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General Catalyst pushes further into Europe/Israel, hiring Chris Bischoff for London office

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Until now General Catalyst has been better known as a US VC which makes occasional forays into European territory. But that changes with the news today that Chris Bischoff, an experienced London-based investor, joins as Managing Director of its new London office.

Bischoff brings with him an extensive track record of investment across the US and Europe, participating in the fund-raising for Avito, Babylon, Betterment, Cedar, VillageMD, Livongo and Cityblock Health, among others. He joins from the role of senior investment director at venture and growth fund Kinnevik AB where he led several investments most notably in the healthcare realm but also participated in deals alongside General Catalyst in companies such as Livongo (now Teladoc, NYSE: TDOC) and Cityblock.

In a statement, Bischoff said: “I’ve known and greatly admired GC for many years and have successfully partnered with the team on multiple occasions. I am strongly aligned with their purpose, approach, and culture, so this is a natural step.”

General Catalyst is no stranger to Europe, having invested most recently in British used-car startup Cazoo, FinTech as a Service company Rapyd, and Collective, an online back office platform. It’s also an investor in Bloom & Wild, and most recently it led a $44M Series B funding into Multiverse, founded by Euan Blair (former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s eldest son). It’s also a long-time investor in food delivery startup Deliveroo.

Last year it secured $2.3 billion in capital commitments across three funds: a $600 million early-stage fund, a $1 billion growth fund for companies with $10 million-plus in annual revenue and a $700 million “endurance fund” to back large companies doing more than $100 million in sales.

In a statement Hemant Taneja, managing partner, General Catalyst said: “Having invested alongside and worked with Chris as a fellow director, I know firsthand that he shares our commitment to backing and building enduring companies with the potential to materially improve the lives of many.”

Bischoff will be adding to the firm’s bench of healthcare investors given its involvement in Livongo, Cityblock, Oscar, Color and Ro Health, among others.

General Catalyst accelerated its interest in European and Israeli tech companies when managing director Adam Valkin joined from Accel Partners in London, bringing with him plenty of European savvy.

Valkin and Bischoff will run the deals in Europe and Israel, and no doubt more efficiently, now that GC has Bischoff with his feet under a desk in London, even if for the time being that will be a home office desk.

Valkin said: “Europe and Israel have unequivocally become major centers for global-scale innovation, and having Chris on the ground here is a huge asset for our firm. I have known Chris for many years and have observed his talent as an investor, his outstanding portfolio, and importantly, his reputation as a trusted partner for ambitious founders.”

At Accel, Valkin led investments in Gocardless, Flywire, and Spotify, and then joined General Catalyst in 2013 to build out the New York office.

In an interview, he told me: “In 2015 GC started looking into Europe in a more serious way… perhaps a little bit more opportunistically at that point. We invested in a number of European companies like Brainly in Poland and Fiverr in Israel. And then 2016 was sort of a big year for us because we led both a series A of Lemonade out in Israel, and a growth round and Deliveroo in the UK.”

He said GC decided to get a little bit more organised about Europe, and spent a lot more time with founders there, gradually ramping up its activity. “So, our European journey essentially began, five, six years ago. And we’ve become very active there, both in the UK in Europe as well as Israel. The big question for us was when would it make sense to have a team on the ground. And we actually got to know Chris about five years ago, in the context of what we were doing in Europe, and also just as a really important growth stage investor in Europe.”

Bischoff added: “ If you look at what GC has done in Europe, it really is across both consumer and enterprise, and across the sector. I’ve done quite a bit in healthcare, obviously, a bit in FinTech and consumer which are pretty large sectors in Europe… it’s not narrowly focused in Europe. The intention is to bring the full set of GC’s capabilities to Europe, and across sectors.”

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

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Flourish, a startup that aims to help banks engage and retain customers, raises $1.5M

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It’s not uncommon these days to hear of U.S.-based investors backing Latin American startups.

But it’s not every day that we hear of Latin American VCs investing in U.S.-based startups.

Berkeley-based fintech Flourish has raised $1.5 million in a funding round led by Brazilian venture capital firm Canary. Founded by Pedro Moura and Jessica Eting, the startup offers an “engagement and financial wellness” solution for banks, fintechs and credit unions with the goal of helping them engage and retain clients.

Also participating in the round were Xochi Ventures, First Check Ventures, Magma Capital and GV Angels as well as strategic angels including Rodrigo Xavier (former Bank of America CEO in Brazil), Beth Stelluto (formerly of Schwab),  Gustavo Lasala (president and CEO of The People Fund) and Brian Requarth (Founder of Viva Real). 

With clients in the U.S., Bolivia and Brazil, Flourish has developed a solution that features three main modules: 

  • A rewards engine designed to incentivize users to save or invest money
  • An intelligent and automated micro-savings feature where users can create personalized rules (such as transferring $15 into a rainy day fund every time their favorite sports team wins)
  • A financial knowledge module, where personal financial transactions and spending patterns are turned into a question and answer game. 

In the U.S., Flourish began by testing end-user mechanics with organizations such as CommonWealth and OpportunityFund. In 2019, it released a B2C version of the Flourish app (called the Flourish Savings App)  as a pilot for its banking platform, which can integrate with banks through a SDK or an API.  It is also now licensing its engagement technology to banks, retailers and fintechs across the Americas. Flourish has piloted or licensed its solution to US-based credit unions, Sicoob (Brazil’s largest credit union) and BancoSol in Bolivia. 

The startup makes money through a partnership model that focuses on user activation and engagement. 

Both immigrants, Moura and Eting met while in the MBA program at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Moura emigrated to the U.S. from Brazil as a teen while Eting is the daughter of a Filiponio father and mother of Mexican descent.

The pair bonded on their joint mission of building a business that empowered people to create positive money habits and understand their finances.

Currently, the 11- person team works out of the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. It plans to use its new capital to increase its number of customers in LatAm, do more hiring and develop new functionalities for the Flourish platform. 

In particular, it plans to next focus on the Brazilian market, and will scale in a few select countries in the Americas. 

“There are three things that make Latin America, and more specifically Brazil, attractive to us at this moment,” Moura said. “Currently, the B2B financial technology market is still in its nascency. This combined with open banking regulation and the need for more responsible products provides Flourish a unique opportunity in Brazil.”

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Inside Workvivo’s plans to take on Microsoft in the employee experience space

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Maintaining company culture when the majority of staff is working remotely is a challenge for every organization — big and small.

This was an issue, even before COVID. But it’s become an even bigger problem with so many employees working from home. Employers have to be careful that workers don’t feel disconnected and isolated from the rest of the company and that morale stays high.

Enter Workvivo, a Cork, Ireland-based employee experience startup that is backed by Zoom founder Eric Yuan and Tiger Global that has steadily grown over 200% over the past year.

The company works with organizations ranging in size from 100 employees to over 100,000 and boasts more than 500,000 users. According to CEO and co-founder John Goulding, it’s had 100% retention since it launched. Customers include Telus International, Kentech, A+E Networks and Seneca Gaming Corp., among others.

Founded by Goulding and Joe Lennon in 2017, Workvivo launched its employee communication platform in mid-2018 with the goal of helping companies create “an engaging virtual workplace” and replace the outdated intranet.

“We’re not about real time, we’re more asynchronous communication,” Goulding explained. “We have a lot of transactional tools, and typically carry the bigger message about what’s going on in a company and what positive things are happening. We’re more focused on human connection.”

Using Workvivo, companies can provide information like CEO updates, recognition for employees via a social style — “more things that shape the culture so workers can get a real sense of what’s happening in an organization.” It launched podcasts in the second quarter and livestreaming in Q4.

In 2019, Workvivo showed its product to Zoom’s Yuan, who ended up becoming one of the company’s first investors. Then in May of 2020, the company raised $16 million in a Series A funding led by Tiger Global, which is best known for large growth-oriented rounds.

Workvivo, which was built out long before the COVID-19 pandemic, found itself in an opportune place last year. And demand for its offering has reflected that. 

“Since COVID hit, growth has accelerated,” Goulding told TechCrunch. “We grew three times in size over where we were before the pandemic started, in terms of revenue, users, customers and employees.”

The SaaS operator’s deals range from $50,000 to close to $1 million a year, he said. Workvivo is Europe-based and operates in 82 countries. But the majority of its customers are located in the U.S. with 80% of its growth coming from the country.

The startup opened an office in San Francisco in early 2020, which it is expanding. Thirty percent of its 65-person team is currently U.S.-based, with some working remotely from other states.

While Workvivo would not reveal hard revenue figures, Goulding only said it’s not seeking additional funding anytime soon considering the company is “in a very strong capital position.”

To tackle the same problem, Microsoft last month launched Viva, its new “employee experience platform,” or, in non-marketing terms, its new take on the intranet sites most large companies tend to offer their employees. With the move, Microsoft is taking on the likes of Facebook’s Workplace platform and Jive in addition to Workvivo.

Despite the increasingly crowded space, Workvivo believes it has an advantage over competitors in that it integrates well with Slack and Zoom.

“We’re sitting alongside Slack and Zoom in the ecosystem,” Goulding said. “There’s Zoom, Slack and us.”

Slack is real-time messaging and what’s happening in the immediate future, and Zoom is real-time video and “about the moment,” he said.

To Goulding, Microsoft’s new offering is unproven yet and a reactionary move.

“It’s obvious there’s a battle to be won for the center of the digital workplace,” he said. “We’re here to capture the heartbeat of an organization, not pulses.”

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Bitflips when PCs try to reach windows.com: What could possibly go wrong?

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Stock photo of ones and zeros displayed across a computer screen.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Bitflips are events that cause individual bits stored in an electronic device to flip, turning a 0 to a 1 or vice versa. Cosmic radiation and fluctuations in power or temperature are the most common naturally occurring causes. Research from 2010 estimated that a computer with 4GB of commodity RAM has a 96 percent chance of experiencing a bitflip within three days.

An independent researcher recently demonstrated how bitflips can come back to bite Windows users when their PCs reach out to Microsoft’s windows.com domain. Windows devices do this regularly to perform actions like making sure the time shown in the computer clock is accurate, connecting to Microsoft’s cloud-based services, and recovering from crashes.

Remy, as the researcher asked to be referred to, mapped the 32 valid domain names that were one bitflip away from windows.com. He provided the following to help readers understand how these flips can cause the domain to change to whndows.com:

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