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Moka raises $27M led by Hillhouse to make hiring more data-driven in China

Posted by on Mar 4, 2019 in Artificial Intelligence, Burger King, California, China, ggv capital, GSR Ventures, Hillhouse Capital, Hiring, JD.com, moka, recruitment, SaaS, Stanford University, TC, Tencent, turo, University of California, University of Michigan, Xiaomi | 0 comments

Moka, a startup that wants to make talent acquisition a little more data-driven for China-based companies that range from smartphone giant Xiaomi to Burger King’s local business, announced Monday that it has raised a 180 million yuan ($27 million) Series B round of funding.

The deal was led by Hillhouse Capital, an investor in top Chinese technology companies such as Tencent, Baidu, JD.com, Pinduoduo — just to name a few. Other investors who took part include Xianghe Capital, an investment firm founded by two former Baidu executives, Chinese private equity firm GSR Ventures and GGV Capital.

Moka claims more than 500 enterprise customers were paying for its services by the end of 2018. Other notable clients are McDonalds and one of China’s top livestreaming services YY. It plans to use its new capital to hire staff, build new products and expand the scope of its business.

Founded in 2015, Moka compares itself to Workday and Salesforce in the U.S. It has created a suite of software aiming to make recruiting easier and cheaper for companies with upwards of 500 employees. Its solutions take care of the full cycle of hiring. To start with, Moka allows recruiters to post job listings across multiple platforms with one click, saving them the hassle of hopping between portals. Its AI-enabled screening program then automatically filters candidates and make recommendations for companies. What comes next is the interview, which Moka helps streamline with automatic email and message reminders for job applicants and optimized plans for interviewers on when and where to meet their candidates.

That’s not the end, as Moka also wants to capture what happens after the talent is onboard. The startup helps companies maintain a talent database consist of existing employees and potential hires. The services allow companies to keep a close tap on their staff, whose resume update will trigger a warning to the employer, and alerts the recruiter once the system detects suitable candidates.

Moka is among a wave of startups founded by Chinese entrepreneurs with foreign education and work experiences. Zhao Oulun, whose English nickname is Orion, graduated from the University of California, Berkley and worked at San Francisco-based peer-to-peer car sharing company Turo before founding Moka with Li Guoxing. Li himself is also a “sea turtle,” a colloquial term in Chinese that describes overseas-educated graduates who return home to work. Li graduated from the University of Michigan and Stanford University, and had worked at Facebook as an engineer.

When the founders re-entered China, they saw something was missing in the booming domestic business environment: effective talent management.

“Businesses are flourishing, but at the same time many of them fall short in internal organization and operation. To a large extent, the issue pertains to the lack of digital and meticulous operation for human resources, which slows down decision-making and leads to mistakes around talents and company organization,” says chief executive Zhao in a statement.

Moka’s mission has caught the attention of investors. Jixun Foo, a partner at Moka backer GGV Capital, also believes China’s businesses can benefit from a data-driven approach to people management: “We are positive about Moka becoming a comprehensive HR service provider in the future through its unique data-powered and intelligent solutions.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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New Knowledge just raised $11 million more to flag and fight social media disinformation meant to bring down companies

Posted by on Aug 28, 2018 in Artificial Intelligence, ggv capital, New Knowledge, Recent Funding, SaaS, Startups, TC | 0 comments

Back in January, we told you about a young, Austin, Tex.-based startup that fights online disinformation for corporate customers. Turns out we weren’t alone in finding it interesting. The now four-year-old, 40-person outfit, New Knowledge, just sealed up $11 million in new funding led by the cross-border venture firm GGV Capital, with participation from Lux Capital. GGV had also participated in the company’s $1.9 million seed round.

We talked yesterday with co-founder and CEO Jonathon Morgan and the company’s director of research, Renee DiResta, to learn more about its work, which appears to be going well. (They say revenue has grown 1,000 percent over last year.) Our conversation, edited for length, follows.

TC: A lot of people associate coordinated manipulation by bad actors online with trying to disrupt elections here in the U.S. or with pro-government agendas elsewhere, but you’re working with companies that are also battling online propaganda. Who are some of them?

JM: Election interference is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of social media manipulation. Our customers are a little sensitive about being identified, but they are Fortune 100 companies in the entertainment industry, as well as consumer brands. We also have national security customers, though most of our business comes from the private sector.

TC: Renee, just a few weeks ago, you testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee about how social media platforms have enabled foreign-influence operations against the United States. What was that like?

RD: It was a great opportunity to educate the public on what happens and to speak directly to the senators about the need for government to be more proactive and to establish a deterrent strategy because [these disinformation campaigns] aren’t impacting just our elections but our society and American industry.

TC: How do companies typically get caught up in these similar practices?

JM: It’s pretty typical for consumer-facing brands, because they are so high-profile, to get involved in quasi-political conversations, whether or not they like it. Communities that know how to game the system will come after them over a pro-immigration stance for example. They mobilize and use the same black market social media content providers, the same tools and tactics that are used by Russia and Iran and other bad actors.

TC: In other words, this is about ideology, not financial gain.

JM: Where we see this more for financial gain is when it involves state intelligence agencies trying to undermine companies where they have nationalized an industry that competes with U.S. institutions like oil and gas and agriculture companies. You can see this is the promotion of anti-GMO narratives, for example. Agricultural tech in the U.S. is a big business, and on the fringes, there’s some debate about whether GMOs are safe to eat, even though the scientific community is clear that they’re completely safe.

Meanwhile, there are documented examples of groups aligned with Russian intelligence using purchased social media to circulate conspiracy theories and manipulate the public conversation about GMOs. They find a grain of truth in a scientific article, then misrepresent the findings through quasi-legitimate outlets, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that are in turn amplified by social media automation.

TC: So you’re selling software-as-a-service that does what exactly?

JM: We have a SaaS product and a team of analysts who come out of the intelligence community and who help customers understand threats to their brand. It’s an AI-driven system that detects subtle social signs of manipulation across accounts. We then help the companies understand who is targeting them, why, and what they can do about it.

TC: Which is what?

JM: First, they can’t be blindsided. Many can’t tell the difference between real and manufactured public outcry, so they don’t even know about it when it’s happening. But there’s a pretty predictable set of tactics that are used to create false public perception. They plant a seed with accounts they control directly that can look quasi-legitimate. Then they amplify it via paid automation, and they target specific individuals who may have an interest in what they have to say. The thinking is that if they can manipulate these microinfluencers, they’ll amplify the message by sharing it with their followers. By then, you can’t put the cat back in the bag.  You need to identify [these campaigns] when they’ve lit the match, but haven’t yet started a fire.

At the early stage, we can provide information to social media platforms to determine if what’s going on is acceptable within their policies. Longer term, we’re trying to find consensus between governments and also social media platforms themselves over what is and what isn’t acceptable — what’s aggressive conversation on these platforms and what’s out of bounds.

TC: How can you work with them when they can’t even decide on their own policies?

JM: First, different platforms are used for different reasons. You see peer-to-peer disinformation, where a small group of accounts drives a malicious narrative on Facebook, which can be problematic at the very local level. Twitter is the platform where media gets its pulse on what’s happening, so attacks launched on Twitter are much more likely to be made into mainstream opinion. There are also a lot of disinformation campaigns on Reddit, but those conversations are less likely to be elevated into a topic on CNN, even while they can shape the opinions of large numbers of avid users. Then there are the off-brand platforms like 4chan, where a lot of these campaigns are born. They are all susceptible in different ways.

The platforms have been very receptive. They take these campaigns much more seriously than when they first began looking at election integrity. But platforms are increasingly evolving from more open to more closed spaces, whether it’s WhatsApp groups or private Discord channels or private Facebook channels, and that’s making it harder for the platforms to observe. It’s also making it harder for outsiders who are interested in how these campaigns evolve.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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GrubMarket gobbles up $32M led by GGV for its healthy grocery ordering and delivery service

Posted by on Jul 11, 2018 in eCommerce, ggv capital, grocery delivery, GrubMarket, Recent Funding, Startups, TC | 0 comments

As consumers become more discerning about the food they eat, a wave of startups has emerged that is catering to that demand with convenient alternatives to the more ubiquitous options that are available today. One of these, GrubMarket — which sources organic and healthy food directly from producers and then delivers it to other businesses (Whole Foods is a customer) as well as consumers at a discount of 20-60 percent over other channels — is today announcing a $32 million round to grow its already profitable business, including making acquisitions and expanding on its own steam as it eyes a public listing.

“We are looking to buy companies to make more revenues ahead of an upcoming IPO,” said Mike Xu, the founder and CEO. He said GrubMarket is “in proactive steps” to expand from its home base in California to the East Coast, starting in New York and New Jersey, by October this year. The plan, he said, will be to file with the SEC sometime between the end of this year and early 2019, with the IPO taking place in the second half of 2019.

E-commerce, and in particular food-related businesses with perishable items and associated waste, can be tricky when it comes to margins, and indeed, there have been many casualties in the world of food startups. Xu said in an interview that GrubMarket is already profitable and working at a $100 million run rate.

One of the reasons it’s profitable may also be the same reason you may have never heard of GrubMarket. Currently, between 60 and 70 percent of its business is in the B2B space. Xu says that customers number in the thousands and include offices, grocery stores and restaurants across the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego.

And so, if you don’t know GrubMarket, you might know some of its customers, which include all WeWorks between San Diego and San Francisco, Whole Foods, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Chipotle. GrubMarket has also cornered some very specific niches: It has become the biggest mushroom supplier in all of Northern California, and it’s the biggest supplier of Hawaiian farm produce in the Bay Area.

Another point in the company’s favor is the technology it uses. Working directly with farmers and other producers, GrubMarket has built apps that allow it and its partners to manage the logistics of the business in an efficient way. The idea will be to bring more AI to the platform over time: for example, to be able to run better modelling to figure out how much fruit and veg might sell during a given season, and how to price items.

GrubMarket also is dabbling in areas that you might not normally associate with a grocery-on-demand delivery company: it built an educational app called Farmbox, which — when you play it — can be used to collect points to spend on GrubMarket; and it’s also exploring how blockchain technology can be used in a “next-generation open platform for direct farm-to-table.”

Xu says that as the company continues to grow, it will shift more into direct-to-consumer deliveries to complement its wholesale business.

This latest round is a mixture of equity and debt and is being led by GGV with other previous investors Fusion Fund (formerly New Gen Capital) and Great Oaks Venture Capital participating, along with new investors Max Ventures, Castor Ventures, Bascom Ventures, Millennium Technology Value Partner, Trinity Capital Investment, Investwide Capital and others. The company is not publicly disclosing its valuation; it has raised around $64 million to date.

Many eyes are on Amazon these days, and what moves it might make next in groceries after acquiring Whole Foods, ramping up its own Pantry offerings, courting restaurants for delivery and making its own meal kits. This is not a question that keeps up Xu at night, however.

“Food is the largest and biggest opportunity in e-commerce,” he said, estimating that today the total value for the global food and agricultural industry is around $9 trillion (versus $8 trillion in 2017), with only about one percent of buying done online. “That’s a big enough opportunity to have a few giant companies, and not just Amazon.”

It’s also an opportunity that could sustain some slightly smaller companies, too: One of my favorite e-commerce businesses in England is a service that I’ve been using for years, an organic grocery delivery called Abel & Cole that brings us a box of organic fruit and vegetables (and whatever else I order on top of that) each week. Like GrubMarket, it’s working directly with smaller producers who might have otherwise found it hard-going to find a way of selling their produce directly to buyers (and buyers would have found it hard-going to ever buy directly from these producers). Unlike GrubMarket, it takes a more modest approach that doesn’t involve eventually becoming a leviathan itself. May they all be around for years to come.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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TrustToken opens its dollar-backed cryptocurrency to accredited investors

Posted by on Jul 9, 2018 in Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, cryptocurrency, economy, financial services, ggv capital, jump capital, Las Vegas, money, Real Estate, TC, TrustToken | 2 comments

Pitching a dollar-pegged token that offers cryptocurrency speculators a way to move their investments across volatile exchanges, TrustToken (the first public investment from a16z crypto) is now looking for public investments from accredited investors on CoinList.

The company’s first token is TrueUSD, a stablecoin that is redeemable one-to-one for U.S. dollars. In its first four months of trading, the speculative investors that are looking for some sort of island of security have boosted the coin’s market price to more than $85 million.

There’s a $61 million hard cap on the token allocated over three tranches at $0.12, $0.14 and $0.16 per trust token.

Other investors in TrustToken’s initial $20 million pre-sale include BlockTower Capital, Danhua Capital, GGV Capital, Jump Capital and other undisclosed investors.

As it expands its investor base to include accredited investors, the TrueUSD currency is also expanding its reach, with an agreement between the company and HitBTC to list the stablecoin as a quote currency. The TrueUSD coin can be used as a stalking horse to secure investments in Ethereum, Bitcoin, Tether, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Monero, 0x and NEO, according to a statement from the company.

Every TrueUSD token is redeemable one-for-one with U.S. dollars, which the company’s founders think should open the door for more institutional investment (or speculation depending on your point of view) into the market.

Using TrueUSD’s system, dollars are held in the escrow accounts of multiple trust companies rather than in a bank account. Those accounts are verified by an independent third party that issues monthly reports on the amount of dollars held in collateral.

A buyer of TrueUSD needs to pass a know your customer and AML check and then can send dollars to one of TrueUSD’s trust company partners. Once that transaction is verified, the TrueUSD smart contract issues tokens on a one-to-one ratio before sending the tokens to a buyer. The company uses Prime Trust, a Las Vegas-based company for its financial services.

Once tokens are delivered to a wallet, those tokens can be transferred or used as payment to buy other cryptocurrencies.

“The users of this space are really the traders,” says TrustToken co-founder and chief executive Danny An. “They want a native crypto asset that’s stable. They want to be able to hedge against volatility.”

An said the company does have a broader vision than just helping traders secure speculative assets so they can come up with even more arcane financial instruments. “For the entire crypto-economy to work, a lot of people believe that a stablecoin or multiple stablecoins need to be created,” An said.

TrustToken makes money whenever its coins are minted or burned, An says. “Whenever USD is involved we take a small cut,” which is 10 basis points per transaction, he said.

Ultimately, TrustToken (like other alt-coins) wants to tokenize all real-world assets. And one of the most attractive markets for An and his co-founders is real estate. “There is $200 trillion dollars of real estate that is offline,” said An. Tokenizing those assets would create more wealth in the world overall, he said. “Assets that are not liquid are not as valuable as assets that are liquid,” An said.

It’s a far cry from the work that An and his co-founders Rafael Cosman and Stephen Kade were doing at Kernel — a company that was developing technologies to create neural interfaces between humans and machines.

“The problem with Kernel or Google Brain [where the team also spent time] was that the timelines were very long,” An said. 


Source: The Tech Crunch

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