Startups

Money Moves: Legends of Learning and DC Web3 startup Fonbnk landed seed rounds

Plus, Salubris Biotherapeutics gets $32 million in financing and more recent raises across the DMV.

Legends of Learning team members bring capes where they travel.

(Courtesy photo)

Money Moves is a column where we chart the funding raises of tech companies across the region. Have a tip? Email us at dc@technical.ly.


Web3 company Fonbnk landed $3.5 million

Fonbnk, a DC-based Web3 company and alum of Techstars2021 accelerator with Western Union, just closed an oversubscribed funding round of $3.5 million.

Fonbnk, which describes itself in a statement as a “mission-led crypto Web3 company,” works with “unbanked and underbanked users” by offering digital money through prepaid airtime in markets across Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. The decentralized finance (or DeFi) platform lets users convert prepaid credits into digital money, which they can spend anywhere. Its app gives users access to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, nonfungible tokens, and play-to-earn crypto games, as well as other services like prepaid Mastercard and Visa credit cards.

New Form Capital anchored the round, with additional participation from Kraken Ventures, North Island Ventures, MEXC Global affiliates, Principle Ventures, Formless Capital, Republic Capital and Audacity Fund. Other noteworthy participants include Pharell Williams’ Black Ambition, Hustle Fund, Industrious Ventures, Lightspeed Ventures, Allied Venture Partners, Seed9, Draper Frontier Ventures, Techstars, Western Union, EchoVC Partners, GP Partners and Pax Angels.

“Pre-paid airtime minutes are currency (for transfers, exchange of goods and services) across most of the under and unbanked populations globally,” said Akshi Federici, operating partner at Kraken, in a statement. “Fonbnk’s solution is a perfect use case — and directly in line with Kraken Ventures’ focus — to bridge decentralized Finance with mass FinTech.”

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Legends of Learning raised $5 million in seed funds

Legends of Learning, a DC edtech company that created a platform for educational gaming aimed at K-12 students, just landed $5 million in seed funding.

Konvoy Ventures led the round, with additional participation from Kun Gao, founding CEO of Crunchyroll; Holly Liu, cofounder of Kaban; James Park, Fitbit CEO and cofounder and Jeremy Liew of Lightspeed Venture Partners. Legends of Learning will be using the funds for hiring on its sales, engineering and game development teams.

“Establishing and growing a child’s love for learning is foundational to everything that we do and this partnership with Konvoy Ventures means that we can further our goals: to have more students learn successfully through experience and play,” CEO Vadim Polikov told Gamesindustry.biz.

Legends of Learning last raised in 2017, when it nabbed $9 million (and, consequently, the #3 spot on our RealLIST Startups in 2018). At the time, the company called that raise its seed round, but today told Technical.ly that it now considered it a pre-seed raise.

Salubris Biotherapeutics nabs $32 million

Gaithersburg, Maryland biotech company Salubris Biotherapeutics announced a $32 million investment from Shenzhen Salubris Pharmaceuticals, based in China.

Salubris, founded in 2016, developed a drug discovery platform for unmet medical needs in cardio and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as cancer. The deal, according to Salubris, closed in Q4 of 2021. The funds will be used to finish an ongoing clinical trial and initiate two more, alongside some R&D expansion.

“SalubrisBio is poised for a transformational year and I’m excited about the remarkable opportunities that lie ahead for us,” said Sam Murphy, the company’s CEO, in a statement. “We are focused on advancing our programs and securing additional funding to progress the development of our portfolio of antibody fusion proteins and other complex biologics.”

Here’s who else is raising funds in DC:

  • Bethesda, Maryland-based Ex Parte, a SaaS startup that uses AI for legal tech prediction, raised $7.5 million in a Series A. R8 Capital led the round.
  • Supply chain software company Ion Channel, based in DC, raised $1.5 million in seed funding led by Alexandria, Virginia’s Ultratech Capital Partners. Additional investors included Roundtable.
  • The Opus, an app from Words Liive founder Sage Salvo that develops curricula for students based on popular music, closed out a $500,000 funding round. Salvo told Technical.ly that the company might also be looking for a “seed 2.0” round this fall.
  • CarpeDM, the NoVa company that developed a dating app for Black women, nabbed an undisclosed investment from Baltimore-based Conscious Venture Lab’s Conscious Venture Fund.
  • A Charlottesville, Virginia biotech company, aptly named Charlottesville BioHub, received $200,000 in grant funding from the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation. The funds were distributed through its Regional Innovation Fund, which supports local companies fueling entrepreneurship.
  • DC-based PharmD, a telehealth company that attempts to lower the adverse effects of drugs, completed a $1 million seed funding round led by TeleDoc Pte.
  • Leidos, a Reston, Virginia-based information technology and engineering company, won a whopping $11.5 billion contract with the Defense Information Systems Agency.
  • Two years after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, McLean, Virginia satellite tech company Intelsat said that it was finished with its financial restructuring process. The restructuring plan, which lowered its debts from $16 billion to $7 billion, was approved by the US Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia late last year.
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