Inside SaaS - July 24th, 2019 |

Inside SaaS (Jul 24th, 2019)

"Netflix for retro gaming" / SaaS fintech "near unicorn" / Singapore's second unicorn crowned

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1. Retro game streaming platform Antstream Arcade scored a  "substantial" investment from Tencent to propel launch in the U.S. later this year. Billed as the "Netflix for retro gaming," London-based Antstream, which is currently only available in the U.K., plans to use the undisclosed investment it has received in a Series A funding round to undertake global expansion, including in the U.S. and Asia. Born as a Kickstarter campaign, the streaming service has a catalog of over 2,000 classic retro games, which costs £9.99 ($12.43) per month, or £7.99 ($9.94) per month if you sign up for a full year. The service also allows for multi-player challenges.  -- CNBC

2. Financial advisory fintech MoneyLion has raised $160 million to arrive at "near-unicorn" status. The New York-based fintech company generates most of its money from subscription services that cost $19.99 per month, Dee Choubey, founder and CEO of MoneyLion, told TechCrunch, which sets it apart for the business models of most other neobank service providers. The Series C round, which was co-led by Edison Partners and Greenspring Associates, also included a strategic investment from Capital One. Choubey added that more than 5 million customers use the app, but declined to say how many subscribers the mobile bank service has. -- TECH CRUNCH

3. ON THE CUSP: Retail-focused image recognition startup Trax has landed $100 million in funding to become Singapore's second-ever unicorn. The tech company is now valued at $1.3 billion, according to Reuters, and joins ride-hailing app Grab as Singapore's only unicorns -- startups worth over $1 billion. Trax's retail-focused technology is currently used by Heineken and Nestle, and the fresh funding round -- led by Chinese VC firm Hopu Investments -- will be put into three acquisitions that the company plans to undertake in China and beyond. "We are convinced that Trax can grow rapidly in China's consumer landscape," said Hopu Investments managing director Gunther Hamm.

Earlier this year, Trax partnered with Google Cloud to expand its reach to global retailers. Through the use of machine learning and image recognition technology, Trax "Shelfie Cameras" create streams of data from customers' visual interactions with retail experiences by using IoT cameras that are affixed to shelves. “About 90 percent of shopping worldwide is still done in physical stores. It’s our mission to provide ‘eyes in the store’ on every SKU," said Joel Bar-El, Trax’s Israeli CEO and co-founder. -- STRAITS TIMES

4. Customer analytics startup Heap raised $55 million in Series C funding that will be used to expand the team and presence in Europe. The investment round, led by VC firm New Capital, will go into "roughly doubling" Heap's team to 300 people in the next 18 months, says EO and co-founder Matin Movassate, who is a former product manager at Facebook. Heap has witnessed a year in the fast lane, Movassate added, with the company doubling revenue and employees from 75 to 150 people within the past 12 months. Heap sells a self-serve analytics interface that allows users to quickly set up a drip of data insights rather than wait weeks for engineers to program a new customized application. -- CRUNCHBASE

5. Professional services marketplace Thumbtack has raised $150 million in funding to set valuation at $1.7 billion. However, the latest funding round comes after a trying period for the platform-as-a-service startup, which spent the last two years rebuilding its business. Co-founder and CEO Marco Zappacosta writes in a blog post that the company faced numerous challenges over the past years. "We took a business that was growing more than 80 percent year over year and we pressed pause,” he wrote. A major change to Thumbtack's business is that it no longer charges local professionals every time they send a quote, which is now automatically generated for customers. -- WSJ (paywall)

6. Neobank platform Zeta has raised nearly $60 million to increase its valuation to $300 million. The full-stack neobank platform specializes in providing financial corporate benefit programs and received its maiden external funding round from French employee benefits company Sodexo, which has been partnered with Zeta for over two years. Zeta issues credit, debit and prepaid products, as well as finance enterprise solutions, including travel and entertainment cards, purchasing cards, expense management, salary disbursement, and corporate gifting. Zeta currently operates in Asia and Latin America and plans to use the new funds to expand to the U.S., the U.K. and Europe. -- TECH CRUNCH

7. Denver-based cybersecurity SaaS firm StackHawk has raised $2.1 million in seed round funding. The company's CEO, Joni Klippert, is a former product manager at Splunk, an IT security platform and competitor. The seed round was led by Denver-based tech investor Foundry Group, which announced a $750 million tech fund last year. Funds will be put towards expanding its engineering team and accelerating product development. -- FINSMES

8. Slack has overhauled its desktop app for Windows and MacOS to become 33 percent faster and use 50 percent less RAM. The workplace messaging app announced on Tuesday that the updates would take effect immediately, a project two years in the making that had Slack engineers rebuild the entire desktop app to install a performance upgrade. General updates in client-facing technologies marked an impetus to the overhaul. - THE VERGE

9. Sales CRM unicorn Freshworks is inching closer to a possible NASDAQ listing next year. The Chennai-based SaaS firm, which has raised $250 million across eight funding rounds and acquired 10 startups since 2010, is reportedly preparing for an IPO in the beginning of 2021. Freshworks claims to have over 150,000 clients worldwide, including Toshiba and Cisco, placing it in direct competition with CRM heavyweights Salesforce and Hubspot. The company is currently valued at $1.5 billion and operates a US headquarters in San Bruno, California. -- INC42

10. World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee has drafted a "contract for the web" to address hate speech and censorship. Credited with creating the internet while he was a young physicist working at Switzerland's CERN, Berners-Lee now wants to hear from the greater public and tech community about his proposal to create a new "social contract" for using the web. The idea took shape at last year's Web Summit in Lisbon and was propelled by his dismay over how the internet has evolved. For companies, Berners-Lee implores greater inclusiveness of disadvantaged groups, as well as developing data protection rights.-- CNET

This newsletter is written and curated by Justin Calderón. Justin is based out of Barcelona, Spain, and has covered technology and SaaS news for a variety of publications, including the BBC and Newsweek. Follow him on Twitter at @justinfuyun

Editor: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside).

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