London’s LocalGlobe just closed on two funds totaling $295 million

Seven months ago, TechCrunch’s Steve O’Hear reported that LocalGlobe had begun the fundraising process for two separate funds. The London-based seed-stage venture firm was raising yet another seed-stage venture fund, O’Hear said at the time; he also noted that LocalGlobe was also expect to raise its first opportunities fund.

Fast-forward and today, the firm, founded by father and son duo Robin and Saul Klein, says it has closed both, having secured $115 million in capital commitments for its seed fund and $180 million in capital commitments for the second fund, dubbed “Latitude,” which it says it will use to support its “winners” at the Series B and later stages.

As we’d written earlier, it’s no surprise that LocalGlobe decided to institutionalize some of its later-stage investments. It’s become a trend in recent years for early-stage firms to raise separate funds to capture more of the upside when their portfolio companies begin to break away from the pack, rather than watch their stakes get hammered down in subsequent funding rounds.

And LocalGlobe already has a bit of a track record in supporting its growing portfolio companies, writing follow-on checks to companies like the property listings startup Zoopla and the money transfer service TransferWise, for example. (Others of the outfit’s best-known investments include the transportation app Citymapper and the SpatialOS software company Improbable.)

Still, LocalGlobe remains even more active on the pre-seed and seed-stage front, where it has funded hundreds of startups over the years. Among the very newest of these is a bet on Yapily, a two-year-old, London-based maker of an API for connecting enterprises to banks that just raised $5.4 million in seed funding co-led by LocalGlobe and HV Holtzbrinck Ventures.

Another new investment is Soda Says, a two-year-old, U.K.-based e-commerce marketplace for daily tech … Read the rest

Against Gravity is building a VR world that won’t stop growing

The quest to create a social auditorium in virtual reality has eaten many VC dollars over the years. While plenty of contenders have emerged, it’s likely Against Gravity’s<a href=”https://rec.net/”> Rec Room has been the most creative in its approach to capturing a niche market while plotting how to build a sustainable business based on users in VR headsets talking to one another.

The Seattle startup has told TechCrunch exclusively that it has bagged $24 million over two rounds of funding. The studio’s Series A was led by Sequoia and their Series B, which just recently closed, was led by Index Ventures . Against Gravity has a bevy of top investors that also participated in the rounds, including First Round Capital, Maveron, Anorak Ventures, Acequia Capital, Betaworks and DAG Ventures.

The company didn’t break down the specific details of the rounds. Against Gravity was authorized to raise up to $15.4 in its Series B at up to a $126 million post-money valuation, according to Delaware stock authorization docs we got from PitchBook. The company didn’t comment on the valuation.

Rec Room is hardly a household name compared to some major console titles, but among virtual reality users, the title has been a standby known for the diversity of gameplay available inside its walls and its wide support for hardware. Users are able to create experiences or “rooms” that can be accessed by other users. They don’t need any coding knowledge to build these spaces, as creation all happens within the game and can be done by multiple users simultaneously.

Rec Room is also about to surpass one million rooms created by users on the platform. The company says these environments include “sports games, shooters, adventure quests, nightclubs, club houses, and escape rooms.”

While companies like Linden Labs, the creator of … Read the rest

Helium launches $51M-funded ‘LongFi’ IoT alternative to cellular

With 200X the range of Wi-Fi at 1/1000th of the cost of a cellular modem, Helium’s “LongFi” wireless network debuts today. Its transmitters can help track stolen scooters, find missing dogs via IoT collars and collect data from infrastructure sensors. The catch is that Helium’s tiny, extremely low-power, low-data transmission chips rely on connecting to P2P Helium Hotspots people can now buy for $495. Operating those hotspots earns owners a cryptocurrency token Helium promises will be valuable in the future…

The potential of a new wireless standard has allowed Helium to raise $51 million over the past few years from GV, Khosla Ventures and Marc Benioff, including a new $15 million Series C round co-led by Union Square Ventures and Multicoin Capital. That’s in part because one of Helium’s co-founders is Napster inventor Shawn Fanning. Investors are betting that he can change the tech world again, this time with a wireless protocol that like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth before it could unlock unique business opportunities.

Helium already has some big partners lined up, including Lime, which will test it for tracking its lost and stolen scooters and bikes when they’re brought indoors, obscuring other connectivity, or their battery is pulled, out deactivating GPS. “It’s an ultra low-cost version of a LoJack” Helium CEO Amir Haleem says.

InvisiLeash will partner with it to build more trackable pet collars. Agulus will pull data from irrigation valves and pumps for its agriculture tech business. Nestle will track when it’s time to refill water in its ReadyRefresh coolers at offices, and Stay Alfred will use it to track occupancy status and air quality in buildings. Haleem also imagines the tech being useful for tracking wildfires or radiation.

Haleem met Fanning playing video games in the 2000s. They teamed up with Fanning and Sproutling … Read the rest

Apollo raises $22M for its GraphQL platform

Apollo, a San Francisco-based startup that provides a number of developer and operator tools and services around the GraphQL query language, today announced that it has raised a $22 million growth funding round co-led by Andreessen Horowitz and Matrix Partners. Existing investors Trinity Ventures and Webb Investment Network also participated in this round.

Today, Apollo is probably the biggest player in the GraphQL ecosystem. At its core, the company’s services allow businesses to use the Facebook -incubated GraphQL technology to shield their developers from the patchwork of legacy APIs and databases as they look to modernize their technology stacks. The team argues that while REST APIs that talked directly to other services and databases still made sense a few years ago, it doesn’t anymore now that the number of API endpoints keeps increasing rapidly.

Apollo replaces this with what it calls the Data Graph. “There is basically a missing piece where we think about how people build apps today, which is the piece that connects the billions of devices out there,” Apollo co-founder and CEO Geoff Schmidt told me. “You probably don’t just have one app anymore, you probably have three, for the web, iOS and Android . Or maybe six. And if you’re a two-sided marketplace you’ve got one for buyers, one for sellers and another for your ops team.”

Managing the interfaces between all of these apps quickly becomes complicated and means you have to write a lot of custom code for every new feature. The promise of the Data Graph is that developers can use GraphQL to query the data in the graph and move on, all without having to write the boilerplate code that typically slows them down. At the same time, the ops teams can use the Graph to enforce access policies and … Read the rest

Stride raises $2.5M from JetBlue, NFX for its guided trips marketplace

Group travel — it’s something you either love or hate, but Stride, which describes itself as a marketplace for “experiential multi-day and multi-destination packaged trips planned by experts,” wants to change this perception. The service, which was co-founded by former Starwood Hotels and Viator executive Gavin Delany, today announced that it has raised a $2.5 million seed round from JetBlue Ventures and NFX. In addition, it rolled out its new TripFinder feature, which makes it easier to find the right tour from the more than 30,000 travel itineraries from its partners in its database.

The service first launched in 2016. Delany decided to focus on trips because of his own frustration with finding the right operator to hike the Inca Trail in Peru. “At the time, there was no platform that allowed you to search and compare different itineraries and operators,” he told me. And that’s exactly what Stride wants to do: help you find the right operator, no matter whether you are looking for a relaxed multi-day, multi-generational jaunt through Europe or a personalized extreme sports adventure.

Unsurprisingly, most of Stride’s users are exactly the kind of travelers you’d expect to be interested in a guided tour. They tend to be older, more affluent and obviously interested in seeing the world. “They have the time, they have the money and they have the inclination to see the world. They want their adventure, but they want their comfort, too,” said Delany. Still, the company is also seeing a growing interest from younger clients who want to use the service to book small group or private tours, as well as pre-planned self-guided itineraries.

That’s where TripFinder comes in, which makes it far easier to find the right tour by guiding you through a few questions about who you are, where … Read the rest