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VC Daily: Remote Work Boosts Blogging Platform; New Tech-Industry Battle Is Taking Shape; China Set to Pass Strict Data-Privacy Law

Good day. Blogging platform Hashnode has raised $6.7 million in a Series A round led by Salesforce Ventures, a sign that blogs continue to be a popular format for content sharing. The new funding follows a $2.1 million seed round announced in December 2020.

Hashnode, a product of Delaware-registered LinearBytes Inc., hosts 60,000 active blogs. It caters to a global software-development community that is expected to reach 28.7 million people by 2024, according to market research firm Statista GmbH.

The pandemic supercharged Hashnode growth from around 100,000 users just a month after launching in June 2020 to approximately 1.4 million users currently as people working remotely sought to stay connected, co-founder and Chief Executive Fazle Rahman said. He said the idea behind creating Hashnode was to allow a community of developers to get free access to content on a platform geared specifically toward tech.

So far the startup hasn't charged bloggers to upload or access content on its platform but plans to start introducing some paid services, Mr. Rahman said. A new feature called Team Publication will be at the center of the startup's paid strategy and will consist of charging tech companies to publish their content on Hashnode.

With this goal in mind, picking Salesforce as the lead investor was a natural decision, given the software company's large pool of tech clients, Mr. Rahman said.

And now on to the news.

Top News

Roblox, Facebook See the 'Metaverse' as Key to the Internet's Next Phase

A new tech-industry battle is taking shape over the "metaverse" as companies such as Facebook Inc. and Roblox Corp. work to shape a virtual realm that most consumers don't yet know exists, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The metaverse concept, rooted in science-fiction novels such as "Snow Crash" and "Ready Player One," encompasses an extensive online world transcending individual tech platforms, where people exist in immersive, shared virtual spaces. Through avatars, people would be able to try on items available in stores or attend concerts with friends, just as they would offline.

Enthusiasm for the concept has also helped supercharge valuations of companies such as Roblox -- which went public in a direct listing in March -- and "Fortnite" maker Epic Games Inc. as investors bet the popular videogame worlds will have an early foothold in the nascent online space.

"It's very clear that this is becoming a focal battleground for big tech"

-- Matthew Ball, venture capitalist and former media executive

Data privacy. The world's leading practitioner of state surveillance is set to usher in a far-reaching new privacy regime, The Wall Street Journal reports.

China's top legislative body is expected this week to pass a privacy law that resembles the world's most robust framework for online privacy protections, Europe's General Data Protection Regulation. But unlike European governments, which themselves face more public pressure over data collection, Beijing is expected to maintain broad access to data under the new Personal Information Protection Law.

The national privacy law, China's first, is being reviewed as frustration grows within the government, and in Chinese society at large, over online fraud, data theft and data collection by Chinese technology giants. The law is on its third round of reviews, usually the last before passage.

1.1%

Retail sales dropped last month compared with June, according to data from the Commerce Department. (WSJ)

Mubadala Capital Prepares to Bulk Up London Office

Mubadala Capital, the investment arm of Abu Dhabi-based sovereign wealth manager Mubadala Investment Co., is preparing to add private-equity professionals to its London office next month on the heels of closing its third fund for the strategy, WSJ Pro's Preeti Singh reports. Antoun Ghanem, a director in the private-equity group who leads Mubadala Capital's European investment practice, will move to London from Abu Dhabi, according to Adib Mattar, head of private equity. The multistrategy firm also has one private-equity professional in New York. Mubadala Capital's private-equity investments largely focus on North America and Europe, according to Kevin Kokko, leader of the firm's New York office and its co-head of private equity and head of business development.

Cargo Ships Are Again Idling Off Jammed Southern California Ports

Container ships are stacking up again off Southern California's jammed ports, as a flood of imports and logjams in domestic logistics networks hit operations at the biggest U.S. gateway for seaborne trade, WSJ writes. Thirty-seven container ships were anchored off the adjacent ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in recent days, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, the highest number since February, when 40 ships waited there. Aboard are hundreds of thousands of boxes stuffed with goods bound for manufacturers and retailers as U.S. businesses hustle to restock inventories and prepare for the holiday shopping season. Just a couple of months ago, the number of container ships at anchor in the two ports, which together handle more than a third of all U.S. seaborne imports, had dwindled to nine. In normal times, the number is one, or none.

Industry News

People

Theator Inc., which uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to improve surgeon performance, appointed Kavi Vyas as chief commercial officer. He was previously at Viz.ai and Penumbra Inc. In February, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Theator said it raised $15.5 million in Series A funding from investors including Insight Partners, Blumberg Capital, NFX, StageOne Ventures and KdT Ventures.

Exits

Brex Inc., which offers spending cards and other financial services to businesses, acquired Weav, provider of a universal API for commerce platforms, for $50 million. In April, Brex said it raised a $425 million Series D round at a valuation of more than $7.4 billion. Investors in the round included Tiger Global Management, TCV, Madrone Capital Partners, Durable Capital Partners, Ribbit Capital, IVP and several others. Weav secured a $4.3 million seed round earlier this year from investors including Foundation Capital, Y Combinator Continuity, Abstract Ventures, LocalGlobe and Box Group.

Publicly traded Genius Sports Ltd. agreed to acquire Spirable, which enables brands to create and automate highly personalized content, for an undisclosed amount. With headquarters in London, New York and Sydney, Spirable is listed in the portfolios of Smedvig Capital, Downing Ventures and Frontline.

New Money

Nuvemshop, an e-commerce platform serving Latin America, secured $500 million in Series E financing, bringing the company's valuation up to $3.1 billion. Insight Partners and Tiger Global Management co-led the round, which saw participation from Accel, Kaszek, Qualcomm Ventures, ThornTree Capital Partners, VMG Partners and others. Nuvemshop has offices in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.

Bitpanda, a Vienna-based digital asset trading platform, scored $263 million in Series C funding at a $4.1 billion valuation. Valar Ventures led the round, which included participation from REDO Ventures, LeadBlock Partners and Jump Capital.

Postman, a San Francisco-based API platform, landed $225 million in Series D funding led by Insight Partners, placing its valuation at $5.6 billion. New investors Coatue Management, Battery Ventures and BOND also contributed to the round, along with existing backers CRV and Nexus Venture Partners.

Moloco Inc., a Redwood City, Calif.-based mobile advertising technology startup, raised $150 million in Series C financing led by Tiger Global Management, giving the company a valuation of $1.5 billion.

Apollo GraphQL, a San Francisco-based provider of open source and commercial GraphQL API technologies, raised $130 million in Series D funding. Insight Partners led the round, which saw participation from Andreessen Horowitz, Matrix Partners, Next47 and Trinity Ventures.

xentral, a Germany-based enterprise resource planning system for small and medium-size businesses, nabbed $75 million in Series B financing. Lead investors Tiger Global Management and Meritech Capital Partners were joined by Sequoia Capital, Visionaries Club and Freigeist in the round.

Monte Carlo Inc., a San Francisco-based data observability platform, picked up a $60 million Series C investment from Iconiq Growth, Salesforce Ventures, Accel, GGV Capital and Redpoint Ventures.

Split Software Inc., a Redwood City, Calif.-based feature delivery and experimentation platform, fetched a $50 million Series D round. Owl Rock, a division of Blue Owl Capital, led the investment, which included additional support from Northgate Capital, Accel, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Harmony Partners, M12, Atlassian Ventures and ServiceNow.

Branch, a Minneapolis-based startup that helps businesses accelerate payments to workers, completed a $48 million Series B round, and secured $500 million in purchased assets from funds managed by Neuberger Berman. Addition led the Series B portion, which included participation from Drive Capital, Crosscut Ventures, Bonfire Ventures, Matchstick Ventures, HR Tech Investments and others.

Browzwear, a provider of 3-D digital technology to the fashion industry, closed a $35 million round of funding from Radian Capital.

CertiK, a New York-based blockchain security startup, collected $24 million in Series B+ funding from Tiger Global Management and GL Ventures. This new investment adds to the recent $37 million Series B tranche secured from investors including Coatue Management, Shunwei Capital and Coinbase Ventures.

Stacker, a London-based no-code software builder, raised a $20 million Series A round. Andressen Horowitz led the investment, which included contributions from Initialized Capital, Y Combinator and Pentech.

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August 18, 2021 10:24 ET (14:24 GMT)

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