Investment Round: Telegram, Homie, Zoomcar, Lydia and Bynder

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.

Telegram raises an initial $850m as it takes aim at billion-dollar ICO
Messaging app Telegram has taken an increasingly popular approach to raising finances by taking part in an initial coin offering (ICO), and the move seems to have paid off, with the firm raising $850m (£606.7m) with just the first part of its ICO process, making it the largest ever initial coin offering so far.

The previous record holder for a token sale was Filecoin, which raised $257m last year, a milestone that Telegram has obliterated. The messaging app, created by Russian brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov, announced in January that it was planning to raise $1.2bn via the sale of its own cryptocurrency token, called ‘Gram’. The $850m raised so far was revealed in an SEC notice, which indicated that the firm aims to use the funds for “the development of the TON Blockchain, the development and maintenance of Telegram Messenger and the other purposes described in the offering materials.”

Telegram has struggled with high operating costs in the past, and the ICO could represent a way for the company to secure its future while it pushes for greater scale and improved revenues. The $850m raised so far, which likely represents the pre-sale section of the ICO, would seem to indicate that venture capital firms and hedge funds are confident in the company, but the firm has also faced criticism over whether its security is strong enough to support a cryptocurrency, as well as the governance processes it has in place for the tokens.

According to Telegram, alongside the cryptocurrency, its investment in blockchain will enable it to offer distributed file storage, secure browsing environments, services for decentralised apps and web browsing, and peer-to-peer transactions. These ambitious plans would require considerable investment, but with the public sale section of the ICO predicted to bring in another $1.15bn, Telegram may well be able to afford all that and more.

Homie brings in $4m in seed funding to help London’s renters
With Millennials more likely than any previous generation to be stuck in a cycle of house rental, it’s no surprise that there are tech firms aiming to make the process of finding a new property to rent as pain-free as possible. Homie, which provides London renters with a home search platform, has just raised $4m in seed funding to do just that.

The funding round was led by Connect Ventures, with participation by Seedcamp, Venture Friends and The Family, and will enable Homie to expand its highly-individualised service. The platform offers renters a personal home finder who will help search the market and match them with properties, with research by the company suggesting they are able to reduce the time spent researching and viewing properties from 25 hours to less than four hours across three days.

“This new investment represents an incredible opportunity for us to further develop our tech platform and team without compromising on any of the personal aspects of Homie that make it so unique,” said Alex Eid, founder and CEO of Homie. “Our vision has always been to make London’s rental market faster, more transparent and easier to navigate whilst delivering a personal service.”

Indian automotive giant Mahindra & Mahindra invests in Zoomcar rental service
Zoomcar, an India-based car and bike rental platform, is celebrating $40m in new funding, led by one of the country’s leading automotive firms, Mahindra & Mahindra. The funding round, which also saw participation by existing investors, brings Zoomcar’s valuation to around $170m, and follows up on Mahindra’s partnership with Zoomcar last year which aims to bring more electric vehicles to India’s share mobility space. Zoomcar recently launched the Mahindra e20Plus electric vehicles in three major cities, and is expected to add more than 500 electric vehicles across over 20 cities during H1 2018.

Zoomcar primarily focuses on Zipcar-style rentals, allowing registered users to locate and use cars within a city, but it also enables new car buyers to lease out their vehicles when they are not in use, helping them to recoup their costs while also expanding Zoomcar’s inventory. Other investors in the firm include Sequoia Capital, FundersClub and Nokia Growth Partners, as well as a number of angel investors including former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome the Mahindra team on board for this next phase of growth within the Indian self-drive mobility space,” said Greg Moran, co-founder and CEO of Zoomcar. “Our collaboration with Mahindra dates back to 2013 when we first kicked off in Bangalore. Most importantly, Mahindra shares Zoomcar’s vision for multi-modal urban mobility, and we look forward to leveraging their diverse platform to help accelerate the transformation to a shared, electric mobility future for India.”

French fintech startup Lydia gets €13m more to accelerate cashless revolution
Mobile payments firm Lydia has announced a new funding round that will bring an additional €13m (£11.5m) in for the company, bringing its total raised to over €23m. The funding was led by CNP Assurances, with participation from existing investors including New Alpha AM, Groupe Duval and XAnge.

The new round will enable the fintech startup to develop new services and accelerate its growth in France, the UK, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, as well as across the rest of the EU. Lydia has so far focused on Millennial consumers, and crossed the milestone of 1m users at the end of 2017, with 2,000 accounts now created daily.

“Now, more than ever before, Lydia is one of the major players in the cashless revolution gaining pace across Europe,” said Cyril Chiche, president and co-founder of Lydia. “We’d like to thank our existing investors for their ongoing trust, and we are thrilled to welcome CNP Assurances onboard. These enriched means will allow us to go even faster and further towards providing the 500m citizens of Europe with the best-adapted interface for their money.”

Bynder acquires Shutterstock’s Webdam digital asset management business for $49.1m
With marketers producing more digital content than ever before, and distributing it across an increasingly complex web of platforms and channels, digital asset management (DAM) has become more essential than ever before when it comes to supporting marketing activities. Marketers can now look forward to dealing with a global DAM organisation, with Bynder’s acquisition of Webdam bringing together the respective category leaders from EMEA and North America.

The acquisition of Shutterstock’s DAM business will enable Bynder to create a global offering for marketing and creative teams with scalable, cloud-based solutions for managing, distributing and collaborating on their digital assets. The acquisition comes around 18 months after Bynder’s $22m Series A funding round with New York-based Insight Venture Partners, and considerably bolsters the firm’s US presence.

“Businesses are racing to keep up with the digital economy, in which digital content has become the storefront for your brand,” said Chris Hall, founder and CEO of Bynder. “Marketers and creatives play a critical role in developing these digital experiences, so the necessity of DAM is only accelerating. Bynder and Webdam are two of the top digital asset management platforms on the market. We’re ready to join forces with a fellow leader in the space and develop an unparalleled DAM that businesses integrate at the core of their operations.”