Verbit is the AI-powered transcription and captioning platform that transcribes speech regardless of accent, domain-specific languages, background noises, echoes, and more. To ensure the accuracy and quality of transcriptions/captions, Verbit has a network of 22,000 human transcribers that validate the technology-produced dictations. AlleyWatch caught up with Tom Livne to learn more about Verbit’s technology and how this funding will help position it to be a leader in the global transcription market, which is more than $ 300B. Verbit has raised a total of $ 125M across four rounds and this latest round comes from investors that include Sapphire Ventures led our Series C round, Vertex Ventures, Stripes, HV Ventures, ClalTech, and Vertex Growth.
Japan-based financial services group ORIX Corporation today announced that it has made a $ 60 million strategic investment into the Israeli crowdsourcing platform OurCrowd. In return, the crowdfunding platform will provide the firm with access to its startup network. OurCrowd also says that the two groups will collaborate to create financial products and investment opportunities for the Japanese and global market, including access to its venture funds and specific companies in the OurCrowd portfolio.
Read more here.
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Insurance carriers lead $ 60M investment in home improvement 3D modeling startup Hover San Francisco Business Times
“startups when:1d” – Google News
The U.S. property market has proven to be more resilient than you might have assumed it would be in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, and today a startup that’s built a computer vision tool to help owners assess and fix those properties more easily is announcing a significant round of funding as it sees a surge of growth in usage.
Hover — which has built a platform that uses eight basic smartphone photos to patch together a 3D image of your home that can then be used by contractors, insurance companies and others to assess a repair, price out the job and then order the parts to do the work — has raised $ 60 million in new funding.
The Series D values the company at $ 490 million post-money, and significantly, it included a number of strategic investors. Three of the biggest insurance companies in the U.S. — Travelers, State Farm Ventures and Nationwide — led the round, with building materials giant Standard Industries, and other unnamed building tech firms, also participating. Past financial backers Menlo Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures) and Alsop Louie Partners, as well as new backer Guidewire Software, were also in this round.
This funding takes the total raised by Hover to just over $ 142 million, and for some context on its valuation, it’s a significant jump compared to its last round, a Series C in 2019, when Hover was valued at $ 280 million (according to PitchBook data).
Today’s funding, that valuation jump and the interest from insurance firms comes on the heels of huge growth for the company. A.J. Altman, Hover’s founder and CEO, tells me that in 2016 the startup was making some $ 1 million in revenues. This year, it’s expecting to hit “north of $ 70 million” in its annual run rate, with insurance companies and other big business partners accounting for the majority of its growth.
Hover was founded in 2011 and first made its name with homeowners and the sole-trader and small business contractors working on their homes repairing roofs and fixing other parts of their structures. Its unique contribution to the market was a piece of software that bypassed a lot of the fragmented and hardest work involved in doing home repair by tying the whole process to the functions of a smartphone: its camera, phone sensors and the use of apps.
In essence, it allowed anyone with an ordinary smartphone camera to snap several pictures of a space (up to eight), which could then be used to piece together a “structured” 3D image to better assess a job.
Those 3D images are not ordinary 3D pictures: they are dynamically encoded with information about materials, sizes and dimensions and other data critical to carrying out any work. A contractor using the Hover app could set up a system where these pictures, in turn, could be used to automatically create priced out quotes, with bills of material and timings for work, for their prospective clients. (Compare that to the “back of the business card” pricing that typifies quite a lot of jobs, in Altman’s words.)
And these days, Hover also serves as an e-commerce portal for builders to order in the parts to carry out that work.
The company has had a lot of traction in the market in part because of how it’s digitized an analogue process that had before it been firmly offline and lacking in transparency, in what is essentially not just a fragmented process, but also a very fragmented marketplace, with some 100,000 home repair firms active in the U.S. today.
“The home improvement segment was one of the few that was not online,” Altman said. “For example, if I needed a new roof, it’s not that easy to just tell me what that would cost. The reason is because someone has to pull dozens of measurements off a house before costing that out, estimating the time it would take to fix and so on. Hover built a pipeline that turns photos into all of those answers.” It currently has about 10,000 contractors using its app, Altman said, so there is still a lot of growth to go.
Altman said that in its early days, the company faced something of a hurdle convincing people of the usefulness of having an app that let even the homeowner take pictures of an issue on a property in order to start the process of finding someone to fix it.
That’s because even in an age where DIY is pretty commonplace — and The Home Depot, incidentally, is also a previous backer of Hover — many builders and their partners see that role as theirs, not their clients.
That has changed a lot, especially in the last year in the age of a global health pandemic that has driven many to reduce social contacts to help contain the spread of the virus.
“Eliminating the need for on-site home visits is a huge deal, but we were spending a lot of time convincing some before COVID that this was a good idea,” he said. “The provider — whether it involved an insurance carrier or contractor — didn’t like the idea of engaging a homeowner, asking them, to do that work.” That has shifted considerably, he said, “with the COVID experience,” with many are now asking for this option.
While smaller contractors account for more of Hover’s revenues today, insurance is the faster-growing segment of its business, Altman said, where large firms are integrating their apps with Hover’s, sending out links to customers to snap pictures with the Hover app that then get automatically sent to the insurance company’s app to kickstart the process of working through customers’ claims.
“It’s important to us that we provide our customers with the best possible experience, and Hover’s technology helps us to do that by creating a simpler, faster and more transparent claims process,” said Nick Seminara, executive vice president and chief claims officer of Travelers, in a statement. “We see a tremendous opportunity for Hover in the insurance industry, and we’re pleased to continue our partnership and invest in their future.”
Longer term, there are a number of areas where you could imagine Hover’s technology to apply. The company is already doing a lot of work in commercial buildings, and the next step is likely going to be expanding to more interior work, including home design and decor.
Digital “twinning”, as one investor described the process of creating digitized visualizations of physical spaces that can then be used for more analytics, and simply to improve the process of doing any work involving that space, is used in a number of industries. They include mapping and logistics, automotive applications, medicine, aerospace and defense, gaming and more. That gives a company like Hover, which has some 35 patents on its technology already secured and has a team building more innovations into the process, a potentially large horizon and set of options for how it might grow.
But even focusing on the potential within the property market has a lot of potential rooms to explore. For example, you could see tech like this linking up with the likes of home sales firms, where companies are able to not just market a home, but potentially fixer-uppers with all the planning work set out for how to fix it up when you buy it; and also of course the extensive landscape of e-commerce businesses selling home furnishings, electronics and more.
Many of these, like Ikea and Houzz, have already put a lot of investment into leveraging newer tech like Apple’s AR platform to improve their user experience, and so the appetite to take things to the next level is definitely there.
Austin startup Disco raises $ 60M for legal software Austin Business Journal
“startups when:1d” – Google News
The U.S. economy may be in a precarious state right now, with a presidential election looming on the horizon and the country still in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic. But partly thanks to lower interest rates, the housing market continues to rise, and today a startup that has built technology to help it run more efficiently is announcing a major growth round of funding.
Snapdocs, which is used by some 130,000 real estate professionals to digitally manage the mortgage process and other paperwork and stages related to buying a home, has raised $ 60 million in new equity funding on the heels of a few bullish months of business.
In August 2020 — a peak in home sales in the U.S., reaching their highest level in 14 years — the startup saw 170,000 home sales, totaling some $ 50 million in transactions, closed on its platform. This accounted for almost 15% of all deals done that month in the U.S. Snapdocs is now on track to close 1.5 million deals this year, double its 2019 volume.
On top of this, the startup’s platform is being used by more than 70% of settlement agents nationally, with customers including Bell Bank, LeaderOne Financial Corporation, Googain and Georgia United Credit Union among its customers.
The Series C is being led by YC Continuity (Snapdocs was part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2014 cohort), with existing investors Sequoia Capital, F-Prime Capital and Founders Fund, and new backers Lachy Groom (formerly of Stripe and now a prolific investor) and DocuSign, a strategic backer, also participating.
“Like us they are on a mission to defragment an ecosystem,” King said, referring to it as a “perfect complement” to Snapdocs’ own efforts.
Snapdocs is not talking about its valuation. Aaron King, the founder and CEO, said in an interview that he believes disclosing it is nothing more than “grandstanding” — which is interesting considering that the industry he focuses on, real estate, is all about public disclosures of valuation — but he noted that most of the $ 103 million that the startup has raised to date is still in the bank, which says something about the company’s overall financial health.
And for some further context, according to PitchBook data estimates, Snapdocs was valued at $ 200 million in its last round, in October 2019.
Snapdocs’ central premise is that buying a house requires not just a lot of paperwork but also a lot of different parties to be on the same page, so to speak, to set the wheels in motion and get a deal done. There is not just the mortgage (with its multiple parties) to settle; you also have real estate brokers and agents, the home sellers, inspectors and appraisers, the insurance company, the title company, and more — some 15 parties in all.
The complexity of all of them working together in a quick and efficient way often means the process of buying and selling a house can be long and costly. And that’s before the pandemic — with the problems associated with social distancing and remote working — hit us.
Snapdocs’ solution has been to build one platform in the cloud that helps to manage the documents needed by all of these different parties, providing access to data and the ability to flag or approve things remotely, to speed the process along. It also has built a number of features, using AI technology and analytics, to also help identify what might be potential issues early on and get them fixed.
King is not your typical tech startup entrepreneur. He began working in mortgages as a notary when he was still in high school — he’s effectively been in the industry for 23 years, he said — and his earliest startup efforts were focused on one aspect of the complexities that he knew first-hand: he saw an opportunity to lean on technology to get notarized signatures sorted out in a legal, orderly, and quicker way.
He then got deeper into identifying the possibilities of how tech could be used to improve the larger process, and that is how Snapdocs came into existence.
Given how big the real estate market is — it’s the largest asset class in the world, by many estimates — and how many other industries tech has “disrupted” over the years, it’s interesting that there have been so few attempting to solve it. One of the reasons, it seems, is that there hasn’t been enough of a crossover between tech experts and mortgage experts, and Snapdocs is a testament to the virtues of building a startup specifically around a hard problem that you happen to know really well.
“Most people have identified this as a tech problem, and a lot of the tech — such as e-signatures — has existed for 20 years, but the fragmentation of real estate is the issue,” he said. “We’re talking about a mass constellation of companies and workflow. But we’re obsessed about the workflow of all of these constituents.”
That’s a position that has both helped Snapdocs build its standing with the industry, as well as with investors.
“I’ve known the Snapdocs team for many years and have always been amazed by their focus and execution toward bringing each stakeholder in the mortgage process online,” said Anu Hariharan, partner at YC Continuity, in a statement. “In 2013, Snapdocs began as a notary marketplace before expanding horizontally to service title companies and, more recently, lenders. By connecting the numerous parties involved in a mortgage on a single platform, Snapdocs is quickly becoming the “operating system” for mortgage closings. Mortgages, much like commerce, will shift online, bringing improved efficiency and a far better customer experience to the outdated home-closing process.” Hariharan has real estate experience herself and is joining the board with this round.
There have been a number of companies taking new, tech-based approaches to the market to find new and faster ways of doing things, and to open up new kinds of value in the market.
Opendoor for example has rethought the whole process of selling and buying houses, taking on a role as a middleman in the process both to take on a lot of the harder work of fixing up a home, and handling all of the difficult stages in the sales process: it’s a role that has recently seen the company catapult to a valuation of $ 4.8 billion by way of a SPAC-based public listing. An interesting idea, King said, but still only accounting for a small sliver of house sales.
Others like Orchard, Reonomy, and Zumper have all also raised large rounds on the back of a lot of promise of the market continuing to grow and the opportunity to take part in that process through new approaches. It’s a sign that “safe as houses” still has a place in the market, even with all the other unknowns in play.
“Over the next 5 years the real estate industry will be completely digitized so a lot of companies are trying to figure out what their place are, and how to provide value,” King said.
Proptech startup Snapdocs raises $ 60M. But will its HQ one day leave S.F.? San Francisco Business Times
“startups when:1d” – Google News