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Cat-focused startup Meowtel has climbed to profitability despite struggling to raise capital from dog-focused VCs



Cat-sitting startup Meowtel clawed its way to profitability despite trouble raising from dog-focused VCs

According to data, “Dogs” are the most well-liked pet within the US: 65.1 million households have them American Pet Products Association. But while cats aren’t far off, with 46.5 million of them in households, much of the innovation within the pet category has focused solely on dogs. And despite the fact that the service serves each species, it’s more focused on dogs.

Sonya Petcavich, founding father of the cat care app Meowtel, believes cats and kittens deserve more.

When Petcavich’s cat, Lily, died in 2015, she realized she won’t have been the most effective cat mom. Petcavich traveled extensively for her job in sales for Philip Morris and was not home as much as she thought her older cat might need. She knew pet sitting services existed, but didn’t think they provided enough for her feline friends.

“There is a need for a service specifically for people caring for cats; they have very different needs,” Petcavich told TechCrunch. “Rover had been around for just a few years and Wag was gaining momentum, but they were too dog-focused. I said, “Fuck it, I’ll be a crazy cat to do it.”

She took $100,000 of her own money, began a development team, and launched Meowtel in 2015. The startup is a marketplace where cat owners can find cat sitters and only employs individuals who have direct experience in things like giving cats medications (cats are particularly prone to chronic diseases as we age) and take care of cats with special needs. Potential caregivers undergo a rigorous six-step process before they’re approved to join the applying. This features a 30-minute chat with the Meowtel team to confirm that it’s an actual person, which other sit-down sites don’t do. Petcavich joked that it was easier to get into Harvard than to change into a Meowtel keeper.

Since its founding, the corporate has operated mainly in secret. Petcavich said the corporate has only come out of hiding now since the team has put in a whole lot of work during the last nine years, built its brand and got users’ experience where they wanted it to be.

Meowtel is profitable, with gross booking revenue growing 50% year-on-year. The company employs greater than 2,200 caregivers on the platform, a few of whom have been with Meowtel for nine years. The company has processed greater than 95,000 seat applications and has largely focused on larger cities, including New York and Los Angeles. He wants to expand his activities to smaller cities as well.

Meowtel has gotten to this point by raising almost $1 million in enterprise capital. Of that total, $500,000 got here from angels including Jason Calacanis’ Launch and Elizabeth Yin, general partner at Hustle Fund. Additional capital got here from accelerator programs including Tech Wildcatters and Sputnik ATX. The company’s last financing took place in 2020.

Petcavich said raising money from enterprise capitalists was difficult since the enterprise capital community is more focused on dogs and lots of people didn’t understand why cats needed their very own caregiver. Petcavich stated that she nonetheless wanted to raise enterprise funding for Meowtel due to its market-based business model, which she felt was an excellent fit for VC investors. Additionally, due to the capital-intensive nature of market-based businesses, she felt that VC funds would make essentially the most sense.

He’s right that there seem to be many more venture-backed firms specializing in dogs than cats. There are several startups focused on areas akin to higher pet food, accessories, and even those specializing in health. Butternut Box, a British pet food company, has raised over $466 million in VC funding. ImpriMed, a canine oncology startup, raised $23 million in November, and Fi, a wise dog collar, raised greater than $40 million in enterprise capital.

When it comes to cats, there are noticeably fewer of them. Smalls, a fresh pet food company, is considered one of the few venture-funded firms on this category. This raised $19 million last 12 months, and its founder Matthew Michaelson told TechCrunch’s Christine Hall that he believed innovation within the pet category had largely focused on dogs.

But does the market really want or have the capability to provide a cat-only sitting service? Petcavich says yes, and her company’s track record and growth trajectory seem to back it up.

“In the 2020 era, there is a brand that caters to every specific type of audience,” Petcavich said. “These species are different, but no one makes this distinction. I think it was the psyche of the cat owner and the medical needs of the cat itself that really opened up this blue ocean.”

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Can high-speed commerce overtake e-commerce in India?




Even as high-speed trading startups exit, consolidate or close down in many parts of the world, the model is showing encouraging signs in India. Urban consumers benefit from the convenience of getting groceries delivered to their homes in as little as 10 minutes. The corporations that make these deliveries – Blinkit, Zepto and Swiggy’s Instamart – are already charting a path to profitability.

Analysts are intrigued by the potential for 10-minute deliveries to disrupt e-commerce. Goldman Sachs recently estimated that Blinkit, acquired by Zomato in 2022 for slightly below $600 million, is already more priceless than its parent company that delivers decacorn food.

According to HSBC, earlier this 12 months Blinkit had a 40% share of the fast trading market, followed by Swiggy’s Instamart and Zepto. Walmart-owned Flipkart plans to enter the fast commerce space next month, further proving the industry’s potential.

Investors are also showing great interest in the industry. Zomato boasts a valuation of $19.7 billion despite minimal profitability, fulfilling around 3 million orders a day. By comparison, the market capitalization of Chinese giant Meituan, which processes greater than 25 times more orders per day, is $93 billion. Zepto, which achieved unicorn status lower than a 12 months ago, is finalizing recent financing value greater than $3 billion, in response to people conversant in the matter.

Consumers are also buying the convenience of fast trading. According to a recent study by Bernstein, adoption was highest amongst millennials aged 18 to 35, with 60% of those aged 18 to 25 preferring fast trading platforms over other channels. Even the 36+ age group uses digital channels – over 30% prefer fast trading.

UBS’s estimate for the Indian market.
Image credits: UBS (screenshot)

While India’s rapid urbanization makes it a first-rate high-speed trading destination, the industry’s unique operating model and infrastructure needs may limit its long-term growth and profitability. As competition intensifies, the impact of high-speed trading is more likely to be felt more acutely by India’s e-commerce giants. But what makes the Indian retail market so attractive to fast trading players and what are the challenges it faces?

Possibility of fast trading in India

According to industry estimates, e-commerce sales in India were between $60 billion and $65 billion last 12 months. That’s lower than half of the sales generated by e-commerce corporations throughout the last Singles’ Day in China and represents lower than 7% of India’s total retail market value greater than $1 trillion.

Reliance Retail, India’s largest retailer, posted revenue of about $36.7 billion in the fiscal 12 months ending March, at a valuation of $100 billion. The unorganized retail sector – neighborhood stores (popularly referred to as kirana), that are positioned in hundreds of Indian cities, towns and villages – continues to dominate the market.

“The market is huge and, on paper, ripe for disruption. So far, nothing has been done to significantly harm the industry. So every time a new model shows signs of functioning, all stakeholders shower it with love,” said a seasoned entrepreneur who helped construct a supply chain for one in every of the leading retail ventures.

In other words, there is no such thing as a shortage of room for growth.

Modern retail’s share of total grocery spending in India stays significantly lower than in most other large countries and HSBC believes that is more likely to remain in order customers migrate directly from unorganized to high-speed retail (HSBC).
Image credits: HSBC (screenshot)

Fast trading corporations are borrowing many features from Kirana stores to develop into relevant to Indian consumers. They have developed a brand new supply chain system, creating tons of of inconspicuous warehouses, or “dark stores”, strategically placed inside a couple of kilometers of residential and business areas, from where a lot of orders are placed. This allows corporations to make deliveries inside minutes of placing an order.

This approach differs from that of e-commerce players akin to Amazon and Flipkart, which have fewer but much larger warehouses in town, often positioned in towns where rent is cheaper and farther from residential areas.

The unique characteristics of Indian households further enhance the attractiveness of fast trading. Indian kitchens typically have a bigger variety of SKUs in comparison with their Western counterparts, requiring frequent replenishment purchases which might be higher served by local stores and fast-trade relatively than modern retail. Additionally, limited space for storing in most Indian homes makes monthly bulk grocery purchases less practical, with customers preferring to buy fresh food, which easily enables quick trade.

According to Bernstein, quick-trade platforms can price products 10 to fifteen percent cheaper than brick-and-mortar stores while still maintaining a gross margin of about 15 percent by eliminating middlemen. Dark fast-trade stores quickly increased their SKU count from 2,000 to six,000, with plans to further increase it to 10,000 to 12,000. According to store managers, these stores restock their inventory two to 3 times a day.

Fight against e-commerce

Zepto, Blinkit and Swiggy’s Instamart are increasingly expanding beyond the grocery category, selling a wide range of products including clothing, toys, jewelry, skincare and electronics. TechCrunch evaluation found that almost all of the products listed on Amazon India bestseller list can be found on fast trading platforms.

FSR has also develop into a crucial distribution channel for major food brands in India. Consumer goods giant Dabur India expects high-speed trading to account for 25% to 30% of the corporate’s sales. Hindustan Unilever, the Indian arm of British Unilever, described fast trading as “an opportunity we will not let go of.” And for Nestle India, “Blinkit is becoming as important as Amazon.”

While high-speed commerce may not expand beyond the grocery category, itself a market value greater than half a trillion dollars in India, their expansion into electronics and fashion is more likely to be limited. According to analyst estimates, electronics account for 40% to 50% of all sales on Amazon and Flipkart. If high-speed trading manages to crack this market, it is going to pose a major and immediate challenge to e-commerce giants. Goldman Sachs estimates that the entire market addressed to grocery and non-food stores for quick-trade corporations in the 40-50 largest cities is roughly $150 billion.

According to an e-commerce entrepreneur, selling smartphones and other expensive items is more of a marketing gimmick that can not be carried out on a big scale.

Blinkit sells high-end smartphones and the PlayStation 5 console, its founder and CEO announced on social media.

“It doesn’t make any sense. Fast trading is sweet for forward trading. However, smartphones and other expensive products are inclined to have quite a low rate of return. … They do not have the infrastructure to accommodate reverse logistics,” he said, requesting anonymity because he’s one in every of the early investors in the leading high-speed trading company.

The current fast trade infrastructure also doesn’t allow the sale of huge devices. This means you may’t buy a fridge, air conditioner or TV via flash trade. “But that’s what some of these companies are suggesting and analysts confirm,” the investor said.

Falguni Nayar, founding father of skincare platform Nykaa, highlighted at a recent conference that fast commerce is principally taking share from Kirana stores and is not going to find a way to keep up as much inventory and assortment as specialist customer education platforms.

The history of high-speed trade in India stays an urban phenomenon concentrated in the 25–30 largest cities. In a recent evaluation, Goldman Sachs wrote that demand in smaller cities is probably going making the fresh food economy tougher to appreciate.

E-commerce giant Flipkart will launch its fast commerce service in limited cities next month, seeing a possibility to draw Amazon India customers. Most of Flipkart’s customers are positioned in smaller Indian cities and towns.

Amazon – increasingly limiting its e-commerce investments in India – has thus far shown no interest in high-speed commerce in the country. The company, which offers same-day delivery to Prime members on certain items, has questioned the standard of products from “fast” delivery corporations in a few of its marketing campaigns.

A recent survey of Indian consumers by Bank of America (BofA)
Image credits: BofA Global Research (screenshot)

As brands increasingly give attention to fast commerce as their fastest-growing channel, and more consumers appreciate the convenience and value of 10-minute deliveries, the stage is ready for a fierce battle between India’s fast commerce and e-commerce giants.

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From sperm freezing to accounting tools: Finaloop founder earns $35 million to solve e-commerce sellers’ accounting problems




Yellow Calculator On Purple Background; financial model to forecast fundraising

For consumers, one in all the most important benefits of e-commerce is convenience: you may shop anytime, anywhere, and now you pay with the faucet of your finger (and pay almost any way you would like). But underneath that there is loads of fragmentation and complexity, and it’s always retailers who take it on the chin. The so-called startup Final goals to improve this example for e-commerce corporations – using accounting software – and has raised $35 million in funding thanks to strong growth.

Lightspeed Venture Partners is leading the Series A, which also includes participation from Vesey Ventures, Commerce Ventures and former backers Accel and Aleph. Finaloop, based in New York but with roots (and R&D) in Tel Aviv, previously raised $20 million. It doesn’t disclose the valuation.

CEO and Founder of Finaloop Lioran Pinchevski is an accountant by training, but an entrepreneur at heart. Before founding the corporate, he worked in senior positions at PwC for nearly a decade, mainly coping with sensitive accounting issues arising within the strategy of mergers and acquisitions. He built startups on the side.

The latest was a direct-to-consumer health tech startup focused on sperm freezing, which has scaled to “seven-figure” sales, he said. It was a hard-won success:

This is what inspired Pinchevski to use his accounting knowledge and located Finaloop.

E-commerce has exploded over the previous couple of years and is predicted to proceed to accomplish that exceed $6 trillion in global sales this yr, says eMarketer. This is thanks to changing consumer shopping habits and the ubiquity of smartphones and other screens, but in addition the event of marketplaces like Amazon, social media platforms and platforms like Shopify that make it easier to open online storefronts.

But under the hood, retailers have loads of work to do to run their businesses, and that is what Pinchevski found to be burdensomely time-consuming and never leveraging the identical skills and interests that led them to turn into e-commerce founders in the primary place.

“Every online seller needs to keep accounting, both from a compliance and business visibility perspective,” he said. Typically, small e-commerce corporations either do their very own accounting or work with a 3rd party to accomplish that. In each cases, accounting could be performed using software equivalent to QuickBooks, NetSuite or Xero and would potentially be very complex, not least because e-commerce sellers currently use many various channels to source, sell and distribute goods.

“But e-commerce creators can be young and dynamic people who are digital-first, so they hate it,” he said.

The Finaloop solution is a platform that uses background automation to track transactions with three different functions in a single: a business ledger that records all transactions; accounting work to detail these transactions; and inventory spreadsheets, that are used not only to track what’s being sold, but in addition to create future projections of what could also be needed.

This integrates with a big selection of platforms an organization can sell on – equivalent to Amazon, Walmart, and even TikTok – or use for payments, shipping, or other services. While there are indeed many accounting tools available for smaller businesses today, Pinchevski said that is the one tool designed specifically for smaller e-commerce businesses and covering your complete scope of their accounting and bookkeeping needs.

SaaS price list starts at $65 monthly and drops monthly for an annual subscription, or increases for those who add tax solution.

The growth of corporations like Finaloop is notable within the context of the innovation cycle we’re observing.

While the frontiers proceed to shift in areas equivalent to artificial intelligence, quantum computing and food technology, and what may come tomorrow, there may be a growing interest in solving rather more pressing problems for corporations operating on today’s platforms.

At the identical time, Finaloop has a probability to attract more users due to the subsequent technological change. E-commerce rollups, financed by lots of of thousands and thousands of dollars, once promised smaller e-commerce corporations higher economies of scale in the event that they sold to them. This is identical highly fragmented market that Finaloop wants to consolidate because lots of these rollups have struggled and disappeared. Finaloop potentially gives smaller e-commerce corporations one other avenue to exist on their very own as independent corporations.

It is showing some signs of success, growing its customer base by 400% last yr, reaching $13 billion in GMV managed on its platform by 1000’s of consumers. The numbers will help seal the deal on this funding round.

“Finaloop is disrupting an industry that has not seen significant change in over 30 years. They are leading the way in transforming accounting and bookkeeping for e-commerce, solving the biggest problems,” Lightspeed partner Tal Morgenstern said in a press release. “We are excited to support the Finaloop team in their quest to provide e-commerce companies with real-time financial data, giving them an invaluable competitive advantage.”

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India’s Oyo, once valued at $10 billion, finalizes new financing at $2.5 billion valuation




Masayoshi Son Delivers Keynote At Annual SoftBank World Event

Oyo, an Indian budget hotel chain startup, is finalizing a new fundraising of around $100 million to $125 million, bringing its valuation right down to $2.5 billion, two people conversant in the matter told TechCrunch.

This marks a pointy decline in the worth of the Gurgaon-based startup, which was price $10 billion in 2019. The startup, struggling to draw institutional investors, has been aggressively acquiring wealthy individuals in recent months.

“We really think this asset makes a whole lot of sense today. Profitability and discount @70% in comparison with the previous valuation. IPO expected in 18-24 months – a representative of InCred, a financial company cooperating with Oyo, forwarded a message (displayed by TechCrunch) to the startup’s founder.

Early last month, TechCrunch reported that Oyo was looking for to boost funding of $3 billion or less. Oyo vehemently denied the “rumours, including valuation rumors” at the time. The size of the new round is more likely to be larger, said the above-mentioned sources, who asked to not be identified since the matter will not be public.

The new funding comes after Oyo shelved its IPO plan last month. The startup – which counts SoftBank, Peak XV Ventures, Lightspeed, Airbnb and Microsoft amongst its backers – has withdrawn its IPO application from India’s markets regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, twice within the last 4 years.

Oyo initially filed papers with SEBI for a 2021 listing but withdrew it and re-filed in 2023. The company, which has raised over $3 billion thus far, sought to boost $1.2 billion at a valuation of $12 billion as a part of an initial public offering in 2021.

Oyo, once considered one of India’s hottest startups, runs an operating system of sorts that helps hoteliers accept digital bookings and payments. The startup once operated in dozens of markets, including the US and Europe, but has since limited its international presence.

Observed net profit of $12 million within the fiscal 12 months ending March, based on founder and CEO Ritesh Agarwal.

Agarwal took out $2 billion in debt in 2019 to extend his stake in Oyo, then valued at $10 billion. It invested $700 million as core capital in Oyo and spent $1.3 billion on secondary purchase of Oyo shares. The startup has not commented on its debt status since then.

Indian newspaper Economic Times also reported in regards to the new financing on Monday, adding that the startup will seek approval from current shareholders for the financing this week.

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