The National Beat: From startup to unicorn in 24 months and why fundraising is 'hard as hell' right now – The Business Journals

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In less than 24 months since its launch, Austin startup Jasper has grown to a valuation of $1.5 billion after raising $125 million this week for its artificial intelligence platform. The startup uses AI to make digital content like marketing, blogs and other advertising material, along with birthday cards and even children’s books.
It’s among the fastest startups ever to reach a unicorn valuation, Austin Inno reports, and it’s the latest example of one area venture capital investors are willing to open up their checkbooks for in 2022: AI.
Jasper is working in an emerging space known as generative AI, where technology creates new content rather than simply analyzing something that already exists. One of the most prominent use cases of this technology is DALL-E, artificial intelligence from startup OpenAI that creates images from text. At Jasper, the startup is tackling content marketing with its platform that lets users describe what they want Jasper to write, and the AI generates blogs, website copy, social media posts and other material.
Jasper, which sells subscriptions starting at $40 a month, now has more than 70,000 subscribers and 150 employees.
While Jasper’s AI content is already being widely used, don’t expect it to replace human writers anytime soon. Co-founder Dave Rogenmoser said the AI is great at getting a first draft assembled, the type of work that might help a junior writer. But, he said, people are still at the core of creating content.
“I’m sure we’re going to look back in a year and just laugh at how terrible Jasper is. This is the worst it’ll ever be, and it’s pretty good,” he said. “But yeah, we’re going to see more and more breakthroughs here.”
The $4.6 billion acquisition of cybersecurity firm KnowBe4 to Vista Equity Partners is among the largest corporate deals in Tampa Bay history, and a major boost to the city’s emerging tech scene, Tampa Bay Inno reports. KnowBe4 went public in April 2021. But with the reversion back to a private entity, it is also expected to create the type of equity previously only seen in startup hubs like Silicon Valley and Boston. the KnowBe4 deal is said to be “without question” one of the biggest deals in the region in recent history.
In early 2019, FedEx executive Brie Carere unveiled Roxo on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where the plucky same-day delivery bot delivered a pizza to the late-night talk show host. The next day, the company further detailed the bot’s potential, hailing it as an efficient, eco-friendly way to handle the last leg of delivery, and naming Lowe’s, Pizza Hut, Target, Walgreens, Walmart and AutoZone as initial partners.
But years after the Fallon debut, FedEx has stopped its work on Roxo, Memphis Inno reports. The news comes as Amazon announced it’s scaling back its own delivery robot platform.
Raising money for your startup is “hard as hell right now,” Jason Caplain, co-founder of Durham, North Carolina-based Bull City Venture Partners, said, according to Triangle Inno. “If you’re a quality company and you’ve got an incredible team and strong economics … you’re able to get capital and, not only that, but if the competition to get in the deal is super fierce,” he said. But if you’re what he calls an “A minus or B company,” the capital has “frozen up.” Investors are “taking their sweet time right now and they can because as they wait, the markets continue to crater.”
A North Carolina kombucha startup’s latest challenge? A lawsuit claiming it’s too boozy for underage consumers. Multiple plaintiffs have teamed up to propose a class-action complaint against Cary-based kombucha brand Tribucha, alleging it contains double the alcohol that’s allowed, and that it’s breaking federal and state law by not classifying its fermented teas as alcoholic beverages. 
The lawsuit claims the drinks have as much alcohol as a standard beer — and are dangerous to unknowing consumers.
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