Ceros provides a platform for clients like NBC, United Airlines, Snap, McKinsey, IBM, Condé Nast, JP Morgan, Red Bull and Pinterest to create what it calls “digital experiences” — basically, beautiful graphics and websites — without having to write any code. (You can see some of the best examples in the Ceros Inspire gallery.) It previously raised $ 33.5 million in total funding, according to Crunchbase.
SEP, meanwhile, is a technology-focused growth fund that’s backed companies like GoGuardian, Social Chorus and Talend.
Ceros CEO Simon Berg recalled that the firm’s partners have actually been “courting” him for the past two years. Those conversations started to get more serious, until the COVID-19 pandemic put them on pause.
Berg said he that as the country went into lockdown, he put a plan into place that ensured no one at Ceros lost their job — if cuts were needed, they would come in the form of across-the-board salary cuts. And he was impressed by the way the SEP team reacted.
“They were not screaming, ‘You should be cutting staff,’ none of the things I would expect,” he said. “They were cheering from the sidelines, which made me like them even more.”
And after the initial panic, Berg said he became “hyper-focused and energetic,” powered by his belief that “adversity and constraint is the birth of creative thought.” Apparently that optimism was borne out by increased activity on the Ceros platform, including the return of old customers.
“It’s been our opportunity and our mission to tell the world that digital experiences are as important as your physical experiences,” he said. So during a pandemic, “If your digital presence is your only presence, you’d better make sure [it’s] good.”
For his part, SEP’s Sanjeet Mitra said he was initially attracted to the company because it created “an enterprise-grade, easy-to-use, sophisticated tool that designers respect because it allows them to create fantastic content.”
In addition to SEP, Ceros’ existing investors also participated in the new round.
Moving forward, Berg said we can expect the creation of more products like the recently-launched design collaboration tool MarkUp, particularly as brands need to “craft experiences more rapidly, and you can’t do that if you’re sending PSD files across the internet via email.”
Mitra said the company also plans to use the new money to make acquisitions. (He emphasized that it won’t just be an indiscriminate roll-up strategy — an idea that prompted Berg to gag loudly — but rather will focus on products that Ceros customers actually want.) It will also fund continued international growth.
“Simon has the capabilities to be a global company leader and definitely a public company leader one day, if he wants to,” Mitra said.
A number of ride-sharing companies are feeling the strain from reduced business, with many consumers still reluctant to travel, and especially to travel in surroundings that might increase the risk of spreading or catching the novel coronavirus. But today, one of the startups in the space is announcing a significant round of funding to continue growing in its target sector of corporate travel, underscoring where there may still be some existing and growing opportunities.
Gett, the London and Israel-based ride-sharing company that competes with the likes of Uber and many others to provide private car rides on-demand, has raised $ 100 million. Gett’s CEO and founder Dave Waiser told TechCrunch that it is all primary equity capital, and the company says it plans to use it to continue investing in its B2B business, which has been growing — not shrinking or staying flat — in the midst of the global health pandemic.
“The way people move around in cities is changing dramatically as a result of COVID-19 and businesses are seeking to optimise costs and to put in place efficient and safe ground travel solutions for their employees,” said Waiser, in a statement. “Our mobility software is helping businesses thrive by empowering people to be their best on the go. Being fully funded and reaching a key milestone in our profitability journey is an important step for the Company. The proceeds will help us grow our unique corporate SaaS platform internationally, while we consider an IPO in the future, to further accelerate our expansion.”
The company turned operationally profitable in December 2019 and had said it planned to go public in 2020, but it sounds like that timeline, if it happens, has now been pushed back to 2021. Gett says it has met its “original financial targets that were set pre-COVID-19.” It also reached profitability in each of its core markets in June, and is on target now to be cashflow positive in 2021, ahead of a “potential” IPO.
“It’s a luxury, enabling flexibility for the company to go public when it’s best, rather than from the cash needs reasoning as many (money losing) companies have to do nowadays,” Waiser said.
Gett is not disclosing the names of any of its investors in this round except to note that it’s a mix of new and existing backers, nor is it disclosing its valuation.
Waiser said the reason for that is that the round is still open and oversubscribed, so it plans to announce a list of investors after it closes.
For some context, though, Gett has now raised $ 750 million with investors including VW, Access and its founder Len Blavatnik, Kreos, MCI and more, and its last valuation was $ 1.5 billion, pegged to a $ 200 million fundraise in May 2019.
Gett started operations years ago serving both consumers and corporate users but in recent years has honed its focus specifically on business accounts. No surprise, when you think about it, considering the capital intensiveness, competitiveness, and subsequent poor unit economics of scaling a consumer-focused ridesharing business (a confluence of factors we’ve seen played out at Uber, Lyft, Grab and many others).
Gett’s turn to B2B has seen it pick up some 15,000 corporate customers, including one-third of the Fortune 500. What has been interesting too is the approach Gett has taken to scale: today, it provides rides in some 1,500 cities, but a part of that footprint is served not directly by Gett but in a partnership with Lyft — the result of a deal Gett inked with the company in November 2019 after the former shut down its Juno operations in New York City. It’s been expanding that list to include other third-party partnerships in the mix.
While partnerships may not yield margins as strong as those Gett has in direct operations, it provides a plethora of analytics and invoicing services around the actual ride, and secures the corporate accounts, which provides other revenue streams to offset that. It claims that its services ultimately undercut other ground transportation options for corporates by about 25%.
While a lot of consumers may have curtailed their Uber rides in recent months, the business market has had seen a turn to ensuring that the travel that its users are taking is well-controlled when it has to be done, specifically to meet specific safety standards. That has been the sweet spot for Gett, with its very specific B2B approach.
“The completion of the fundraising during the pandemic is a clear expression of confidence by our shareholders and new investors in Gett’s vision to focus on the corporate market and its plan to expand globally, as well as in the Company’s strong operational and financial performance,” said Amos Genish, Gett chairman, in a statement.
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