Top tech startup news for Tuesday, March 7, 2023: Banyan, Binance, DefiChain, Meta, Opkit, and Sensate
Good evening! Below are some of the top tech startup news stories for today Tuesday, March 7, 2023.
U.S. bankruptcy judge approves Binance.US $1.3 billion deal for Voyager
After a string of bad news from the SEC and New York regulators, Binance finally received some good news. Today, bankrupt crypto lender Voyager Digital received court approval on Tuesday to sell its assets and transfer its customers to Binance.US in a deal valued at $1.3 billion. However, Voyager faces additional hurdles before the sale is finalized, Reuters reported.
At a hearing in New York today, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Wiles approved Voyager’s restructuring plan for its assets to be acquired by Binance.US. The announcement comes just two weeks after the SEC and New York regulator rejected Binance.US’s $1 billion deal to buy Voyager.
Binance announced in November that it was preparing to relaunch a bid to buy the embattled Voyager Digital after FTX’s failed bid to acquire the company. In September, FTX acquired bankrupt Voyager’s assets for $1.42 billion. Then in February, Binance agreed to pay $20 million in cash to Voyager and to take on crypto assets deposited by Voyager customers. According to Voyager, the customers’ crypto assets, valued at $1.3 billion in February, account for the bulk of the deal’s valuation.
Voyager filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on July 5 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York on Tuesday, according to a filing from the company. In its bankruptcy filing, Voyager estimated that it had more than 100,000 creditors and between $1 billion and $10 billion in assets and liabilities in the same range.
About two weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that Facebook’s parent company Meta Platforms was planning a fresh round of layoffs that could affect thousands of workers just a few weeks after CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised no more layoffs. Now, there are reports that Meta plans to cut thousands of jobs as soon as this week.
According to a report published by Bloomberg on Monday evening, Meta is planning another round of layoffs that could affect thousands of workers, just four months after the social giant let go over 10,000 employees from its workforce.
Bloomberg reported that the job cuts could start this week and represent an additional round of layoffs, adding to the 13% of Meta workers who were laid off as part of a major cost-cutting plan announced in November. But a Meta spokesperson declined to comment on the report.
Zuckerberg has said that he would “take accountability” for the company’s previously announced cost-cutting plans, saying that he views layoffs “as a last resort.”
“We’re restructuring teams to increase our efficiency,” Zuckerberg said last fall when Meta announced layoffs. “But these measures alone won’t bring our expenses in line with our revenue growth, so I’ve also made the hard decision to let people go.”
On November 9, Facebook’s Meta laid off 13% of its total workforce, or more than 11,000 employees, as it struggled with soaring costs and a weak advertising market. The company also lost $700 billion of its value over a risky metaverse bet.
Fintech startup Trukkr raises $6.4 million in seed funding to provide financial access to Pakistan’s trucking industry
Tukkr, a fintech platform for Pakistan’s trucking industry, has raised $6.4 million in a seed funding round to roll out lending products for truckers in Pakistan. The latest funding is in addition to the $600,000 seed funding Trukkr raised in 2021.
The round was led by Accion Venture Lab and London-based Sturgeon Capital, with participation from Haitou Global, Al Zayani Venture Capital, and investor Peter Findley.
Founded in 2019 by CEO Sheryar Bawany, Mishal Adamjee, Haji Ali, Waqas Khatri, and Kasra Zunnaiyer, Trukkr started out as a marketplace to connect truckers with shippers. The startup later pivoted into fintech but has no plan to scrap the marketplace model entirely. The company’s new business model is similar to Indonesia’s Kargo, Mexico’s Solvento, and Kobo 360 in Africa, but adapted to the Pakistani market.
In addition to the funding, CEO Sheryar also said Trukkr has secured a non-banking financial institution (NBFI) license from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).
“It is very early in Pakistan for a marketplace model,” says Sheryar Bawany, co-founder and CEO of Trukkr. “The biggest problem that we saw in connecting shippers with transporters was that transporters did not have money to do the trips.”
Currently, less than 5% of trucking companies in Pakistan using its platform have access to financial services, Trukkr said. This leaves the companies often having to wait up to 90 days for payments and leaving them unable to cover expenses such as fuel, tolls, and truck maintenance. Trukkr has some 20,000 drivers on its platform, servicing 100 of the biggest companies in the country including Shan Foods, Artistic Milliners, International Industries Limited, and Lucky Cement, co-founder Mishal Adamjee said in a statement.
National Fighting Championship (NFC) is the biggest German MMA league with the latest NFC event (NFC 10). It is the German version of the widely known UFC, an organization in charge of the ultimate fighting league in Germany.
DefiChain, the world’s leading blockchain on the Bitcoin network with $578 million in TVL is also known to be fighting to revolutionize the current banking system. With both having the same fighting spirit, DefiChain has decided to sponsor the National Fighting Championship in Germany.
Today, DeFiChain announced that it’s sponsoring this year’s National Fighting Championship (NFC) in Germany. In a news release, DeFiChain said its community has voted to sponsor the National Fighting Championship (NFC) this year.
This year alone, NFC, with its latest event (NFC 10) reaching more than 10 million viewers worldwide, is hosting six live events in 2023, and each event attracts 2,500-6,000 fans onsite. The fights are also broadcast on German television on Sport1 as well as on social media.
DeFiChain has a rapidly growing user base in Germany. Over the years, DeFiChain has had a significant presence in the German market, which has not been a recent focus of marketing activities. By leveraging this sponsorship opportunity, the startup aims to strengthen its connection with the thriving German community and continue to cultivate its strong presence in the market.
In addition, according to market research conducted by agencies partnering with DeFiChain Accelerator, individuals within the crypto community are keenly interested in gaming, basketball, fighting sports, and drone racing. By sponsoring the largest German MMA league, DeFiChain has the opportunity to draw more crypto enthusiasts to its most robust market.
Banyan Infrastructure lands $25M in Series B funding to unlock capital for renewable infrastructure projects
Banyan Infrastructure is a sustainable financing software platform designed to simplify, accelerate, and optimize the financing of sustainable infrastructure across the full life cycle. Banyan Infrastructure solves the critical pain points experienced in complex sustainable infrastructure projects by replacing spreadsheets, emails, and varied documents with digitized loans and workflows in addition to automating data ingestion, risk monitoring, and contractual compliance for each loan, resulting in faster financing and greater capital deployment with more efficiency, scale, and liquidity across the deal lifecycle.
To further grow its platform, Banyan announced today it has raised $25 million in Series B funding led by climate software investment firm Energize Ventures, with participation from new investors SE Ventures and Elemental Excelerator, and existing investors VoLo Earth and Ulu Ventures. The latest round brings the company’s total funding to over $42 million.
In conjunction with the funding, Banyan Infrastructure also announced that Juan Muldoon, partner at Energize, has joined its board of directors.
Founded in 2018 by CEO Will Greene and COO Amanda Li, Banyan’s project finance software enables banks, financiers, and developers to automate and track complex project finance transactions with a unified risk and data management system. Banyan also enables customers to rapidly grow their sustainable infrastructure portfolio and achieve net-zero targets.
Since its inception five years ago, Banyan has experienced 700% year-over-year growth over the past year, securing partnerships with leading customers in infrastructure lending, investing, and development, including SMBC and Standard Solar. The company also recently announced its participation in Elemental Excelerator, a nonprofit with an innovative model for funding climate tech deployment. To date, Banyan is enabling billions of sustainable infrastructure investments across seven countries and thousands of projects.
In a statement, CEO Greene said: “Because standardization is lacking for sustainable technology, risk-averse investors are hesitant to move quickly in this relatively new industry. Our software focuses on reducing transaction costs and increasing transparency to create previously unseen speed and scale of project finance. The support from Energize and our new investors help unlock the rapid deployment of sustainable infrastructure that our planet needs.”
Insurtech startup Opkit launches out of stealth with over $1M in funding to provide health insurance verification for telehealth companies
Collecting health insurance details and verifying coverage is a complex, manually-intensive process that healthcare providers must perform before each appointment to ensure payment. Unlike brick-and-mortar providers, which are regional and only deal with a handful of different insurance companies, telehealth companies serve patients from many regions and consequently deal with many different insurance companies and plans.
This, along with the fact that telehealth companies are unable to collect patients’ physical insurance cards and generally see more patients overall, makes accepting insurance, particularly challenging for this new kind of provider. Currently, there is no way for telehealth practices to easily look up insurance coverage information for new patients, particularly when they could be from anywhere in the country. That’s why one insurtech startup is on a mission to address the critical pain points facing telehealth companies.
Enter Opkit, a New York-based insurtech startup that lets providers look up a patient’s insurance and coverage status in minutes. Opkit is a Y Combinator startup founded by early engineers from Brex. Opkit is a modern, developer-friendly health insurance verification platform used by some of the top healthcare organizations.
Today, Opkit emerged from stealth with initial funding of more than $1 million to enable telehealth companies to quickly verify patients’ insurance and fetch relevant benefits, including copays and deductibles. The round was led by Global Founders Capital, Mischief (Plaid founder Zach Perret’s fund), Socially Financed, Y Combinator, and Rex Salisbury, a former partner at Andreessen Horowitz.
Founded by co-founder and CEO Sherwood Callaway and CTO Justin Ko, Opkit is tackling the massive problem of insurance verification, focusing on telehealth companies and virtual medical practices that experience this problem more acutely than brick-and-mortar healthcare providers.
Sensate raises $3.2M Seed round to provide relief to people suffering from anxiety disorders and stress
Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States? According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults (19.1% of the population) age 18 and older every year. Unknown to many, anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. That’s why one tech startup is on a mission to offer an easy solution for people seeking relief from the toxic effects of stress and anxiety.
Enter Sensate, a wellness tech startup that has created a patented relaxation device+app designed to quickly help you experience deep relaxation and turn the tide on stress and anxiety. The Sensate device looks like a black plastic pebble — or the same size as a computer mouse — that’s supposed to sit in the middle of your chest. As Sensate sits on your chest and vibrates at various low frequencies, the Sensate app plays calming music and purrs on you.
Due to its success and popular demands from customers, Sensate was able to raise $1,001,718 from 4,323 backers of its patented relaxation device+app.
To further scale its operations and expand access to wellness to more people, Sensate announced today that it closed $3.2M in a seed funding round in February led by Incisive Ventures, with participation from Share Ventures, Geek Ventures, Dangerous Ventures, Unlock Venture Partners, What If Ventures, Moai Capital, and 37 Angels.
A portion of the seed round was raised via Wefunder, the leading retail investment platform for Regulation Crowdfunding. Through Wefunder, the company offered over 900 customers, early supporters, and friends, including Hollywood celebrities, the chance to become shareholders in Sensate alongside institutional investors in a seed round via an SPV.
Sensate’s hardware and subscription app innovation uses patented technology designed to activate the body’s natural ability to self-regulate. An incredibly easy, fast, and accessible way to relieve stress, the device was developed by physicians and tested in clinics. Using infrasonic therapy to help the body’s nervous system recover from daily stresses, Sensate’s intelligent touch therapy is entirely effort-free for the user.