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Wise’s Taavet Hinrikus and Teleport’s Sten Tamkivi partner in new investment firm — just don’t call it a VC fund

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Taavet Hinrikus, the first employee of Skype and co-founder of fintech giant Wise (formerly TransferWise), is teaming up with Teleport co-founder and current Topia CPO Sten Tamkivi to create a new investment vehicle.

Both are already seasoned investors — Hinrikus is one of Europe’s bona fide super angels, with over 100 investments to his name — and have already done a number of tickets together. The new as yet unnamed venture will see the pair’s investment activities formalised as an equal partnership and be supported by a team of six people based in Estonia, including an investment analyst.

Just don’t call it a VC fund.

“I’m still not setting up a fund, but am partnering to help do more of the same on the investing side,” Hinrikus told me last week in a text message.

For the last few years — perhaps prompted by swapping the role of CEO of Wise for chairperson — there’s been speculation within London’s increasingly chatty venture capital scene that he might raise a fund of his own or join an A-list VC firm as a partner. The Wise founder actually spent about a year as a venture partner at Mosaic Ventures, which ended last summer and went unreported.

“When you say fund, this means other people’s money and a specific mandate (i.e. invest in seed or late, in biotech or fintech, promise to return the money in a certain time, etc.),” Hinrikus said in an email earlier this week. He also explained that the new firm will not be seeking outside LPs and will be “evergreen”, enabling it to make considerably longer-term bets than many VC funds. Instead, Hinrikus and Tamkivi are happy to hold investments for 10-20 years.

“This structure is both liberating and differentiating, because without strict external mandates we can go after the missions we feel passionate about and be really patient about how long we stay involved in our companies,” said Tamkivi in an email.

“[We] will not be the one pushing a founder to sell,” underlines Hinrikus. “Will always stay on the founder’s side as we’ve been in that position ourselves”.

The pair’s combined portfolios focus mostly on Europe but also further afield, including the U.S., Japan and Singapore. Mutual investments (or shareholdings) include Wise, Bolt, Veriff, LHV, Xolo, Oyster HR, Pactum, Starship, Curve, Sunrise and Acapela.

Hinrikus and Tamkivi have also jointly contributed to several “mission driven” nonprofit endeavours such as Jõhvi School of Technology, Good Deed Education Fund or Vabamu Museum of Freedom and Occupations, which they, and the new firm’s back office, will continue to support. Most recently, Hinrikus co-founded Certific, which is building the rails for home health testing.

Hinrikus and Tamkivi say their new investment firm will back tech companies with a €250,000 to €1 million seed investment, but also has the freedom to follow on right up to an IPO. In most instances, it doesn’t expect to lead rounds but hopes to be seen as more collaborative than competitive.

“In short, we will be doing more of the same: give founder-backing to more upcoming founders,” said Hinrikus. “What excites us most is the future ahead and finding positive missions that improve our future. So far it’s been lots of future of work, future of finance, but in the future we’d love to think more about future of health and climate as well”.

“It will take a bit more conscious effort to figure out what our theses and strategy will be for completely new areas,” adds Tamkivi. “As humans, we both care about longevity, health, education, democracy — if we find ways how to move these huge problem spaces along with capital, we are very eager to learn”.

The pair are also willing to take positions in crypto tokens, real assets or any alternative financial instruments.

“On a high level you can think of DeFi as just a natural extension of our broader ‘future of money’ financial freedom thesis,” said Tamkivi. “When it comes to technical execution, we’ve benefited a lot from the freedom to invest not just in equity of established companies, but to also take token positions, use on-chain yield strategies or work with specialized venture funds. Whatever helps our founders”.

To that end, the new investment fund is breaking cover with very little fanfare — and, as mentioned, it doesn’t even have a name yet. “’Have you talked to Taavet and Sten yet?’ should work fine for now,” quipped Hinrikus, in his own deadpan style of humour I’ve become accustomed to over the years.

“More seriously, we are just getting started together,” clarified Tamkivi. “[We’re] still figuring out what kind of structure, processes, new talent and other things, such as additional branding, we’ll need as we scale up the activities from our lives as individual angels to date”.


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

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Vietnamese electric motorbike startup Dat Bike raises $2.6M led by Jungle Ventures

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Son Nguyen, founder and chief executive officer of Dat Bike on one of the startup's motorbikes

Son Nguyen, founder and chief executive officer of Dat Bike

Dat Bike, a Vietnamese startup with ambitions to become the top electric motorbike company in Southeast Asia, has raised $2.6 million in pre-Series A funding led by Jungle Ventures. Made in Vietnam with mostly domestic parts, Dat Bike’s selling point is its ability to compete with gas motorbikes in terms of pricing and performance. Its new funding is the first time Jungle Ventures has invested in the mobility sector and included participation from Wavemaker Partners, Hustle Fund and iSeed Ventures.

Founder and chief executive officer Son Nguyen began learning how to build bikes from scrap parts while working as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. In 2018, he moved back to Vietnam and launched Dat Bike. More than 80% of households in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam own two-wheeled vehicles, but the majority are fueled by gas. Nguyen told TechCrunch that many people want to switch to electric motorbikes, but a major obstacle is performance.

Nguyen said that Dat Bike offers three times the performance (5 kW versus 1.5 kW) and 2 times the range (100 km versus 50 km) of most electric motorbikes in the market, at the same price point. The company’s flagship motorbike, called Weaver, was created to compete against gas motorbikes. It seats two people, which Nguyen noted is an important selling point in Southeast Asian countries, and has a 5000W motor that accelerates from 0 to 50 km per hour in three seconds. The Weaver can be fully charged at a standard electric outlet in about three hours, and reach up to 100 km on one charge (the motorbike’s next iteration will go up to 200 km on one charge).

Dat Bike’s opened its first physical store in Ho Chi Minh City last December. Nguyen said the company “has shipped a few hundred motorbikes so far and still have a backlog of orders.” He added that it saw a 35% month-over-month growth in new orders after the Ho Chi Minh City store opened.

At 39.9 million dong, or about $1,700 USD, Weaver’s pricing is also comparable to the median price of gas motorbikes. Dat Bike partners with banks and financial institutions to offer consumers twelve-month payment plans with no interest.

“These guys are competing with each other to put the emerging middle class of Vietnam on the digital financial market for the first time ever and as a result, we get a very favorable rate,” he said.

While Vietnam’s government hasn’t implemented subsidies for electric motorbikes yet, the Ministry of Transportation has proposed new regulations mandating electric infrastructure at parking lots and bike stations, which Nguyen said will increase the adoption of electric vehicles. Other Vietnamese companies making electric two-wheeled vehicles include VinFast and PEGA.

One of Dat Bike’s advantages is that its bikes are developed in house, with locally-sourced parts. Nguyen said the benefits of manufacturing in Vietnam, instead of sourcing from China and other countries, include streamlined logistics and a more efficient supply chain, since most of Dat Bike’s suppliers are also domestic.

“There are also huge tax advantages for being local, as import tax for bikes is 45% and for bike parts ranging from 15% to 30%,” said Nguyen. “Trade within Southeast Asia is tariff-free though, which means that we have a competitive advantage to expand to the region, compare to foreign imported bikes.”

Dat Bike plans to expand by building its supply chain in Southeast Asia over the next two to three years, with the help of investors like Jungle Ventures.

In a statement, Jungle Ventures founding partner Amit Anand said, “The $25 billion two-wheeler industry in Southeast Asia in particular is ripe for reaping benefits of new developments in electric vehicles and automation. We believe that Dat Bike will lead this charge and create a new benchmark not just in the region but potentially globally for what the next generation of two-wheeler electric vehicles will look and perform like.”

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Binance Labs leads $1.6M seed round in DeFi startup MOUND, the developer of Pancake Bunny

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Decentralized finance startup MOUND, known for its yield farming aggregator Pancake Bunny, has raised $1.6 million in seed funding led by Binance Labs. Other participants included IDEO CoLab, SparkLabs Korea and Handshake co-founder Andrew Lee.

Built on Binance Smart Chain, a blockchain for developing high-performance DeFi apps, MOUND says Pancake Bunny now has over 30,000 daily average users, and has accumulated more than $2.1 billion in total value locked (TVL) since its launch in December 2020.

The new funding will be used to expand Pancake Bunny and develop new products. MOUND recently launched Smart Vaults and plans to unveil Cross-Chain Collateralization in about a month, bringing the startup closer to its goal of covering a wide range of DeFi use cases, including farming, lending and swapping.

Smart Vaults are for farming single asset yields on leveraged lending products. It also automatically checks if the cost of leveraging may be more than anticipated returns and can actively lend assets for MOUND’s cross-chain farming.

Cross-Chain Collateralization is cross-chain yield farming that lets users keep original assets on their native blockchain instead of relying on a bridge token. The user’s original assets serve as collateral when the Bunny protocol borrows assets on the Binance Smart Chain for yield farming. This allows users to keep assets on native blockchains while giving them liquidity to generate returns on the Binance Smart Chain.

In statement, Wei Zhou, Binance chief financial officer, and head of Binance Labs and M&A’s, said “Pancake Bunny’s growth and MOUND’s commitent to execution are impressive. Team MOUND’s expertise in live product design and servie was a key factor in our decision to invest. We look forward to expanding the horizons of Defi together with MOUND.”

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Battery Resourcers raises $20M to commercialize its recycling-plus-manufacturing operations

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As a greater share of the transportation market becomes electrified, companies have started to grapple with how to dispose of the thousands of tons of used electric vehicle batteries that are expected to come off the roads by the end of the decade.

Battery Resourcers proposes a seemingly simple solution: recycle them. But the company doesn’t stop there. It’s engineered a “closed loop” process to turn that recycled material into nickel-manganese-cobalt cathodes to sell back to battery manufacturers. It is also developing a process to recover and purify graphite, a material used in anodes, to battery-grade.

Battery Resourcers’ business model has attracted another round of investor attention, this time with a $20 million Series B equity round led by Orbia Ventures, with injections from At One Ventures, TDK Ventures, TRUMPF Venture, Doral Energy-Tech Ventures and InMotion Ventures. Battery Resourcers CEO Mike O’Kronley declined to disclose the company’s new valuation.

The cathode and anode, along with the electrolyzer, are major components of battery architecture, and O’Kronley told TechCrunch it is this recycling-plus-manufacturing process that distinguishes the company from other recyclers.

“When we say that we’re on the verge of revolutionizing this industry, what we are doing is we are making the cathode active material — we’re not just recovering the metals that are in the battery, which a lot of other recyclers are doing,” he said. “We’re recovering those materials, and formulating brand new cathode active material, and also recovering and purifying the graphite active material. So those two active materials will be sold to a battery manufacturer and go right back into the new battery.”

“Other recycling companies, they’re focused on recovering just the metals that are in [batteries]: there’s copper, there’s aluminum, there’s nickel, there’s cobalt. They’re focused on recovering those metals and selling them back as commodities into whatever industry needs those metals,” he added. “And they may or may not go back into a battery.”

The company says its approach could reduce the battery industry’s reliance on mined metals — a reliance that’s only anticipated to grow in the coming decades. A study published last December found that demand for cobalt could increase by a factor of 17 and nickel by a factor of 28, depending on the size of EV uptake and advances in battery chemistries.

Thus far, the company’s been operating a demonstration-scale facility in Worcester, Massachusetts, and has expanded into a facility in Novi, Michigan, where it does analytical testing and material characterization. Between the two sites, the company can make around 15 tons of cathode materials a year. This latest funding round will help facilitate the development of a commercial-scale facility, which Battery Resourcers said in a statement will boost its capacity to process 10,000 tons of batteries per year, or batteries from around 20,000 EVs.

Another major piece of its proprietary recycling process is the ability to take in both old and new EV batteries, process them and formulate the newest kind of cathodes used in today’s batteries. “So they can take in 10-year-old batteries from a Chevy Volt and reformulate the metals to make the high-Ni cathode active materials in use today,” a company spokesman explained to TechCrunch.

Battery Resourcers is already receiving inquiries from automakers and consumer electronics companies, O’Kronley said, though he did not provide additional details. But InMotion Ventures, the venture capital arm of Jaguar Land Rover, said in a statement its participation in the round as a “significant investment.”

“[Battery Resourcers’] proprietary end-to-end recycling process supports Jaguar Land Rover’s journey to become a net zero carbon business by 2039,” InMotion managing director Sebastian Peck said.

Battery Resourcers was founded in 2015 after being spun out from Massachusetts’ Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The company has previously received support from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium, a collaboration between General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

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