Data-sharing platform Vendia raises $30M Series B

Vendia, a blockchain-based platform that makes it easier for businesses to share their code and data with partners across applications, platforms and clouds, today announced that it has raised a $30 million Series B round led by NewView Capital. Neotribe Ventures, Canvas Ventures, Sorenson Capital, Aspenwood Ventures and BMW iVentures also participated in this round, which brings the company’s total funding to $50 million.

The company was founded by two AWS veterans: the inventor of AWS Lambda, Tim Wagner, and the former head of blockchain at AWS, Shruthi Rao. Since launching Vendia, the company added new customers like BMW, Aerotrax and Slalom, who use it to have a single source of truth for their multi-cloud data sharing with some of their partners. As Wagner noted, the company mostly focused on the financial services, travel and hospitality verticals so far, though with the new funding, it’ll likely look to expand to new verticals as well. Wagner also noted that the company recently launched a new product line around CRM data sharing and since the company is seeing a lot of traction around its file-sharing capabilities, it is also investing in that as well.

Currently, Vendia supports AWS and the team recently launched Azure support as well. Support for the Google Cloud Platform is on the roadmap, in addition to the company’s ongoing work to allow its service to connect to an ever-growing number of services.

The fact that it uses a blockchain to do so is somewhat secondary to this (and the company barely mentions it on its homepage), but it’s what allows the company to offer an immutable serverless ledger to its users to ensure data accuracy as well as provenance and traceability. Developers, meanwhile, won’t have to think about this blockchain part of the service as they only have to provide a JSON schema with the data model and Vendia will provide them with a GraphQL API to work with this data.

Image Credits: Vendia

“At the end of the day, our customers have real problems,” Wagner said. “They don’t have a blockchain problem — they’re trying to sell tickets, settle financial transactions, track supply chains. They’ve got real challenges.”

Once the team starts talking to a potential customer’s IT teams, the discussion quickly focuses on blockchains, though, and as Wagner noted, that often includes teaching them about things like immutability and lineage tracing. But for Vendia, the focus is very much on selling a solution to its customers’ problems. “For most of our customers, their core problem is that they have partners and they have problems with sharing data with control, but they don’t want to invest a lot into IT and infrastructure for it,” Rao added and also noted that in today’s job market, even big companies don’t have a lot of IT people sitting around who can take on new projects like this.

Image Credits: Vendia

“Next-gen blockchains like Vendia represent a powerful way to solve age-old supply chain challenges,” said David Bettenhausen, …read more

Railway snags $20M to streamline the process of deploying apps and services


Railway, a startup building a software deployment platform tailored for engineers, today announced that it raised $20 million in a Series A round led by Redpoint Ventures and angel investors including Vercel CEO Guillermo Rauch and GitHub co-founder Tom Preston-Werner. The capital brings Railway’s total raised to $24 million, which CEO Jake Cooper said is being put toward continuing to expand Railway’s product with a focus on enterprise customers.

In a conversation with TechCrunch, Cooper said that he and Railway’s founding team was inspired to launch the platform by the dearth of support tools for deploying apps. Cooper was previously a software engineer at Wolfram Alpha, Bloomberg, and Uber before co-launching Railway in 2020.

“When I was first learning to code, building software was a magical experience. Fast forward a decade later, and all current iteration of infrastructure tooling requires deep infrastructure knowledge … and a fleet of DevOps engineers to ship a simple app to production,” Cooper told TechCrunch via email. “In our minds, both users and companies alike will require better, more accessible tooling for their engineering teams to move quickly and build category defining products. Railway today allows engineers to … ‘automagically’ receive industry best practices for building and deploying apps.”

Traditional app development might require drawing up architectural diagrams and weaving together services across public clouds like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. In contrast, Cooper said, Railway provides a dashboard for building, deploying, and monitoring apps and services, either from a birds-eye view or down to the individual level.

Image Credits: Railway

“In our mind, the number one challenge that the industry currently faces is ‘compute accessibility.’ Compute is one of the, if not the, most powerful tools available to people. Current iterations of cloud infrastructure tooling lock this experience behind complicated yaml or unintuitive dashboards,” Cooper said. “Railway is building an engine to unleash the full potential of compute and make it accessible to any user, anywhere in the world. We see ourselves as a ‘next-generation cloud’ that works with the user instead of against them.”

Recently, Railway launched what it calls the “infinite shipping canvas,” which allows users to say what they want in natural language (e.g.,”Give me a PostgreSQL database,” “Deploy this GitHub repo”) and get a running version of that infrastructure. Railway keeps track of the services and configurations under the hood and redeploys them based on changes to the infrastructure.

“Oftentimes with engineering organizations, it’s not even a matter of ‘How expensive is it?’ but a matter of ‘How many quarters will it take?’ Time is the currency of engineering teams and leaders, and so when it comes to ‘Why should your CTO/VP/director care about this?,’ our answer is that Railway can cut your architectural implementation time from months to minutes,” Cooper said. “Railway as a lifecycle management engine that bridges the gap between development and production. In our ideal future, builders have time to focus on their core products without worrying about how to deploy them.”

Railway’s traction is …read more

Seemplicity emerges from stealth with $32M to consolidate security notifications and speed up response times

Cybersecurity continues to grow in complexity due to the ever-increasing threat landscape — more services in the cloud, more digital operations and more devices mean more attack surfaces and variations for malicious hackers to worm into networks, and thus more tools to fight this — and that is creating more work for operations teams tasked with responding to security threats. Today a startup called Seemplicity is emerging from stealth with $32 million in funding for a platform that it believes will help reduce that load.

Funding for the Israel-based startup is coming in the form of a $6 million seed round and a $26 million Series A. Glilot Capital Partners, by way of its early growth fund Glilot+, is leading the Series A with new backers NTTVC and Atlantic Bridge and previous backers S Capital and Rain Capital also participating. S Capital led its seed round.

Ravid Circus — Seemplicity’s CPO who co-founded the company with Yoran Sirkis (CEO) and Rotem Cohen Gadol (CTO) — said the company was choosing now to come out of stealth and launch publicly with news of its funding in part because the second round had recently closed, and in part because it’s racked up a decent number of customers already: 20 enterprises covering Fortune 500 and publicly-traded companies in various sectors (none of whom are willing to have their names disclosed yet).

Seemplicity is a portmanteau of “see” and “simplicity”, and that is effectively what it is doing: helping DevOps and SecOps teams see a more complete picture of the state of an organization’s security, by simplifying how to view it.

The problem is a pretty basic but thorny one: these days, DevOps teams are faced with a difficult task that in some ways is only getting harder. The number of breaches growing, according to both general and specific accounts; and that is translating to an ever-expanding range of tools targeting different aspects of security covering specific areas and use cases such as applications, SaaS, cloud and endpoint security. But while there has been a big evolution in security towards much more automation to handle a portion of the alerts that are generated by these different security apps, there are still a number of items that require human involvement to address and ultimately resolve.

This in turn results in a huge shower of data that comes down on those DevOps teams that is hard to parse even before any action is taken.

This is where a product like Seemplicity comes into the picture: it takes all of those alerts and orchestrates them, to figure out which are related, which can be bundled together, which are more urgent (because they are central to how something operates, or because it could signal a cascading problem, for example), and which can be fixed by fixing something else.

By doing so, “We allow an organization to fix and remediate more effectively so that they are less in the business of firefighting,” Circus said. “The …read more

New York-based Digital Asset to help Japan’s financial giant SBI develop ‘smart yen’

SBI Holdings, a Japanese securities and banking giant that launched a crypto-asset fund for retail investors last year, has been actively investing in the infrastructure that will allow it to roll out more crypto products.

The firm has recently made a strategic investment in Digital Asset, a New York-based startup known for building enterprise blockchain solutions, it said in an announcement. As part of the deal, the pair are launching a joint venture this year to operate across East Asia, which includes Japan and South Korea.

The undisclosed round adds to the $300 million in funding that Digital Asset has raised since its founding in 2014 from the likes of IBM and Goldman Sachs, which is tokenizing assets with help from the blockchain company.

The objective of the partnership is to bring programmable money, or digital money that can be coded to act in a certain way based on predetermined conditions, into the Japanese market, said Digital Asset in a separate statement.

The programmable money is tentatively called “smart yen” and will be using Daml, the smart contract language created by Digital Asset and known for playing a role in the Australian Securities Exchange’s distributed ledger technology (DLT) platform. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is also a customer of Daml, which is expediating settlements for the bourse.

Smart yen, according to Yoshitaka Kitao, president and representative director of SBI Holdings, will “make it possible to build a revolutionary, customer-oriented cash system by directly linking each individual customer loyalty program to deposits, and fully automating the process of providing loyalty through smart contracts.”

The smart money system has to potential to create “additional opportunities for retail banks in Japan to develop innovative offerings, such as loyalty programs, vouchers, and other incentives to drive customer growth and retention,” reckoned Yuval Rooz, co-founder of Digital Asset who took the helm as CEO in 2019.

Digital Asset is just one of a handful of investments the Japanese financial outfit has sealed to expand its crypto business. It made a key acquisition move in mid-May when it scooped up a controlling stake in the Japanese crypto exchange BITPoint. In late 2020, SBI bought UK-based crypto trading platform B2C2.


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Temasek in talks to invest in Google-backed DotPe

Google-backed DotPe, which helps businesses in India go online and sell digitally, is in advanced stages of talks to raise about $50 million in a new financing round, a source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

Temasek, the Singapore state-owned investment firm, is finalizing deliberations to lead the investment in the Gurgaon-headquartered startup, the source said, requesting anonymity as the details are private.

Terms of the investment could change and the deal may end up not materializing at all, the source cautioned. Temasek declined to comment, while DotPe did not respond to a request for comment.

The two-year-old startup, which also counts PayU and Info Edge Ventures as its backers, also helps brick and mortar stores get visibility on Google Search. Restaurants, which are some of the customers of DotPe, use the startup’s offering to scan their inventories to make them digitally accessible via WhatsApp.

These offerings puts DotPe chasing a similar set of audiences as other startups including Zomato, Swiggy and Dukaan.

“DotPe provides a WhatsApp link which opens a restaurant menu and you can order directly and don’t have to go to Zomato / Swiggy. DotPe works with small merchants across other categories –food delivery , apparel ecommerce, pharma,” analysts at Bernstein wrote in a report last year. “DotPe doesn’t do its own delivery but will work with delivery partners for last mile delivery.”

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HitPay is a one-stop solution for SMEs

HitPay has almost everything SMEs need to run their businesses.

In addition to being an online payment gateway, it also offers tools like point-of-sale software with card readers, plugins, payment links and no-code online stores.

The Y Combinator alum announced today that it has raised $15.75 million in Series A funding led by Tiger Global, with participation from returning investors Global Founders Capital and HOF Capital. It is currently used by over 10,000 merchants in Singapore and Malaysia, with plans to expand into more Southeast Asian markets, including Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Co-founder and CEO Aditya Haripurkar told TechCrunch HitPay started in 2016 as an e-wallet, but then pivoted toward being a SME-facing platform in 2018 as a virtual POS product. As its team began to understand the needs of SMEs more, it started to develop the other tools on the platform.

HitPay’s Series A funding will be used for building a payments infrastructure from the ground up, with the intention of saving SMEs money and helping them expand their business. This will include business tools and payments infrastructure that includes all commonly used payment rails in each market, including bank transfers, cards, e-wallets and BNPL services.

“SMEs have very specific requirements, so we wanted to build a one-stop no code platform,” said Haripurkar. “That entails all our plugins, point of sale software, business software, online stores and recurring payments. We’ll be focusing on building these free SaaS tools in addition to building up payment rails, which are focused currently on Singaporean and Malaysian merchants. But in each country we launch in, that will look very different, so we will look at local payment methods in every country. That’s the biggest challenge for our team and where most of our investment and time is going as well.”

The first step HitPay will take as it expands into new countries is to get regulated in each market it operates in, to allow it to build payment infrastructure for SMEs from the ground up. Then it will integrate the most popular payment methods. For example, in Singapore, HitPay currently works with about 10 to 15 payment methods.

HitPay’s no-code platform allows SMEs to unify their online and offline payment stacks. It is typically used by medium-sized businesses, with annual revenue between $500,000 to $2 million. Most are in the retail segment, but Haripurkar expect that to evolve as well.

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Zinc heads towards new $41M tech-for-good fund to back pre-team talent solving big problems

So-called “tech for good” accelerators addressing such worthy-sounding subjects as ESGs and SDGs have appeared in the last few years. Some observers have dismissed these efforts as scalable only put to a point. However, the evidence is mounting that they are increasingly attracting some of the world’s best talent, because the world’s best talent does actually want to solve some of the planet’s biggest problems. And where the talent goes, the money and backing will follow. In Europe, Entrepreneur First (EF) and Antler have tried to scale their models as ‘talent investors’, while the Bethnal Green Ventures fund was even acquired and re-capitalized by its new owners.

Clearly this approach is on something of a roll.

Zinc is an accelerator which appeared back in 2017 when it was founded Ella Goldner, Paul Kirby and Saul Klein (LocalGlobe founder) and backed by its early investors including the London School of Economics. It went on to back over 220 diverse founders who built more than 60 ventures, such as Vira Health (menopause support), Tandem (transportation for workers), Pexxi (personalised contraception pills), and Untangle (grief support). As you can see, it is indeed possible to create businesses that address what, to some, might seem like intractable problems.

Zinc has now hit the first £28m ($34m) close of a new fund, and is aiming for a final close of £33m ($41m), to invest in startups build commercial solutions to some of society’s biggest challenges. Zinc will invest up to £250,000 in each of the companies created. 

Zinc 2 Fund will back talent which (similar to EF) is pre-team and pre-idea, to build these startups. The cohort draws in talent focused on four missions: mental health, the environment, improving the quality of later life, and helping people impacted by automation and globalisation. Zinc and the entrepreneurs share a conviction that each of these missions is a big opportunity for both social impact and commercial success.

Goldner, co-founder of Zinc, said in a statement: “Rather than waiting for good companies to appear, Zinc helps individuals (before they have a business idea or a team) to build from scratch a new commercially-ambitious company to solve the social challenge that they are most passionate about.”

“Typically,” she says “those individuals are 10 to 20 years into their career, but are frustrated that they are not having the social impact they want… Zinc brings these groups together to combine social impact and commercial skills.”

The individuals chosen by Zinc join a cohort of up to 70 people who all share the same mission and access a 12 month programme of support and investment. Each of our programmes has 100 Visiting Fellows and a network of partners.

Givent the “Great Resignation” post pandemic, Zinc thinks it will attract those re-evaluating their careers.

Paul Kirby, co-founder of Zinc, says “Our missions are a call to arms: ‘Who wants to quit their jobs and spend the next decade or more solving this problem?’”

Some of the examples of the founders who have built a venture with Zinc include …read more

Max Q: Mines and metals

Hello and welcome back to Max Q. There is SO much news this week, so let’s dive in.

In this issue:

  • Astroforge’s asteroid mining ambitions
  • Boeing’s Starliner comes home
  • News from Virgin Orbit, Rocket Lab and more

Don’t forget to sign up to get the free newsletter version of Max Q delivered to your inbox.

Astroforge closes $13M seed plus round for asteroid mining plans 

Although we’ve long understood that asteroids are not simply the rubble of the universe, but potentially profitable stores of precious minerals, humanity has never been able to unlock this value. Y Combinator startup Astroforge wants to succeed where other companies have failed, by becoming the first to mine an asteroid and bring the material back to Earth — and it’s aiming to do so as early as the end of the decade. (Yes, that is not a typo — end of the decade!)

To start, Astroforge will be conducting a tech demonstration mission sometime next year. The company’s already booked a spot on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission, and it has also contracted a deal with OrbAstro to manufacture the satellite. But for now, the startup is staying mum on the actual details of the payload, and how they will solve the myriad technical challenges for which asteroid mining is so notorious.

“We now need to build a world-class team to go after this, as it’s a really hard problem to solve,” co-founder Matt Gialich said. Later in the conversation, he added, “That’s the fun part of startups, right? It’s a big risk until you go do it.”

Near-Earth asteroid, computer artwork. Image Credits: Science Photo Library – ANDRZEJ WOJCICKI / Getty Images

Starliner returns to Earth, completing successful test flight

Welcome back, Starliner! The spacecraft touched down in New Mexico on Wednesday, successfully concluding a six-day mission and the craft’s first successful test flight. As TC’s Devin Coldewey writes, even though not everything went exactly as planned, “this success may establish Boeing as a much-needed second provider of commercial ISS launch capabilities.”

During a post-launch briefing, NASA commercial crew program manager Steve Stich called the landing “picture perfect.”

Next up is a Crew Flight Test (CFT), which will carry astronauts and, for that reason, will be much higher stakes. The date of that launch will likely not be set for several months.

Animation of Starliner floating under three parachutes.

Image Credits: Boeing / NASA / YouTube

More news from TC

Partner sessions at TC Sessions: Climate offer knowledge and insight

We’re just about two weeks away from our first foray into climate tech at TC Sessions: Climate & The Extreme Tech Challenge 2022 Global Finals on June 14 in Berkeley, California — with an online day to follow on June 16. It’s going to be an epic day all around for many reasons — did you know that Bill Gates is one of the featured speakers?

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from and engage with the new wave of climate-tech entrepreneurs, early-stage founders, CEOs, scientists, researchers, engineers and the VCs who fund them.

You know what else you can’t afford to miss? Our 2-for-1 pass Memorial Day sale — it ends tonight at 11:59 pm (PT). Buy your pass now and save!

Pro Tip: Yes, TechCrunch editors will interview the leading voices in the fight against climate-change (check out the event agenda), but we’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t remind you about our partner breakout sessions.

These expert-led, topic-specific partner sessions give you time to lean in, get more answers, discover new opportunities and connect with companies that support early-stage climate-tech startups. 

Take a look at this impressive group of partners and what they’ll discuss. They’re ready with knowledge and resources to help you build a successful startup.

Powering the Future Through Transformative Tech

This panel jumps into the breakthrough tech innovations that are transforming industries to build a radically better world. How can business, government, philanthropy, and the startup community come together to create a better tomorrow? Hear from these seasoned investors and industry veterans about how technology can not only shape the future, but also where the biggest opportunities lie. Sponsored by XTC.

Jamey Butcher (CEO & President, Chemonics International), Philipp Gruener (Global Head of Due Diligence, Decisive Capital Management SA), Victoria Slivkoff (Executive Managing Director, Extreme Tech Challenge), & Bill Tai (Angel Investor; Partner Emeritus CRV; Co-Founder, Extreme Tech Challenge)

Reducing your cloud computing climate impact

Making the choice to deploy to the cloud is clearly the better choice for the climate, but you can further reduce your emissions by taking a couple of key steps. You are invited to attend this session to learn more about how the tech community is helping to mitigate climate change and a simple strategy to reduce your carbon footprint in the cloud. Sponsored by

Fred Plais (Co-Founder & CEO,

TC Sessions: Climate 2022 takes place on June 14 in Berkeley, California (with an online day June 16). Be sure to soak up the knowledge waiting for you in our partner breakout sessions. And don’t wait another second to buy your pass — the Memorial Day 2-for-1 sale ends tonight at 11:59 pm (PT). Go forth and save!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions Climate 2022? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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Perceptron: Risky teleoperation, Rocket League simulation, and zoologist multiplication

As you can see in the animation above, a set of autonomous vehicles communicating using v2v protocols can basically prevent all but the very front cars from stopping at all by progressively slowing down behind one another, but not so much that they actually come to a halt. This sort of hypermiling behavior may seem like it doesn’t save much gas or battery, but when you scale it up to thousands or millions of cars it does make a difference — and it might be a more comfortable ride, too. Good luck getting everyone to approach the intersection perfectly spaced like that, though.

Switzerland is taking a good, long look at itself — using 3D scanning tech. The country is making a huge map using UAVs equipped with lidar and other tools, but there’s a catch: the movement of the drone (deliberate and accidental) introduces error into the point map that needs to be manually corrected. Not a problem if you’re just scanning a single building, but an entire country?

Fortunately, a team out of EPFL is integrating an ML model directly into the lidar capture stack that can determine when an object has been scanned multiple times from different angles and use that info to line up the point map into a single cohesive mesh.

Research in the field of machine learning and AI, now a key technology in practically every industry and company, is far too voluminous for anyone to read it all. This column, Perceptron (previously Deep Science), aims to collect some of the most relevant recent discoveries and papers — particularly in, but not limited to, artificial intelligence — and explain why they matter.

This week in AI, researchers discovered a method that could allow adversaries to track the movements of remotely-controlled robots even when the robots’ communications are encrypted end-to-end. The coauthors, who hail from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, said that their study shows adopting the best cybersecurity practices isn’t enough to stop attacks on autonomous systems.

Remote control, or teleoperation, promises to enable operators to guide one or several robots from afar in a range of environments. Startups including Pollen Robotics, Beam, and Tortoise have demonstrated the usefulness of teleoperated robots in grocery stores, hospitals, and offices. Other companies develop remotely-controlled robots for tasks like bomb disposal or surveying sites with heavy radiation.

But the new research shows that teleoperation, even when supposedly “secure,” is risky in its susceptibility to surveillance. The Strathclyde coauthors describe in a paper using a neural network to infer information about what operations a remotely-controlled robot is carrying out. After collecting samples of TLS-protected traffic between the robot and controller and conducting an analysis, they found that the neural network could identify movements about 60% of the time and also reconstruct “warehousing workflows” (e.g., picking up packages) with “high accuracy.”

Image Credits: Shah et al.

Alarming in a less immediate way is a new study from researchers at Google and the University of Michigan that explored peoples’ relationships with AI-powered systems in countries with weak legislation and “nationwide optimism” for AI. The work surveyed India-based, “financially stressed” users of instant loan platforms that target borrowers with credit determined by risk-modeling AI. According to the coauthors, the users experienced feelings of indebtedness for the “boon” of instant loans and an obligation to accept harsh terms, overshare sensitive data, and pay high fees.

The researchers argue that the findings illustrate the need for greater “algorithmic accountability,” particularly where it concerns AI in financial services. “We argue that accountability is shaped by platform-user power relations, and urge caution to policymakers in adopting a purely technical approach to fostering algorithmic accountability,” they wrote. “Instead, we call for situated interventions that enhance agency of users, enable meaningful transparency, reconfigure designer-user relations, and prompt a critical reflection in practitioners towards wider accountability.”

In less dour research, a team of scientists at TU Dortmund University, Rhine-Waal University, and LIACS Universiteit Leiden in the Netherlands developed an algorithm that they claim can “solve” the game Rocket League. Motivated to find a less computationally-intensive way to create game-playing AI, the team leveraged what they call a “sim-to-sim” transfer technique, which trained the AI system to perform in-game tasks like goalkeeping and striking within a stripped-down, simplified version of …read more