PayPal-backed fintech startup Tala has raised $145 million in a Series E round to expand its financial services in countries in emerging markets and to develop a mass-market crypto product.
The raise was led by lending platform Upstart with participation from the Stellar Development Foundation, bringing the total raised by the Santa Monica-based company to more than $350 million.
The Android mobile app allows people who are traditionally underbanked to borrow and save their money.
"We'll use this investment to provide those services and accelerate the rollout of our new financial account experience, which provides fresh new tools to grow, save, and manage your money," the company said in a blog post on its website. "We'll also work to develop one of the first mass-market crypto products for emerging markets to help make crypto solutions more affordable and equitable for those who need them most."
The company said its six million users have borrowed more than $2.7 billion across Kenya, the Philippines, Mexico and India. Loans range from $10 to $500 with rates as low as 4%, the company said. People who don't have a formal credit history can apply.
In January, Tala announced it partnered with Visa to help its customers convert, store and use crypto currencies. It started with USDC, Circle's stablecoin, a cryptocurrency that is pegged to the U.S. dollar. Users will have access to the cryptocurrency in their digital wallet. The agreement with Visa also gave Tala users access to Visa cards linked to the digital wallet, allowing them to spend their USDC anywhere Visa is accepted.
Kindred Ventures and the J. Safra Group also participated in the round, along with returning investors IVP, Revolution Growth, PayPal Ventures and Lowercase Capital.
- Suma Wealth Aims to Provide US Latinos Financial Tools - dot.LA ›
- Suma Raises $2 Million to Help Latinos Manage their Money - dot.LA ›
It's no accident that this has been a banner year for direct-to-consumer furniture brand Outer. The Santa Monica startup co-founded by a former Pottery Barn designer seemed to emerge just as people were forced to stay home and its showroom concept seemed appropriately tailored to the social distanced demands of the pandemic world.
The company, which uses customer's backyards as a showroom for potential customers, is now looking to go beyond retail sales.
Outer CEO Jiake Liu said the company wants to furnish hotels, shopping malls and other businesses with their $95 throw pillows and outdoor sectional couches that retail at upwards of $9,000. And it's got some help. Outer announced on Thursday it raised a $50 million Series B round led by Chinese investor and Capital Today founder Kathy Xu.
"We're pretty excited to start testing the waters for working with hospitality groups: hotels, restaurants, and also shopping centers soon," Liu said.
The global outdoor furniture market topped $15.7 billion in 2020, and it's expected to grow 5.7% by 2027, according to a September report from Global Market Insights. The market was already on the rise before the pandemic, but like many industries, the coronavirus accelerated the existing growth trends.
Outer distinguishes itself from competitors like IKEA, Home Depot and Pottery Barn with their high-end eco-friendly designs inspired in part by co-founder and Chief Design Officer Terry Lin.
The company's wicker furniture, blankets and rugs are all made with recycled materials and Liu wants to use some of the Series B funds to invest heavily in making Outer's materials renewable.
A 2019 report from Grand View Research found that while residential purchases of outdoor furniture are still holding steady globally, the real growth is in the commercial sector. The report predicted explosive growth in commercial markets in Asia, including India and China, where Outer does its production at Liu's family-owned factory.
"The area that I'm from, there are a lot of master craftspeople that can actually weave rattan and this all weather wicker," Liu said. "It's a technique that we can't find that readily available in the U.S."
The facility isn't owned by Outer, but it's affected by its demand for sales. Liu said with the pandemic spurring customer demand, the production facility hired roughly 100 people in China over the past 18 months.
"I am really bullish about this marriage of Chinese supply chain and American design," Liu said despite the COVID-related supply chain disruptions that have delayed supply chains and bottle-necked the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports that it relies on.
Liu wants to use some of the Series B funds to invest heavily in making Outer's materials renewable. The company's wicker furniture, blankets and rugs are all made with recycled materials.
New investors Tribe Capital, C Ventures and Santa Monica-based Upfront Ventures joined the round, alongside participation from existing investors Santa Monica-based Mucker Capital, Marina Del Rey-based Mantis VC and Reimagined Ventures.
Outer co-founders Jiake Liu (left) and Terry Lin.
Since its launch in May 2019, the company has raised $65 million.
Liu says Outer's pricing reflects the supply chain and added that the production of its woven materials is difficult for Outer to do outside of China, where his family is from.
Another factor spurring Outer's growth is its unique model for showrooms. Instead of leasing costly real estate to operate a showroom, the company recruits existing customers who own their furniture to join its neighborhood showroom program. The furniture owners earn $50 per showing plus a 10% discount, and often network with people in their neighborhood to show off their new setups and encourage them to buy in.
"There is a huge influx of just customers, looking for anything for their yard" or outside spaces, Liu said. "There's never been this level of demand and it's largely catalyzed by the pandemic."
Linda Kruse is a member of the neighborhood showroom program. Kruse said she found Outer while looking for "gorgeous and interesting" furniture for her backyard in her new Woodland Hills home a couple years ago and was the third person to sign up for the home showroom program.
Kruse said beyond the designs and durability, the eco-friendly aspect of Outer was a selling point.
Outer counted 1,000 virtual showrooms across the country as of July. The company employs 70 people in its offices, but Liu said it'll use some Series B cash to hire more people and double its headcount by next year.
"The big selling feature was that they guaranteed their product for 10 years," Kruse said.
- How Outer Aims To Disrupt The Outdoor Furniture Industry - dot.LA ›
- Outer Founders on Why 2021 Could Be Their Best Year Yet - dot.LA ›
- Online Furniture Retailer Outer Raises $4.3 Million - dot.LA ›
Equipped with GPS tracking, two-way microphones and a human pilot controlling it from far away, Coco's 50-pound pink robots rolling around San Pedro, Santa Monica and other parts of Southern California are hoping to become a local mainstay.
Welcome to the delivery robot race.
As delivery bots take to the streets, Southern California has become a testing ground for companies like Coco that are trying to distinguish themselves.
The Los Angeles-based startup announced Wednesday that it raised $36 million in a Series A round led by Silicon Valley Bank, Founders Fund and the former president of Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator and CEO of OpenAI Sam Altman.
Coco, previously known as Cyan Robotics, operates a fleet of semi-automated robots that deliver food across neighborhoods in Los Angeles. It's one of several semi-automated robot delivery services that have popped up in California over the years including Kiwibot, Starship and Nuro.
The bots are piloted by remote drivers. According to the company, hundreds of stores and restaurants have signed up to use Coco's bots, which fulfill orders within up to a two mile radius of the store.
Colapasta, an Italian restaurant in Santa Monica started using Coco several months ago after being approached by the company.
Owner Stefano de Lorenzo said fulfilling orders through Coco is slightly less convenient than working with drivers from delivery apps — staff has to manually load the food into the robot instead of just leaving the order on the table — but customer reception to the robots has been overwhelmingly positive.
"When we started using the service, I noticed that there were three, four or five different orders the same day to the same address," he said. "So I guess people were just loving (the robot) going to the house."
Rash said the company is aiming to shift how people think of food delivery: using small, lightweight electric vehicles instead of large, gas-powered vehicles transporting "a couple pounds of soup a couple blocks all day."
Rash declined to say exactly how many robots the company has in its fleet, but claimed that Coco has the largest fleet out of all the robotic delivery services in Los Angeles, where the city is weighing regulations that could limit how many robots operate in certain neighborhoods.
The proposed legislation would cap the number of delivery robots a company could place in a city council district to 75 and require machines to yield to pedestrians and obey traffic signals and signs.
Some cities have implemented measures to help robot delivery companies. Santa Monica, for example, implemented a "Zero Emissions Delivery Zone," where deliveries can only be made by robotic carts or Electric Vehicles.
This raise brings Coco's total funding to around $42 million. The company is hoping to continue to expand, and is planning to continue increasing its fleet.
Launched in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has expanded operations from one Santa Monica neighborhood to six other neighborhoods in little over a year. In February, the company rolled out their robots in San Pedro, working with Councilman and mayoral hopeful Joe Busciano and the Chamber of Commerce. Several local restaurants including San Pedro Brewing Co. and Whale & Ale signed on.
Even as stores and restaurants continue to reopen after the pandemic, Rash said he's seen delivery sales numbers continue to increase and believes that delivery is here to stay.
"The pandemic gave it a huge boost," he said. "But I think what that really did is it changed consumers' behaviors and let them understand the convenience that they can have by ordering delivery."
- Hundreds of Delivery Robots Are Coming to Los Angeles - dot.LA ›
- Delivery Robots Come to Santa Monica - dot.LA ›
- Los Angeles Sets Rules for Delivery Robots On City Sidewalks - dot ... ›
- Bobacino CEO Makes His Case for Food Automation - dot.LA ›
- Bobacino CEO Makes His Case for Food Automation - dot.LA ›