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HYCU raises $87.5M to take on Rubrik and the rest in multi-cloud data backup and recovery

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As more companies become ever more reliant on digital infrastructure for everyday work, the more they become major targets for malicious hackers — both trends accelerated by the pandemic — and that is leading to an ever-greater need for IT and security departments to find ways of protecting data should it become compromised. Today, one of the companies that has emerged as a strong player in data backup and recovery is announcing its first major round of funding.

HYCU, which provides multi-cloud backup and recovery services for mid-market and enterprise customers, has raised $87.5 million, a Series A that it the Boston-based startup will be using to invest in building out its platform further, to bring its services into more markets, and to hire 100 more people.

HYCU’s premise and ambition, CEO and founder Simon Taylor said in an interview, is to provide backup and storage services that are as simple to use “as backing up in iCloud for consumers.”

“If you look at primary storage, it’s become very SaaS-ifed, with no professional services required,” he continued. “But backup has stayed very legacy. It’s still mostly focused on one specific environment and can’t perform well when multi-cloud is being used.”

And HYCU’s name fits with that ethos. It is pronounced “haiku”, which Taylor told me refers not just to that Japanese poetic form that looks simple but hides a lot of meaning, but also “hybrid cloud uptime.”

The company is probably known best for its integration with Nutanix, but has over time expanded to serve enterprises building and operating IT and apps over VMware, Google Cloud, Azure and AWS. The company also has built a tool to help migrate data for enterprises, HYCU Protégé, which will also be expanded.

The funding is being led by Bain Capital Ventures, with participation also from Acrew Capital (which was also in the news last week as an investor in the $118 million round for Pie Insurance). The valuation is not being disclosed.

This is the first major outside funding that the company has announced since being founded in 2018, but in that time it has grown into a sizeable competitor against others like Rubrik, Veeam, Veritas and CommVault. The Rubrik comparison is interesting, given that it is also backed by Bain (which led a $261 million round in Rubrik in 2019). HYCU now has more than 2,000 customers in 75 countries. Taylor says that not taking funding while growing into what it has become meant that it was “listening and closer to the needs of our customers,” rather than spending more time paying attention to what investors says.

Now that it’s reached a certain scale, though, things appear to be shifting and there will probably be more money down the line. “This is just round one for us,” Taylor said.

He added that this funding came in the wake of a lot of inbound interest that included not just the usual range of VCs and private equity firms that are getting more involved in VC, but also, it turns out, SPACs, which as they grow in number, seem to be exploring what kinds and stages of companies they tap with their quick finance-and-go-public model.

And although HYCU hadn’t been proactively pitching investors for funding, it would have been on their radars. In fact, Bain is a major backer of Nutanix, putting some $750 million into the company last August. There is some strategic sense in supporting businesses that figure strongly in the infrastructure of your other portfolio companies.

There is another important reason for HYCU raising capital to expand beyond what its balance sheet could provide to fuel growth: HYCU’s would-be competition is itself going through a moment of investment and expansion. For example, Veeam, which was acquired by Insight last January for $5 billion, then proceeded to acquire Kasten to move into serving enterprises that used Kubernetes-native workloads across on-premises and cloud environments. And Rubrik last year acquired Igneous to bring management of unstructured data into its purview. And it’s not a given that just because this is a sector seeing a lot of demand, that it’s all smooth sailing. Igneous was on the rocks at the time of its deal, and Rubrik itself had a data leak in 2019, highlighting that even those who are expert in protecting data can run up against problems.

Taylor notes that ransomware indeed remains a very persistent problem for its customers — reflecting what others in the security world have observed — and its approach for now is to remain focused on how it delivers services in an agent-less environment. “We integrate into the platform,” he said. “That is incredibly important. It means that you can be up and running immediately, with no need for professional services to do the integrating, and we also make it a lot harder for criminals because of this.”

Longer term, it will keep its focus on backup and recovery with no immediate plans to move into adjacent areas though such as more security services or other tools. “We’re not trying to be a Veritas and own the entire business end-to-end,” Taylor said. “The goal is to make sure the IT department has visibility and the cloud journey is protected.”

Enrique Salem, a partner at Bain Capital Ventures and the former CEO of Symantec, is joining HYCU’s board with this round and sees the opportunity in the market for a product like HYCU’s.

“We are in the early days of a multi-decade shift to the public cloud, but existing on-premises backup vendors are poorly equipped to enable this transition, creating tremendous opportunity for a new category of cloud-native backup providers,” he said in a statement. “As one of the early players in multi-cloud backup as a service bringing true SaaS to both on-premises and cloud-native environments, HYCU is a clear leader in a space that will continue to create large multi-billion dollar companies.”

Stefan Cohen, a principal at Bain Capital Ventures, will also be joining the board.

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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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