By VCDeals :
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Group buying: Tencent ([[TCEHY]], [[TCTZF]]) Holdings reportedly led a $3B round in Pinduoduo, a Chinese social media-based e-commerce company. The round gave Pinduoduo a $15B valuation.
Pinduoduo allows users to group buy into deals from various segments with friends through apps like Tencent's WeChat. Deal segments include everything from food to cosmetics and baby products.
Pinduoduo launched in 2015 and had gross merchandise value of $637.5M per month in 2017, up from $15.9M a month in early 2016. Over 200M people placed a purchase on the platform in 2017.
Facial recognition: Alibaba ( BABA ) Group led a $600M Series C round in Chinese AI company SenseTime. The round brought valuation up to over $4.5B. Temasek Holdings and Suning.com also participated.
SenseTime tech is used in surveillance systems used by law enforcement and commercial customer. The company is also working on self-driving algorithms and has a partnership with Honda.
Alibaba's Ant Financial developed a facial recognition-based mobile payment system. Alibaba is also using AI to help develop its smart cities projects.
Digital health: Merck ( MRK ) Global Health Innovation Fund and Microsoft ( MSFT ) Ventures participated in a $105M round for Livongo Health, a consumer digital health company. General Catalyst and Kinnevik led the round with participants including DFJ, Kleiner Perkins, and Caufield & Byers. The round brought total funding up to $248.2M .
Livongo currently offers Livongo for Diabetes and Livongo for Hypertension, which offer a combination of consumer health tech, personalized health recommendations, and real-time support for those conditions.
Livongo plans to use the funding for growth acceleration, investments in data science, to deepen integrations with existing clients and partners, and to develop a comprehensive consumer platform.
Competition: Roche ([[RHHBY]], [[RHHBF]]) acquired diabetes patient-support tech company mySugr for as much as $100M . Novo Nordisk ( NVO ) partnered with Glooko for a diabetes management app.
B2B travel platform: Alibaba's Ant Financial participated in a $95M Series C round for travel B2B platform Ba Zhua Yu Online, or Octopus. The round also included travel and personal finance conglomerate Tempus Group and investment firm CCB International.
Octopus was founded in 2012 and says it has served over 20K travel agencies and distributors on its platform, which offers domestic and international air travel and car rentals.
Octopus will leverage Ant Financial's online banking and Alipay. Alibaba has also partnered with B2C travel platform Feizhu and partnered with Marriott for a JV to sell online travel bookings in China.
Competition: Travel guide booking service Hi Guides ($50M in total funding, Sequoia Capital and Matrix Partners among backers), Trip.com (acquired by Ctrip.com ( CTRP ) in November), and Klook ($96.5M in total funding, Sequoia Capital and Goldman Sachs backing).
Cystic fibrosis treatments: Novartis (NVS) Venture Fund co-led a $41M Series B round in Enterprise Therapeutics, a cystic fibrosis disease startup.
Enterprise has three drug targets for cystic fibrosis and other respiratory diseases. The company will use the funding to move three projects into clinical stage and to push one through a proof-of-concept trial.
Competition: Vertex (VRTX) is one of the leading cystic fibrosis treatment companies.
AI-crowd customer service: Microsoft participated in a $20M Series B round for AI-based customer service startup Directly. Other participants included Constanoa Ventures, Northgate, and SVB, which contributed $3M in debt financing.
Directly says it stands out from the competition by combining crowd power and AI. For example, Microsoft uses Directly to connect customer questions to a network of trusted experts (paid $20 to $60 per question with Directly getting a 30% cut). Directly's AI sorts questions into topics and finds the best expert for that topic. Other Directly customers included Autodesk, Pinterest, Samsung, and SAP.
Competition: LivePerson (LPSN) and Pypestream ($22.5M in funding) are two in a crowded field.
Data backup and recovery: Salesforce (CRM) Ventures participated in a $15.5M round for data backup and recovery solutions company OwnBackup. Vertex Ventures an Insight Venture Partners co-led the round with participation from Innovation Endeavors and Oryzn Capital.
OwnBackup offers cloud-to-cloud automated daily backups of SaaS and PaaS data with data compare and restore tools for recovery. OwnBackup is built on the Salesforce Platform and available on Salesforce AppExchange.
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