Major League Gaming (MLG), one of the oldest e-sports companies out there, picked up a new hire today from Machinima, another well-known gaming content company. Ryan Wyatt will join MLG as its vp of programming.
According to MLG, MLG.tv has grown its viewership 60% monthly since launch, growing a total of 1,376% in the first quarter of 2014 alone. That’s actually less surprising than you might imagine, given that MLG launched the online network with a limited set of broadcasters that it quickly worked to expand.
Wyatt, former head of e-sports for Machinima, is actually returning to MLG in this move. He left the company for Machinima three years ago. His role at MLG is simple to get: He’ll work to expand its content, both in-studio and via game streaming personalities. More content, more viewers, and more viewers, more money. That’s the gist of it.
Machinima, which has raised $67.6 million to date, has seen a number of executive changes in the last six months, including the installation of a new president. Wyatt’s impact will be easy to grok: Either MLG.tv’s audience continues to grow quickly, or it doesn’t. If Wyatt can’t keep the new content flowing, it probably won’t.
Top Image Credit: MLG
Slangy marketing and a singular vision of weekend wear has netted Chubbies, a manufacturer and online retailer of men’s shorts, a $4 million round of funding from some of the biggest names in fashion and retail investing.
Chris Burch, the co-founder of women’s fashion accessories company Tory Burch and an investor through Burch Creative Capital, led the round. A cornucopia of other brand investors also came on board to back Chubbies, including: Ben Lerer, the founder of Thrillist Media Group and JackThreads; Blair Lambert, who is the brains behind Gymboree; Brian Spaly of Trunk Club and Bonobos; Vera Bradley chairman Bob Hall; and venture firms Rothenberg Ventures and IDG Ventures.
Investors continue to put money into commerce plays that are using online marketing tools to create brands for a new generation of consumers. Companies like Nasty Gal, Bonobos, Frank & Oak, have raised tens of millions of dollars for their clothing brands.
San Francisco-based Chubbies was launched in August 2011 by four friends from Stanford who had moved to the city to pursue careers in private equity, venture capital, technology development and fashion. Rainer Castillo, a former merchandiser and designer with The Gap; Kyle Hency, who worked in private equity; Tom Montgomery, a former venture capitalist; and Preston Rutherford, who worked in a consumer internet company; launched Chubbies to sell a summer lifestyle brand built around vintage-inspired shorts.
Every year on the fourth of July the friends would reconvene in Lake Tahoe for what co-founder Rainer Castillo called “massive” events.”It was let’s have some outrageous gear and make a scene on the beaches of Lake Tahoe,” Castillo said. One year, the group decided to only wear 1970s and 80s-inspired men’s shorts.
“A lot of our friends were really excited about these 80s inspired vintage shorts,” said Castillo. “After Tahoe was over, people reached out to us and started asking for the shorts. The second we made a handful we started getting this inbound interest from people we didn’t know.”
Now the company’s founders want to bring to life the experience they had in Tahoe. Chubbies is intent on courting the college crowd. Indeed much of the $4 million the company raised will be spent on sales and marketing efforts to reach the college crowd.
“Really for us, it’s about freedom to do some interesting and wild stuff,” said Kyle … do some crazy things that are outside the functioning of the business…Shorts, according to the guys at Chubbies, is a $3 billion business, that’s not dominated by a single manufacturer in the same way that Levi’s dominates the jeans market. And while cyclicality is an issue, they said it’s not an insurmountable one.
“For us it represents freedom and experimentation,” said Hency of the financing. “Our culture here is if we have an idea we’d love to try it. If we want to go out and blow out a tailgate tour of football games in the South, that’s something we’d like to do in a big way.”
Chubbies makes its shorts in facilities in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles using fabric sourced from the southeastern U.S. The shorts range in price from $49.50 to $59.50, and typically ship within four business days. Shipping is free, as are returns, because the company wants its customers to “focus on crushing life.”
Go here to read the rest: Chubbies Raises $4 Million Giving Bros A Weekend Uniform
Kabbage, a platform for online merchants to borrow working capital, is picking up some cabbage of its own: the startup has closed a $270 million credit facility from Guggenheim Securities, the investment banking and capital markets division of Guggenheim Partners. Atlanta, Georgia-based Kabbage will use the funds to build out its financing business both in the U.S. and beyond. This is one of the largest credit facilities ever issued to a small business lender, and possibly the biggest in the online lending space. And its CEO says it may be followed up with even more financing very soon.
“Growth has been dramatic,” Rob Frohwein, Kabbage’s CEO and founder, told me in an interview. “Yes, this is a large facility, but looking at our growth rate, it’s something that we will need to look at again in a reasonably short period of time, believe it or not.”
Matthew Perkins, Senior Managing Director and Head of ABS and RMBS Banking at Guggenheim Securities, says that this facility has been structured and sized to support Kabbage’s funding needs over the next 12-18 months, “and to allow for periodic upsizing thereafter.”
Since opening for business almost three years ago, Kabbage has advanced more than $250 million to small businesses, the company says.
This latest credit round comes almost exactly a year after Kabbage raised $75 million, which it also put towards the capital that it lends businesses (it’s raised just under $92 million of debt, not counting today’s $270 million). The company has also raised $53.7 million of VC funding across three rounds, with investors including BlueRun Ventures, David Bonderman, Warren Stephens, the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Jim McKelvey, Thomvest Ventures and SV Angel.
The rapid rise of online financing platforms has been dramatic over the last several months. Borro, an online “pawn shop” that lets people put up high-value goods as collateral against loans of up to $1 million, last month raised $112 million that it is also using to extend the financing it offers to customers. Others like Lending Club and Funding Circle are applying a peer-to-peer structure to online loans.
That’s also rubbed off on other tech companies, which have not started out as loans specialists, but nevertheless have close relationships with online merchants that they are leveraging to get into the game. Square has Square Capital for cash advances; and PayPal says that thousands of businesses have applied for PayPal Working Capital since a pilot program launched in September 2013. The eBay-owned business works with WebBank as the lender.
According to Frohwein, Kabbage’s lending model has filled a hole for financing companies of a certain size online — which not only spells opportunity for its own business but also as a partner for others. Providing capital to a class of small businesses that have become unprofitable for traditional banks and many others to target.
In this sense, Kabbage is not unlike companies like Square and iZettle providing a way for small merchants that would not have been big enough to qualify to take non-cash payments, suddenly start to be able to accept cards.
“Mainstream lenders cannot economically acquire these customers. I think that banks like the space, but they have a lot of regulatory and risk debt right now that makes it hard for them to either re-enter or meaningfully enter these markets,” he says. “For them, a ‘small business’ does between $10 million and $15 million in revenues each year. Our average clients bring in between $500,000 and $1 million per year, with some as low as $50,000 per year.”
Interestingly, that’s presented a double opportunity: Frohwein says that Kabbage is currently working with a very large financial services company to essentially become the online lending platform for these banks to start to target these users. It will mean that banks will get a cut of the proceeds, but could really expand the number of businesses that Kabbage lends money to in the process, acting as a kind of replacement, effectively, for using credit cards for some facilities.
Another key point with Kabbage is how the company approaches loans and repayments. Built on the idea of big data and the fact that many of these businesses are already primarily online operations, Kabbage takes into account datapoints not just from a company’s balance sheet but also their performance across different sales channels, when evaluating a loan or repayment schedule:
“We’re a very data driven company and what we did for a long time was bring a lot of customers in and we built our models based on that,” he says. Repayments and interest are calculated on a basic sliding scale, depending on the amount and the period over which you will repay. The online calculator is here.
Frohwein says that this approach, based on actual customer data over time, has meant that Kabbage has actually had a very sound return on its loans. “Our retainment rate is extremely good right now. It’s something that we’ve had to work hard on, both with lenders data sources to underwrite we want to get even better.” He says bad debt rates are currently “at the low single digits. We are excited about the fact that we’re able to identify good customers on the front end and manage them on the back end.”
Nevertheless, this is still a largely untapped opportunity for Kabbage and the rest of the industry. Frohwein estimates that there are some 15-20 million online businesses that are currently in need of capital, but collectively, online lending platforms have served only about 150,000. He says Kabbage is the largest of them all, with some 25,000 active customers.
Report: Motorola’s share of UK smartphone sales climbs to 6% from ‘almost nothing’ in 6 months
15 of the best Android apps from March
Even if you’ve been watching the tech scene of Eastern Europe closely, there’s still a chance you’ve missed something important as the news from that part of the world is relentless at the moment.
Check out the headlines from March to get an impression of what’s been happening; the past month can be characterized by an unusual amount of news stories from Russia, while tech scene in other countries was much less active.
Image credit: Shutterstock
Follow this link: Catch up on a month of tech news from Eastern Europe: March
The company debuted last year but still hasn’t formally launched. We don’t know a lot about what High Fidelity is developing but what we do know is that the company is prototyping the technology and user experience of a next-generation virtual reality system. With Rosedale and his team’s experience developing for Second Life, it should be interesting to see what their vision of a next-generation virtual reality system looks like.
If you are interested in signing up for the alpha, you can here.
We embedded a video that looks to show some of the technology that High Fidelity has created via its blog. Previous backers include True Ventures, Google Ventures, Kapor Capital, and angels.
Rosedale previously launched Coffee and Power in 2011 as an online marketplace where people can buy and sell small jobs. It also opened up a co-working space in San Francisco where users could meet in a safe public area to work together and conduct transactions and services. The startup raised $1 million in funding from Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, Greylock Partners, Mitch Kapor, Catamount Ventures and Kevin Rose.
Media conglomerate Disney has taken a big step to embracing the new digital world of video, announcing the acquisition of YouTube network Maker Studios for $500 million, along with a potential $450 million in performance-based earn outs. The acquisition, which was first reported by Re/Code, represents the largest acquisition of a YouTube multichannel network, and could spell more consolidation in the space.
“Short-form online video is growing at an astonishing pace and with Maker Studios, Disney will now be at the center of this dynamic industry with an unmatched combination of advanced technology and programming expertise and capabilities,” said Disney CEO Robert Iger in the acquisition release.
Maker will remain headquartered in Culver City, Calif., and will report to Disney Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo, the companies say.
Maker was originally founded by a team of individual YouTube creators who hoped to leverage each other’s separate audiences and skill sets to increase the number of views and subscribers of each. Think of it as a sort of “whole being greater than the sum of its parts” strategy.
But over time it’s evolved into a much bigger business than those original founders could have possibly predicted. It represents thousands of creators who have hundreds of millions of subscribers and together have 5.5 billion video views per month.
Maker has also raised a ton of money along the way. It’s raised $66 million over three rounds of funding, with investors that include Canal+, Astro, SingTel Innov8, Lakestar, Northgate Capital, Time Warner Ventures, Upfront Ventures, Greycroft Partners, Maker executive chairman Ynon Kreiz, Downey Ventures, Elisabeth Murdoch, FUEL: M+C, Daher Capital, and producer Jon Landau.
The acquisition comes at a premium over its most recent valuation of around $300 million, when it raised $26 million from Canal+, Singtel, and others to go after the international market.
Maker isn’t the only multichannel network to exist on YouTube, but it’s certainly one of the biggest. And being acquired by Disney could have a big impact on the industry, as other major media conglomerates or TV networks stake out their own place in the YouTube ecosystem.
That said, there are still questions to be answered about the acquisition. For instance: the vast majority of Maker’s views and revenues come from YouTube — how does it begin to move beyond the online video giant as its main distribution platform and establish its own set of mobile and connected TV apps?
It’s starting to get more serious about that, and has taken steps to improve its presence on new platforms outside of YouTube. Last summer it acquired Blip, which gave it another distribution platform, as well as a tech team with experience connecting to multiple different mobile and TV ecosystems.
Having the backing of Disney and all of its media marketing power, as well as its tech prowess, could help make Maker even bigger — or at least more profitable.
The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of Disney’s fiscal year.
Secret, the anonymous social sharing app popular among the Silicon Valley and tech industry crowd, officially announced today it has raised $8.6 million in outside investment. The round included participation from Garry Tan and Alexis Ohanian of Initialized Capital, MG Siegler of Google Ventures, Bing Gordon and Megan Quinn of KPCB, Chris Howard and Brad Silverberg of Fuel Capital, Vivi Nevo, SV Angel, Ashton Kutcher of A-Grade Investments, David Sacks, Bill Lee, Pete Cashmore, Joe Montana, Rob Wiesenthal, Andrew Chen, and other undisclosed angel investors.
This good-sized party round saw no investors joining the board, the company notes – co-founders David Byttow and Chrys Bader-Wechseler remain the only board members at this time.
The news confirms TechCrunch’s (and the WSJ’s) earlier reports of Secret’s funding, though at a slightly lower amount than previously stated. TechCrunch had heard from sources that Secret had raised $10 million at a $50 million post-money valuation in a round led by Google Ventures, with participation from KPCB. (Disclosure: Google Ventures’ MG Siegler worked at TechCrunch as a writer before joining the VC world.)
Secret’s announcement also offered a few details regarding users’ engagement with its service, noting that 75 percent of people with more than five friends come back every day, and 90 percent of users who engage in a conversation come back within the week, often several times per day.
The 45-day-old iOS application is a new arrival in what’s now becoming a fairly crowded space, where it competes against others focused on anonymous sharing, namely Whisper, an older and larger competitor, which has raised $54 million to date for its service that’s like a mobile version of the PostSecret website from days past. Whisper seems to cater more to a younger, college-aged crowd that is sharing more personal expressions, while Secret has, so far, been more of a water cooler for Silicon Valley chatter.
India’s largest online classifieds site, Quikr, has raised $90 million in fresh funding from a group of investors led by Sweden’s Kinnevik.
The latest round, which would take the total capital raised by Quikr to around $136 million, values the startup at over $250 million, a report added.
Quikr had raised $32 million from Warburg Pincus, Matrix Partners, Norwest Venture Partners and eBay in Series E funding in May 2012. Omidyar Network and Nokia Growth Partners are among other investors backing Quikr.
The latest funding in Quikr also underscores growing interest from newer investors in India’s online commerce. Kinnevik has already backed other online classifieds startups globally including Russia’s Avito, which became the world’s third biggest classifieds site after its $570 million deal with Naspers last year.
Quikr is among the fastest growing Internet businesses in India, as more Indian Internet users buy and sell products, services online. The startup gets around 30 million unique visitors every month, and has annual revenues of around $50 million earned mostly through advertising and premium listings.
“Quikr has grown rapidly based on a deep understanding of the Indian market,” Mia Brunell Livfors, CEO of Kinnevik said in a statement. “It’s targeting a tremendous opportunity in a large growth market and we look forward to being a part of its exciting journey forward.”
India’s e-commerce and online businesses are on fire, as the country’s around 200 million Internet users seek real-time information about products and services and are discovering more convenient ways to transact on the web. Many of them are buying and selling electronics, household goods, cars, bikes and other services on online classified sites such as Quikr.
Read the original post: Indian Online Classifieds Site Quikr Confirms $90M Fund Raise Led By Kinnevik
French last-minute hotel app VeryLastRoom just raised $2.1 million (€1.5 million). The app is very reminiscent of its American competitor, Hotel Tonight. VC APlusFinance, Extend and Sigma Gestion invested in this round.
Previously, the company had raised $550,000 from business angels (€400,000). It is one of the last standing European Hotel Tonight competitor as Blink was acquired by Groupon and JustBook was acquired by SecretEscapes.
VeryLastRoom is a mobile app used to book a hotel room at the last minute. This way, hotels can fill up their empty rooms by discounting the remaining rooms. But unlike Hotel Tonight, the price will go down in real-time all day long. At 2am, you get the lowest price for the remaining rooms.
“We have a much better offering in France and Spain compared to Hotel Tonight,” CEO and co-founder Nicolas Salin told me.
With today’s funding round, the team of 8 will double in the next three months. The company’s main challenge will be to take over the French market before Hotel Tonight. This way, it can safely keep operating, or even become an interesting acquisition target.
Never mind poor service or the food itself, the experience of actually paying the bill at the end of a meal is often cited as the biggest pain-point for restaurant goes. Or so says Flypay, a new UK startup whose app wants to make settling the bill “waiter-free” and a lot speedier in the process.
Co-inciding with its official launch today, the company is announcing that it’s raised £1 million in new funding from mobile payment specialists Entreé Capital, adding to a £150,000 seed round from unnamed industry folk raised six months earlier. The new capital will be used to scale its technology, picking up new restaurant partners along the way, and to further develop its product line.
So, how does the Flypay iOS and Android app work? Aiming to get the time it takes to ask for and settle a restaurant bill down from an average of ten minutes to closer to a minute, you simply scan an on-table QR code/NFC tag to first recall the bill. Then, using the app, you can check the bill and pay using a credit or debit card, including the option to split the bill with others at your table — either by paying off specific items or splitting the bill equally.
For restaurant operators, the advantages are two-fold. First, of course, the process of settling a bill doesn’t tie up a waiter, who can continue serving other customers instead of faffing around with chip ‘n’ pin. In fact, Flypay reckons it currently takes an average three visits by a waiter to enable a customer to settle their bill.
And, by app-ifying this process, there’s an additional payoff. The startup is able to offer in-app customer loyalty schemes in which Flypay integrates with restaurant marketing and CRM systems to potentially provide rewards and discounts for a restaurant’s most valued customers or to entice repeat visitors.
To that end, Flyapp is disclosing two major brand customers: Wahaca are using the Flypay app as a pay-at-table solution, and Burrito Mama are using Flypay’s tech (effectively a white-label version “powered by Flyapp”) within their order-ahead app to enable customers to order a burrito as they approach the takeout so that it’s ready to collect and pay for when they arrive.
An obvious competitor to Flypay is MyCheck, which also offers a “waiter-free” payment solution. The company operates in Tel Aviv, London and New York, and has raised $6.1 million since it was founded in 2011. However, Flypay claims its solution is more efficient since it uses a QR/NFC code and doesn’t require a 4-digit pin to be handed to a waiter.