As we draw a line under 2023, a year with considerable ups and downs, let's have a look at the top 10 stories you’ve been reading at Tech.eu.
Ponzi 2.0: The wild story of an investment into an Estonian startup that doesn’t exist
Tech.eu Senior Writer Cate Lawrence brought us the wild and wooly tale of a Parisian hedge fund Hedonova’s announcement of a $16 million investment in an Estonian startup.
The only problem was that the startup didn't exist, the funding round didn't happen, and the deeper we dug, the stranger the story became.
For the record, we’re still waiting for Hedonova to agree to our request for an on-screen interview to clarify the matter.
VanMoof: The more they sell, the more they lose
Prior to the eventual collapse and subsequent acquisition of Dutch developer and designer of urban e-bikes VanMoof, the writing was on the wall.
Dan Taylor had a look at VanMoof’s 2021 sales figures, determining that the more bikes VanMoof sold, the more money they lost. In 2021, VanMoof posted a gross margin loss of €11.9 million, a figure up from a loss of €6.7 million just one year prior.
Coupled with quality control issues and the company’s associated cost of repair or replacement under warranty as well as a theft protection option that offered a free replacement, VanMoof filed for bankruptcy on 17 July 2023.
Want to live longer? This Berlin startup aims to bring you back from the dead
Berlin-based Cate Lawrence happens to rent office space just down the street from a startup that’s working on extending your life by bringing you back from the dead.
They also park a standby ambulance just beneath her windows.
And so it was that Cate sat down with Tomorrow Biostasis to discuss how the startup is developing human cryopreservation so that future medical technology may revive people and treat their underlying cause of death. And facing a number of scientific challenges in the process.
Generative AI is bringing the biggest disruption to filmmaking in 100 years
Nearly half a year before the 2023 Writers Guild of America strike and subsequent SAG-AFTRA strike, both of which contained grievances surrounding the usage of generative AI, Tech.eu brought you the story of London-based Flawless.
The company has developed TrueSync, a software package that uses AI to match actors' mouth movements when a film is translated into another language and can also be used to “clean” up dialogue, i.e removing swear words in film footage.
When Cate Lawrence questioned about AI putting people out of work, Flawless founder and co-CEO Scott Mann answered:
"Synthetic audio isn't at the stage where it has the nuance to do it better than a human. And that's going to be the case for a while.”
Spanish startup Jeff never closed a €90 million round, hasn’t paid employees for nine months and is now filing for bankruptcy
In another exposé, Dan Taylor dug into a Spanish Commercial Registry entry that indicated that Valencia-based entrepreneurship-for-all startup Jeff had voluntarily filed for bankruptcy.
Odd circumstances considering that just five months prior, the startup had announced a €90 million funding round that was aimed at putting the company back on track after struggling through the pandemic.
The problem was the round never closed with Gómez citing that the Bank of Dubai "had paralysed the outflow of capital".
Goldman and Co. aren’t sweatin’ $110 million in new round for Fever at $1.8 billion valuation
With the pandemic a thing of the past, and pent-up partygoers ready to pounce, New York City-based/Spanish roots entertainment discovery and ticketing service Fever ordered up a new $110 million at a valuation of $1.8 billion.
The round was announced just over one year since hauling down over $227 million in a Series E round, one that saw Fever obtain unicorn status.
Goldman Sachs led the round alongside the participation of Eurazeo, Convivialité Ventures, Goodwater Capital, Alignment Growth, Vitruvian Partners, and Smash Capital.
Neobanks across Europe fatten up as VCs demand profits
Tech.eu fintech specialist John Reynolds reported on the emergence of neobanks across Europe and how they’ve been one of the landmark disruptions to financial services over the past eight years.
But despite the hype, these financial disruptors have enjoyed only mixed success and those neobanks that are winning out now face the conundrum of profiting from their increasingly enlarged businesses.
ArK Kapital brings another €100 million aboard, now offering €400 million in financing as it expands to Germany
Rounding out Q1, Stockholm-based ArK Kapital announced that it’d secured another €100 million in presumably debt funding from a rather secretive Swedish bank.
In conjunction with the new capital ArK announced that while it’d been floating in and around Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, and the UK since 2021, they’d added Germany into the fold.
A deep dive into the European 'buy now, pay later' (BNPL) market
Tech.eu’s John Reynolds spoke to a range of BNPL players across the continent and fintech experts, taking a temperature check on the BNPL industry and where it is heading.
Reynolds examined the mechanism’s upward trajectory and mainstream appeal as well as dug into the industry’s controversy and challenges noting that critics say the still largely unregulated industry is a trapdoor to unsustainable spending and reliance on debt.
Lilium needs to raise $250 million, Tencent puts up $100 million at first close
Back in May, Dan Taylor brought you the news that according to an SEC filing, publicly listed electric vertical take-off and landing jet developer Lilium had announced plans to raise $250 million.
However, the Munich-based eVTOL jet maker, which was listed via a SPAC in late 2021 had seen its stock price plummet, was running out of time and money, and facing a Nasdaq delisting.
Historic backer Tencent pre-funded the purchase of $100 million in shares, as well as committed to pre-fund the purchase of an additional $75 million in shares, contingent upon Lilium being able to secure a matching $75 million via "equity, debt or grants from certain third parties".
In July it was revealed that Lilium had achieved this goal due in part to an Earlybird-led shares purchase that saw participation from BIT Capital, UVC Partners, Frank Thelen, and multiple Lilium board members.
Lead image: karlyukav