO — not your CMO — should pitch your security startup

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