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The Week in Tech: BenevolentAI’s $115m round, Octopus Ventures’ €230m fund and more

Hello and welcome to The Week in Tech – your weekly roundup of some of the top technology news from the UK and beyond.

This week, we bring you the latest on BenevolentAI’s staggering raise, Octopus Ventures’ €230m investment fund and more.


But first, it’s been a relatively busy week in terms of funding into UK tech companies. Here are some of the deals you need to be aware of:

BenevolentAI does it again

BenevolentAI raised a staggering $115m from a set of new and existing investors.

The company, which expanded to New York in August last year, hit a pre-money valuation of $2bn as a result of the raise.

According to a statement issued by the firm, the majority of the funds came from investors in the US, but the balance of raised funds came from backers including Woodford Investment Management.

This raise brings BenevolentAI’s total amount of funding raised to $200m in the past five years.

£15m for cyber

In other news, UK PM Theresa May has set aside up to £15m in a bid to help Commonwealth countries strengthen their cybersecurity capabilities to block criminal groups and hostile actors which pose a global threat to security.

The news comes amid claims from the US and UK that Russian state-sponsored actors are targeting millions of internet users .

Officials from both countries said they have “high confidence” that cyber actors supported by the Kremlin have carried out a coordinated campaign to gain access to internet routers.

According to a statement, the new funding will support Commonwealth partners as they prevent and respond to cybersecurity risks affecting governments, businesses and citizens.

Some £5.5m has been set aside to enable low and middle income Commonwealth members to carry out national cybersecurity capacity reviews before the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2020.

Investment funds

First up, Natalie Massenet, the founder of Net-A-Porter, launched a $75m (£52m) fund to invest in retail tech.

Imaginary Ventures, as the fund is known, will seek to back early-stage consumer businesses operating at the intersection between tech and retail.

The firm was co-founded by Nick Brown, an ex partner at 14W, a New York-based VC fund.

London-based VC firm Octopus Ventures, which has backed well-known UK tech companies including Swiftkey and Magic Pony, raised an additional €230m ($284m, £199m) to invest in European startups.

Octopus has completed 16 news investments over the past year, including Origami Energy and Streetbees.

The fund, which is 64% larger than the €140m fund raised in 2016, means Octopus now has €1bn under management.

Octopus boasts a varied portfolio, including Zoopla – whose parent company is listed in the UK; Secret Escapes; and Graze.

Facebook in the news – again

It seems like a whole week can’t go by without Facebook making headlines.

The technology giant has changed its terms of service, meaning 1.5 billion members will not be protected under new privacy protections coming to Europe.

The move comes as the company faces a series of questions from lawmakers and regulators over its handling of personal data and the Cambridge Analytica fiasco.

The change to its terms of service revolves around which users will be regulated via its European HQ in Ireland.

Reported by Reuters, the move will see Facebook users outside the EU governed by Facebook Inc in the US rather than Facebook Ireland.

Uber’s CTO

Ride sharing giant Uber has denied that Thuan Pham, its CTO, met with Cambridge Analytica.

Despite this, the firm has not been able to confirm that no meetings took place between other employees and the firm embroiled in the Facebook data scandal.

“I’m not sure who they think they met with, but I can confirm our CTO never met with them and we don’t have a relationship with them,” an Uber spokeswoman told TechCrunch.

Eventbrite snaps up Spanish firm

Last, but not least, ticketing platform Eventbrite has bought Spanish ticketing firm Ticketea.

The terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed, but Eventbrite said the deal will help it expand its global footprint in music events.

Ticketea lets users find and book tickets for a variety of live events. It focuses primarily on Spanish speaking markets and small and mid-sized event firms.

That’s all for today… See you next Friday!