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Small business payments and marketing startup Fivestars raises $52.5M

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It’s a difficult time for small businesses — to put it mildly. And Fivestars CEO Victor Ho said that many of the big digital platforms aren’t really helping.

Ho argued that those platforms — whether they offer delivery services, user reviews or marketing tools — all have the same underlying model: “They seek to take over a small business’ customer base and then charge them a tax to start reaching those customers.”

Superficially, a company like Fivestars, which has created software to support small business payments and marketing, might not sound that different.

But Ho said that the startup actually takes the “opposite” approach, because Fivestars isn’t trying to build up a big “walled garden” of its own customers that businesses pay to access. Instead, businesses pay for the software, which they use to build a database of their own customers; they don’t have to pay to reach those customers.

“The incentives are more aligned,” he said.

Fivestars

Image Credits: Fivestars

The Fivestars platform includes its own payment product, integration with other point-of-sale systems, marketing automation that delivers personalized messages to customers and a broader network of 60 million shoppers, allowing for cross-promotion across different Fivestars businesses.

The startup is announcing today that it has raised $52.5 million in new funding, combining a Series D equity round as well as debt and bringing its total funding to $145.5 million. The round was led by Salt Partners, with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners, DCM Ventures, Menlo Ventures and HarbourVest Partners.

Ho said Fivestars actually closed the round before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the team decided to hold off on the announcement because it seemed like a bad idea to “flaunt” the company’s bank account when so many of its customers were suffering.

The company has seen “record usage” during the pandemic, with 1 million new shoppers joining the network every month. At the same time, Ho acknowledged that the pandemic has caused the company to shift its strategy. Originally, the goal for the funding was “just to keep growing our portfolio of merchants across our existing products,” but Ho said, “What changed pretty dramatically through this period for us was emphasizing the payments piece and the network” and focusing on “what small businesses need more than ever.”

He also noted that during the pandemic, the company has provided customers with more than $1 million worth of credits and also made more of its products free to use.

“It’s very clear that small businesses are incredibly resilient,” Ho added. “Particularly when it comes to the category of experiences — you’re not going to take your wife on a date to Pizza Hut, when you go to Paris, you’re not going to go to a generic chains.”

In the funding announcement, Natasha Teague of Ft Lauderdale health food store Tropibowls described the Fivestars platform as “a huge help.”

“The value of being able to communicate with our customers and share updates in real-time has been immeasurable,” Teague said in a statement. “The power of Fivestars’ expansive network and payment tech has made our reopening process seamless and a lifesaver as we navigate new needs as a result of the pandemic.”

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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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Apple will replace AirPods Pro for free with faulty noise cancellation, static or crackling

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Today, exactly one year after Apple first launched the AirPods Pro — and thus the same day the very first AirPods Pro owners will see their one-year warranties expire — Apple has launched a repair program that offers free repairs or replacements for another whole year if your AirPods Pro experience issues with noise cancellation or static.

Specifically, Apple will fix:

Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone

Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

Apple says only a “small percentage of AirPods Pro” are affected by the issues, but it apparently wasn’t just an early batch — Apple says affected units were manufactured “before October 2020,” meaning every AirPods Pro ever made might be eligible. That’s quite a recall if so. Apple says it will repair faulty AirPods Pro for two years after you first buy them.

We’ve heard complaints about degraded noise cancellation before, and at least one Verge editor has replaced their AirPods Pro under warranty. It’s nice to hear that Apple isn’t just cutting buyers off as soon as that warranty expires.

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This 55″ 4K TCL Smart TV Hangs on Your Wall for $200

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

TCL 55″ S434 4K Smart TV | $200 | Best Buy

Best Buy has an insane deal going for a brand new 55″ 4K TCL smart TV. It’s the S434, which is pretty baseline for TCL’s lineup, but at just $200, there’s little to complain about. TCL’s panels are plenty sharp and accurate, and with this set, you’ll get HDR10 compliance for enhanced color and brightness in supported games and video content. This model has Android TV onboard for all your app needs, and with an included voice remote, all your favorite content is just a shout away with the help of Google Assistant.

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