The legal services industry has long been seen as slow to innovate. Two new products that interface directly with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office aim to change that. Both are produced by intellectual property (IP) startup Brainbase.
File, one of those new products, applies to the beginning of a trademark's lifecycle, aiming to help companies apply for trademarks with the USPTO. Using AI and an API that plugs into the patent office's database, the technology searches the federal agency's data to ensure trademark availability, selects the proper classification among 45 options and completes the filing process.
The service is available to the first 2,000 users for a one-time fee of $199. That's on top of the $250 filing fee per registration with the USPTO. Hiring a lawyer to complete the trademark filing process can run several thousand dollars.
Brainbase's other new product, Vault, allows companies to import their trademarks – or a competitor's – from the USPTO into a dashboard. For a small monthly fee, users can track whether similar filings that may infringe on those trademarks enter the agency's data system, and can automatically trigger a cease-and-desist letter.
The two new products follow on the startup's beachhead product, Assist, which is already used by Buzzfeed, BBC and Sanrio among others to track the financial performance of their trademark portfolios and identify new exploitation opportunities.
Founded by mid-20s serial entrepreneur Nate Cavanaugh, Venice-based Brainbase sees itself as a technological disruptor of the stodgy IP space. The company has previously raised $15 million to automate intellectual property management, and was nominated one of L.A.'s hottest startups, according to the panelists in dot.LA's VC sentiment survey.
A screenshot of Brainbase's new Vault tool.
Image courtesy of Brainbase
The company's goal is to create an end-to-end suite of software that enables companies to manage the entire lifecycle of a trademark.
"To my knowledge this is the first trademark analytics offering that I've seen," said patent attorney Chris Palermo, who's worked extensively with startups in L.A. and Silicon Valley.
But, he cautions, relying exclusively on automated legal services could create more trouble than it's worth. In particular, sending a cease-and-desist letter without doing research may leave some companies wishing they'd ponied up for advice from a professional.
"Before you actually sign and send one of those, there's a lot you've got to think about," Palermo said. "For example, dispatching a strongly worded letter to another party may create declaratory judgment jurisdiction for that party, where they can sue you first."
Brainbase doesn't suggest its software should replace every company's legal team. In some cases, it highlights how it can help in-house lawyers work with other teams more effectively.
"We are unlocking this black box that is typically the domain of the lawyers and the legal team inside a company, and making the information easily accessible to anybody in the company: marketing, sales, HR," said chief product officer Gautam Godse.
"That allows for the revenue-driving folks and the legal folks to be on the same page," added communications director Greg Holtzman.
Making headway with companies that may wish to add visibility to their trademark portfolios outside the legal team could ruffle some feathers, however.
"They may see some pushback from in-house legal departments because, to some extent, this could threaten the business case for having a larger in-house practice," Palermo said.
Brainbase's new products took nine months to develop and were completed by a team of 15 developers, designers and product managers.
Now that it can offer end-to-end trademark services, Godse said Brainbase will look to expand into other countries, then to other forms of IP, starting with patents before moving to copyrights.
The company declined to disclose figures on its revenues or valuation.
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Despite — or in many cases because of — the raging pandemic, 2020 was a great year for many tech startups. It turned out to be an ideal time to be in the video game business, developing a streaming ecommerce platform for Gen Z, or helping restaurants with their online ordering.
But which companies in Southern California had the best year? That is highly subjective of course. But in an attempt to highlight who's hot, we asked dozens of the region's top VCs to weigh in.
We wanted to know what companies they wish they would have invested in if they could go back and do it all over again.
Startups were ranked by how many votes each received. In the case of a tie, companies were listed in order of capital raised. The list illustrates how rapidly things move in startup land. One of the hottest startups had not even started when 2020 began. A number doubled or even 16x'd their valuation in the span of a few short months.
To divvy things up, we delineated between companies that have raised Series A funding or later and younger pre-seed or seed startups.
Not surprisingly, many of the hottest companies have been big beneficiaries of the stay-at-home economy.
PopShop Live, a red-hot QVC for Gen Z headquartered out of a WeWork on San Vicente Boulevard, got the most votes. Interestingly, the streaming ecommerce platform barely made it onto the Series A list because it raised its Series A only last month. Top Sand Hill Road firms Andreessen Horowitz and Lightspeed Venture Partners reportedly competed ferociously for who would lead the round but lost out to Benchmark, which was an early investor in eBay and Uber. The round valued PopShop Live at $100 million, way up from the $6 million valuation it raised at only five months prior.
Scopely, now one of the most valuable tech companies in Los Angeles, was also a top vote getter.
The Culver City mobile gaming unicorn raised $340 million in Series E funding in October at a $3.3 billion valuation, which nearly doubled the company's $1.7 billion post-money valuation from March. It is no coincidence that that was the same month stay-at-home orders began as Scopely has benefited from bored consumers staying on their couch and playing ScrabbleGo or Marvel Strike Force.
The company's success is especially welcome news to seed investors Greycroft, The Chernin Group and TenOneTen ventures, who got in at a $40 million post valuation in 2012. Upfront Ventures, BAM Ventures and M13 joined the 2018 Series C at a $710 post-money valuation.
Softbank-backed Ordermark, which flew more under the radar, also topped the list. The company's online ordering platform became a necessity for restaurants forced to close their dining rooms during the pandemic and raised $120 million in Series C funding in October.
On the seed side, two very different startups stood out. There was Pipe, which enables companies with recurring revenues to tap into their deferred cash flows with an instant cash advance, and Clash App, Inc., a TikTok alternative launched by a former employee of the social network in August.
We will have the list of Southern California's top seed startups out tomorrow.
The live-streaming shopping channel created by Danielle Lin reportedly found itself in the middle of a venture capital bidding war this year. Benchmark eventually won out leading a Series A round, vaulting the app at a $100 million valuation. The Los Angeles-based platform has been likened to QVC for Gen Z and it's part of a new wave of ecommerce that has found broader appeal during the pandemic. Google, Amazon and YouTube have launched live shopping features and other venture-backed startups like Los Angeles-based NTWRK have popped up.
One of the most valuable Southern California tech startups with a $3.3 billion valuation, the Culver City mobile game unicorn has benefitted from a booming gaming market that has flourished in this stay-at-home economy. Scopely offers free mobile games and its roster includes "Marvel Strike Force," "Star Trek Fleet Command" and "Yahtzee with Buddies." In October the company raised a $340 million Series E round backed by Wellington Management, NewView Capital and TSG Consumer Partners, among others fueling speculation that it was on its road to an IPO. Co-CEO Walter Driver has said that he doesn't have immediate plans to go public.
The coronavirus has forced the closure of many dining rooms, making Ordermark all the more sought after by restaurants needing a way to handle online orders. Co-founder and CEO Alex Canter started the business in 2017, which recently rang in more than $1 billion in sales. Ordermark secured $120 million in Series C funding by Softbank Vision Fund 2 in October that it will use to bring more restaurants online. The company's Nextbite, a virtual restaurant business that allows kitchens to add delivery-only brands such as HotBox from rapper Wiz Khalifa to their existing space through Ordermark, is also gaining traction.
Cameo, which launched three years ago, had its breakout year in 2020 as C-list celebrities like Brian Baumgartner banked over a million dollars from creating customized videos for fans. In the sincerest form of flattery, Facebook is reportedly launching a feature that sounds a lot like Cameo. Even though the company is still technically headquartered in Chicago, we included Cameo because CEO Steven Galanis and much of the senior team moved to L.A. during the pandemic and say they plan to continue running the company from here for the foreseeable future.
Co-founded by CEO Aaron Peck, Mothership provides freight forwarding services intended to streamline the shipping experience. The company's tracking technologies connect shippers with nearby truck drivers to speed up the delivery process. It raised $16 million in Series A venture funding last year, driving the platform to a $48 million pre-money valuation.
Founded in 2019, Nacelle's ecommerce platform helps retailers improve conversion rates and decrease loading speeds for their sites. The software integrates with Shopify and other services, offering payment platforms and analytics integration, among dozens of services. Nacelle raised about $4.8 million earlier this year with angel investors that included Shopify's Jamie Sutton, Klaviyo CEO Andrew Bialecki and Attentive CEO Brian Long.
Matt Danna and Sean Stavropoulos came up with Boulevard when an impatient Stavropoulos was frustrated wasting hours to book a hair appointment. Their four-year-old salon booking and payment service is now used by some of Los Angeles' best-known hairdressers. Last month, the two secured a $27 million Series B round co-led by Index Ventures and Toba Capital. Other investors include VMG Partners, Bonfire Ventures, Ludlow Ventures and BoxGroup.
Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick CloudKitchens rents out commissary space to prepare food for delivery. And as the pandemic has fueled at-home delivery, the company has been gobbling up real estate. The commissaries operate akin to WeWork for the culinary world and allow drivers to easily park and pick-up orders as the delivery market has soared during pandemic. Last year, it raised $400 million from Saudi Arabia's colossal sovereign wealth fund.
Founded by college buddies five years ago, GOAT tapped into the massive sneaker resale market with a platform that "authenticates" shoes. The Culver City-based company has since expanded into apparel and accessories and states that it has 20 million members. Last year, Foot Locker sunk a $100 million minority investment into 1661 Inc., better known as Goat. And this fall it landed another $100 million Series E round bankrolled by Dan Sundeheim's D1 Capital Partners.
The lingerie company co-founded by pop singer Rihanna in 2018 is noted for its inclusivity of body shapes and sizes. It has raised over $70 million, but The New York Times' DealBook newsletter recently reported that it's been on the hunt for $100 million in funds to expand into active wear. The company generates about $150 million in revenue, but is not yet profitable, according to the report. It became the focus of a consumer watchdog investigation after being accused of "deceptive marketing" for a monthly membership program.
The lifestyle company provides customized personal subscription box services every three months with full size products. Started in 2010 by Daniel Broukhim, Michael Broukhim, Sam Teller and Katie Rosen Kitchens, it now boasts more than one million members. Last year, the company raised $80 million in a Series A round led by Kleiner Perkins last year and appears to be preparing for an eventual IPO as it slims down costs and refocuses on its high value products.
Launched in 2016, the finance management tool helps consumers to avoid overdrafts, provides paycheck advances and assists in budgeting. Last year, it began to roll out a digital bank account that was so popular that two million users signed up for a spot on the waitlist. The company, run by co-founder Jason Wilk, has raised $186 million in venture capital and counts billionaire Mark Cuban as an early investor and board member. Other backers include Playa Vista-based Chernin Group.
SURE offers multiple technology products to major insurance brands — its platform can host everything from renter's insurance to covering baggage, so customers never have to leave an agency's website. It also offers its platform to ecommerce marketplaces, embedding third-party insurance protections for customers to purchase all on the same webpage. Founded in 2014, the Santa Monica-based startup last raised an $8 million Series A round led by IA Capital in 2017.
Founded in 2009 by former Google CIO Douglas Merrill and ex-Sears executive Shawn Budde, Zest AI provides AI-powered credit underwriting. It helps banks and other lenders identify borrowers looking beyond traditional credit scores. It claims to improve approval rates while decreasing chargeoffs. The company uses models that aim to make the lending more transparent and less biased. This fall the company raised $15 million from Insight Partners, MicroVentures and other undisclosed investors, putting its pre-money valuation at $75 million, according to PItchbook.
Santa Monica-based PlayVS provides the technological and organizational infrastructure for high school esports leagues. The pandemic has helped the company further raise its profile as traditional sports teams have been benched. Founded in early 2018, PlayVS employs 46 people and has raised over $100 million. In addition to partnering with key educational institutions, it also has partnerships with major game publishers such as Riot and Epic Games.
A SaaS platform helps Shopify brands create mobile shopping apps. The marketing software saw shopping activity jump 50% over 90 days as the pandemic walloped traditional retailers. Founded by Eric Netsch and Sina Mobasser, the company raised a $10 million Series A round led by SignalFire, bringing the total raise to $15 million.
Papaya lets customers pay any bill from their mobile devices just by taking a picture of it. The mobile app touts the app's ease-of-use as a way to cut down on inbound bill calls and increase customer payments. Founded by Patrick Kann and Jason Metzler, the company has raised $25 million, most recently a S10 million round of convertible debt financing from Fika Ventures, Idealab and F-Prime Capital Partners.
FloQast is a management software that integrates enterprise resource planning software with checklists and Excel to manage bookkeeping. The cloud-based software company claims its system helps close the books up to three days faster. It is used by accounting departments at Lyft, Twilio, Zoom and The Golden State Warriors. In January, it raised $40 million in Series C funding led by Norwest Venture Partners to bring the total raise to $92.8 million.
The company's rights management platform expedites licensing payments and tracks partnership and sponsorship agreements. It counts BuzzFeed, the Vincent Van Gogh Museum and Sanrio (of Hello Kitty and friends fame) among its clients. In May it announced $8 million in Series A financing led by Bessemer Venture Partners and Nosara Capital, bringing the total raised to $12 million.
The Los Angeles-based company provides a touchless entry system that uses individuals cell phones to help with identification instead of a key card. The company offers a subscription for the cloud-enabled software that allows companies to help implement safety measures and it said demand has grown amid the pandemic. Founded by James Segil and Alex Kazerani the company raised $36 million led by Greycroft earlier this year, bringing its total funding to $63 million.
FightCamp is an interactive home workout system that turns your space into a boxing ring with a free standing bag, boxing gloves and punch trackers. The company is riding the wave of at-home fitness offerings including Peloton, Mirror and Zwift that have taken off during the pandemic as gyms closed. The company has raised $4.3 million to date.
The Santa Monica-based company provides video and interactive content for education in math, science, economics and standardized test prep. Founded in 2018 by Nhon Ma and Alex Lee, who previously founded Tutorcast, an online tutoring service, the company gathers post-graduate educated instructors to create video lessons for online learning.
The creator of a pan with a cult following on social media, this Los Angeles-based startup designs and retails cookware and dinnerware. Founded by Amir Tehrani, Zach Rosner and Shiza Shahid, the company completed its Series A funding earlier this year, bringing its total raised to date to $10 million.
For customers that have no formal credit or banking history, this company's application promises more financial access, choice and control. It gathers data to create a credit score that can be used to instantly underwrite and disburse loans ranging from $10 to $500. Co-founded by Shivani Siroya and Jonathan Blackwell, Tala has raised $217.2 million to date. Its investors include PayPal Ventures, Lowercase Capital and Data Collective.
Founded in 2007 by chief executive Ara Mahdessian and president Vahe Kuzoyan, ServiceTitan operates software that helps residential home contractors grow their businesses. It provides businesses tools like customer relationship management and accounting integration to streamline operations. The company closed a $73.82 million Series E funding round from undisclosed investors earlier this year.
Founded in 2017 by former professional "Call of Duty" player Matthew Haag, 100 Thieves manages esports competitions in major titles including "Counter Strike Global Offensive" and "League of Legends." The company also produces apparel and merchandise, opening a physical store and training ground called the "Cash App Compound" in collaboration with Fortnite earlier this year. The company has raised $60 million to date, from investors including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Aubrey Graham, better known as the rapper Drake.
This AI-powered customer service platform automates text conversations between customers and businesses to increase sales. Emotive uses their sales team to verify questions, distinguishing it from other bot-driven marketing services, according to the company. The company was founded in 2018 by Brian Zatulove and Zachary Wise, who serve as the chief executive and the chief operating officer, respectively. It has raised $6.65 million to date, from Floodgate Fund and TenOneTen Ventures.
Created by former hedge fund trader Sam Polk, the Los Angeles-based startup wants to be a healthy fast food chain. It prices its healthy pre-packaged meals around $5 in underserved communities while costing more in other neighborhoods with the goal of reducing so-called food deserts in low-income neighborhoods. It also offers a subscription delivery service. The company recently closed a $16 million Series B round led by Creadev along with Kaiser Permanente Ventures.
Lead art by Candice Navi.
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Headspace Adds Former QuickBook Executive as Global Audience GrowsHeadspace makes meditation app free for the nation's 23 million unemployedShutterstock
In the world of meditation, there is no time like the present. That's especially true for Santa Monica, Calif.-based Headspace.
The mindfulness and meditation company, with more than 65 million users in 190 countries, has seen its consumer product's downloads double since March, which was the same month the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a global pandemic.
Headspace for Work, its corporate mental health offering, has also seen a 500% increase in interest, as companies like Tesco, Hewlett Packard Enterprises and Publicis signed on. Europe has become the fastest-growing region for such corporate partnerships worldwide.
That global growth led Headspace to announce Tuesday plans to expand its executive staff, appointing Jolawn Victor to the newly-created role of chief international officer.
"The need for mindfulness and meditation to mitigate stress and anxiety to care for our mental health, is more prevalent now than ever," said CeCe Morken, president and COO of Headspace, in a statement. "Whether we are reaching members through our work-place solutions, or the curated content in-language, we are more committed than ever to our goal of making mindfulness accessible to all, regardless of where they may be."
Victor, who is London-based, previously worked at Intuit QuickBooks where she served as the head of emerging markets and global expansion and led operations across 150 countries. Victor has also worked at PepsiCo, Kraft and General Mills. She said in a statement that she is thrilled to "help increase the awareness of mental health and wellness in existing and emerging markets" especially today.
The stats tell the tale of stress, anxiety and isolation that has brought users to Headspace.
Since mid-March through the end of May, Headspace reports it saw live group meditation up by 70%, 10 times the numbers of users beginning the company's stressed meditation program and 12 times the users doing a "reframing anxiety at-home" workout. Headspace also found a 33% increase in sleep music usage.
Earlier this year, the meditation company announced a Series C funding raise of $93 million with an extension of $47.7 million that Headspace said it applied this June.
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Rights Management Platform Brainbase Beefs Up C-Suite, Following $8M Raise
Brainbase, an L.A.-based tech company aiming to simplify and streamline the management of intellectual property like copyrights and patents, announced two executive hires on Tuesday. The moves follow the company's $8 million Series A in May, led by Bessemer Venture Partners and Nosara Capital.
Gautam Godse, former vice president of product at Glendale-based LegalZoom, which offers technology to replace lawyers for some legal tasks, is now Brainbase's senior vice president of product. He is charged with expanding Brainbase's product suite to help brands further monetize their intellectual property.
"There is a tremendous opportunity to modernize the intellectual property space using advanced machine learning and AI techniques," Godse said in a statement. "I am excited to join the team and start building these new product experiences in the legal tech industry."
Henri Kroosmann, the former engineering manager at enterprise sales software provider Pipedrive joins Brainbase as vice president of engineering. He will focus on optimizing the product, recruiting engineers and positioning the company for long-term growth.
"I want to use my experience to take the company to the next level in terms of quality, scalability and performance," Kroosmann said.
Brainbase is helmed by mid-20s wunderkind Nate Cavanaugh, who called this moment "an important inflection point for the company." It counts among its clients BuzzFeed, the Vincent Van Gogh Museum and Sanrio (of Hello Kitty and friends fame).
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