La Haus is bringing US tech services to Latin America’s real estate market

The alchemy for a successful startup can be hard to parse. Sometimes, it’s who you know. Sometimes it’s where you go to school. And sometimes it’s what you do. In the case of La Haus, a startup that wants to bring US tech-enabled real estate services to the Latin American real estate market, it’s all three.

The company was founded by Jerónimo Uribe and Rodrigo Sánchez Ríos, both graduates of Stanford University who previously founded and ran Jaguar Capital, a Colombian real estate development firm which had built over $350 million worth of retail and residential projects in the country.

Uribe, son of the controversial Colombian President Daniel Uribe (who has been accused of financing paramilitary forces during Colombia’s long-running civil war and wire-tapping journalists and negotiators during the peace talks to end the conflict) and Sánchez Ríos, a former private equity professional at the multi-billion dollar firm Lindsey Goldberg were exposed to the perils and promise of real estate development with their former firm.

Now the two entrepreneurs are using their know-how, connections, and a new technology stack to streamline the home-buying process.

It’s that ambition that caught the attention of Pete Flint, the founder of Trulia and now an investor at the venture capital firm NfX. Flint, an early investor in La Haus saw the potential in La Haus to help the Latin American real estate market leapfrog the services available in the US. Spencer Rascoff, the co-founder of Zillow also invested in the company.

“Latin America is very early on in its infancy of having really professional agents and really professional brokerages,” said Flint.

LaHaus, with a product that guides homebuyers through every stage of the process with its own agents and salespeople selling properties sourced from the company’s developer connections.

“The average hone in the US sells in six weeks or less,” said La Haus chief financial officer Sánchez Ríos in an interview. “That timing in Latin America is fourteen months. That’s the dramatic difference. There is no infrastructure in Latin America as a whole.”

La Haus began by reaching out to the founders’ old colleagues in the real estate development industry and started listing new developments on its service. Now the company has a mix of existing and new properties for sale on its site and an expanded geographic footprint in both Colombia and Mexico.

“We have a portal… that acts as a lead generating machine,” said Sánchez Ríos. “We aggregate listings, we vet them. We focus on new developers.”

The company has about 500 developers using the service to list properties in Colombia and another 200 in Mexico. So far, the company has facilitated over 2000 transactions through its platform in three years.

“Real estate now is turning fully digital and also in this market professionalizing,” said Flint. “The publicly traded online real estate companies are approaching all time highs. People are just prizing the space that they spend their time in… the technologies from VR and digital walkthroughs to digital closes become not just a nice to have but a necessity. “

Capitalizing on the open field in the market, La Haus recently closed on $10 million in financing led by Kaszek Ventures, one of the leading funds in Latin America. That funding will be used to accelerate the company’s geographic expansion in response to increasing demand for digital solutions in response to the COVID-19 epidemic.

“Because of Covid-19, consumers’ willingness to conduct real estate transactions online has gone through the roof,” said Sánchez Ríos, in a statement. “Fortunately we were in the position to enable that, and we expect to see a permanent shift online in how people conduct all, or at least most, of the home-buying process. This funding gives us ample runway to build the end-to-end real estate experience for the post-Covid Latin America.”

Joining NFX, Rascoff, and Kaszek Ventures are a slew of investors including Acrew Capital, IMO Ventures and Beresford Ventures. Entrepreneurs like Nubank founder David Velez; Brian Requarth, the founder of Vivareal (now GrupoZap); and Hadi Partovi, CEO and founder of Code.org also participated in the financing.

“We backed La Haus because we saw many of the same ingredients that resulted in a fantastic outcome for many of our successful companies: A world-class team with complementary skills; a huge addressable market; and an almost religious zeal by the founders to solve a big problem with technology,” said Hernan Kazah, co-founder and managing partner of Kaszek Ventures. 

La Haus is bringing US tech services to Latin America’s real estate market

The alchemy for a successful startup can be hard to parse. Sometimes, it’s who you know. Sometimes it’s where you go to school. And sometimes it’s what you do. In the case of La Haus, a startup that wants to bring US tech-enabled real estate services to the Latin American real estate market, it’s all three.

The company was founded by Jerónimo Uribe and Rodrigo Sánchez Ríos, both graduates of Stanford University who previously founded and ran Jaguar Capital, a Colombian real estate development firm which had built over $350 million worth of retail and residential projects in the country.

Uribe, son of the controversial Colombian President Daniel Uribe (who has been accused of financing paramilitary forces during Colombia’s long-running civil war and wire-tapping journalists and negotiators during the peace talks to end the conflict) and Sánchez Ríos, a former private equity professional at the multi-billion dollar firm Lindsey Goldberg were exposed to the perils and promise of real estate development with their former firm.

Now the two entrepreneurs are using their know-how, connections, and a new technology stack to streamline the home-buying process.

It’s that ambition that caught the attention of Pete Flint, the founder of Trulia and now an investor at the venture capital firm NfX. Flint, an early investor in La Haus saw the potential in La Haus to help the Latin American real estate market leapfrog the services available in the US. Spencer Rascoff, the co-founder of Zillow also invested in the company.

“Latin America is very early on in its infancy of having really professional agents and really professional brokerages,” said Flint.

LaHaus, with a product that guides homebuyers through every stage of the process with its own agents and salespeople selling properties sourced from the company’s developer connections.

“The average hone in the US sells in six weeks or less,” said La Haus chief financial officer Sánchez Ríos in an interview. “That timing in Latin America is fourteen months. That’s the dramatic difference. There is no infrastructure in Latin America as a whole.”

La Haus began by reaching out to the founders’ old colleagues in the real estate development industry and started listing new developments on its service. Now the company has a mix of existing and new properties for sale on its site and an expanded geographic footprint in both Colombia and Mexico.

“We have a portal… that acts as a lead generating machine,” said Sánchez Ríos. “We aggregate listings, we vet them. We focus on new developers.”

The company has about 500 developers using the service to list properties in Colombia and another 200 in Mexico. So far, the company has facilitated over 2000 transactions through its platform in three years.

“Real estate now is turning fully digital and also in this market professionalizing,” said Flint. “The publicly traded online real estate companies are approaching all time highs. People are just prizing the space that they spend their time in… the technologies from VR and digital walkthroughs to digital closes become not just a nice to have but a necessity. “

Capitalizing on the open field in the market, La Haus recently closed on $10 million in financing led by Kaszek Ventures, one of the leading funds in Latin America. That funding will be used to accelerate the company’s geographic expansion in response to increasing demand for digital solutions in response to the COVID-19 epidemic.

“Because of Covid-19, consumers’ willingness to conduct real estate transactions online has gone through the roof,” said Sánchez Ríos, in a statement. “Fortunately we were in the position to enable that, and we expect to see a permanent shift online in how people conduct all, or at least most, of the home-buying process. This funding gives us ample runway to build the end-to-end real estate experience for the post-Covid Latin America.”

Joining NFX, Rascoff, and Kaszek Ventures are a slew of investors including Acrew Capital, IMO Ventures and Beresford Ventures. Entrepreneurs like Nubank founder David Velez; Brian Requarth, the founder of Vivareal (now GrupoZap); and Hadi Partovi, CEO and founder of Code.org also participated in the financing.

“We backed La Haus because we saw many of the same ingredients that resulted in a fantastic outcome for many of our successful companies: A world-class team with complementary skills; a huge addressable market; and an almost religious zeal by the founders to solve a big problem with technology,” said Hernan Kazah, co-founder and managing partner of Kaszek Ventures. 

African payment startup Chipper Cash raises $13.8M Series A

African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has closed a $13.8 million Series A funding round led by Deciens Capital and plans to hire 30 new staff globally.

The raise caps an event filled run for the San Francisco based payments company, founded two years ago by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled.

The two came to America for academics, met in Iowa while studying at Grinnell College and ventured out to Silicon Valley for stints in big tech: Facebook for Serunjogi and Flickr and Yahoo! for Moujaled.

The startup call beckoned and after launching Chipper Cash in 2018, the duo convinced 500 Startups and and Liquid 2 Ventures — co-founded by American football legend Joe Montana — to back their company with seed funds.

Two years and $22 million in total capital raised later, Chipper Cash offers its mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.

“We’re now at over one and a half million users and doing over a $100 million dollars a month in volume,” Serunjogi told TechCrunch on a call.

Chipper Cash does not release audited financial data, but does share internal performance accounting with investors. Deciens Capital and Raptor Group co-led the startup’s Series A financing, with repeat support from 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures .

Deciens Capital founder Dan Kimmerling confirmed the fund’s lead on the investment and review of Chipper Cash’s payment value and volume metrics.

Parallel to its P2P app, the startup also runs Chipper Checkout: a merchant-focused, fee-based mobile payment product that generates the revenue to support Chipper Cash’s free mobile-money business.

The company will use its latest round to hire up to 30 people across operations in San Francisco, Lagos, London, Nairobi and New York — according to Serunjogi.

Image Credits: Chipper Cash

Chipper Cash has already brought on a new compliance officer, Lisa Dawson, whose background includes stints with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and Citigroup’s anti-money laundering department.

“You know in the world we live in the AML side is very important so it’s an area that we want to invest in from the get go,” said Serunjogi.

He confirmed Dawson’s role aligned with getting Chipper Cash ready to meet regulatory requirements for new markets, but declined to name specific countries.

With the round announcement, Chipper Cash also revealed a corporate social responsibility component to its business. Related to current U.S. events, the startup has formed the Chipper Fund for Black Lives.

“We’ve been huge beneficiaries of the generosity and openness of this country and its entrepreneurial spirit,” explained Serunjogi. “But growing up in Africa, we’ve were able to navigate [the U.S.] without the traumas and baggage our African American friends have gone through living in America.”

The Chipper Fund for Black Lives will give 5 to 10 grants of $5,000 to $10,000. “The plan is to give that to…people or causes who are furthering social justice reforms,” said Serunjogi.

In Africa, Chipper Cash has placed itself in the continent’s major digital payments markets. As a sector, fintech has become Africa’s highest funded tech space, receiving the bulk of an estimated $2 billion in VC that went to startups in 2019.

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Those ventures, and a number of the continent’s established banks, are in a race to build market share through financial inclusion.

By several estimates — including The Global Findex Database — the continent is home to the largest percentage of the world’s unbanked population, with a sizable number of underbanked consumers and SMEs.

Increasingly, Nigeria has become the most significant fintech market in Africa, with the continent’s largest economy and population of 200 million.

Chipper Cash expanded there in 2019 and faces competition from a number of players, including local payments venture Paga. More recently, outside entrants have jumped into Nigeria’s fintech scene.

In 2019, Chinese investors put $220 million into OPay (owned by Opera) and PalmPay — two fledgling startups with plans to scale first in West Africa and then the broader continent.

Over the next several years, expect to see market events — such as fails, acquisitions, or IPOs — determine how well funded fintech startups, including Chipper Cash, fare in Africa’s fintech arena.

African payment startup Chipper Cash raises $13.8M Series A

African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has closed a $13.8 million Series A funding round led by Deciens Capital and plans to hire 30 new staff globally.

The raise caps an event filled run for the San Francisco based payments company, founded two years ago by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled.

The two came to America for academics, met in Iowa while studying at Grinnell College and ventured out to Silicon Valley for stints in big tech: Facebook for Serunjogi and Flickr and Yahoo! for Moujaled.

The startup call beckoned and after launching Chipper Cash in 2018, the duo convinced 500 Startups and and Liquid 2 Ventures — co-founded by American football legend Joe Montana — to back their company with seed funds.

Two years and $22 million in total capital raised later, Chipper Cash offers its mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.

“We’re now at over one and a half million users and doing over a $100 million dollars a month in volume,” Serunjogi told TechCrunch on a call.

Chipper Cash does not release audited financial data, but does share internal performance accounting with investors. Deciens Capital and Raptor Group co-led the startup’s Series A financing, with repeat support from 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures .

Deciens Capital founder Dan Kimmerling confirmed the fund’s lead on the investment and review of Chipper Cash’s payment value and volume metrics.

Parallel to its P2P app, the startup also runs Chipper Checkout: a merchant-focused, fee-based mobile payment product that generates the revenue to support Chipper Cash’s free mobile-money business.

The company will use its latest round to hire up to 30 people across operations in San Francisco, Lagos, London, Nairobi and New York — according to Serunjogi.

Image Credits: Chipper Cash

Chipper Cash has already brought on a new compliance officer, Lisa Dawson, whose background includes stints with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and Citigroup’s anti-money laundering department.

“You know in the world we live in the AML side is very important so it’s an area that we want to invest in from the get go,” said Serunjogi.

He confirmed Dawson’s role aligned with getting Chipper Cash ready to meet regulatory requirements for new markets, but declined to name specific countries.

With the round announcement, Chipper Cash also revealed a corporate social responsibility component to its business. Related to current U.S. events, the startup has formed the Chipper Fund for Black Lives.

“We’ve been huge beneficiaries of the generosity and openness of this country and its entrepreneurial spirit,” explained Serunjogi. “But growing up in Africa, we’ve were able to navigate [the U.S.] without the traumas and baggage our African American friends have gone through living in America.”

The Chipper Fund for Black Lives will give 5 to 10 grants of $5,000 to $10,000. “The plan is to give that to…people or causes who are furthering social justice reforms,” said Serunjogi.

In Africa, Chipper Cash has placed itself in the continent’s major digital payments markets. As a sector, fintech has become Africa’s highest funded tech space, receiving the bulk of an estimated $2 billion in VC that went to startups in 2019.

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Those ventures, and a number of the continent’s established banks, are in a race to build market share through financial inclusion.

By several estimates — including The Global Findex Database — the continent is home to the largest percentage of the world’s unbanked population, with a sizable number of underbanked consumers and SMEs.

Increasingly, Nigeria has become the most significant fintech market in Africa, with the continent’s largest economy and population of 200 million.

Chipper Cash expanded there in 2019 and faces competition from a number of players, including local payments venture Paga. More recently, outside entrants have jumped into Nigeria’s fintech scene.

In 2019, Chinese investors put $220 million into OPay (owned by Opera) and PalmPay — two fledgling startups with plans to scale first in West Africa and then the broader continent.

Over the next several years, expect to see market events — such as fails, acquisitions, or IPOs — determine how well funded fintech startups, including Chipper Cash, fare in Africa’s fintech arena.

Exhibit for free at Disrupt 2020: Apply to TC Top Picks

Looking for a way to get your early-stage startup the massive attention it deserves? Of course, you are. One of the best ways to get in front of thousands of influencers is by exhibiting in Startup Alley during Disrupt 2020. An even better way is to exhibit for free. Take the first step and apply to be a TC Top Pick.

Applying is easy, but earning the TC Top Pick designation — well, not so much. Discerning TechCrunch editors scour every application searching for creative, potential-laden startups that spark the imagination. Each startup that joins the ranks of the TC Top Picks wins a free Digital Startup Alley Package. That’s where the massive exposure comes into play. Everyone — investors, tech media, founders, devs, engineers, R&D folks and more — wants to meet and greet those who made the grade.

Ready to take your shot? Here’s what you need to know. You’re eligible to apply if your pre-Series A startup falls into one of the following categories:

Social Impact + Education, Space, Artificial Intelligence + Machine Learning, Biotech + Healthtech, Enterprise + SaaS, Fintech, Mobility, Retail + E-commerce, Robotics, Hardware + IOT, and Security + Privacy.

TechCrunch editors will choose up to three startups in each category. Note the phrase “up to three.” They won’t fill the bucket without ample cause. What do you get with a Digital Startup Package? Plenty. For starters, it lets three people from your company exhibit from anywhere — remember, virtual Disrupt 2020 is a global event with a global audience. That’s huge.

You’ll demo like crazy — scheduling 1:1 video meetings with the previously mentioned masses — investors, media, potential customers, collaborators and the list goes on. Here’s more good news. You’ll have CrunchMatch, our AI-powered networking platform, to help make your networking easier and more efficient. The platform opens weeks ahead of Disrupt, giving you even more time to find and connect with people who can move your business forward.

Thanks to this next perk, the exposure you get as a TC Top Pick will stretch far beyond Disrupt. TechCrunch editors will create a video interview for each Top Pick startup and promote the videos across its social media platforms. It’s a long-term marketing tool you can use to pitch potential investors and clients.

Does your early-stage startup deserve massive attention? Take advantage of this massive opportunity to keep your startup on track and moving forward. Apply to be a TC Top Pick today.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

72 hours left to apply to Startup Battlefield at Disrupt 2020

Want to launch your early-stage startup in front of the largest Disrupt audience in history? The opportunity clock is ticking, and you have just 72 hours left for a chance to compete head-to-head against top startups from around the world at Disrupt 2020. Beat the deadline — apply to compete in Startup Battlefield before June 19 at 11:59 pm (PT).

This Startup Battlefield may be virtual, but there’s nothing virtual about the benefits to your startup. Exposure to a huge global audience means more investors, more media, more opportunity of every size and stripe. Then there’s the not-so-small matter of the $100,000 cash prize. Imagine what that could do for your bottom line. And let’s not forget the coveted Disrupt Cup and serious bragging rights. Those count, too.

Here’s how the virtual Startup Battlefield works. Applying to and competing in the Battlefield is free, and TechCrunch takes no equity. You’re eligible to apply if you can jump through these small hoops.

  • Your company is early stage
  • It has an MVP with a tech component (software, hardware or platform)
  • Your company has received minimal major media coverage

Every application we receive is thoroughly screened by the TechCrunch editorial team. They’re looking for creativity and game-changing potential, and they take the process Very. Seriously. The startups they select — typically between 15 and 20 — will compete virtually during Disrupt 2020, which runs from Sept. 14 – 18.

You never enter a battle arena without proper training, and all competing teams will have weeks of free coaching from the TechCrunch editorial team. It’s intense, but you’ll come out of the experience with a finely tuned demo, a boffo business model and killer presentation skills.

During round one, each Battlefield team gets six-minutes to pitch to a panel of judges (think top VCs and technologists). All that coaching comes in handy when, after your pitch, the judges grill you for another six minutes.

The judges then choose a handful of teams to move into the final round. On the last day of the virtual conference, the finalists pitch again to an entirely new set of judges. When the dust settles, only one outstanding startup will claim the title, the Disrupt Cup and $100,000.

Here’s the thing about Startup Battlefield. There may be only one champ, but every competing team receives massive world-wide exposure, tons of media and investor interest and a huge opportunity to take their business to the next level — even in these challenging times.

Want more perks? Buckle up.

Startup Battlefield competitors also get to exhibit in Digital Startup Alley, and they receive a bevy of benefits.

  • CrunchMatch, our AI-powered networking platform, to set up virtual 1:1 meetings with investors, media or potential customers
  • Leading Voices Webinars: Hear top industry minds share their strategies for adapting and thriving during and after the pandemic. Startup Alley exhibitors get exclusive access to this webinar series.
  • A launch article posted on TechCrunch.com
  • A YouTube video promoted on TechCrunch.com
  • Free subscription to Extra Crunch.Free passes to future TechCrunch events

Competitors also join the ranks of the Startup Battlefield Alumni — this impressive group has collectively raised $9 billion and generated 115 exits. We’re talking companies like Vurb, Dropbox, GetAround, Mint, Yammer, Fitbit and many more. Talk about prime networking.

The deadline expires on June 19 at 11:59 pm (PT). You have just 72 hours left to apply to compete in Startup Battlefield at Disrupt 2020. Don’t delay. Jump into the arena and grab this opportunity for all it’s worth.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

72 hours left to apply to Startup Battlefield at Disrupt 2020

Want to launch your early-stage startup in front of the largest Disrupt audience in history? The opportunity clock is ticking, and you have just 72 hours left for a chance to compete head-to-head against top startups from around the world at Disrupt 2020. Beat the deadline — apply to compete in Startup Battlefield before June 19 at 11:59 pm (PT).

This Startup Battlefield may be virtual, but there’s nothing virtual about the benefits to your startup. Exposure to a huge global audience means more investors, more media, more opportunity of every size and stripe. Then there’s the not-so-small matter of the $100,000 cash prize. Imagine what that could do for your bottom line. And let’s not forget the coveted Disrupt Cup and serious bragging rights. Those count, too.

Here’s how the virtual Startup Battlefield works. Applying to and competing in the Battlefield is free, and TechCrunch takes no equity. You’re eligible to apply if you can jump through these small hoops.

  • Your company is early stage
  • It has an MVP with a tech component (software, hardware or platform)
  • Your company has received minimal major media coverage

Every application we receive is thoroughly screened by the TechCrunch editorial team. They’re looking for creativity and game-changing potential, and they take the process Very. Seriously. The startups they select — typically between 15 and 20 — will compete virtually during Disrupt 2020, which runs from Sept. 14 – 18.

You never enter a battle arena without proper training, and all competing teams will have weeks of free coaching from the TechCrunch editorial team. It’s intense, but you’ll come out of the experience with a finely tuned demo, a boffo business model and killer presentation skills.

During round one, each Battlefield team gets six-minutes to pitch to a panel of judges (think top VCs and technologists). All that coaching comes in handy when, after your pitch, the judges grill you for another six minutes.

The judges then choose a handful of teams to move into the final round. On the last day of the virtual conference, the finalists pitch again to an entirely new set of judges. When the dust settles, only one outstanding startup will claim the title, the Disrupt Cup and $100,000.

Here’s the thing about Startup Battlefield. There may be only one champ, but every competing team receives massive world-wide exposure, tons of media and investor interest and a huge opportunity to take their business to the next level — even in these challenging times.

Want more perks? Buckle up.

Startup Battlefield competitors also get to exhibit in Digital Startup Alley, and they receive a bevy of benefits.

  • CrunchMatch, our AI-powered networking platform, to set up virtual 1:1 meetings with investors, media or potential customers
  • Leading Voices Webinars: Hear top industry minds share their strategies for adapting and thriving during and after the pandemic. Startup Alley exhibitors get exclusive access to this webinar series.
  • A launch article posted on TechCrunch.com
  • A YouTube video promoted on TechCrunch.com
  • Free subscription to Extra Crunch.Free passes to future TechCrunch events

Competitors also join the ranks of the Startup Battlefield Alumni — this impressive group has collectively raised $9 billion and generated 115 exits. We’re talking companies like Vurb, Dropbox, GetAround, Mint, Yammer, Fitbit and many more. Talk about prime networking.

The deadline expires on June 19 at 11:59 pm (PT). You have just 72 hours left to apply to compete in Startup Battlefield at Disrupt 2020. Don’t delay. Jump into the arena and grab this opportunity for all it’s worth.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Conversa Health raises $12M Series B for its digital health platform

It’s no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the digital health space and so it’s also no surprise that a lot of the startups in this area are currently getting funded. Conversa Health, a Portland, Oregon-based startup that provides a virtual care and communication platform for personalized healthcare, is among these startups. The company today announced that it has raised a $12 million Series B round led by Builders VC and Northwell Ventures, the venture arm of Northwell Health, one of the largest healthcare providers in New York, with 23 hospitals and 800 outpatient facilities.

With this round, which also saw the participation of P5 Health Ventures, Nassau Street Ventures and Ohia’s UH Ventures (the venture arm of Ohio’s University Hospitals), Conversa has now raised a total of over $26 million.

In addition, the company also today announced that it has appointed Murray Brozinsky as its new CEO. Conversa co-founder — and now former CEO — West Shell III will become the company’s executive chairman.

“I used to say that virtual health is inevitable,” Brozinsky told me. “And the reason is that we can talk about the economics and how healthcare is moving to a value-based reimbursement system and how we’re gonna break the bank in spending 20% of GDP and our need to improve the patient experience. So you can see how it would become the predominant way that we practice healthcare in this country. And with COVID, that has now become the catalyst for it to become a tipping point. So we’ve seen an acceleration of virtual care and we fully believe that the major health systems are going to implement platforms like this, in many cases, our platform as the first line.”

The goal, Brozinsky told me, is for Conversa’s platform to become the digital front door for a health system. The company’s automated chat-based platform can help triage patients and see if they need a virtual or in-person visit with a doctor, for example. But healthcare systems can also use it to check in on patients and gather data about them, either by asking for it or through connected devices. Indeed, as Brozinsky noted, in many ways, Conversa is a data company.

One new line of business is the company’s Employee HealthCheck services, which allows employers to screen workers before they return to work, using a simple Q&A process. In the current environment, where businesses are very much responsible for creating and maintaining a safe work environment, that’s indeed a very timely launch (and health care providers, too, are using the company’s system to screen patients and their loved ones before they arrive at their facilities).

“We think it’s going to be incumbent on employers to continue to screen their employees for COVID,” said Brozinsky.  “And then on the heels of that, we’re seeing a lot of — and this has been an issue, but now it’s become a bigger issue — which is mental health. So a lot of PTSD, certainly from healthcare workers, stress and anxiety for lots of people in the environment. So we’ve got programs on the heels of COVID that are helping to screen for mental health.”

He also noted that while a lot of employers have launched wellness programs, the activation rates for these have remained very low, all while the nature of work is changing rapidly as people work remotely and are often scared to come in to work.

“Even before COVID-19, we have been expanding our work with Conversa throughout our organization over the last few years as they are a critical component of Northwell Health’s vision for virtual health, further strengthening the provider-patient relationship through personalized, insightful engagement,” said Joseph Schulman, Senior Vice President, Population Health, Business Transformation, for Northwell Health. “We have been successfully using Conversa to scale our communications and care for thousands of COVID-19 patients with programs focused on lab results, quarantine, antibody tests and more. Conversa has been an extraordinary partner.”

Conversa CEO Murray Brozinsky

Conversa Health raises $12M Series B for its digital health platform

It’s no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the digital health space and so it’s also no surprise that a lot of the startups in this area are currently getting funded. Conversa Health, a Portland, Oregon-based startup that provides a virtual care and communication platform for personalized healthcare, is among these startups. The company today announced that it has raised a $12 million Series B round led by Builders VC and Northwell Ventures, the venture arm of Northwell Health, one of the largest healthcare providers in New York, with 23 hospitals and 800 outpatient facilities.

With this round, which also saw the participation of P5 Health Ventures, Nassau Street Ventures and Ohia’s UH Ventures (the venture arm of Ohio’s University Hospitals), Conversa has now raised a total of over $26 million.

In addition, the company also today announced that it has appointed Murray Brozinsky as its new CEO. Conversa co-founder — and now former CEO — West Shell III will become the company’s executive chairman.

“I used to say that virtual health is inevitable,” Brozinsky told me. “And the reason is that we can talk about the economics and how healthcare is moving to a value-based reimbursement system and how we’re gonna break the bank in spending 20% of GDP and our need to improve the patient experience. So you can see how it would become the predominant way that we practice healthcare in this country. And with COVID, that has now become the catalyst for it to become a tipping point. So we’ve seen an acceleration of virtual care and we fully believe that the major health systems are going to implement platforms like this, in many cases, our platform as the first line.”

The goal, Brozinsky told me, is for Conversa’s platform to become the digital front door for a health system. The company’s automated chat-based platform can help triage patients and see if they need a virtual or in-person visit with a doctor, for example. But healthcare systems can also use it to check in on patients and gather data about them, either by asking for it or through connected devices. Indeed, as Brozinsky noted, in many ways, Conversa is a data company.

One new line of business is the company’s Employee HealthCheck services, which allows employers to screen workers before they return to work, using a simple Q&A process. In the current environment, where businesses are very much responsible for creating and maintaining a safe work environment, that’s indeed a very timely launch (and health care providers, too, are using the company’s system to screen patients and their loved ones before they arrive at their facilities).

“We think it’s going to be incumbent on employers to continue to screen their employees for COVID,” said Brozinsky.  “And then on the heels of that, we’re seeing a lot of — and this has been an issue, but now it’s become a bigger issue — which is mental health. So a lot of PTSD, certainly from healthcare workers, stress and anxiety for lots of people in the environment. So we’ve got programs on the heels of COVID that are helping to screen for mental health.”

He also noted that while a lot of employers have launched wellness programs, the activation rates for these have remained very low, all while the nature of work is changing rapidly as people work remotely and are often scared to come in to work.

“Even before COVID-19, we have been expanding our work with Conversa throughout our organization over the last few years as they are a critical component of Northwell Health’s vision for virtual health, further strengthening the provider-patient relationship through personalized, insightful engagement,” said Joseph Schulman, Senior Vice President, Population Health, Business Transformation, for Northwell Health. “We have been successfully using Conversa to scale our communications and care for thousands of COVID-19 patients with programs focused on lab results, quarantine, antibody tests and more. Conversa has been an extraordinary partner.”

Conversa CEO Murray Brozinsky

HBCUvc founder Hadiyah Mujhid on one way investors can advance racial equity

In response to VC’s sudden rush to invest in more Black founders, Black venture capitalists and entrepreneurs have penned a bunch of advice on the best way to tap into talent.  Among the strategies? Team up with Black firms already doing the work. Some firms have said that they’re going to turn to HBCUvc, a non-profit organization that helps students from historically black colleges and universities enter venture and tech.

In response to an outpouring of donations and support for HBCUvc, its founder Hadiyah Mujhid introduced a Donor Circle as one way investors can help in light of the overdue awakening.

“We’ve created the HBCUvc Donor Circle as an opportunity for supporters and individuals to engage in our work and join a long-term strategy toward racial equity in venture capital and technology,” she wrote in the post.

A donor circle member needs to make a gift of $1,000 or more to join the cohort, with an annual financial commitment. Donors will be able to engage with students in the HBCUvc community, work with other community members that are committed to practicing venture through anti-racist events, and receive invitations to community events and summits.

“Joining the donor circle is the best way to get involved in HBCUvc. We cannot make significant progress in advancing racial equity without long-term financial commitment,” Mujhid wrote.

HBCUvc, which we first wrote about in 2017, currently holds a number of programs to help Black and hispanic students enter the world of tech, from fellowships to micro-grants. It held a city-based internship program with Los Angeles which connects students to venture capital firms in the area. The program is expanding to Chicago in 2021, the blog post notes.

HBCUvc’s first batch was 11 students from three universities. The Black and women-led team has since grown to support 123 students.

Just two weeks ago, HBCUVc was struggling to keep staff on deck due  to the financial impact of COVID-19. Mujhid had to communicate that the “community they’ve built may formally cease without emergency funding.”

The organization and its work with historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) has been amplified in the recent week after the murder of George Floyd and international protests against police brutality in the United States. Some say HBCU’s are a place for startups to go and look for diverse talent, and others think that the institutions could serve as LPs in funds and demand more racial equity.

“A piece of me wants to know why our voices were unheard and why it required such a horrific event to bring awareness and action to what should have already been a priority,” Mujihid wrote.

The singular sentence underlines a key message I’ve heard from the Black tech community in the past two weeks: it should not have taken a murder to start thinking about racial inequality. It’s why some doubt the intentions of companies and firms newly promising to increase diversity, beyond the opportunistic lip service.

Read the whole HBCUvc blog post here.