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Arrival becomes latest electric vehicle startup to test the public markets with a SPAC

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Arrival has gone from stealthy electric vehicle startup to prospective public company in a span of a year. The UK-based company, which operated in relative secrecy for several years until January when it announced a $110 million investment from Hyundai and Kia, said Wednesday it has agreed to merge with special purpose acquisition company CIIG Merger Corp.

Arrival was already considered one of the UK’s most valuable startups before Wednesday’s SPAC merger announcement.  This deal, which when completed will make Arrival a publicly traded company listed on the Nasdaq exchange, will push its valuation up to $5.4 billion. Arrival said it raised $400 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE, from investors that included Fidelity Management & Research Company, Wellington Management, BNP Paribas Asset Management Energy Transition Fund and funds managed by BlackRock. Arrival will have about $660 million in cash proceeds.

Arrival’s aim is to produce electric vehicles that are competitive in price with traditional fossil fuel-powered vehicles and lower than other EVs. Arrival says its modular electric “skateboard” platform, which can be used on a range of different vehicle types, along with its use of microfactories set up near major cities are the key ingredients to its price competitive sauce.

The company already has working prototypes of two major vehicle lines — an electric bus and electric van. The plan is to have four vehicles in the market by 2023, Arrival Automotive CEO Mike Ableson said.

“We are building a strong order book for these products, including 10,000 electric vans from UPS with the additional option to order more thereafter,” Abelson said in an email to TechCrunch. “We are in the process of fitting out microfactories in the UK and the US to fulfill orders, with more in the pipeline.”

Going public via a SPAC will give Arrival the access to capital to achieve its “vision of reimagining the auto industry and accelerating the transition to zero emissions,” he said, noting that the company is now focused on executive and ramping up full production of vehicles with production of its buses starting in the fourth quarter 2021 and its vans in 2022.

“The capital raised from this transaction will go towards delivering on these plans and supercharging the business so we can continue to scale and fulfill the market potential,” Ableson said.

Arrival, which was founded and led by Denis Sverdlov, already has a considerable footprint and order book. Arrival says it has received $1.2 billion in orders. The company employs more than 1,200 people and has five engineering facilities and two microfactories, including its first U.S. location in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

What was the summer of the SPAC — a bevy of companies announcing mergers with publicly traded shell companies between June and mid-September — has extended into the fall. Dozens of companies, including those that have yet to generate revenue or launch a commercial product, have announced SPAC deals in the past few months. A growing number of them are companies in the capitally intensive transportation sector.

EV startups Canoo,  Fisker Inc., Lordstown Motors and Nikola Corp., eschewed the traditional path of becoming a public company.  ChargePoint as well as lidar companies Luminar and Velodyne have also merged, or in the process of merging, with SPACs. Even troubled electric automaker Faraday Future is seeking a SPAC deal.

Arrival, like its EV SPAC brethren, is keen to take advantage of the shift towards electrification. Arrival is homing in on the commercial vehicle market, which is quickening its pace of EV adoption thanks to increasingly strict emissions regulations and other public policy changes.

“Arrival believes that it is well positioned to capitalize on this market opportunity with its technology driven approach to a traditionally underserved market,” Abelson said.

The newly combined company will be listed on the Nasdaq under the new ticker symbol “ARVL.” The combined company will add Peter Cuneo, CIIG’s Chairman and CEO, as the non-executive chairman of Arrival’s board of directors.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Adobe expands customer data platform to include B2B sales

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The concept of the customer data platform (CDP) is a relatively new one. Up until now, it has focused primarily on pulling data about an individual consumer from a variety of channels into a super record, where in theory you can serve more meaningful content and deliver more customized experiences based on all this detailed knowledge. Adobe announced its intention today to create such a product for business to business (B2B) customers, a key market where this kind of data consolidation had been missing.

Indeed Brian Glover, Adobe’s director of product marketing for Marketo Engage, who has been put in charge of this product, says that these kinds of sales are much more complex and B2B sales and marketing teams are clamoring for a CDP.

“We have spent the last couple of years integrating Marketo Engage across Adobe Experience Cloud, and now what we’re doing is building out the next generation of new and complimentary B2B offerings on the Experience platform, the first of which is the B2B CDP offering,” Glover told me.

He says that they face unique challenges adapting CDP for B2B sales because they typically involve buying groups, meaning you need to customize your messages for different people depending on their role in the process.

An individual consumer usually knows what they want and you can prod them to make a decision and complete the purchase, but a B2B sale is usually longer and more complex involving different levels of procurement. For example, in a technology sale, it may involve the CIO, a group, division or department who will be using the tech, the finance department, legal and others. There may be an RFP and the sales cycle may span months or even years.

Adobe believes this kind of sale should still be able to use the same customized messaging approach you use in an individual sale, perhaps even more so because of the inherent complexity in the process. Yet B2B marketers face the same issues as their B2C counterparts when it comes to having data spread across an organization.

“In B2B that complexity of buying groups and accounts just adds another level to the data management problem because ultimately you need to be able to connect to your customer people data, but you also need to be able to connect the account data too and be able to [bring] the two together,” Glover explained.

By building a more complete picture of each individual in the buying cycle, you can, as Glover puts it, begin to put the bread crumbs together for the entire account. He believes that a CRM isn’t built for this kind of complexity and it requires a specialty tool like a CDP built to support B2B sales and marketing.

Adobe is working with early customers on the product and expects to go into beta before the end of next month with GA some time in the first half of next year.

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Two-year-old Day One Ventures raises new $52.5M fund to invest in Valley startups

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Back in 2018 Day One Ventures launched in Silicon Valley specifically designed to be both a VC and an investor that would also lead marketing and communications for its portfolio. Two years on, Day One has invested in numerous startups to do just that and has today filed with the SEC its new $52.5M fund.

The new fund is similar to the first one: investing across industries from pre-seed to seed, with occasional series A investments (from $100K to $5M).

The fund was founded and is headed by Russian émigré Masha Drokova, who, since arriving in the US a few years ago, has been variously a PR and angel investor, but famously dumped her former life in Russia as a politician and TV reporter.

Drokova says the fund focuses on ‘day one’ companies, as defined by Jeff Bezos, which have ‘customer obsession’ in-built into their company culture.

She says the fund was raised during the pandemic over zoom with $45 million coming from LPs in the first fund. More than 30% of the capital is invested in POC founders; it has 25 female founders in its portfolio; and 33% of its capital is invested in high-growth ‘impact’ companies. Day one has frequently co-invested with Andreessen, Index Ventures, Founders Fund, and Lightspeed.

The fund has had three exits so far: Lvl5, Acquired, Feastly and has invested in Remote.com (with Index and Sequoia).

So far among its portfolio is:

DoNotPay: British founder Joshua Browder, started a chatbot that pays your parking ticket, cancels subscriptions and gets refunds for you. This raised a $15M series A led by Coatue and Andreessen.
Superhuman: An AI-based email client for execs founded by Brit Rahul Vohra – it has raised $35M series B from Andreessen.
MSCHF: This creates viral and controversial products on a Supreme-drop-like model, invested with Founders Fund.
Truebill: a personal finance & savings app.

The fund says its portfolio companies have now raised $825 million in aggregate; over 25% of its capital is in fintech companies; over 30% in AI-powered startups; and it claims to have hit over 500 media publications for its portfolio.

Speaking to TechCrunch, Drakova said “We choose startups with ‘customer obsession’ as the main focus for selection. Secondly, our value add in communications means we have people like Jack Randall who did comms for Robin Hood on our team. Not many women immigrants to the US have raised as much as this, as fast as this. So it’s a good sign for the market.”

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India bans another 43 Chinese apps

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India is not done banning Chinese apps. The world’s second largest internet market, which has banned over 175 apps with links to the neighboring nation in recent months, said on Tuesday it was banning an additional 43 such apps.

Like with the previous orders, India cited cybersecurity concerns to block these apps. “This action was taken based on the inputs regarding these apps for engaging in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order,” said India’s IT Ministry in a statement.

The ministry said it issued the order of blocking these apps “based on the comprehensive reports received from Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Center, Ministry of Home Affairs.”

The apps that have been banned include popular short video service Snack Video, which had surged to the top of the chart in recent months, as well as e-commerce app AliExpress, delivery app Lalamove, and shopping app Taobao Live. Full list here. At this point, there doesn’t appear to be any Chinese app left in the top 500 apps used in India.

Tuesday order comes as a handful of apps including PUBG Mobile and TikTok explore ways to make a return to the country. In recent weeks, PUBG has registered a local entity in India, partnered with Microsoft for computing needs, and publicly vowed to invest $100 million in the country. Though it is yet to hear from the government.

Tensions between the world’s two most populous nations escalated after more than 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a military clash in the Himalayas in June. Ever since, “Boycott China” sentiment has trended on social media in India as a growing number of people post videos demonstrating destruction of Chinese-made smartphones, TVs and other products.

In April, India also made a change to its foreign investment policy that requires Chinese investors — who have ploughed billions of dollars into Indian startups in recent years — to take approval from New Delhi before they could write new checks to Indian firms. The move has significantly reduced Chinese investors’ presence in Indian startups’ deal flows in the months since.

More to follow…

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