Investment Round: Gimlet Media, Huddle, Oryx Vision and Hustle

Tim Maytom

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.

Podcasting Giants Gimlet Media Scores $15m in Funding

Brooklyn-based podcasting network Gimlet Media has announced a new $15m (£11.5m) round of funding led by Stripes Group. The firm, which has produced shows including StartUp and Reply All, is now estimated to be worth around $70m now, and predicted to bring in revenues of around $15m this year.

The Series B round also included existing investors Cross Culture Ventures and Betaworks, as well as newcomer Emerson Collective. The new funding will go towards program development for the network, as well as an expansion of the company’s staff, which currently sits at around 80. The firm will also expand its native advertising and sponsored podcast unit, Gimlet Creative, and is hoping to further tailor its programming for emerging tech platforms.

“This investment is a gratifying validation that we are at the beginning of the second golden age of audio,” said Alex Blumberg and Matt Lieber, co-founders of Gimlet Media. Blumberg was previously a producer for NPR flagship show This American Life, while Liber had produced radio shows and podcasts as well as working as a management consultant for Boston Consulting Group.

Following the funding round, Patrick Keane, operating partner of Stripes Group and former chief marketing officer of CBS Interactive will take a seat on Gimlet’s board, joining Blumberg, Lieber and Tim O’Shaugnessy, CEO of Graham Holdings. Gimlet has said that it will add a fifth independent board member later this year.

Huddle Sells to US Equity Firm for Estimated $89m

Troubled enterprise software startup Huddle is being acquired by San Francisco-based private equity firm Turn/River. The UK-based startup has suffered significant financial struggles throughout 2017 and has been urgently seeking either a new round of funding or a buyer to provide a cash injection. Our source reported that Turn/River acquired a majority stake in the startup for $89m, a considerable drop from Huddle’s past valuation of up to $300m.

Huddle, which creates collaboration software for enterprise clients, published a blog post on Sunday announcing that Turn/River had become a majority shareholder, but later deleted the post. On Monday, a letter was sent to employees and shareholders notifying them that Turn/River would be acquiring the firm.

According to the letter, Turn/River, which operates in the UK as Harmony, will be acquiring Huddle under a ‘drag along’ covenant, enabling it to force minority shareholders to accept the acquisition. Huddle’s preferred shareholders will see a payout from the company being purchased, but ordinary shareholders, including current and former employees, are set to lose out, getting only a goodwill gesture payment of $100 each.

Oryx Vision Raises $50m to Build Groundbreaking Systems for Autonomous Vehicles

Israel-based automotive startup Oryx Vision has completed a Series B funding round, with Third Point Ventures and WRV leading investment in the company. The $50m round brings total investment in Oryx to $67m, following its Series A round just 15 months ago. Existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Maniv Mobility and Trucks VC also took part in the round, as did Union Tech Ventures.

Oryx builds automotive LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) systems, which enable autonomous vehicles to create a 3D view of their surroundings by sending laser pulses and detecting their returning signals. Oryx uses unique silicon-made microscopic antennas to detect light wave frequencies, producing a low-cost system that is resistant to interference from the sun and several magnitudes more sensitive than conventional systems.

“Oryx is building the first solution that will meet all the key requirements of automotive LiDARs – high performance, car durability and low price – without a tradeoff,” said Rani Wellingstein, co-founder and CEO of Oryx Vision. “We are delighted to receive a vote of confidence in our vision from such sophisticated investors, and to have the resources to bring this technology to market quickly and at the highest quality.”

SMS Personalisation Firm Hustle Closes $8m Series A Round

Consumers are constantly bombarded with notifications and messaging, so personalisation can go a long way in making marketing stand out from the crowd. Tech startup Hustle enables marketers to create a CRM-style database for SMS communications, personalising messages and transforming them into one-to-one dialogues rather than relentless spam.

The firm has just announced the completion of an $8m Series A round led by existing investor Social Capital, whose founder Chamath Palihapitiya is a board member at the company. Having served as the SMS communication tool for the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential primary campaign, the firm is taking the lessons learnt from such a high-profile client and seeking to expand.

“This funding marks an important milestone for Hustle’s mission to strengthen organisations by scaling genuine relationships,” said Roddy Lindsay, CEO and co-founder of Hustle. “We’re honoured to deepen our relationship with our seed investors, and thrilled to bring eight new world-class investors into the Hustle family.”

Don’t forget to enter the Effective Mobile Marketing Awards. We've extended the final deadline to 18 August, but time's running out. More details here.