Most people write VCs to pitch an idea and get funded.
But Autopilot CEO Mike Sharkey had the exact opposite in mind when he wrote VCs before getting seed funded: turn me down.
Sharkey, an Australian native, was applying for government funding at the time, but one of the qualifications was you had to fail to raise private funding from a venture capital firm. There were only two well-known VC firms in Australia at the time, so Sharkey wrote both of them, hoping they would reject him.
But unfortunately — or fortunately — one of the VCs really liked Sharkey’s company, and ended up investing in Autopilot.
“It was quite ridiculous at the time, but they really liked what we were building and saw a big opportunity in us,” Sharkey told Business Insider.
Autopilot offers software that makes marketing easy and accessible, whether it’s through email, direct mail, or text messages. On top of the basic marketing automation functions such as running email campaigns, Autopilot can trigger special thank you cards when someone accepts a deal, or follow up with people who failed to open your email the first time.
It’s also one of the more affordable marketing automation software, only costing $4/user a month, which Sharkey says is intended to “democratize” marketing technology to small and medium sized businesses — a segment that can’t afford the more sophisticated marketing automation technology, and is only able to use the more low-end options.
Citing an internal report, Sharkey claims only 4% of all companies use marketing automation, with 44% of them never even hearing about it.
“We want to bring marketing automation to the masses and democratize it as much as possible from insider baseball,” Sharkey said.
Autopilot officially launched just four months ago — after shutting down some of its older products to just focus on marketing automation — and has grown its user base to 3,000 companies, Sharkey said. Plus, Autopilot has been able to do it without a sales team, growing purely based on word-of-mouth and organic search.
That growth has led to a fresh $7 million round on Thursday that brings Salesforce and Stage One Capital to an investor group including Blackbird Ventures, Garnett Ventures, and Tim Draper. Autopilot has raised a total of $20.5 million to date.
Autopilot is certainly in its early stages but Sharkey sees a huge untapped market ahead. “Most marketers still rely on 1990s technology, which is very sporadic, unorganized mass emails,” he said. “There are about 50 million companies worldwide that can benefit from this technology.”
Britain’s fintech sector is booming right now and cash is now flowing into startups based here from all around the world.
The latest example is iwoca, an online small business credit provider that just raised $20 million (£12.8 million) from 2 German investors, including the venture capital arm of bank Commerzbank.
It’s iwoca’s second round of financing and takes the total it’s raised to $31.5 million (£20 million). Sources we spoke to indicate that the latest raise values the 4-year-old startup in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
London-based iwoca is a part of a crop of super-hot startups looking to reinvent business finance in the UK. Other leading lights include peer-to-peer lender Funding Circle, invoice finance provider MarketInvoice, and small business lender Ebury.
iwoca extends credit facilities up to £150,000 ($234,000) to small businesses. It was founded by 2 ex-investment bankers — Goldman Sachs alum Christoph Rieche, now CEO, and James Dear, iwoca’s CTO who was previously at Deutsche Bank.
“What’s most interesting here is that this fundraising enables us to issue $150 million (£96 million) worth of loans across our geographies and enable 1000s of smell to grow thanks to our product,” Elalouf told me.
iwoca operates across the UK, Spain, Poland, and Germany, and has thousands of customers, according to Elalouf. The number of loans made grew by 250% in the year to June.
Elalouf says: “We have a very clear pricing policy — we just charge interest, no fees. No underwriting fees, no retaining fees. This gives great flexibility for our customers and they appreciate that a lot.”
iwoca’s custom-built lending engine gives businesses a decision whether it will lend to them within the day, pulling in a tonne of data points to make the call.
Elalouf says: “We go beyond the traditional credit scoring and gather a wealth of other sources, such as banking data and industry-specific data. If you look at the eBay traders of this world, we gather data from them that would enable us to get a better credit view of our customers.”
As well as lending more, Elalouf says the latest fundraising will let the company build additional products. iwoca is also considering expansion to new countries. Elalouf says: “Looking at our current exposure, we’ve got exposure to half of the GDP of Europe already. But we’re looking at other markets — France is an interesting market, so is Ireland.”
Facebook had a big quarter. The social network generated earnings of $0.50 per share, beating expectations for $0.47. This was on better-than-expected revenue, which jumped 39% year-over-year to $4.04 billion. “This was another strong quarter for our c…
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has finally released the long-awaited final build of its new Windows 10 operating system (OS). Currently, Windows 10 is only being offered as a free update for existing Windows 7 and 8.1 users. The update, however, is only being offered to users who have purchased the above-mentioned iterations of Windows via official […]
Argus Feed: July 30, 2015 7:00 am L.A. Times - Business
(Reuters) – Health insurer Cigna Corp, which agreed to be bought by Anthem Inc for $47 billion this month, reported a 2.6 percent rise in quarterly profit as it added more members in its commercial and government businesses.
Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond have a new show. The Guardian and other news outlets are reporting that former “Top Gear” hosts have signed a deal with Amazon to create a program for Amazon Prime.
“The trio’s new show will be broadcast on Amazon’s on-demand TV service, with the US giant beating off competition from ITV and its online rival, Netflix,” the Guardian reported, along with this typically edgy and amusing quote from Clarkson: “I feel like I’ve climbed out of a biplane and into a spaceship.”
The Amazon announcement comes as a bit of surprise, as the odd-on favorite to garner the talents of the “Top Gear” triumverate was Netflix. But regardless, Clarkson, Hammond, and May have left the familiar realms of broadcast TV behind and joined the brave new world of content creation.
The team’s lengthy and wildly successful run on the BBC came to an end earlier this year when Clarkson, no stranger to controversy, was fired after striking a “Top Gear” producer is a dispute over dinner after a day of filming.
A protracted pubic debate over whether the BBC should part ways with Clarkson followed, concluding with the network declining to renew his contract. Hammond and May then joined Clarkson in a period of, as it turns out, brief unemployment.
“Top Gear” was a cash cow for the BBC, and it isn’t going away. A new host, Chris Evans, was signed to replace Clarkson.
From a business perspective, both the Amazon deal and the Netflix discussion are interesting because they signal the arrival of a new dynamic in creating and distributing entertainment online. Each internet giant has seen how popular “Top Gear” is with its audience, and using data on the behavior of viewers, can position itself to make much stronger wagers on what types of new programming will be successful.
Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE:TWC) is scheduled to report its results for the quarter ended June 30, 2015, before markets open today. As per the whisper data on whispernumbers.com, the media giant would miss the Street on both its top- and bottom-line numbers, as it releases its results for the second quarter of fiscal year […]
LONDON (Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell is to axe 6,500 jobs this year and step up spending cuts, responding to an extended period of lower oil prices which contributed to a 37 percent drop in the oil and gas group’s second-quarter profits.
Apple has filed a patent for a stylus that can capture the look and feel of a textured surface.
The patent describes a stylus with images sensors that can sense the physical attributes of any surface it passes over. The surface could be sensed through a clear lens in the tip of the stylus and picked up by a camera inside it. That data could then be stored by the stylus for use at a later date, or transferred to a paired tablet or computer for use in a painting application, meaning that an artist or graphic designer could incorporate that surface into a project.
The stylus would let you pick up the detail from a sculpture or painting and transfer it to a computer:
The patent describes a few real-world applications, from computer aided design to 3D mapping.
The stylus could also be used to provide tactile feedback from an image to the same sort of “rumble pack” used in gaming to make your handset vibrate. Then a user might be able to “feel” the texture of clothing for sale on the internet.
Apple doesn’t always create the products it patents, but it does seem fairly committed to the idea of a stylus, one that Steve Jobs famously hated. He first made fun of the idea at a 2007 conference:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. economic growth likely accelerated in the second quarter as a pick-up in consumer spending and housing offset the drag from trade and the energy sector, suggesting a steady momentum that could bring the Federal Reserve closer to hiking interest rates this year. The government is expected to report on Thursday that […]