Investment Round: COMB+, Dunzo, NGData and Apexx

Investment Round is our weekly update on which firms have secured new funding, which areas are seeing the most financing, and who is putting up the cash that enables these companies to keep pushing the capabilities of mobile marketing further.

COMB+ announces €65m fund to encourage AI startups to work in China
Chinese tech accelerator COMB+ has unveiled a new €65m (£57.4m) fund aimed at bringing international AI startups to China to help the country stay at the cutting edge of the key technology. As more and more firms aim to invest in AI and machine learning, China is hoping to attract talent from overseas to advance its own efforts and strengthen future trade ties.

COMB+ also runs the Sino Track accelerator program, which it launched last year, helping early-stage firms grow their presence in China. That fund, which has focused heavily on the Nordic region, has already seen 19 startups from the area graduate and receive investment. The new fund will target more advanced companies with proven business models in their local market who are looking to expand into China.

The fund is run by COMB+ and the Beijing Institute of Collaborative Innovation (BICI), and more than half of the €65m target has already been raised, with both government and corporate sources contributing. According to COMB+ CEO Leo Zhu, the fund is hoping to attract interest from partners in Finland while it raises the remaining cash, and possibly even tap into China-Finland government collaboration policies.

“We admire [Finland’s] advanced technology,” said Zhu. “Engineers would typically spend five to eight years to understand broader technology opportunities; we have a huge market in China and would like to take these advanced technologies there.”

Google makes first direct investment in Indian startup with Dunzo
Tech giant Google has picked up a minority stake in Dunzo, a hyper-local mobile-first concierge and delivery company based in Bengaluru, the firm’s first direct investment in a startup from India. The investment was made as part of the company’s Next Billion Users initiative, and was part of a $12m (£8.9m) Series B funding round that also saw investment from Blume Ventures and Aspada.

Founded in 2015, Dunzo is a chat-based task management app that enables users to create to-do lists through its app which are then fulfilled by workers. Tasks can cover everything from picking up groceries to basic paperwork, and the app also enables users to reimburse workers for expenses and track progress using messaging.

Google has reportedly taken a 33.8 per cent stake in the startup as part of the round, which also saw the firm’s valuation increase three-fold from its Series A round, taking its post-money capitalisation to $30m. The firm has recently expanded its services to Pune, and CEO Kabeer Biswas has announced plans to grow to five or six cities by the end of 2018, and scale up from 100,000 transactions a month right now, to 100,000 transactions a day.

Series C round brings in $19m for NGData
Customer experience management company NGData has announced the completion of a Series C funding round led by HPE Growth Capital which has brought in $19m (£14.2m) in new funding, bringing the firm’s total funding to just under $50m. The fund also saw participation from existing investors including Idinvest Partners, Pamica, SmartFin Capital and Nausicaa Ventures.

Lily, the company’s flagship customer data platform, is designed to help organisations improve customer experiences by combining data, generating insights and steering actions. The firm has primarily targeted banks, telecoms and media & publishing companies so far, but is looking to expand the reach of its automated, customer-centric solution.

“Consumer behaviour is changing, and companies are just starting to realise the value of customer data platforms and using them to drive meaningful experiences,” said Luc Burgelman, CEO of NGData. “For the past five years, NGData has been steadfast in helping marketers improve every touchpoint across the customer journey, and we’ve designed and continually improved Lily to deliver smarter, more informed customer experiences. This funding not only validates our success in achieving these goals, but it also supports our commitment to be the leading global customer data platform provider.”

Global payments marketplace Apexx grabs $4m in seed funding
Apexx, a marketplace for global payments that enables firms to integrate all their required payment suppliers into a single API, has secured $4m (£3m) in seed funding to extend its network of acquirers, payment providers and merchants, as well as continue its product development plans. The seed funding was led by Forward Partners, with support from MMC Ventures and Alliance Venture.

“We’re thrilled to see Apexx moving from strength to strength,” said Peter Keenan, co-founder and CEO at Apexx. “We’ve already launched the first single marketplace for global payments in the world, we have an experienced leadership team steering the company and a strong vision bringing transparency, efficiency and competition to the payments market. Investment from these leading VCs will bring the expertise and funding needed to help us accelerate the growth of the business.”

Apexx attracted interest from the fintech scene earlier this year when Valerie Soranno Keating, former CEO of Barclaycard, joined the board as non-executive director. According to the company, its technology enables customers to reduce the cost of cross-border payments, boost sales and manage multiple providers through a single integration point.