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Inside SaaS (Aug 5th, 2019)

1. Consumer data-driven events app Fever has raised $35 million in Series D funding led by Rakuten Capital. The London- and Madrid-based startup uses proprietary algorithms to generate more customized events listings from anonymous data collection. Fever claims to have 25 million unique users per month across its main markets in London, New York, Paris and Madrid. With this latest funding round, Fever founder Ignacio Bachiller says there are now plans to expand into Chicago and Barcelona. "The round will cement Fever’s position as the go-to platform for consumers looking to discover new urban experiences," Bachiller said. -- TECH CRUNCH

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2. Tokyo-based news discovery app SmartNews has become the first unicorn news startup since 2015. A $28 million Series E investment round led by Japan Post Capital has valued the AI-powered news aggregation app at $1.1 billion. Founded in 2012, the company claims to have 20 million monthly active users in the U.S. and Japan and a user growth rate of 500 percent per year. SmartNews sources articles from almost 400 U.S. publishers to provide its users with a customized news feed. It faces steep competition from Apple, which unveiled its subscription-based Apple News + earlier this year, as well as Google. To differentiate his app, founder Ken Suzuki says he uses personalization technology to broaden a reader's interest instead of narrowing it. -- BLOOMBERG

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3. Digital identity verification platform Veri5Digital has raised $2 million in a Series A round led by venture capital firm Khosla Ventures. The Bengaluru-based startup offers an artificial intelligence-based know-your-customer (KYC) solution that helps address the growing need for strong customer authentication, an important regulation in open banking. “It is possible to not only deliver high assurance identity verification but also maintain the privacy of every individual,” said Vinod Khosla, who is founder of California-based Khosla Ventures. -- VC CIRCLE

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4. Crunchbase has reported that the U.S. accounts for 57.3 percent of all deals raised in the global SaaS sector. Data for the year through July 31 revealed that the majority of venture capital into SaaS companies finds its way to US-based firms, while total venture capital across all sectors is roughly 39.8 percent. This is in stark contrast to China, which records a total of 14.8 percent for all reported VC deal volume, but only 2.8 percent for SaaS rounds. -- CRUNCHBASE

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5. Talent management SaaS startup TalentGuard has raised $4 million in Series B funding. Founded in 2010 as a human resources consultancy, TalentGuard pivoted in 2013 to begin offering talent retention solutions via a software platform. The Series B round marks a turning point for the Austin-based startup, which has been mostly bootstrapped until now, receiving only $3.5 million from angel investors over the course of nine years. Founder Linda Ginac said in a statement that the new funds will help "to enhance our talent management platform, accelerate growth in international markets and expand our team.” -- SILICON HILLS

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6. A wave of tech startups is finding billions of dollars worth of success in serving other startupsIn recent news, several tech startups have raised large cash injections thanks to business models that directly serve the strong and growing SaaS ecosystem. Two-year-old fintech startup Brex, which provides credit cards to other startups, was valued at $2.6 billion in June following a Series C-2 round. Last May, employee equity management platform Carta was valued at $1.7 billion after receiving an investment led by Andreessen Horowitz; its business model also is designed to serve startups. "Startups are great because they're underserved and provide a lot of feedback to companies like ours," said Kanishka Maheshwari, a founder of InterPrime, a company that provides cash management for startups. -- BUSINESS TIMES

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7. SurveyMonkey has appointed its first CIO to drive new business customer strategy. The announcement comes as the survey software company is experiencing strong growth and earnings. CEO Zander Lurie told CNBC in a video interview that SurveyMonkey "thrives on sentiment data" that it provides to users on its platform, adding that 20 percent of their subscription base is now enterprise customers. -- WSJ (paywall)

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8. Atlassian has revealed that it uses gamification techniques to handle technical support. To improve how customer support and development teams manage tech problems, Atlassian has introduced a system that provides developers with "two poker chips" for every support ticket completed. “Every week, we collect a tax – typically one poker chip from each developer. The tax goes up and down as needed to make sure we’re draining the Overhead backlog," said the company’s Senior Development Team Lead Andrew Burleson. Developers are then encouraged to collect more chips by handling more tickets, allowing them to build up a "bank" of chips that they can use to purchase time when they are working on other deadlines. -- CRN

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9. U.K. travel app Upgrade Pack has raised $1.5 million in a round led by a private investor. The startup, which is now worth $4.1 million, also appointed a new chairman. The app aims to connect users directly to airline and hotel APIs, enabling upgrades at a typical saving of 15 percent to 35 percent through its closed online marketplace. -- PROLIFIC LONDON

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10. Food delivery service Doordash has bought its competitor Caviar from Square for $410 million. The cash-and-stock deal sent Square's stock tumbling 8 percent at its announcement and signals a growing trend of mergers in the food delivery service industry. "The acquisition further enhances the breadth of our merchant selection, enabling us to offer customers even more choice when they order through DoorDash," DoorDash CEO Tony Xu said in a press release. -- BUSINESS INSIDER

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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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