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Steve's ITK: A year older, none the wiser

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Steve's ITK

June 21 · Issue #61 · View online

Steve's In The Know: Thoughts from a European tech insider.


Opening thought: A new normal month
Just after going into lockdown - and as the severity of the coronavirus pandemic was starting to hit me - I set an 82 day countdown timer on my LaMetric smart clock. The date’s significance was my birthday: if I make it to June 11th, the worst of this will be over, I told myself.
As coping strategies go, it was quite a good one, even if I was woefully optimistic. Instead, it seems, the new normal, especially for those like me who are shielding, is here to stay. And what a normal month I’ve had :)
Just last week, I broke news of Facebook’s latest acquisition: Mapillary, the crowdsourced database of street-level imagery. Tipped off by one of my many contacts in the Nordics, I got the story out a few hours before anybody else.
Amusingly, I’ve managed to scoop all three recent Facebook acquisitions in Europe. Once is unfortunate. Twice is careless. Three times is… killing it!
More VC money sloshing around Europe
Talking of hat-tricks, last week also saw me cover three new fund launches which would normally be too much VC for any single human-being. But actually it was a great chance to check in with three early-stage funds, including learning more about climate tech with the launch of Sweden’s Pale Blue Dot, which is targeting startups in Europe that are using technology to help solve climate problems.
Fintech ups and down rounds
More mixed (and that’s putting it mildly) news for Monzo this month, as the challenger bank confirmed £60 million in top-up funding, seeing a 40% haircut to its valuation, which now sits at £1.24 billion pre-money. As I wrote in my piece for TechCrunch, that’s likely a reflection of the current funding climate amidst the coronavirus crisis, with Monzo having to raise a bridge round at quite possibly the worst time.
I also understand from sources that a number of Monzo’s later-stage investors played hardball, in a bid to force down the challenger bank’s ticket price, perhaps after investing at the height of the funding market pre-COVID-19.
Monzo also announced internally a round of layoffs - initially up to 120 staff but now likely closer to 80.
In other U.K. fintech news: Starling Bank raised another £40 million, TransferGo raised another $10 million, and Curve began quietly testing its Klarna competitor.
Investigation
I also found time to launch a second investigation into travel startup Pollen, this time on the way it handled last month’s layoffs.
Get streaming and sharing my debut album
Otis 'Max' Load: In Between Floors
Otis 'Max' Load: In Between Floors
To celebrate my birthday, I want to give you all a present. My album is now streaming in all the usual places. Have a listen and if you want to help me celebrate:
  1. Please follow my artist page on Spotify, Apple Music etc.
  2. Add your favourite tracks to a playlist.
  3. And get sharing.
That’s all I ask :-)
Things I wrote
Mapillary, the crowdsourced database of street-level imagery, has been acquired by Facebook
With three unicorns under its belt, Hoxton Ventures outs ~$100M second fund
Fly Ventures raises new €53M fund to back seed-stage enterprise and deep tech startups in Europe
Onna, the ‘knowledge integration platform’ for workplace apps, raises $27M Series B
European VC firm Pale Blue Dot plans to fund 40 ‘planet-positive’ startups
Pale Blue Dot is a new early-stage fund backing ‘climate-focused’ startups in Europe
Monzo confirms £60M down round, with a new pre-money valuation of £1.24B
TransferGo raises $10M additional funding, launches in 11 new markets
Peppy raises £1.7M for its employee healthcare benefits platform
Alkemics picks up €21M for its supplier-retailer collaboration platform
MessageBird launches an ‘omni-channel’ Intercom competitor
Curve begins quietly testing Curve Credit, its planned Klarna competitor
Monzo to lay off up to 120 employees as the ‘economic situation’ remains challenging
Endlesss, the iOS music-making app from Tim Exile, takes to Kickstarter for desktop version
Former Pollen employees were asked to sign an ‘NDA masked as a severance agreement’
Partners at B2B European VC henQ discuss remote work’s biggest advantages
Existing backers put another £40M into UK challenger bank Starling
Meniga, the digital banking tech provider, raises €8.5M led by French bank Groupe BPCE
Voi hires former Bird UK chief to bring e-scooters to British streets
ChatableApps launches its hearing assistance app
Cloud canteen startup Feedr has been acquired by Compass Group for ~$24M
Closing thought: Getting the next ten years right
As the world is reshaping itself in my own image - i.e. going fully virtual and embracing work from home (see: ITK: 03/05/2020) - I finally got to make my video streaming debut. I’m not a huge fan of video calling, but when an opportunity came up to interview Atomico and Skype founder Niklas Zennström for a second time - on the leadership stage of CogX, no less - I knew I better get my act together.
“Getting The Next Ten Years Right: The role of tech & VC” was the topic, providing the perfect platform to pick up where we left off when I wrote my The Zennström manifesto feature back in 2018. Unsurprisingly, the conversation that followed was pretty meaty, and - just that - an actual conversation. In fact, arguably it benefited from the more intimate non-conference hall setting. I hope you enjoy.
Global Leadership Stage Live at CogX 2020
Get in touch
Have feedback or something to say? Hit reply. I answer every single ITK email (as long as it isn’t a pitch).
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