Battle Bears: Lightbank’s First Gaming Deal is More Angry Birds Than Zynga
Heard of Battle Bears? It’s a mobile game out of Omaha that’s amassed an 18 million-strong following and, as of today, an investment from an impressive group of investors: Lightbank has led a round of undisclosed size in the firm’s first ever gaming deal. Nextview Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Michael Chang (former CEO of Greystripe), and the Nebraska Angels participated.
Eventup Raises $1.8 Million Seed Funding Led by Lightbank
Eventup is an online community marketplace for event space listings and bookings, announced today it secured a $1.8 million seed round lead by Lightbank, the Chicago-based investment vehicle created by Groupon founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell. Crosscut Ventures, NEA, New World Ventures and additional angel investors participated in the round that will fuel Eventup’s nationwide expansion. The company initially launched out of technology studio Science Inc. with the backing of Michael Jones, former CEO of MySpace.
Centzy Puts Prices Online To Power Local Business Search By True Quality, Not Reviews
Only 25% of U.S. local businesses have websites and just 10% show their prices online, but Centzy,launches today to let you sort local business searches by price, open hours, and eventually quality — reviews relative to price. That means you could find the nearest dry cleaner open until 7pm that the cheapest but has the best customer ratings pulled from Yelp and CitySearch. Centzy uses a self-built crowdsourcing platform get humans to pull offline data online. That’s data inaccessible to any web crawler. With $800,000 in seed fundingfrom ff Venture Capital and Lightbank, Centzy could one day monetize its crowdsourcing platform, price database, and/or a destination site for finding and purchasing from the best local businesses.
Social events marketplace Lifecrowd raises $5M from Lightbank, Bullpen, others
Social events startup has raised $5 million in its first round of funding, with a goal to expand its evolving marketplace that connects like-minded users connect at nearby events, the company announced Thursday. The service has come a long way since it debuted at DEMO Fall 2011 conference. In its build up from beta to its first round, the company has clearly defined its purpose. Unlike www.meetup.com which lets anyone create groups centered around one focus, Lifecrowd offers all kinds of singular events. It also different in that users create the events, but Lifecrowd’s team curates the listings to ensure only the best show up. Lifecrowd’s first round of funding was led by Chicago-based lightbank, with participation from Bullpen Capital, Baroda Ventures, and Prism VentureWorks. And recently, the company became the first startup to emerge from the relatively new Los Angeles accelerator www.muckerlab.com.
Lightbank seeds SocialKaty, local social media manager
SocialKaty, a Chicago-based startup that helps small- and medium-size businesses manage their social media, said Tuesday it has raised money from local investment firm, Lightbank. The size of the funding was not disclosed. SocialKaty was founded by Katy Lynch and Craig Ulliot. They had previously worked together at Where I’ve Been, a consumer travel-related startup that Ulliot co-founded in 2007. Where I’ve Been, an online platform for people to share their travel experiences, raised money from Lightbank and was acquired by TripAdvisor in 2011. Lynch worked as a community manager at Where I’ve Been, tackling functions such as customer service and managing the startup’s online communities on social media platforms.
Lightbank funds Chicago-based fantasy sports startup DraftDay
DraftDay, a Chicago-based startup that makes an online platform for daily fantasy sports games, has raised just under $1 million from local investment firm Lightbank. The funding represents the first outside investment for the six-month-old company, whose website operates fantasy competitions for the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Unlike fantasy leagues that run for an entire season, DraftDay competitions last just one day.
Techstars Startup Contently Raises $2 Million From Lightbank To Hoard 3,000+ Freelance Writers For Advertisers
Contently, a freelance writer network and TechStars 2011 startup, has raised 2 million from Lightbank, the fund started by early Groupon investors Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell.
Lightbank Backs Belly, A Customer Loyalty And Rewards Platform For Local Businesses
A new Chicago-based startup is emerging today as a contender in the local business customer loyalty and rewards space. Belly (formally Bellyflop) is hoping to replace those old punchcards you receive at local merchants. And the startup is debuting with an investment from Lightbank, the venture firm founded by Groupon co-founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell. While the exact amount of the investment was not disclosed, we understand it is in the seven-figures. Belly wants to reinvent customer loyalty rewards through gamification and digital check-ins. But the startup has a slightly different take on how to achieve this.
Lightbank Seeds BabbaCo For Educational Subscription Business
Lightbank, the early investor in Groupon, has led an investment along with SV Angel in an educational baby and kids products company founded by serial entrepreneur Jessica Kim. BabbaCo started out in 2007 with a line of baby products such as inflatable play mats invented by Kim, which have grown in popularity. Now with $1.2 million in funding from Lightbank and SVAngel, BabbaCo is expanding into a subscription business called BabbaBox. The company will send a monthly box with materials and videos for parents to do educational activities with their kids. It’s one of the first investments with Lightbank and SV Angel together seeding a company.
Lightbank funds Chicago startup OpenChime
Every week, hundreds of business proposals for startups pour into the online mailbox of Chicago technology investment firm Lightbank, whose portfolio companies include Groupon and Echo Global Logistics. This entrepreneurial equivalent of a book publisher’s slush pile is a “black hole” at most venture capital outfits, said Lightbank partner Paul Lee. But at Lightbank, the online submissions pool helped Lee discover OpenChime, a Chicago startup that allows consumers to request information and price quotes from providers of a host of services, from lawn maintenance to music lessons.
Spark, Lightbank And Yuri Milner Get In On OnSwipe’s $5M ‘Series Awesome’
Tablet publishing platform Onswipe is announcing a $5 million round of “Series Awesome” funding today after their one million in seed funding in January. The round will be led by Spark Capital and followed on by Lightbank, investment badass Yuri Milner, Lerer Ventures, SVAngel, Betaworks, Morado, Eniac and Thrive Capital.
And they’re really calling it a Series Awesome; Co-founder Jason Baptiste explained the need to raise even more cash, ”We realized what we are building is a larger opportunity than we ever thought while growing at a breakneck speed. In order to own the market we went out and raised a Series Awesome from the best group of investors possible that share our goal of world domination. And yes…the legal docs actually say Series Awesome.”
Groupon Founders Turn To Financial News With Benzinga Investment
In their latest investment through a separate seed fund, two Groupon founders are turning their attention towards a new area: financial news. Lightbank, the seed fund created by Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell, is investing $1.5 million inBenzinga.com, a Michigan-based real-time financial news site with trading tips, as well as aggregated content from other sites such as TheStreet.com and WSJ.com, parent site of this blog.
Pawn Your Goods Online With Lightbank-Backed Pawngo
For people in a tough economy looking for cash, a new website called Pawngo brings the 3,000-year old industry of pawn shops to the digital age.
Pawngo is in the same space as a number of online start-ups providing short term loans or cash payment services targeting the unbanked, such as Greendot, Billfloat, Zestcash, and Paynearme. But Pawngo provides loans in exchange for assets like jewelry or cameras, just like a brick-and-mortar pawn shop. But will people actually use an online pawn service?
Sprout Social Raises $1 Million For Social Media Management Platform
Chicago-based startup Sprout Social, the developer of a social relationship management platform for businesses, has raised $1 million in new funding from Lightbank. The startup had previously raised an undisclosed round of funding from the investment firm earlier this year.
The startup’s platform, which launched to the public in August, allows businesses to connect to customers and monitor key metrics and the overall competitive landscape using social media tools. Sprout Social integrates with social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, LinkedIn and Foursquare and includes lead generation, business intelligence, offer and promotion distribution services, as well as brand monitoring and analytics.
Sprout Social has also announced the addition of a number of new location-based social media tools. Business users can now use data from Foursquare and Gowalla to tailor messages and promotions to customers ranging from first-time visitors to frequent guests.
For example, businesses can receive text message alerts if a customer “checks in” at their place of business via a location service on their smartphone. The Sprout Social SRM subscriber can then tailor a response; e.g., offering a “welcome” special to first time users or reward customers who have reached a threshold number of visits.
The startup also plans to integrate with Facebook Places. Since launch into private beta earlier this year, the company has gained 2,000 clients and is seeing “hundreds” of businesses signing up each week. The new funding will be used grow the engineering and support staff and towards customer acquisition.
Betterfly Buys Music Instructor Listings Site Teachlist
Betterfly , a website that helps people find tutors, trainers, teachers an other individual providers of self-improvement services, has acquired music instructor listings site Teachlist.com (which now forwards to Betterfly’s music listings). Now most of the more than 10,000 instructors will be listed on Betterfly and can offer their services to the platform’s community. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Betterfly, which launched into beta in May, provides consumers with detailed profiles of “Betterists” in more than 1,000 categories, from piano teachers to weight loss coaches to Spanish tutors to yoga instructors. Basically, the site lists any teacher can teach a self-improvement skill.
Users can search by more than 20 variables such as location, appointment availability, client reviews, friends’ recommendations and value. Instead of featuring a business, Betterfly lists the individual “Betterists, making the site more appealing service providers. For example, the site will list the actual hair stylists or personal trainers rather than salons or gyms they work for.
For providers, Betterfly provides customizable web pages where they can list qualifications and services, as well as the ability to post instructional videos and lesson plans, create blogs, and allow clients to make appointments on the site’s booking system.
Betterfly’s founder Joshua Schwadron says that he thought of the idea after he moved to New York a few years ago and wanted to find a local piano instructor and found it difficult to find a well-reviwed local instructor on sites like Yelp and Citysearch.
And Betterfly is steadily seeing traction with its service Since May, Betterfly has accumulated 100,000 users of the service. And the company just raised a round of funding from Chicago-based investment firm Lightbank.
Schwadron says that Betterfly has already attracted a wide range of high-quality “Betterists” such as Rebecca Brody, a dating specialist who appeared on MTV’s Made; Graziella Baratta, a former Miss United States 2008 and now offers fitness and dance instruction; and several PGA tour golfers who offer golf lessons.
The site is similar in theory to Seattle-based Teachstreet, which also focuses on connecting independent teachers with students. But Betterfly seems to provide a broader group os service providers such as hair stylists, fitness instructors and more.
‘Riveting Talks by Remarkable People’ at TEDxMidwest in Chicago Brings Together 23 Top Talents Oct. 14-15
CHICAGO, Oct. 7 /PRNewswire/ — Twenty-three of the planet’s most extraordinary thinkers and achievers are set to speak at TEDxMidwest in Chicago, with the theme “What the World Needs Now” framing the presentation. The event, on the evening ofOctober 14 and all day October 15 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, highlights “Riveting Talks by Remarkable People.” A gathering unprecedented in Chicago, TEDxMidwest is designed to stimulate thought and inspire the 350 attendees, including 20 teacher-nominated, gifted Chicago high school students.
The program will begin at 6 pm on Thursday, October 14, with renowned National Geographic nature photographer Frans Lanting presenting a two-billion-year visual history of the Earth. Speakers will include top dinosaur hunter Paul Sereno; oceanographer and Titanic explorer Dave Gallo; human fossil hunter Meave Leakey; bestselling author on human irrationalityDan Ariely; and space tourist advocate Chirinjeev Kathuria, whose companies have put private citizens in outer space.
Also on the agenda are enlightening discussions of the new Detroit urban farming movement with MacArthur “genius” urban revitalization strategist Majora Carter; the art of negotiation with 8 million copy-selling “Getting to Yes!” author William Ury; SNL alumnus Julia Sweeney on “10 Useful Things we Know about Ourselves“; energy-generating buildings with architect Gordon Gill; “50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do” with author Gever Tulley; and much more.
The audience is as amazing as the speakers, consisting of 185 CEOs and Presidents, 10 MacArthur, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners, 30 philanthropists and many of the area’s top artists.
Event organizers are Brad Keywell, co-founder of Groupon and Lightbank; Linda Stone, a former Apple and Microsoft executive; and Mike Hettwer, a serial entrepreneur and photographer who has contributed to National Geographic.
“The world needs people who think differently and change hearts, minds, and society because of it. TEDxMidwest is an opportunity to be exposed to some of these people, learn from them, and hopefully be inspired to pursue your own ideas of what the world needs now,” Keywell said. “Having all of these speakers under one roof will be an unforgettable experience.”
Lightbank Offers Reward for Top Web Design Talent
CHICAGO, Sept. 23 /PRNewswire/ — Lightbank (www.lightbank.com), the Chicago-based venture fund behind Groupon and many other successful start-ups, is offering a $5,000 reward in its search for outstanding web talent in the Chicago area and beyond.
The company announced today that it has partnered with crowdSPRING, a leading marketplace for crowdsourced creative services, and i.c. stars, a nonprofit supporting change-driven leaders, to launch the 2010 Ridiculously Big & Shiny Design Award, which will honor one talented web designer with a $5,000 cash prize—plus an extra $1,000 if the winner hails from the Chicago area.
The contest is now open and entries must be submitted before Sunday, October 10. To submit an entry, visit 2010 RIDICULOUSLY BIG & SHINY DESIGN AWARD.
“Lightbank is privileged to work with so many exciting, tech-enabled startups, all of which require user-friendly, visually engaging web sites,” said Kevin Leland, entrepreneur-in-residence at Lightbank. “We are always looking to find gifted web designers and give them an opportunity to drive the creative direction for one of these promising new companies.”
Applicants must create a new homepage and one interior page for a new icstars.org site, based on a creative brief provided by the organization. i.c. stars is a nonprofit technology and workforce development organization that provides resilient low-income adults in the Chicago area with technology and leadership training, and connects them with career opportunities.
“The creative brief we have put together provides detailed guidance to help applicants create the most compelling entry,” said Eric Lannert with i.c. stars. “We’re very excited to see what the candidates come up with and are grateful that Lightbank and crowdSPRING are helping us to refresh our online presence.”
Entries are being accepted at crowdSPRING, a global online marketplace for buyers and sellers of creative services such as logo design, web design, other types of graphic design, industrial design and writing services at an affordable price..
“We commend Lightbank for embracing crowdsourcing and recognizing its many benefits,” said Michael Samson and Ross Kimbarovsky, co-founders of crowdSPRING. “Not only will the competition help identify talented creatives, but it is an easy and time-saving marketing solution that will generate quality results.”
All non-winning artists will be considered for future Lightbank design projects, and applicants are encouraged to include links to a portfolio along with their application for future reference.
Betterfly Secures Series A Funding From Lightbank
NEW YORK, Sept. 20 /PRNewswire/ — Betterfly (http://betterfly.com), a website that matches people who want to learn, look and feel better with the people — not companies — who offer these services, announced today that it has secured a Series A round of capital funding from Lightbank, the Chicago-based investment vehicle created by Groupon founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell.
This funding marks Lightbank’s first investment outside of the Chicago area and represents a significant milestone for Betterfly, despite the site being out of closed-beta for only three months. The capital infusion allows Betterfly to meet the high demand for its person-to-person search. The company will also add a Chicago office, in addition to maintaining its New York headquarters.
“We look forward to our partnership with Joshua and the Betterfly team, and to expanding Lightbank’s footprint outside the Midwest,” said Keywell, who along with Lefkofsky will join Betterfly’s Board of Directors.
“We’re very excited to work with Brad and Eric at Lightbank and thrilled to have attracted this level of interest so early in our evolution,” said Joshua Schwadron, founder of Betterfly. “They are true visionaries with the experience and insight to help Betterfly redefine the personal betterment space.”
Betterfly was born out of the 28-year-old Schwadron’s personal frustrations with finding the right people to help him on his journey of personal betterment. To make it easier to find those tutors, coaches, stylists, trainers, etc. – called Betterists™ on the site – Betterfly.com became the first website of its kind to exclude companies, focusing on people instead, which gives it a strategic advantage.
“When searching for someone to teach you how to play the piano, cut your hair or improve your Pilates technique, it’s more important to know who the best person is, rather than knowing just the name of a music school, salon or studio,” Schwadron says. “Imagine if eHarmony.com told you that your future wife worked at Citigroup, but left it up to you to figure out who she is. Now what?”
Betterfly.com makes that process easier and more efficient by enabling users to compare apples to apples, people to people – something no other site does. With thousands of Betterists already offering their services and hundreds more signing up each week, Betterfly is quickly gaining share in the self-improvement space.
In addition to its search features, Betterfly.com also provides a robust platform for Betterists to create a highly-customizable profile page that Schwadron says is, “a mini-website that can be made in minutes.” Betterists can promote their qualifications, services, special offers and payment policies, provide real-time availability, offer online appointment booking, upload resources such as instructional videos and lesson plans and even manage their own blogs.
“Lightbank focuses on entrepreneurs who are passionate about their ideas and invests in companies that leverage technology to transform existing industries,” Keywell said. “Joshua and the Betterfly team are creating a new paradigm for how we connect with experts to make us better at our chosen pursuits.”
To become a Betterist or to find one who can help you achieve your personal betterment goals anywhere in the United States, visit http://betterfly.com.
Better Manage Your Small Business’s Social Media Presence – Via Mashable
This post is part of Mashable’s Spark of Genius series, which highlights a unique feature of startups. The series is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark.
Name: Sprout Social
Quick Pitch: Sprout Social delivers comprehensive tools that allow businesses to efficiently and effectively manage and grow their social presence across multiple channels.
Genius Idea: Sprout Social is a social relationship manager designed to let small businesses, agencies and brands manage multiple social networks from one central dashboard.
It’s becoming more and more essential for companies and brands of all sizes to have a social media presence. One of the continuing hurdles that these companies continue to face, however, is how to manage multiple social channels.
The fundamental problem is that most social networks were designed for consumers, not for businesses. That means that the tools required to monitor and manage those networks are usually not built into the service itself.
In the last 12 months, more and more players have entered the social media management space. Some, likeInvolver and Vitrue, take a higher-level approach to big brands and also offer app-creation tools. Other services like HootSuite straddle the line between consumer- and business-friendly.
We like that Sprout Social is a solid offering for the smaller brand or agency; it offers more robust management tools, but it’s still affordable. Pricing starts at $9.99 per month for managing up to five identities. For $49.99 per month, 10 identities or locations can be managed and additional metrics and more advanced tracking data is available.
At the $9.99 per month plan, Sprout Social can monitor Twitter, Facebook (fan and personal pages) and LinkedIn. This means you can search and monitor those networks, cross-post to networks and do things like link and referral tracking.
For users that opt to spend $49.99 per month, Sprout Social adds Foursquare and Yelp support, geotargeting and the ability to create daily specials or offers. This makes Sprout Social a particularly useful tool for local businesses like restaurants or retail shops.
Sprout Social Launches with New Comprehensive SRM Platform for Fast, Easy and Effective Social Relationship Management
CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Sprout Social, an innovative provider of social relationship management (SRM) services, today announced the launch of its new Sprout Social SRM platform that combines all of the essential tools businesses need to effectively and efficiently manage a multi-network social media presence within a single user interface to bolster online brand marketing and promotions.
Combining contact management and web monitoring with integrated, automatic cross-posting to Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn and FourSquare—including message scheduling and geo targeting—Sprout Social provides the most comprehensive, easy-to-use SRM platform making it fast, easy and more efficient to grow and manage a successful social media presence. Designed from the ground up to serve the business user, Sprout Social integrates the best practices tools for business-based social media management into its unique and intuitive Social Dashboard that is easy to learn, manage and customize.
“There are a multitude of tools out there that claim to make SRM easier for businesses, but the problem is none combine all of these important features into a single, integrated platform,” said Justyn Howard, CEO and co-founder of Sprout Social. “With Sprout Social, we’ve pulled together the most-wanted, most powerful features into a comprehensive system that allows any size business to launch and manage a full-scale social media campaign from a single pane of glass.”
As the social media phenomenon continues to evolve into a tremendous marketing opportunity for businesses to reach a wide and engaged audience, many business owners and managers—especially small business owners—struggle to find the time to devote to social media, despite the potential.
“Unfortunately, many businesses are missing valuable opportunities because they simply don’t have the resources to leverage this new media,” Howard said. “Sprout Social removes those barriers by making it easy, efficient and affordable for anyone—even a mom-and-pop small business—to manage a strong social media presence in just minutes a day.”
The Sprout Social platform enables businesses to engage with customers in a more meaningful way, gain valuable feedback and achieve targeted audience growth. The Social Dashboard desktop software combines message distribution and monitoring to track business key metrics and provide competitive insights.
Lightbank Invests in Sprout Social, an Innovative Provider of Social Relationship Management (SRM) Services
CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Sprout Social, an innovative provider of social relationship management (SRM) services, has received a Series A round of funding from Lightbank, the recently launched investment vehicle created by Groupon founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell. Sprout Social is currently in closed beta and will use the capital infusion for its formal launch later this spring, as well as to expand its service offering.
Sprout Social is pioneering the “SRM” space with its social media platform, allowing businesses to connect to customers in a more meaningful way, understand what customers are saying about them, achieve targeted audience growth, and monitor key metrics and the overall competitive landscape. The Sprout Social platform, featuring the Social Dashboard, integrates with major social networks and includes lead generation, business intelligence, offer and promotion distribution services, as well as brand monitoring and analytics. Sprout Social has combined critical components of any marketing and business development strategy into a simple and easy-to-use interface.
“Even the most sophisticated companies have trouble effectively navigating the social channels on the web. For a business to stay competitive today, social media has to be a top priority. Sprout Social has built a platform that makes it easy for businesses of all sizes to make social connections, and turn those connections into loyal customers,” said Keywell.
“Lightbank is excited to be partnering with Sprout Social to change the way businesses harness the social web.”
“The Lightbank team has a solid track record of superior execution and reaching massive scale by leveraging disruptive technology. We’re thrilled to add their horsepower and expertise to our team!” said Justyn Howard, CEO and co-founder of Sprout Social.
“We’re passionate about giving every business an opportunity to improve their bottom line through social channels, while reducing the resources and learning curve required to do it well. With this financing round, Sprout Social is well positioned to bring our services to even more businesses.”
Chicago-based Fund, Lightbank, to Invest Up To $100 Million in Technology Start-Ups
CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell, two of Chicago’s leading technology entrepreneurs, plan to invest as much as $10 million annually in early-stage technology companies through a new fund called Lightbank (www.lightbank.com). The entrepreneurs behind Groupon, MediaBank, InnerWorkings (NASDAQ:INWK) and Echo Global Logistics (NASDAQ:ECHO) have already raised over $150 million and generated more than $1.5 billion in investor returns through their existing ventures.
“So far we’ve only scratched the surface of industries that follow antiquated business processes, where technology can be leveraged to realize cost-savings and create value” With the launch of Lightbank, Lefkofsky and Keywell will contribute their resources and expertise to foster a vibrant, active community of Midwest technology entrepreneurs who are short on capital, but flush with innovative ideas.
“Chicago is full of untapped entrepreneurial talent that just needs a little support,” said Lefkofsky. “Lightbank will be a driving force behind break-through ideas and help establish this city as a technology hub.”
In addition to investing capital, Lightbank will take an active role in guiding and nurturing companies through all stages of growth, from effectively scaling technology and finding the optimal business model to securing further growth investment and ultimately exiting the business.
Lefkofsky and Keywell, who met at the University of Michigan, have a history of starting new ventures that have shaken up industries with long-standing business models.