Mapbox, Bill.com, Standard Cognition, Empowered by New Cash

Mapbox announced Tuesday it had raised a hefty $164 million in a Series C financing round led by the SoftBank Vision Fund, which was joined by Foundry Group, DFJ Growth, DBL, and Thrive.

The new capital will speed up Mapbox’s progress in vehicle navigation and autonomous driving, enlarge its virtual reality and augmented reality gaming capabilities, and fund its expansion into Southeast Asia, China, and Europe, CEO Eric Gundersen said in a blogpost about the financing. The company is one of the smaller companies trying to elbow into a field dominated by Google Maps. [[The $100 Billion SoftBank Vision fund led a $114 million round earlier this year in the San Diego artificial intelligence company Brain Corp., which also is focused on developing AI technology for autonomous driving.]]

Mapbox, founded in Washington, D.C. in 2010, opened its San Francisco office in early 2014. The company has a symbiotic relationship with app developers—they can add map functions to their smartphone apps, while Mapbox picks up anonymized location data from the app’s users. That data could be useful for vehicle navigation. For example, a signal dropout on a bridge could indicate a barrier at that point along a route. Meanwhile, developers can invite users to overlay their maps with other data, such as pollution sources, drone flights, shipping patterns, or friends’ houses. In one mash-up described by Car and Driver, users could observe how their commuter routes intersected with the locations of frequent traffic deaths.

Mapbox says apps that include its mapping functions reach more than 300 million people a month, across the globe. The company provides location services for companies including Airbnb, IBM, Lonely Planet, Square, and The Weather Channel. It had previously raised a $10 million Series A in 2013 with Foundry Group, and a $52 million Series B in June 2015.

—Digital payments company Bill.com raised $100 million in a financing round led by JPMorgan Chase and Temasek with participation by its lead investors in prior rounds. The company’s mission is to eliminate paper payments between businesses, which it says have lagged behind consumers in adopting digital payment options.

The new money brings Palo Alto, CA-based Bill.com’s fundraising total to $200 million, doubling the amount it had previously raised since it was founded in 2006 by CEO and serial entrepreneur René Lacerte. Lacerte also founded payroll service PayCycle, which he sold to Intuit in 2009.

Bill.com lays claim to being “the largest U.S. business payments network,” but says it has plenty of room to grow. Lacerte says 80 percent of all payments made by U.S. businesses are still paid by paper checks. Bill.com claims its automated, cloud-based service can save customers as much as 50 percent of the time now spent on accounts payable, accounts receivable, and and other back-office financial tasks. The firm says it has a customer base of 100,000, and processes $50 billion in payments a year.

On Sept. 19, JPMorgan Chase announced that it had made a strategic investment in Bill.com, and would integrate the company’s B2B technology into its own digital platform for businesses. With its $100 million cash infusion, Bill.com plans to expand its use to encompass more banks and accounting firms.

The company has also been backed by August Capital, Scale Ventures, Napier Park, DCM, Icon Ventures, Emergence Capital, Silicon Valley Bank and American Express.

Standard Cognition’s announcement of its $5 million seed round isn’t in the same league as the news from Mapbox and Bill.com this week, but the graduate of Y Combinator’s summer 2017 class is also trying to transform a space with digital tools.

The San Francisco startup is offering retailers a way to save money with its “checkout-free” shopping system—a rival to Amazon Go. In both systems, shoppers can activate an app when they enter, pluck the items they want, and swan out the door without stopping at a cashier line or checkout machine. AI technology clocks the items, totals up the prices, and handles the billing.

Standard Cognition unveiled its system in August, and hopes to have it up and running in a retail store in early 2018. The startup pitches its service as a way for bricks-and-mortar retailers to survive the competition with online merchants by paring down the cost of human labor while appealing to customers who can avoid standing in lines to pay.

CRV [Charles River Ventures] led Standard Cognition’s seed round, joined by Initialized Capital, Y Combinator, and other firms and individuals. The seed funding brings the startups fundraising total to $6 million.

Photo Credit: Depositphotos, NASA

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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