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The names of the week: Chargebee, Unqork, Writer, Skilljar and mmhmm — what attracted investors

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Startup Jedi

We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.

Gloomy October crept imperceptibly, and in the meantime we worked hard to collect the most interesting news for you. Today we will talk about:

  • Chargebee, a startup for subscription management and recurring billing, raised $55 million in its latest investment round;

  • Unqork, no-code enterprise application platform, announced $207 million in Series C funding;

  • Writer, an AI-powered spell checker, raised $5 million in Seed round;

  • Skilljar, a customer education startup, raised $33 million in Series B funding;

  • mmhmm startup raised $31 million of investments in its 5th month of existence!

But first things first!


1. Chargebee startup raised $55 million to automate subscription and billing (Venturebeat)

Стартап Chargebee

About the project. Chargebee startup, which has a 9-year history, was created by immigrants from India and it is now based in San Francisco. The startup focuses on providing tools for managing subscriptions and recurring billing. Until today, the total amount of raised investments was $105 million: after a $14 million round in August 2019.

The Chargebee platform enables individuals and businesses to automate the processes of signing up, billing, making payments and collecting billing information, as well as making billing adjustments when upgrading or downgrading, and facilitating subscription renewals. In addition, Chargebee allows you to selectively route payments and currencies according to predefined rules.

Chargebee integrates with a number of popular payment systems, including Stripe, Braintree, WorldPay and PayPal, and is also the largest revenue management service provider in its segment. The startup’s client base includes more than 2,500 companies. Freshworks, Linux Academy, Fujitsu, etc startups are among them.

Investments. Chargebee’s latest $55 million investment round was led by Insight Venture Partners, with Tiger Global and Steadview Capital investors. The funds will be used to develop the product and expand the startup’s presence in the international market.

Expert opinion. Subscriptions account for 40% of e-commerce revenues and only 32% are made on a recurring basis — the rest are one-time payments. Chargebee has created more than 500 billing scripts, thereby automating a number of persistent problems for SAAS companies. Also, the Chargebee platform aggregates more than 25 payment gateways, allowing the customer to pay as it is convenient for him, and not as the service provider can. The project solves a very big headache for managing subscriptions, billing and billing — all this is provided in the form of a convenient customized service, where the user can very flexibly interact with his client and be sure that he independently manages all risks, including the loss of the client and his money … The project solves a very pressing problem in a fast growing market and boasts already 2,500 clients in 160 countries.


2. Unqork announces $207 million series C funding, raising its valuation to $2 Billion (Prnewswire)


About the project. Founded in 2017, Unqork has grown rapidly since then, more than doubling its headcount to 350 people from last year, while growing its current revenues at a triple-digit pace for three consecutive years.

Unqork is a no-code enterprise application platform that helps companies build, deploy and manage complex applications. Unlike most no-code platforms designed for newbies to programming, Unqork claims that its toolbox, including an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, can be used by large enterprises to create complex custom software without programming — at least three times faster and three times cheaper, but with higher quality than traditional approaches.

According to Forbes, Unqork is deployed in over 20 regions. Unqork is used by leading organizations in the financial services, insurance, government, healthcare and other industries, including such organizations as Goldman Sachs, Liberty Mutual, Maimonides Medical Center and others.

Investments. Unqork raised $207 million in series C funding, bringing the total fundings raised to over $365 million, and its valuation reached $2 billion, double the current requirements for so-called unicorn startups. The latest round of $51 million for the New York-based company ended less than eight months ago. The round was led by foundations managed by BlackRock Inc.

Unqork said it would use the fundings to expand its network of international clients, further develop the platform and develop partnerships with service firms.

Expert opinion. Unqork has rethought the way to create corporate software, and now most of the tasks can be solved independently, without the involvement of outsourcing companies, without hiring expensive specialists. Most of the tasks in companies are not “heavy”, and no-code solutions allow ordinary employees to automate any tasks within their function. We see a long-term trend of abandoning classical development methods in favor of simple solutions not related to programming. I foresee a great demand for “architects” whose main skills will be understanding the processes of companies and creating solutions for their rapid automation. 


3. Writer startup raised $5 million in seed round for its AI-powered spell checker (Techcrunch)

Стартап Writer

About the project. San Francisco-based Writer startup was founded in early 2019, but it was rebranded and relaunched in August of that year with a focus on diversity and inclusiveness, raising $5.2 million in seed round.

Writer is a kind of writing assistant, a sophisticated program similar to an artificial intelligence-based spelling checker. The service can track common spelling and grammatical errors, as well as things like formality of style, active voice, “liveliness” and other indicators that help “speak” the language of the brand, as well as correctly formulate thoughts.

Writer is intended for use when posting to social networks, sending emails or writing content, and helps prevent “common” mistakes. It works with some writing applications like Microsoft Word and as an extension in a web browser.

The early-stage startup, which employs 24 employees, has already attracted more than 100 clients, among the big players in the Bay Area — Twitter, Intuit and Postmates, as well as more traditional companies — Walmart and Lincoln Financial.

Writer charges corporate clients a platform fee and a monthly per user fee, which can range from $9 to $35 per month.

Investments. Writer is a young startup, and within 18 months the main effort was focused on developing its NLP engine. A $5 million seed round led by Upfront Ventures, Aspect Ventures, Bonfire Ventures and Broadway Angels should help Writer scale. And if you consider that the startup already has several top clients, then their near future looks rather cloudless.

Expert opinion. Billions of people around the world already, without even noticing it, use auto-corrections from companies like Google. Startup Writer goes further and can provide advice on how to structure the text, whether it’s a business letter or an article you’re writing. People often lose clients, friends, relationships due to the fact that they make mistakes, using the wrong words, phrases, or their text does not convey the intended meaning. The project has a big competitor, Grammarly, but the creator of the project still wants to target a private user, offering him a number of preset styles, and the service essentially only helps to match the style. The project will sell access to the browser plugin for $11.


4. Customer education startup Skilljar raised $33 million in new funding due to increased demand during the pandemic (Geekwire)


About the project. Skilljar startup appeared in Seattle in 2013, when former Amazon employees launched Everpath, which was trying to create Yelp for online classes. Soon there was a pivot and a reorientation to independent instructors — with a platform for online learning. Ultimately, Skilljar was launched and has so far delivered over 10 million hours of instruction and 100 million lessons through its training programs and virtual live training.

Skilljar now has about 100 employees, and it is planned to increase this number to 150 by the end of the year. In the face of the pandemic, Skilljar has switched entirely to remote work and has no plans to return to the office.

Skilljar provides templates for businesses to create online training programs for their customers, including webinar-style courses, quizzes and live training videos on a stand-alone website. It also integrates with Zoom, Webex, Salesforce, Box and other tools that companies use.

Skilljar is attractive to many different types of customers, in addition to software companies, which now make up the majority of its customer base, including some of the hardware and financial services companies: uses Skilljar to train its technicians and installers. Liberty Mutual has also started using the platform. Skilljar’s current customers include Tableau, Qualtrics, Zuora, Zendesk, U-Haul, Verizon and Cisco.

Investments. Skilljar raised $ 33 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Insight Partners, whose partner Jonathan Rosenbaum will serve on the Skilljar board, with existing investors Mayfield, Trilogy Equity Partners and Shasta Ventures. The startup’s pre-Series B valuation was $ 46 million, but the company declined to share its updated value.

The new funding will help the startup drive growth and cope with booming demand amid the pandemic, with Skilljar’s second-quarter revenues up 229% from a year earlier. The startup plans to invest in hiring as well as its go-to-market strategy.

Expert opinion. Any company wants to optimize its processes and sooner or later will look for solutions to create training programs for its employees and its customers. The demand for these services is fueled by a surge in sales and increased employee productivity. Anything that can hinder the growth of the company must be described and automated. MasterClass, Skillshare, Thinkific have already raised investments — and this is just the beginning, EdTech is showing very dynamic growth, and in the future we will most likely be able to master any service through individual educational programs.


5. 5-month startup mmhmm which makes virtual meetings more fun, raised $31 million before launch (Forbes)


About the project. Known for running Evernote for many years, the note-taking app that preceded a new wave of startups such as Notion and Roam Research, Phil Libin only created his startup mmhmm in May 2020, when he raised $ 4.6 million in July without any investment. or monetization.

mmhmm gives you the ability to control your appearance during conferences. The user launches the application and receives an online broadcast editor. In it, he superimposes windows and an image from the camera, increases and decreases the scale of each element, and adds video effects. If you want, you move your hand along the chart like a pointer, if you want, you again look like a classic face on the whole screen, the whole setting is in a few clicks. The resulting result mmhmm broadcasts to a virtual webcam, which can be selected as a video source in Zoom, Google Meet or YouTube. You can even add an assistant who will deal with all the technical parts, change and customize the slides while you are speaking in front of the audience.

The startup has a team of more than 20 people, thousands of test users, and more than 100 thousand people are on the product waiting list.

Investments. Startup mmhmm has raised just $31 million in funding, which includes a $21 million Series A investment from Sequoia, an additional $ 5 million raised for Libin’s startup studio All Turtles, and $5 million in debt from a Silicon Valley bank. Mmhmm ​​has a valuation of roughly $100 million — all before its general launch.

Expert opinion. This project started out as a joke and eventually became a full-fledged project. The project is very simple: it is a service for creating virtual presentations. mmhmm clearly shows a few things:

  • A “crazy” idea can be quite successful.

  • First, show how your project will look like, recruit an army of users waiting for the project, and then get to work.

  • COVID-19 works “magically” and any solutions that help understand you through video communication may be needed.

15 Oct 2020


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