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Can data fix healthcare?

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Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday morning? Sign up here.

Ready? Let’s talk money, startups and spicy IPO rumors.

Can data fix healthcare?

Not alone, but you might be able to make a lot of progress with the right data in the right hands. And that’s precisely what the startup we’re talking about today is up to.

The Exchange caught up with Terry Myerson and Lisa Gurry this week, the CEO and CMO of Truveta, a young company that wants to collect oodles of data from healthcare providers, anonymize it, aggregate it and make it available to third parties for research.

It’s a big task, but the team behind Truveta has experience with big projects. Myerson is best known for his time one-rung below the top of the Microsoft org chart, where he ran things you might have heard of, like Windows. Gurry was a leader inside that org, most recently working on strategy for the Microsoft Store product.

But now they are at a healthtech data company. How did that come to be? After Myerson left Microsoft he worked with Madrona, the Seattle-area venture capital firm, and the Carlyle Group, a huge investing group with a taste for private equity. A few years later, several former Microsoft co-workers of Myerson had wound up at Providence, a healthcare giant. They reached out to Myerson around when COVID-19 was first locking down the United States. The former Microsoft exec agreed to take part in a few calls, but didn’t formally join them as he was stuck at home.

During that time he learned that Providence had put together a white paper concerning the idea that Truveta would become, that by collecting data from healthcare providers a dataset of sufficient size and diversity could be compiled to allow research of all sorts to leverage it. Myerson got stuck on the concept, later founding the company. Then he called up some former colleagues, including Gurry, to help him build it.

Truveta has around 50 people today and will scale to around 100 this year, Myerson said.

Questions abound in your head, I’m sure. Things are still early at Truveta, but the company announced last week that it has signed up 14 healthcare providers to help with its data goals. Those firms are also investors in the company (Myerson put in capital in as well).

I was curious about the company’s business plan. Per Myerson, Truveta will charge different rates depending on who wants to access its data. As you can imagine, commercial entities will pay a different price than an independent researcher.

Next for Truveta is getting more data, locking down its internal data schema, collecting feedback from researchers and, later, approaching commercial access.

Healthcare in America is inequitable — something that the pair of Truveta executives stressed during our call — thus giving the company a huge market to improve and make less racist and sexist.

It was a bit odd to talk to Myerson and Gurry about their startup. In the past I’d chatted with them about some of Microsoft’s largest platforms. Let’s see how fast they can transform Truveta from an idea I can’t help but dig, to a company that is a viable commercial concern. And then how big they can grow it.

Market Notes

A lot has happened in the past few days that we couldn’t get to. Adyen’s earnings, for example. The European payments platform reported H2 revenues of €379.4 million, up 28% compared to the year ago half-year. And from that it reported EBITDA of €236.8 million. Who said fintech can’t be profitable? (Note: Adyen’s results are required reading if you care about Stripe’s valuation and future public offering.)

And there were some rounds that also fell through our fingers. Investments like CloudTalk’s recent $7.3 million Series A. The Slovakia-based startup previously raised a $1.6 million seed round in 2019. The startup, as its name suggests, offers cloud telephony services to call centers.

We suspected that CloudTalk probably had a pretty good year in 2020 thanks to global growth in remote work. It did. In an email, CloudTalk said that it has not seen “Zoom-like [growth] figures” but that in 2020 demand for its services “exceeded [its] expectations.” That helps explain its latest round.

The Exchange was also curious if the company had a perspective on subscription pricing versus consumption pricing, a rising topic amongst software dorks such as myself (more to come on this next week with notes from Appian, Fastly and others). Per the company, CloudTalk charges “for both seats and for usage,” making it a hybrid company from a pricing perspective. CloudTalk called its pricing setup “a good balance for both parties because customers like to know what they are going to be paying ahead of time.”

It’s a startup to keep in mind. As is Zolve, a globally themed neobank with a focus on helping expats have a working financial world. I couldn’t get to it, but TechCrunch wrote it up. More here.

And in case you didn’t have time to watch television during work the last few days let’s talk about Robinhood. Which enjoyed a Congressional hearing this week that was mostly dull apart from some notes on the fintech giant’s business model.

Finally, it was a busy week for crowded startup niches. There was more money for OKR startups, leading to our question about VCs putting capital into related companies in the future. Public also raised several hundred million dollars. Because why not. And low-code player OutSystems raised $150 million to round out the group. It was one hell of a week.

Various and Sundry

I will leave you with a few data points. First, that Clubhouse’s metrics are finally starting to match the hype around the product. People are showing up in droves, pushing its total download figures over the 10 million mark.

And in news that I missed, Substack crossed the 500,000 subscriber mark. That’s impressive!

And to close, a Chicago-based, home-focused insurtech startup called Kin crossed the $10 billion “total insured property value” mark this week. The Exchange reached out, asking the company about its economics. After all it’s not hard to run up premium volume if you are selling dollars for 50-cent pieces.

Ruth Awad from the company responded that her company’s “ loss rate is 53% and our gross margins are 32%.” Not bad at all. Given how quickly insurtech has gone from experiment to public-success, Kin is a company to keep tabs on.

Wrapping, please make sure to support your local heavy metal band this weekend,

Alex

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

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Qualcomm veteran to replace Alain Crozier as Microsoft Greater China boss

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Microsoft gets a new leader for its Greater China business. Yang Hou, a former executive at Qualcomm, will take over Alain Crozier as the chairman and chief executive officer for Microsoft Greater China Region, according to a company announcement released Monday.

More to come…

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Autonomous drone maker Skydio raises $170M led by Andreessen Horowitz

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Skydio has raised $170 million in a Series D funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz’s Growth Fund. That pushes it into unicorn territory, with $340 million in total funding and a post-money valuation north of $1 billion. Skydio’s fresh capital comes on the heels of its expansion last year into the enterprise market, and it intends to use the considerable pile of cash to help it expand globally and accelerate product development.

In July of last year, Skydio announced its $100 million Series C financing, and also debuted the X2, its first dedicated enterprise drone. The company also launched a suite of software for commercial and enterprise customers, its first departure from the consumer drone market where it had been focused prior to that raise since its founding in 2014.

Skydio’s debut drone, the R1, received a lot of accolades and praise for its autonomous capabilities. Unlike other consumer drones at the time, including from recreational drone maker DJI, the R1 could track a target and film them while avoiding obstacles without any human intervention required. Skydio then released the Skydio 2 in 2019, its second drone, cutting off more than half the price while improving on it its autonomous tracking and video capabilities.

Late last year, Skydio brought on additional senior talent to help it address enterprise and government customers, including a software development lead who had experience at Tesla and 3D printing company Carbon. Skydio also hired two Samsara executives at the same time to work on product and engineering. Samsara provides a platform for managing cloud-based fleet operations for large enterprises.

The applications of Skydio’s technology for commercial, public sector and enterprise organizations are many and varied. Already, the company works with public utilities, fire departments, construction firms and more to do work including remote inspection, emergency response, urban planning and more. Skydio’s U.S. pedigree also puts it in prime position to capitalize on the growing interest in applications from the defense sector.

a16z previously led Skydio’s Series A round. Other investors who participated in this Series D include Lines Capital, Next47, IVP and UP.Partners.

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Space startup Gitai raises $17.1M to help build the robotic workforce of commercial space

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Japanese space startup Gitai has raised a $17.1 million funding round, a Series B financing for the robotics startup. This new funding will be used for hiring, as well as funding the development and execution of an on-orbit demonstration mission for the company’s robotic technology, which will show its efficacy in performing in-space satellite servicing work. That mission is currently set to take place in 2023.

Gitai will also be staffing up in the U.S., specifically, as it seeks to expand its stateside presence in a bid to attract more business from that market.

“We are proceeding well in the Japanese market, and we’ve already contracted missions from Japanese companies, but we haven’t expanded to the U.S. market yet,” explained Gitai founder and CEO Sho Nakanose in an interview. So we would like to get missions from U.S. commercial space companies, as a subcontractor first. We’re especially interested in on-orbit servicing, and we would like to provide general-purpose robotic solutions for an orbital service provider in the U.S.”

Nakanose told me that Gitai has plenty of experience under its belt developing robots which are specifically able to install hardware on satellites on-orbit, which could potentially be useful for upgrading existing satellites and constellations with new capabilities, for changing out batteries to keep satellites operational beyond their service life, or for repairing satellites if they should malfunction.

Gitai’s focus isn’t exclusively on extra-vehicular activity in the vacuum of space, however. It’s also performing a demonstration mission of its technical capabilities in partnership with Nanoracks using the Bishop Airlock, which is the first permanent commercial addition to the International Space Station. Gitai’s robot, codenamed S1, is an arm–style robot not unlike industrial robots here on Earth, and it’ll be showing off a number of its capabilities, including operating a control panel and changing out cables.

Long-term, Gitai’s goal is to create a robotic workforce that can assist with establishing bases and colonies on the Moon and Mars, as well as in orbit. With NASA’s plans to build a more permanent research presence on orbit at the Moon, as well as on the surface, with the eventual goal of reaching Mars, and private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin looking ahead to more permanent colonies on Mars, as well as large in-space habitats hosting humans as well as commercial activity, Nakanose suggests that there’s going to be ample need for low-cost, efficient robotic labor – particularly in environments that are inhospitable to human life.

Nakanose told me that he actually got started with Gitai after the loss of his mother – an unfortunate passing he said he firmly believes could have been avoided with the aid of robotic intervention. He began developing robots that could expand and augment human capability, and then researched what was likely the most useful and needed application of this technology from a commercial perspective. That research led Nakanose to conclude that space was the best long-term opportunity for a new robotics startup, and Gitai was born.

This funding was led by SPARX Innovation for the Future Co. Ltd, and includes funding form DcI Venture Growth Fund, the Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, and EP-GB (Epson’s venture investment arm).

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