Fraud prevention platform Sift raises $50M at over $1B valuation, eyes acquisitions

With the increase of digital transacting over the past year, cybercriminals have been having a field day.

In 2020, complaints of suspected internet crime surged by 61%, to 791,790, according to the FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Report. Those crimes — ranging from personal and corporate data breaches to credit card fraud, phishing and identity theft — cost victims more than $4.2 billion.

For companies like Sift — which aims to predict and prevent fraud online even more quickly than cybercriminals adopt new tactics — that increase in crime also led to an increase in business.

Last year, the San Francisco-based company assessed risk on more than $250 billion in transactions, double from what it did in 2019. The company has over several hundred customers, including Twitter, Airbnb, Twilio, DoorDash, Wayfair and McDonald’s, as well a global data network of 70 billion events per month.

To meet the surge in demand, Sift said today it has raised $50 million in a funding round that values the company at over $1 billion. Insight Partners led the financing, which included participation from Union Square Ventures and Stripes.

While the company would not reveal hard revenue figures, President and CEO Marc Olesen said that business has tripled since he joined the company in June 2018. Sift was founded out of Y Combinator in 2011, and has raised a total of $157 million over its lifetime.

The company’s “Digital Trust & Safety” platform aims to help merchants not only fight all types of internet fraud and abuse, but to also “reduce friction” for legitimate customers. There’s a fine line apparently between looking out for a merchant and upsetting a customer who is legitimately trying to conduct a transaction.

Sift uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to automatically surmise whether an attempted transaction or interaction with a business online is authentic or potentially problematic.

Image Credits: Sift

One of the things the company has discovered is that fraudsters are often not working alone.

“Fraud vectors are no longer siloed. They are highly innovative and often working in concert,” Olesen said. “We’ve uncovered a number of fraud rings.”

Olesen shared a couple of examples of how the company thwarted fraud incidents last year. One recently involved money laundering through donation sites where fraudsters tested stolen debit and credit cards through fake donation sites at guest checkout.

“By making small donations to themselves, they laundered that money and at the same tested the validity of the stolen cards so they could use it on another site with significantly higher purchases,” he said. 

In another case, the company uncovered fraudsters using Telegram, a social media site, to make services available, such as food delivery, with stolen credentials.

The data that Sift has accumulated since its inception helps the company “act as the central nervous system for fraud teams.” Sift says that its models become more intelligent with every customer that it integrates.

Insight Partners Managing Director Jeff Lieberman, who is a Sift board member, said his firm initially invested in Sift in 2016 because even at that time, it was clear that online fraud was “rapidly growing.” It was growing not just in dollar amounts, he said, but in the number of methods cybercriminals used to steal from consumers and businesses.

Sift has a novel approach to fighting fraud that combines massive data sets with machine learning, and it has a track record of proving its value for hundreds of online businesses,” he wrote via email.

When Olesen and the Sift team started the recent process of fundraising, Insight actually approached them before they started talking to outside investors “because both the product and business fundamentals are so strong, and the growth opportunity is massive,” Lieberman added.

“With more businesses heavily investing in online channels, nearly every one of them needs a solution that can intelligently weed out fraud while ensuring a seamless experience for the 99% of transactions or actions that are legitimate,” he wrote. 

The company plans to use its new capital primarily to expand its product portfolio and to scale its product, engineering and sales teams.

Sift also recently tapped Eu-Gene Sung — who has worked in financial leadership roles at Integral Ad Science, BSE Global and McCann — to serve as its CFO.

As to whether or not that meant an IPO is in Sift’s future, Olesen said that Sung’s experience of taking companies through a growth phase such as what Sift is experiencing would be valuable. The company is also for the first time looking to potentially do some M&A.

“When we think about expanding our portfolio, it’s really a buy/build partner approach,” Olesen said.

#airbnb, #artificial-intelligence, #board-member, #credit-card, #credit-card-fraud, #crime, #crimes, #cybercrime, #doordash, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #food-delivery, #fraud, #funding, #fundings-exits, #identity-theft, #insight-partners, #jeff-lieberman, #machine-learning, #mcdonalds, #online-fraud, #private-equity, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #sift, #startup, #startups, #stripes, #tc, #twilio, #union-square-ventures, #wayfair, #y-combinator

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5 Things to Know About Booking a Summer Rental

Property owners, agencies and management companies are predicting a busy, if not outright bonkers, summer.

#airbnb, #airdna, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #marriott-international-inc, #prices-fares-fees-and-rates, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #renting-and-leasing-real-estate, #second-homes-and-non-primary-residences, #summer-season, #travel-and-vacations, #vrbo-com

0

Outdoor startups see supercharged growth during COVID-19 era

After years of sustained growth, the pandemic supercharged the outdoor recreation industry. Startups that provide services like camper vans, private campsites and trail-finding apps became relevant to millions of new users when COVID-19 shut down indoor recreation, building on an existing boom in outdoor recreation.

Startups like Outdoorsy, AllTrails, Cabana, Hipcamp, Kibbo and Lowergear Outdoors have seen significant growth, but to keep it going, consumers who discovered a fondness for the great outdoors during the pandemic must turn it into a lifelong interest.

Outdoorsy, AllTrails, Cabana, Hipcamp, Kibbo and Lowergear Outdoors have seen significant growth, but to keep it going, consumers who discovered a fondness for the great outdoors during the pandemic must turn it into a lifelong interest.

Social media, increased environmentalism and high urbanization were already fueling a boom in popularity. There was a 72% increase in people who camp more than three times a year between 2014 and 2019, mostly spurred by young millennials, young families with kids and nonwhite participants.

But 2020 was a different animal: After months of shelter-in-place orders, widespread shutdowns and physical distancing, outdoors became the only location for safe socializing. In South Dakota, the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area saw a 59% increase in visitors from 2019 to 2020. In the pandemic year, consumers spent $887 billion on outdoor recreation according to the Outdoor Industry Association, more than pharmaceuticals and fuel combined.

And it’s going to continue to grow. Hiking equipment alone is supposed to reach a $7.4 billion market size by 2027, a 6.3% compound annual growth rate. Camping and caravanning is having an even more drastic moment. Without international travel, vacations shifted from flights to exotic resorts to domestic road trips, self-contained rentals and camping. In 2020, the market for camping and caravanning was almost $40 billion and is predicted to rise 13% to just over $45 billion this year.

After the initial and extreme drop-off in engagement early as national parks closed, private camping sites shut down and domestic travel ceased, many outdoor startups have had a breakout year. Outdoorsy, the peer-to-peer camper van rental marketplace, said it saw 44% of all bookings in the company’s history in 2020.

Campsite booking platform Hipcamp said it sent three times as much money to landowners in 2020 as compared to 2019. And it’s not just experienced outdoor veterans taking advantage of the work-from-home lifestyle: in 2020, Cabana, a camper van rental startup, said 70% of its customers had never rented a camper van or an RV before and another 26% had only done it once.

But a report commissioned by the Outdoor Industry Association showed that the most popular outdoor activities were ones that people could do close to home, not the traveling kind Hipcamp, Cabana and Outdoorsy traffic in. The three most popular outdoor activities for newbies: walking, running and bicycling.

But the pandemic did create a small boost for camping, climbing, backpacking and kayaking; fueled by an increase in women, younger, more ethnically diverse, urban and slightly less wealthy people pushing into the outdoors. This class of outdoor startups will need to engage the new demographic shift to capitalize on the pandemic’s outdoor boom because, according to the report, a quarter of those who started new outdoor activities during the pandemic don’t plan on continuing once it’s over.

Startups are increasing accessibility to the outdoors

But getting into the outdoors can be overwhelming: there’s gear to buy, skills to learn, exploring unfamiliar areas and the added stressor of safety. Outdoor startups are working to lower the barrier to entry to help grow their businesses.

“I think anytime you have like 2,000 articles with two dozen tips on how to use a product, that tells me that it is really, really too hard to use,” said Cabana founder Scott Kubly. “To me, that says there’s nothing but friction in this process. If you want to build something that’s mainstream, you need to make it super consistent and really easy to use.”

Kubly said only half a percent of the U.S. population takes a rental van or RV trip each year. Planning an outdoor adventure can be time-consuming — choosing a location, finding an open campsite, planning meals and water, and figuring out dump stations for trash or septic. That planning is multiplied tenfold if you are going for a road trip or backpacking and need to find new places every other night.

#airbnb, #camping, #ec-consumer-applications, #ec-market-map, #greentech, #onx, #outdoorsy, #startups, #tc, #travel-activities

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Altman brothers lead B2B payment startup Routable’s $30M Series B

We all know the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital adoption in a number of areas, particularly in the financial services space. Within financial services, there are few spaces hotter than B2B payments.

With a $120 trillion market size, it’s no surprise that an increasing number of fintechs focused on digitizing payments have been attracting investor interest. The latest is Routable, which has nabbed $30 million in a Series B raise that included participation from a slew of high-profile angel investors.

Unlike most raises, Routable didn’t raise the capital from a bunch of VC firms. Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI and former president of Y Combinator, and Jack Altman, CEO of Lattice, led the round. (The pair are brothers, in case you didn’t know.)

SoftBank-backed unicorn Flexport also participated, along with a number of angel investors, including Instacart co-founder Max Mullen, Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie, Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff (who also started TIME Ventures),  DoorDash’s Gokul Rajaram, early Stripe employee turned angel Lachy Groom and Behance founder Scott Belsky.

The Series B comes just over eight months after Routable came out of stealth with a $12 million Series A.

CEO Omri Mor and CTO Tom Harel founded Routable in 2017 after previously working at marketplaces and recognizing the need for better internal tools for scaling business payments. They went through a Y Combinator batch and embarked on a process of interviewing hundreds of CFOs and finance leaders.

The pair found that the majority of the business payment tools that were out there were built for large companies with a low volume of business payments. 

After running enough customer development we identified a huge scramble to solve high-volume business payments, and that’s what we double down on,” Mor told TechCrunch. 

Routable’s mission is simple: to automate bill payment and invoicing processes (also known as accounts payables and accounts receivables), so that businesses can focus on scaling their core product offerings without worrying about payments.

“A business payment is more like moving a bill through Congress, where a consumer payment is more like a tweet,” Mor said. “We automate every step from purchase order to reconciliation and by extending an API, companies don’t have to build their own inner integration. We handle it, while helping them move their money faster.”

Since its August 2020 raise, Routable has seen its revenue grow by 380%, according to Mor. And last month alone, the company tripled its amount of new customers compared to the month prior. Customers include Snackpass, Ticketmaster and Re-Max, among others.

“We’ve been beating every quarter expectation for the past 18 months,” he told TechCrunch.

The company started out focused on the startup and SMB customer, but based on demand and feedback, is expanding into the enterprise space as well.

It has established integrations with QuickBooks, NetSuite and Xero and is looking to invest moving forward in integrating with Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics Workday and SAP. 

“A lot of our investment moving forward is to be able to bring that same level of automation and ease of use that we do for SMB and mid-market customers to the enterprise world,” Mor told TechCrunch.

Lead investor Sam Altman is in favor of that approach, noting that the recent booms in the gig and creator economies are leading to a big spike in the volume of both payments and payees.

“With the addition of enterprise capabilities, we think this can lead to an enormous business,” he said. 

The round brings Routable’s total raised to $46 million. The company has headquarters in San Francisco and Seattle with primarily a remote team. 

Sam Altman also told me that he was drawn to Routable after having experienced the pain of high-volume business payments himself and working with many startup founders who had experienced the same problem.

He was also impressed with the company’s engineering-forward approach.

“They can offer the best service by being embedded in a company’s flow of funds instead of the usual approach of just being an interface for moving money,” Altman said. 

With regard to the other investors, Mor said the decision to partner with founders of a number of prominent tech companies was intentional so that Routable could benefit from their “deep enterprise and high-growth experience.”

As mentioned above, the B2B payments space is white-hot. Earlier this year, Melio, which provides a platform for SMBs to pay other companies electronically using bank transfers, debit cards or credit — along with the option of cutting paper checks for recipients if that is what the recipients request — closed on $110 million in funding at a $1.3 billion valuation.

#aaron-levie, #airbnb, #altman, #b2b, #behance, #doordash, #finance, #financial-services, #flexport, #funding, #fundings-exits, #gokul-rajaram, #instacart, #jack-altman, #joe-gebbia, #lachy-groom, #lattice, #marc-benioff, #netsuite, #open-ai, #oracle, #payments, #president, #recent-funding, #routable, #salesforce, #sam-altman, #san-francisco, #scott-belsky, #seattle, #startups, #venture-capital, #y-combinator

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Formation raises $4M led by Andreessen Horowitz to train truly ‘exceptional’ software engineers

Sophie Zhou Novati worked as a senior engineer at Facebook and then Nextdoor, where she struggled to hire great engineers for her team.

Frustrated, she decided to try training engineers to meet her team’s hiring standards by mentoring at a local coding bootcamp. After two and a half years of mentoring on nights and weekends, Novati decided to turn her passion into a career.

She and her husband, Michael, founded Formation with a couple of goals in mind. For one, they wanted to offer personalized training to help people not just learn to code, but to become “exceptional” software engineers. Sophie was also struck by the diversity of the people she witnessed going through coding bootcamps, but she realized that those graduates weren’t getting access to the same opportunities that students from traditional universities do.

Formation co-founder and CEO Sophia Zhou Navati

Formation co-founder and CEO Sophia Zhou Navati

With Formation, her goal is to personalize the training experience via a remote fellowship program that combines automated instruction with access to a “network of top tier mentors” from companies such as Facebook and Google. After one year in beta, Formation is unveiling its Engineering Fellowship, where every fellow gets a “personalized training plan tailored to their unique career ambitions.” So far, it’s placed just over 30 people in engineering roles at companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Lyft with an average starting salary of $120,000.

Formation aims to offer an experience beyond bootcamps, which Sophie argues “have gotten too big, too fast, churning hundreds or thousands of students through fixed curriculums without individualized attention.”

The startup attracted the attention of Andreessen Horowitz, which just led its $4 million seed round. Designer Fund, Combine, Lachy Groom, Slow Ventures and engineers from Airbnb, Notion, Rippling and others also participated in the financing.

“The first thing that really struck me about this community is just how diverse it is. Forty-four percent of graduates are reporting that they identify as nonmale, and the percentage of Black and Latinx graduates is nearly double the national average at traditional universities,” Sophie told TechCrunch. “But the problem is that only about 55% of bootcamp grads are getting a job as a software engineer, and of the ones that do, their median salary is only about $65,000. At the same time, companies everywhere are just desperately looking for ways to diversify their talent pool.”

Instead of having students follow a fixed curriculum, Formation leverages adaptive learning technology to build a personalized training plan tailored to each student’s specific skillset and career goals. The platform continuously assesses their skills and adapts their roadmap, according to Sophie.

About half of the people participating in Formation’s program are current engineers already working in the industry in some capacity. 

Connie Chan, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, said she’s been examining the edtech space for a while, including companies building new tools for teaching and upleveling coding skills. 

Formation stood out to her as the “only true tech-based and scalable solution that optimizes each student’s mastery of important skills.” Its ability to dynamically change based on a student’s performance in particular was compelling.

“The founder-product fit is also super clear — Sophie brings her own best-in-class engineering experience to Formation, as well as her long-time passion for mentoring,” Chan wrote via email.

#ai, #airbnb, #andreessen-horowitz, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #coding-bootcamp, #connie-chan, #designer-fund, #distance-education, #diversity, #edtech, #education, #facebook, #formation, #funding, #google, #lachy-groom, #lyft, #mentorship, #recent-funding, #slow-ventures, #software-engineer, #startups, #venture-capital

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Planting seed investments on tech’s frontiers nets KdT Ventures $50 million for its latest fund

Like other venture investors over the past year, Cain McClary, co-founder of the investment firm KdT Ventures, recently made the jump to Austin. But unlike the rest of them, he was coming from Black Mountain, NC.

McClary had spent the better part of the last three years with his co-founder Mack Healy building out a portfolio that would be the envy of almost any investor looking at financing startups whose businesses depend on innovations at the borders of current technological achievement.

Since 2017, when the firm closed on the first $3.5 million of what ended up being a $15 million fund (they had targeted $30 million), McClary and Healy managed to find their way onto the cap table of businesses like the green chemicals manufacturer, Solugen; health diagnostics technology developer, PathAI; the Nigerian genetic dataset developer, 54Gene; the novel biomaterials developer, Checkerspot; and the genetics-focused therapy company, Dyno Therapeutics. 

That portfolio — and the subsequent top decile performance that Cambridge Associates has said comes with it — has allowed McClary and Healy to close on an oversubscribed $50 million new fund to invest in promising startup companies.

KdT co-founders Cain McClary and Mack Healy. Image Credit: KdT Ventures

Hailing from a small Tennessee town outside of Leipers Fork (itself a small Tennessee town) McClary studied medicine at Tulane and business at Stanford where he linked up with Healy through a mutual friend.

Healy, who had done stints throughout big Bay Area startups like Airbnb, Databricks, and Facebook brought the software expertise (and some capital to stake the firm) while McClary provided the life sciences know-how.

Together the two men set out to hang their investment shingle at the intersection of software and life sciences that was proving to be fertile ground for new business creation. Each company in the firm’s portfolio depends on both the advances in understanding how to code computers and living cells.

McClary had left California for personal reasons when he launched the fund in 2017 and in 2020 relocated to Austin for professional ones. Healy had already set up shop in the city and it was easier, McClary said to fly out to San Francisco to look for companies from the Austin airport than it was from Ashville.

Also, both men were placing big bets on the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas to become the breeding ground for the type of entrepreneurs that the firm is looking to back.

Mack was there… the Dell Medical School and we think it’s going to be produce the types of entrpereneurs that we want to support. Houston has a med system. I firmly believe that texas has a place at the table in the future 

“The way that we define it is that we like to invest in the physical layer of the world,” said McClary. “That includes not only medicine, but chemicals and agriculture. All of that is driven by some of the things that we have this sourcecode for the physical world.”

Mapping the unmapped corners of the frontier tech startup world means that the firm not only has a presence in Austin, but has hired principals to scour Houston and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina for hot deals.

That doesn’t mean the firm is forsaking California though. One of the most recent deals in the KdT portfolio is Andes Ag, an Emeryville, Calif.-based startup that’s applying yield-boosting microbes directly to seeds in an effort to improve crop performance for farmers.

“The KdT team speaks the language of science, making them an outlier in this area of venture investing,” said JD Montgomery of Canterbury Consulting, a limited partner in KdT’s first and second fund. “They are passionate about building the science companies of the future that will tackle some of the significant challenges our world faces in the next decade and beyond.”

#54gene, #airbnb, #austin, #california, #cambridge-associates, #chemicals, #co-founder, #corporate-finance, #databricks, #dell, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #facebook, #finance, #fork, #houston, #money, #north-carolina, #partner, #pathai, #private-equity, #san-francisco, #solugen, #stanford, #startup-company, #tc, #texas, #tulane, #university-of-texas, #venture-capital

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Airbnb Has a Hate Group Problem, Too

But it’s not the same as Facebook’s. C.E.O. Brian Chesky discusses why he and Mark Zuckerberg have different consequences to consider.

#airbnb, #chesky-brian, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #silicon-valley-calif, #storming-of-the-us-capitol-jan-2021, #washington-dc

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Court overturns Amsterdam’s three-district ban on Airbnb rentals

A ban by Amsterdam authorities on housing owners offering their properties for vacation rentals in three central districts of the popular tourist city has been overturned after a court ruled it has no basis in law.

City authorities had been responding to concerns over the impact of tourist platforms like Airbnb on quality of life for residents.

An update to the city’s website notes that, from tomorrow, it will be possible for property owners to apply for a holiday rental permit in the three neighborhoods where vacation rentals had been entirely banned from July 1 last year.

City authorities write that they are studying the court ruling and will update the page “as soon as more is known”.

Amsterdam’s authorities took the step of prohibiting vacation rentals in the Burgwallen-Oude Zijde, Burgwallen-Nieuwe Zijde and Grachtengordel-Zuid districts last summer after a consultation process found widespread support among residents for a ban.

Authorities said strong growth in tourist rentals was impacting quality of life for residents.

It has also previously introduced a permit system to control vacation rentals in other districts of the city — which limits rentals to (currently) a maximum of 30 nights per year and for a maximum of four people per rental.

A further condition of the permit states that: “Your guests [must] not cause any inconvenience.”

Following the court ruling that permit system will operate in the three central districts too.

The city’s ban on vacation rentals in the central districts was challenged by an association that represents the interests of homeowners who rent their properties through Airbnb and other platforms. They had argued that the Housing Act 2014 did not provide a legal basis for a prohibition on holiday rental. 

The Court of Amsterdam agreed, writing in its judgement that “a system of permits cannot contain a total prohibition”.

“Anyone who meets the conditions of the permit is in principle eligible for a permit. A total ban is a major infringement of the right to property and the free movement of services and will only be seen as a justified measure in very exceptional circumstances,” it further emphasized. 

However the court’s verdict leaves room for the city to amend legislation to add new conditions to the permit system which could include a ‘quality of life’ consideration (which it does not currently).

The court also suggests the possibility of a quota system with a night criterion being introduced under existing legislation, as another means of using the permit system to manage quality of life. It further suggests city authorities could enforce residential (rather than touristic) purposes for houses via a zoning plan. So there are alternative avenues for Amsterdam’s officials to explore as a policy tool to limit activity on Airbnb et al.

At the same time the court ruling underlines the challenges European cities face in trying to regulate the impacts of rental platforms on areas like housing availability (and affordability) and wider quality of life issues for residents dealing with over-tourism (not currently an issue, of course, given ongoing travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic).

In recent years a number of major tourist cities in Europe have expressed public frustration over vacation rental platforms — penning an open letter to the European Commission back in 2019 that called for “strong legal obligations for platforms to cooperate with us in registration-schemes and in supplying rental-data per house that is advertised on their platforms”.

“Cities must protect the public interest and eliminate the adverse effects of short term holiday rental in various ways. More nuisances, feelings of insecurity and a ‘touristification’ of their neighbourhoods is not what our residents want. Therefore (local) governments should have the possibility to introduce their own regulations depending on the local situation,” they also wrote, urging EU policymakers to support a rethink of the rules.

Since then the Commission has announced a limited data-sharing arrangement with the leading vacation rental platforms, saying it wants to encourage “balanced” development of peer-to-peer rentals.

Last year the Dutch government pressed the Commission to go further over data access to vacation rental platforms — pushing for a provision to be included in a major planned update to pan-EU rules wrapping digital services, aka the Digital Services Act (DSA).

The DSA proposal, which is now going through the EU’s co-legislative process, is broadly targeted at standardizing processes for tackling illegal goods and services — so it could have implications for vacation platforms in areas like data-sharing where it relates to illegal vacation rentals (i.e. where a property is advertised without a required permit).

 

#airbnb, #amsterdam, #digital-services-act, #eu, #europe, #lawsuit, #platform-regulation, #policy, #vacation-rentals

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Payments Start-Up Stripe Surges to $95 Billion Valuation

The company has benefited in the pandemic as people turn to online shopping. It is now the most valuable start-up in the U.S.

#airbnb, #coinbase-inc, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #dublin-ireland, #e-commerce, #robinhood-financial-llc, #sequoia-capital, #start-ups, #stripe-inc, #venture-capital

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How Do Silicon Valley Techies Celebrate Getting Rich in a Pandemic?

Not by buying airplanes. Instead, the newest start-up millionaires are proceeding cautiously.

#airbnb, #high-net-worth-individuals, #initial-public-offerings, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #silicon-valley-calif, #start-ups

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Airbnb plans for a new kind of travel post-COVID with flexible search

Since going public, most of the news out of Airbnb has been around policy. Today, the company has an announcement that’s all about the product.

As the pandemic evolves the way we do everything, and we collectively realize that much of that new behavior will be permanent, tech companies are looking to evolve alongside us.

Airbnb is today introducing Flexible Search, which will allow users to forgo putting in exact dates when they look to book lodging on the platform. Instead, users can search for a weekend getaway, week-long vacation, month-long vacation or months-long vacation without setting specific dates.

Not only does this give guests more options to browse through, but it should also increase exposure for hosts.

Image Credits: Airbnb

Airbnb says that its new travel trends report shows that one quarter of Americans would consider traveling during off-peak times of the year or the week, and in 2021 so far, more than 1/3 of the people searching on Airbnb have been flexible in terms of date and location.

Here’s what the company had to say about it in a blog post:

It’s no surprise COVID-19 continues to change the way we travel, and in addition to redesigning our platform last year to make nearby and longer-term stays easier to find and book, our new Flexible Dates feature aligns with a broader shift in how people will travel in the future. The traditional travel industry was built around fixed destinations with fixed dates in mind, but that model no longer meets the needs of today’s travelers.

Travel, and air travel in particular, have been devastated by the pandemic in 2020. Signs of a slow recovery are starting to sprout up, but the move to remote work (which has resulted in much, much less business travel) means that a good chunk of the depression in the travel industry is here to stay. That said, Airbnb’s travel trends report shows that the majority of folks (54 percent) miss traveling and are planning their next getaway.

Flexible Search will allow users to get back in the mindset of travel without having an exact plan around dates, which is particularly important as the positivity rates around the globe and country continue to shift.

#airbnb, #apps, #tc

0

Airbnb Is Driving Hosts Elsewhere With Costly Pandemic Policies

Hurt by refunds, some are trying to cut the site out of bookings or taking legal action. The company says it is working to reduce tensions.

#airbnb, #chesky-brian, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #rebates-and-refunds, #renting-and-leasing-real-estate, #travel-and-vacations

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TikTok parent ByteDance joins patent troll protection group LOT Network

LOT Network, the non-profit that helps businesses of all sizes and across industries defend themselves against patent trolls by creating a shared pool of patents to immunize themselves against them, today announced that TikTik parent ByteDance is joining its group.

ByteDance has acquired its fair share of patents in recent years and is itself embroiled in a patent fight with its rival Triller. That’s not what joining the LOT Network is about, though. ByteDance is joining a group of companies here that includes the likes of IBM, the Coca-Cola Company, Cisco, Lyft, Microsoft, Oracle, Target, Tencent, Tesla, VW, Ford, Waymo, Xiaomi and Zelle. In total, the group now has over 1,300 members.

As LOT CEO Ken Seddon told me, the six-year-old group had a record year in 2020, with 574 companies joining it and bringing its set of immunized patents to over 3 million, including 14% of all patents issued in the U.S.

Among the core features of LOT, which only charges members who make more than $25 million in annual revenue, is that its members aren’t losing control over the patents they add to the pool. They can still buy and trade them as before, but if they decide to sell to what the industry calls a ‘patent assertion entity,’ (PAE) that is, a patent troll, they automatically provide a free licence to that patent to every other member of the group. This essentially turns LOT into what Seddon calls a ‘flu shot ‘ against patent trolls (and one that’s free for startups).

“The conclusion that people are waking up to is, is that we’re basically like a herd, we’re herd immunization, effectively,” Seddon said. “And every time a company joins, people realize that the community of non-members shrinks by one. It’s like those that don’t have the vaccination shrinks — and they are, ‘wait a minute, that makes me a higher risk of getting sued. I’m a bigger target.’ And they’re like, ‘wait a minute, I don’t want to be the target.’”

ByteDance, he argues, is a good example for a company that can profit from membership in LOT. While you may think of patents as purely a sign of a company’s innovativeness, for corporate lawyers, they are also highly effective defense tools (that can be used aggressively as well, if needed). But it can take a small company years to build up a patent portfolio. But a fast-growing, successful company also becomes an obvious target for patent trolls.

“When you are a successful company, you naturally become a target,” Seddon said. “People become jealous and they become threatened by you. And they covet your money and your revenue and your success. One of the ways that companies can defend themselves and protect their innovation is through patents. Some companies grow so fast, they become so successful, that their revenue grows faster than they can grow their patent portfolio organically.” He cited Instacart, which acquired 250 patents from IBM earlier this month, and Airbnb, which was sued by IBM over patent infringement in early 2020 (the companies settled in December), as examples.

ByteDance, thanks to the success of TikTok, now finds itself in a situation where it, too, is likely to become a target of patent trolls. The company has started acquiring patents itself to grow its portfolio faster and now it is joining LOT to strengthen its protection there.

“[ByteDance] is being a visionary and trying to get ahead of the wave,” Seddon noted. “They are a successful global company that needs to develop a global IP strategy. Historically, PAEs were just a US problem, but now ByteDance has to worry about PAEs being an issue in China and Europe as well.  By joining LOT, they protect themselves and their investments from over 3 million patents should they ever fall into the hands of a PAE.”

Lynn Wu, Director and Chief IP Counsel, Global IP and Digital Licensing Strategy at ByteDance, agrees. “Innovation is core to the culture at ByteDance, and we believe it’s important to protect our diverse technical and creative community,” she said in today’s announcement. “As champions for the fair use of IP, we encourage other companies to help us make the industry safer by joining LOT Network. If we work together, we can protect the industry from exploitation and continue advancing innovation, which is key to the growth and success of the entire community.”

There’s another reason companies are so eager to join the group now, though, and that’s because these patent assertion entities, which had faded into the background a bit in the mid- to late-2010s, may be making a comeback. The core assumption here is a bit gloomy: many companies seem to assume we’re in for an economic downturn. If we hit a recession, a lot of patent holders will start looking at their patent portfolios and start selling off some their more valuable patents in order to stay afloat. Since beggars can’t be choosers, that often means they’ll sell to a patent troll if that troll is the highest bidder. Last year, a patent troll sued Uber using a patent sold by IBM, for example (and IBM gets a bit of a bad rap for this, but, hey, it’s business).

That’s what happened after the last recession — though it typically takes a few years for the effect to be felt. Nothing in the patent world moves quickly.

Now, when LOT members sell to a troll, that troll can’t sue other LOT members over it. Take IBM, for example, which joined LOT last year.

“People give IBM a lot of grief and criticism for selling to PAEs, but at least IBM is giving everybody a chance to get a free license,” Seddon told me. “IBM joined LOT last year and what IBM is effectively doing is saying to everybody, ‘look, I joined LOT.’ And they put all of their entire patent portfolio into LOT. And they’re saying to everybody, ‘look, I have the right to sell my patents to anybody I want, and I’m going to sell it to the highest bidder. And if I sell it to a patent troll and you don’t join LOT — and if you get sued by a troll, is that my fault or your fault? Because if you join LOT, you could have gotten a free license.’”

#airbnb, #bytedance, #cisco, #flu, #ford, #ibm, #instacart, #intellectual-property-law, #lawsuit, #lot-network, #lyft, #microsoft, #monopoly, #oracle, #patent, #patent-law, #patent-troll, #software, #tencent, #tesla, #triller, #united-states, #vaccination, #vw, #waymo

0

In Canada, Americans Are Missed, With Limits

U.S. visitors usually mean big business for Canada’s tourism industry. But the pandemic has blunted lonesomeness for the country’s best friend.

#airbnb, #canada, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #culture-arts, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #joe-beef-montreal-quebec-restaurant, #musee-dart-contemporain-de-montreal, #museums, #music, #restaurants, #stratford-shakespeare-festival, #theater, #travel-and-vacations

0

Is anything too big to be SPAC’d?

While many deemed 2020 the year of SPAC, short for special purpose acquisition company, 2021 may well make last year look quaint in comparison.

It’s probably not premature to be asking: is anything too big to be SPAC’d?

Just today, we saw the trading debut of the most valuable company to date go public through a merger with one of these SPACs: 35-five-year-old, Pontiac, Michigan-based United Wholesale Mortgage, which is among the biggest mortgage companies in the U.S.

Its shares slipped a bit by the end of trading, closing at $11.35 down from their starting price of $11.54, but it’s doubtful anyone involved is crying into their cocktails tonight. The outfit was valued at a whopping $16 billion when its merger with the blank-check outfit Gores Holdings IV was approved earlier this week.

Why is this interesting? Well, first, despite UWM’s size, unlike with a traditional IPO that can require 12 to 18 months of preparation, UWM’s path to going public took less than a year, beginning with Gores Holdings IV completing its IPO in late January 2020 and raising approximately $425 million in cash.

Alec Gores, the billionaire founder of of the private equity firm Gores Group, led the deal. It isn’t clear when Gores approached UWM, but the tie-up was announced back in September and ultimately included a $500 million private placement. (It’s typical to tack-on these transactions once a target company has been identified and accepts the terms of the proposed merger. Most targets are many times larger than the SPACs. In fact, according to law firm Vinson & Elkins, there’s no maximum size of a target company.)

Also notable is that UWM is a mature company, one that says it generated $1.3 billion in revenue in the third quarter of last year alone. UWM CEO Mat Ishbia, whose father started the company in 1986, said last fall that the company is “massively profitable.”

It’s a story unlike that of many other outfits to go public recently through the SPAC process. Many — Opendoor, Luminar Technologies, Virgin Galactic — are still developing businesses that need capital to keep going and which might not have found much more from private market investors. Indeed, today’s deal would seem to open up a new world of possibilities, and for companies of all sizes.

Either way, it isn’t likely to hold the record for ‘biggest SPAC deal ever’ for long. Not only is interest in SPACs as feverish as ever, billionaire investor William Ackman is still sitting on a $4 billion SPAC to which he has said he’ll throw in an additional $1 billion in cash from his hedge fund, Pershing Square Capital.

You can bet the deal will be a doozy. Reportedly, Ackerman was at one point looking to take public Airbnb with his SPAC, which began trading in July. When Airbnb passed on the proposed merger, he reportedly reached out to the privately held media conglomerate Bloomberg (which Bloomberg has said is untrue).

Because SPACs typically complete a merger with a private company in two years or less, speculation continues to run rampant about what Ackman will put together. In the meantime, there have already been 59 new SPAC offerings this year — as many as in all of 2019 — that have raised $16.8 billion, and there’s seemingly no end in sight.

Just this week, Fifth Wall Ventures, the four-year-old, L.A.-based proptech focused venture firm, registered plans to raise $250 million for a new blank-check company.

Intel Chairman Omar Ishrak, who previously ran medical device giant Medtronic, is planning to raise between $750 million and $1 billion for a blank-check firm targeting deals in the health tech sector, Bloomberg reported on Sunday.

Gores Group isn’t done, either. On Wednesday, it registered plans to raise $400 million in an IPO for its newest blank check company. It will be the outfit’s seventh to date.

There are now so many companies to go public through a SPAC exchange-traded funds are beginning to pop up, putting together baskets of SPAC deals for investors who want to hedge their bets.

The very newest fund, reported on earlier this week by the WSJ and overseen by hedge fund Morgan Creek Capital Management and  fintech company Exos Financial, will be actively managed and snap up stakes in firms that recently went public by merging with a SPAC, as well as shell companies that are still on the prowl.

It will be joining the world’s first actively managed exchange-traded fund focused on SPACs, the Calgary-based Accelerate Arbitrage Fund, which launched in April of last year.

A second ETF, the Defiance NextGen Derived SPAC ETF, emerged in October.

#airbnb, #ipo, #luminar, #opendoor, #spac, #tc, #virgin-galactic

0

The local politics of AirBNB’s ban on DC rentals

Airbnb said it will refund guests who had booked stays in Washington next week and reimburse hosts for lost income.

Enlarge / Airbnb said it will refund guests who had booked stays in Washington next week and reimburse hosts for lost income. (credit: Bonnie Jo Mount | Washington Post | Getty Images)

On January 9—three days after supporters of President Trump started a riot at the US Capitol—Sean Evans decided it was time for action. Evans had seen a post on Nextdoor about neighbors running into hostile Trump supporters the night of the riot, leading to a verbal altercation that had left residents of his corner of Northwest DC on edge. Now, rumors flew online that the upcoming inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden would bring more protesters and more armed violence to the streets of his city. “I don’t want them in my neighborhood,” Evans thought to himself. In fact, he didn’t want insurrectionists in the city at all.

So on Nextdoor, Evans asked his neighbors to stop renting out their properties via Airbnband VRBO. A few hours later, another neighbor devised a hashtag: #DontRentDC.

Separately, a group called ShutDownDC gathered 500 volunteers to message DC area Airbnb hosts. The group sent messages to the managers of 3,400 properties in the region—polite ones, according to ShutDownDC organizer Alex Dodd. The messages alerted the Airbnb hosts to an upcoming threat and asked them to please refrain from booking anyone in their homes in the days surrounding the inauguration.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#airbnb, #dc, #gaming-culture, #insurrection, #policy, #washington

0

Daily Crunch: Airbnb cancels all DC bookings during inauguration week

Airbnb takes a big step to avoid violence at the inauguration, Intel gets a new CEO and Affirm goes public. This is your Daily Crunch for January 13, 2021.

The big story: Airbnb cancels all DC bookings during inauguration week

Airbnb said today that “in response to various local, state and federal officials asking people not to travel to Washington, D.C.” it will be canceling all reservations in the area for next week, which is the week of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. This will apply to all reservations on Airbnb-owned HotelTonight as well.

The company had already said that it would ban anyone who was involved in last week’s riot in the U.S. Capitol, but it’s now taking a much more aggressive step to avoid housing anyone who might have violent plans during the inauguration.

They also said guests will be given a full refund, while hosts will still receive full compensation for these reservations.

The tech giants

Pat Gelsinger stepping down as VMware CEO to replace Bob Swan at Intel — Gelsinger would be replacing Intel’s interim CEO Bob Swan on February 15.

Affirm doubles after starting to trade despite strong IPO pricing — Affirm’s explosive debut comes on the heels of similarly strong results from DoorDash, C3.ai and Airbnb.

Apple announces new projects related to its $100 million pledge for racial equity and justice — For starters, the company will contribute $25 million to the Propel Center, an innovation and learning hub for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Rapyd raises $300M on a $2.5B valuation to boost its fintech-as-a-service API — Rapyd’s customer base now includes about 5,000 businesses.

Flo gets FTC slap for sharing user data when it promised privacy — The FTC has reached a settlement with Flo, a period and fertility tracking app with 100 million+ users.

E-commerce optimization startup Tradeswell raises $15.5M — The key goal is to allow e-commerce businesses to improve their net margins.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Venture capitalists react to Visa-Plaid deal meltdown — The leading sentiment seems to be, “Congratulations, you’re no longer selling your company for billions of dollars!”

Will startup valuations change given rising antitrust concerns? — Even a few smoke signals is enough to start raising concerns.

Dear Sophie: What’s the new minimum salary required for H-1B visa applicants? — The latest edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

Everything else

These robo-fish autonomously form schools and work as search parties — Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have created a set of fish-shaped underwater robots that can autonomously navigate and find each other.

Survey: Help shape the future of TechCrunch — We’re always looking to make TechCrunch better, and part of that is regularly gathering feedback from the people who matter most: You!

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#airbnb, #policy

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Airbnb cancels all DC-area reservations ahead of Biden inauguration

Pro-Trump rioters clashed with police outside the US Capitol January 6, 2021.

Enlarge / Pro-Trump rioters clashed with police outside the US Capitol January 6, 2021. (credit: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Airbnb is canceling all reservations in the DC metropolitan area next week—the week of Joe Biden’s inauguration—the company announced on Wednesday. The governors of Virginia and Maryland and the Mayor of Washington DC have all asked visitors not to come to DC for the event.

“Additionally, we are aware of reports emerging yesterday afternoon regarding armed militias and known hate groups that are attempting to travel and disrupt the Inauguration,” Airbnb wrote.

The District of Columbia has been on edge since last Wednesday, when a violent mob invaded the US Capitol, killed a police officer, and temporarily prevented Congress from confirming Joe Biden’s election as the 46th president. Police regained control of the Capitol within hours. But some right-wing extremists have vowed to return with weapons next week to try to disrupt Biden’s inauguration.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#airbnb, #policy

0

Ahead of inauguration, Airbnb pledges bans for anyone involved in Capitol riot

Building on a policy that the company said has been in place since the Charlottesville protests back in 2017, Airbnb said it will take additional steps to beef up community protections for the DC metro area ahead of the presidential inauguration.

Airbnb already removes people from the platform who are associated with violent hate groups ahead of specific events, the company said.

And ahead of the inauguration, the company said it would use a seven-step plan to ensure that the DC metro-area isn’t overwhelmed with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, or “western chauvinists.”

Airbnb said it would ban individuals identified as involved in criminal activity around the Capitol at last week’s riot. “When we learn through media or law enforcement sources the names of individuals confirmed to have been responsible for the violent criminal activity at the United States Capitol on January 6, we investigate whether the named individuals have an account on Airbnb,” the company said. “This includes cross-referencing the January 6 arrest logs of D.C. Metro Police. If the individuals have an Airbnb account, we take action, which includes banning them from using Airbnb.”

That’s in addition to another sweep of existing reservations at locations around the Capitol in the days leading up to the inauguration to ensure that no one associated with hate groups slips through its dragnet.

The company will also tighten up booking requirements, with additional identity verification measures and other security checks to ensure that background checks are up-to-date.

As final steps, the company said that it is communicating with booking guests to inform them that if they’re bringing people who are associated with hate groups then they could face legal action from Airbnb. Hosts are also being told by the company that if they suspect anything about individuals staying on their properties that they should contact the company’s Urgent Safety Line.

#airbnb, #capitol-riot, #hospitality-industry, #tc, #travel, #vacation-rental

0

Roblox raises at $29.5 billion valuation, readies for direct listing

Roblox is now one of the world’s most valuable private companies in the world after a monster Series H raise brings the social gaming platform a stratospheric $29.5 billion valuation. The company won’t be private for long, though.

The $520 million raise led by Altimeter Capital and Dragoneer Investment Group is a significant cash influx for Roblox, which had previously raised just over $335 million from investors according to Crunchbase. The Investment Group of Santa Barbara, Warner Music Group, and a number of current investors, also participated in this round.

In February of 2020, the company closed a $150 million Series G led by Andreessen Horowitz which valued the company at $4 billion.

The gaming startup has initially planned an IPO in 2020, but after the major first day pops of DoorDash and Airbnb, the company leadership reconsidered their timeline, according to a report in Axios. Those major say-one share price pops left significant money on the table for the companies selling those shares, an outcome Roblox is likely looking to avoid. Today, the company also announced that it plans to enter the public markets via a direct listing.

Roblox’s 7x valuation multiple signals just how feverish public and private markets are for tech stocks. The valuation also highlights how investors foresee the company benefiting from pandemic trends which pushed more users online and towards social gaming platforms. In a 2019 prospectus, the company shared that it had 17.6 million users, now Roblox claims to have 31 million daily active users on its platform.

#airbnb, #altimeter-capital, #andreessen-horowitz, #computing, #crunchbase, #doordash, #dragoneer-investment-group, #gaming, #online-games, #roblox, #tc, #valuation, #video-gaming, #warner-music-group, #websites

0

US says India, Italy, and Turkey digital taxes are discriminatory, but won’t take any actions for now

Digital services taxes adopted by India, Italy, and Turkey in the past years discriminate against U.S. companies, the U.S. Trade Representative said on Wednesday.

USTR, which began investigations into the three nation’s digital services taxes in June last year, said it found them to be inconsistent with international tax principles, unreasonable, and burdening or restricting U.S. commerce.

In its detailed reports, which the office has made public, USTR studied how these digital taxes affected companies including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Airbnb, and Twitter. USTR said it conducted these investigations on the ground of Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974.

India, which has become the largest market for Silicon Valley giants Google and Facebook, introduced digital taxes in 2016 to target foreign firms. Last year, the world’s second largest internet market expanded the scope of its levy to cover a range of additional categories.

USTR investigation found (PDF) that New Delhi was taxing “numerous categories of digital services that are not leviable under other digital services taxes adopted around the world” and that the aggregate tax bill for U.S. companies could exceed $30 million per year.  It also took issue with India not levying similar taxes on local companies.

Despite the strong findings on three nations’ digital services taxes, USTR said it is not taking any specific actions “at this time” but will “continue to evaluate all available options.”

U.S. tech companies have in the past supported terms brokered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. But OECD, which is currently in the middle of working out technical details for agreements for over a 100 nations, doesn’t expect to finish the work until mid-2021. In the absence of OECD agreements, various countries are moving forward with their own versions of the taxes.

Since June last year, USTR has initiated investigations into digital services tax instituted — or proposed to be put in place – by a number of countries including Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, the European Union, Indonesia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and France, which resumed collecting digital services tax from US companies late last year.

In retaliation, USTR had set a January 6 deadline for levying a 25% tariff on a range of French imported goods including cosmetics and handbags.

USTR did not say whether the tariff had been enforced, but in a statement said it expects to announce the progress or completion of additional investigations in the near future.

#airbnb, #amazon, #facebook, #google, #government, #india, #italy, #turkey, #ustr

0

Market Edges Toward Euphoria, Despite Pandemic’s Toll

Investors of all stripes piled into stocks this year, creating levels of froth reminiscent of the dot-com boom. Analysts say there’s room to go higher, but some worry about a bubble.

#airbnb, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #doordash-mobile-app, #etsy-inc, #federal-reserve-system, #initial-public-offerings, #palantir-technologies, #robinhood-financial-llc, #standardpoors-500-stock-index, #stimulus-economic, #stocks-and-bonds

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Wish (and Airbnb, and Palantir) investor Justin Fishner-Wolfson doesn’t care about first-day pops

It’s probably no wonder that when Founders Fund was still a very young venture firm 13 years ago, it brought aboard as its first principal Justin Fishner-Wolfson. Having nabbed two computer science degrees from Stanford and spent two years as CEO of an organization that provides asset management services to the school’s student organizations, Fishner-Wolfson wasn’t shy about voicing his opinions at the venture fund. In fact, he says Founders Fund made a much bigger bet on SpaceX than it originally planned because he pushed for it.

He stayed three years before spying what he thought was an even better opportunity, owing to friends who worked at Facebook before the company’s 2012 IPO. They were beginning to look for ways to liquidate their shares, and while they had options, to his mind, they weren’t great. More, Fishner-Wolfson says he foresaw more companies like Facebook staying private longer. He said goodbye to Founders Fund and formed 137 Ventures to acquire secondary shares from founders, investors, and employees.

That was 10 years ago, and the firm seems to be doing just fine for itself. Last year, it closed its fourth fund with $210 million in capital commitments, bringing its assets under management to more than $1 billion. Its approach of focusing on roughly 10 to 12 companies per fund appears to be paying off, too. Since late September, it has seen three of its portfolio companies — Palantir, Airbnb, and Wish — hit the public market.

We talked at length with Fishner-Wolfson this week to learn more about how 137 Ventures works, from how it screens companies, to the impact it has seen from companies that are giving their employees longer windows in which to keep their vested stock options. (“It has certainly stopped the desperate calls from people who have huge amounts of equity that’s about to expire, which, I’m totally happy to not get those phone calls, because I feel terrible for people who are in that sort of situation,” he said.) We also talked about that early deal in SpaceX, which also appears in 137 Ventures’s portfolio.

You can listen to that longer conversation here. In the meantime, we’re pulling out part of our conversation that centered on Wish, the discount e-commerce company whose IPO this week has been called a dud.

TC: Two of your portfolio companies have done very well as they’ve entered the public market — Palantir and Airbnb. Wish was a different story, dropping in its debut. What do you make of its IPO? Do you think investors misunderstand this company?

JFW: I think it takes the investment community a long time to understand any newly public company. At the end of the day, the IPO is just one day, right? What really matters is how companies perform over the next 10 or 20 years.

I would look at Microsoft or Amazon or more recently, Facebook, whose [share price] dropped 50% in the week or two following its offering and Facebook has gone on to be an incredible business. I have no idea what the market is going to do tomorrow [or] the day after. But over a decade, if you can really build a great sustainable business that compounds, it all comes out in the wash.

Wish has done an incredible job of scaling the business. I think [cofounder and CEO] Peter [Szulczewski] is one of the best operators I’ve met in this industry. And they’ve done a lot of innovative things in terms of mobile. There’s a lot more discovery on the Wish platform. The whole in-store pickup has been really innovative; they’re helping consumers get products quickly in an asset-light kind of way where you don’t need to buy millions and millions of square feet of warehouses.

TC: You’re talking about these partnerships that Wish starting striking with mom-and-pop shops in the U.S. and Europe, where those who have extra storage space will now take receipt of Wish goods, which in turn gives them a little bit more foot traffic when people come in to pick up their items. That’s a big shift from how Wish used to operate, which was by shipping things very cheaply from China through a USPS deal whose economics have since changed. Is that right?

JFW: Right. They’re helping small and medium-size businesses drive foot traffic, which was always valuable but in the current environment, going to become even more important to these sorts of businesses. They’re [also] helping those businesses leverage the data they have across their entire platform because Wish understands what consumers in that geography are looking for, and they can help those businesses merchandise better. And then, because they’re shipping product to one location, they’re aggregating orders from a whole bunch of people who don’t know each other, and that reduces logistics and shipping time and costs. So they send that stuff in, and it’s easier for the consumer to walk or drive five to 15 minutes, and go pick it up. That allows Wish to focus on the value-conscious consumer who is willing to trade a little bit of time for a much better price on things.

TC: Wish is known as a place to get tchotchkes from China. Now that it’s trying to sell more mainstream goods, how does it go about changing the perception that it has in the marketplace?

JFW: I’m not sure they need to do a whole lot to change that perception, because I still think they haven’t penetrated the market as a whole. There are lots of people who don’t even know about them quite frankly. And as [I’ve] watched the marketplace evolve, you’ve just seen more and more merchants, and more and more data back from customers about both the merchants and the quality of the merchandise, and all those things feed back into this very powerful system, where they can leverage the data to improve product quality and make sure that they’re selling what people want.

TC: Do you think uneven quality explains the company’s uneven revenue? It grew something like 57% in 2018, then 10% in 2019, and picked up again in the first nine months of this year. Why do you think it’s been topsy turvy?

JFW: All businesses go through these cycles of growth, and then focusing on efficiency. If you just focus on growth, you tend to grow, and then break things, and then do things in relatively inefficient ways. And then ultimately, you need to turn around and focus on how you drive operational efficiencies. So I think the cycles that you’re describing, if you look at the underlying metrics, you [see] improvement in operating efficiency.

TC: Wish’s shares did not “pop.” On the other hand, former Snap executive Imran Khan told CNBC on Tuesday that the recent post IPO stock pops, including those of Airbnb and Doordash, represent an “epic level of incompetency” from the bankers who underwrote the stocks. Do you believe it was incompetency on the part of the bankers or just market volatility that caused those stocks to pop as high as they did?

JFW: I think no one actually knows the answer to that question. I think it makes for a good sound bite. At the end of the day, I don’t think the price on the first day is a meaningful indicator of anything.

TC: Are the feverish embrace of these companies driving prices up in the secondary market? What are you seeing?

It really does matter what the public prices are [because] that ultimately trickles into the private markets and also vice versa. At some point, things can’t have massive differences in value between their private market valuations and their public market valuations. So you definitely see multiples shift as the market shifts. But these things are often averages. People focus on one company or one example of these things without necessarily looking at all the companies because that would be quite difficult.

But there are always examples of things that are overpriced. There are also examples of things that are under priced. As an investor, you want to try to invest more of your money in the good companies that are on the lower end of that spectrum, certainly. But the focus is always on good companies. If you can find companies that are going to compound over long periods of time, as long as you’re not too crazy on multiples or valuations, you end up being in a good spot.

TC: Who are you tracking right now? What’s an investment that’s not up on your website yet?

JFW: Snapdocs [a company that helps real estate professionals to digitally manage the mortgage process and other paperwork and which just closed on $60 million in funding in October].

Aaron [King], who is the founder and CEO of the company, has done really a fantastic job of building a product that that people are willing to adopt, and this is the right moment in time for that growth to really accelerate. They’ve been having a good year.

Pictured above: The 137 Ventures’ team, with Wolfson center (in glasses).

#137-ventures, #airbnb, #founders-fund, #lattice, #palantir, #secondaries, #snapdocs, #spacex, #tc, #venture-capital, #wish

0

California Travel Restrictions Ban Short-Term Rentals. Why Can’t Travelers Get Refunds?

The state’s latest travel restrictions make most hotel or short term lodging illegal. But Airbnb and Vrbo, the biggest home-sharing companies, are sticking to no-refund policies.

#airbnb, #california, #chesky-brian, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #hilton-worldwide-holdings-inc, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #hyatt-hotels-corp, #marriott-international-inc, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #rebates-and-refunds, #travel-and-vacations, #travel-warnings, #vrbo-com

0

Airbnb sets new diversity goals

Airbnb, which recently went public and became a $100 billion company, has set two goals to try to improve diversity at the home-sharing and experiences company because it “is nowhere near satisfied with the status quo,” the company wrote in a blog post.

By the end of 2025, Airbnb is aiming for 20% of its U.S. workforce to be underrepresented minorities, which includes folks who self-identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latinx, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. Currently, underrepresented minorities make up just 12% of the company’s employee base.

The second goal is to increase the representation of women to 50% by the end of 2025. Currently, Airbnb says it is 46.9% female worldwide, but it’s worth noting Airbnb has not released a full diversity report since 2019 when it disclosed its 2018 numbers.

These goals come after Airbnb committed in June to making its Board of Directors and executive team 20% people of color by the end of 2021. Currently, Airbnb has one Black director on its board, Kenneth Chenault and one Black person on its executive team, Melissa Thomas-Hunt, who is head of global diversity and belonging.

This is also not the first time Airbnb has set goals. In 2016, Airbnb committed to increasing the percentage of employees from underrepresented groups from 9.64% to 11% by the end of 2017. Airbnb achieved that goal, which supports the claim that setting goals are helpful in increasing DEI.

#airbnb, #diversity, #diversity-report

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How to find your next VC

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange,weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Subscribe here

Ready? Let’s talk money, startups and spicy IPO rumors.

 

 

#airbnb, #braze, #doordash, #tc, #the-exchange

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Airbnb’s first-day pop caps off a stellar week for tech IPOs

After pricing above its raised range last night, Airbnb opened this morning at $146 per share, up around 115% to kick off its life as a public company.

The company is now worth $158 per share. Using its IPO share count inclusive of shares reserved for underwriters, the company is worth $95.1 billion, but on a fully diluted basis, including shares that could be exercised or awarded in the future, Airbnb is worth much more.

The home-sharing unicorn initially targeted $44 to $50 per share in its debut, later raising that range to $56 to $60 before pricing at at $68 per share. To open at such a premium is not shocking given how the debuts of DoorDash and C3.ai performed earlier in the week.

Taken as a trio, the companies’ amped public debut are stoking concerns of mispriced IPOs.

However, taken as a trio, the companies’ amped public debut are stoking concerns of mispriced IPOs and, at least in my head, public markets that are more enthusiastic than reasonable.1

The explosive debuts of the enterprise AI company, the home-sharing giant and the food-delivery leader were not the first IPOs of 2020 to set off fireworks when trading began. Snowflake, another megadebut, gained more than 100% in its first trading day, despite pricing above its own raised IPO price range.

What’s going on? Let’s use Snowflake as a prism through which we can figure it out. Lemonade, the summer insurtech IPO, will also provide some useful guidance.

Was Snowflake underpriced?

When Snowflake’s IPO went out with a thunderclap, it was more ammunition for critics of the traditional public offering. The company and its private investors had done so much work to get Snowflake to the public markets, complaints seemed to go, and then some idiot bankers mispriced its debut by 100%, rewarding their clients and screwing the company? Awful!

So went the argument. However, as I wrote at the time, leaning on the work of Forbes’ excellent reporting, Snowflake’s CEO was not fully bought into the concept:

Alex Konrad at Forbes — a good chap, follow him on Twitter here — caught up with Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman about the matter. He called the “chatter” that his company left money on the table “nonsense,” adding that he could have priced higher but that he “wanted to bring along the group of investors that [Snowflake] wanted, and [he] didn’t want to push them past the point where they really started to squeal.”

This is the “long-term investor” argument that you will hear on any call with a CEO on their IPO day. It goes like this: If you want long-term holders of the stock, you have to find a price that they will accept; that price may be different than what retail investors will pay when the company begins to trade. So, the gap, or pop, is fine as you are trading one thing for another.

#airbnb, #c3-ai, #doordash, #tc, #the-exchange

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Airbnb Tops $100 Billion on First Day of Trading, Reviving Talk of a Bubble

The home-rental company’s blockbuster I.P.O. followed that of the delivery company DoorDash. Investors piled into both.

#airbnb, #computers-and-the-internet, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #hotels-and-travel-lodgings, #initial-public-offerings, #layoffs-and-job-reductions, #renting-and-leasing-real-estate, #start-ups, #travel-and-vacations, #venture-capital

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Airbnb Prices I.P.O. at $68 a Share

The move, which is the second time the home-rental company raised its offering price, would value Airbnb for as much as $42 billion.

#airbnb, #doordash-mobile-app, #initial-public-offerings, #venture-capital

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Airbnb said to price IPO between $67 and $68

The WSJ is reporting that Airbnb is expected to price its IPO at either $67 or $68 per share. The American hospitality unicorn raised its IPO price target earlier this week, from $44 to $50 to $56 to $60.

While we’re still waiting for official pricing, Airbnb is worth $41 billion at its IPO price, using the upper pricing estimate and the company’s share count of 602,448,251 from its most recent S-1/A filing. That figure rises sharply if we included more than 50 million shares that could be added to the mix upon the exercise of vested employee options. The company’s fully-diluted valuation at its IPO price was calculated to be $47 billion.

Axios reports that Airbnb raised $3.5 billion at its fully diluted valuation.

Regardless of how you prefer to value the company, its worth has risen sharply from an early-pandemic nadir of $18 billion. After COVID-19 ravaged the company’s business, it laid off staff and took on external capital.

Since the end of Q1 and the first months of Q2, Airbnb has recovered, allowing it to file to go public and earn its highest valuation to-date.

The company’s pricing comes after both DoorDash and C3.ai each priced above their own raised ranges, and saw their shares skyrocket in the first day’s trading. Some exuberance was therefore not unexpected.

Airbnb starts trading tomorrow morning. More then.

#airbnb, #tc

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As several marketplace unicorns prepare IPOs, a VC digs into the data

The end of 2020 will be marked by a series of high-profile consumer technology IPOs. Among the companies on file are several marketplace businesses including home rental giant Airbnb, food delivery service DoorDash, grocery delivery company Instacart and the online shopping platform Wish.

Poshmark, a social commerce platform in which Menlo Ventures invested early, has also filed to go public. While the public market will soon assign value to these marketplace businesses, the dominance of these businesses underscores the strength of the marketplace business model. It’s interesting then, to dig into the numbers to understand the state of marketplace businesses today.

What to make of 2020?

Typically, we’d spend most of our time analyzing the most recent data. But, it will surprise no one that 2020 is an outlier. Thankfully, we don’t need to throw the data out. There are some interesting insights. The pandemic impacted businesses broadly, some boomed while others went bust. How the marketplace category fared varied from business to business, depending on the category.

The large public marketplaces continued to perform. If we look at the top 20 publicly traded marketplaces, we see that their combined market cap increased ~63% in 2020. This growth rate is lower than the ~99% growth of the 20 public SaaS leaders.

Not surprisingly companies like the video meeting platform Zoom and Shopify, a commerce platform that allows anyone to set up an online store and sell their products, benefitted from new dynamics introduced by the pandemic.

If we look at the top 20 publicly traded marketplaces, we see that their combined market cap increased ~63% in 2020.

Similarly, some of the largest public marketplaces, like Amazon, Etsy and Delivery Hero were boosted by changes in consumer behavior including spikes in online shopping and delivery.

Acquisition efficiencies increased with increased demand from consumers and merchants that resulted in favorable growth plus EBITDA pairing.

Take Etsy as an example: In the last quarter, it grew at a whopping 128% YoY compared to 32% the year before with EBITDA margin of 30% versus 15% from the year before.

But where some marketplace categories were propelled by COVID-19 tailwinds, categories like travel and fitness struggled against the headwinds created by the pandemic. This is where we saw some exciting innovation from startups — which tend to be more nimble than their public counterparts — adapted to the new normal. Take Classpass, which was originally conceived as a platform to connect gym goers with the right studio/fitness classes.

#airbnb, #column, #doordash, #initial-public-offering, #menlo-ventures, #online-shopping, #venture-capital

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DoorDash Stock Soars After Initial Public Offering

The delivery company’s shares started trading at $182 each, 78 percent above its initial public offering price of $102, in a sign of investor appetite.

#airbnb, #computers-and-the-internet, #delivery-services, #doordash-mobile-app, #freelancing-self-employment-and-independent-contracting, #initial-public-offerings, #restaurants, #start-ups, #venture-capital

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DoorDash, C3.ai skyrocket in public market debuts

Haters gonna hate, IPOs gonna pop.

That’s the story today as richly valued DoorDash and C3.ai, two American technology unicorns, saw their values skyrocket after they began trading today.

DoorDash shares are up just under 83% to $186.51. The company priced its IPO at $102 per share last night, ahead of its raised IPO range of $90 to $95 per share.

And as I write to you, shares of C3.ai are up an even sharper 151% to $105.58, after pricing at $42 per share earlier today. The company had raised its IPO range from $31 to $34 per share to $36 to $38 per share.

It appears that public investors are, again, more exuberant about the growth and profit prospects of select late-stage unicorns than private investors. Earlier this year DoorDash raised $400 million at a valuation of around $16 billion, for example.

Today on a non-diluted basis, the company is worth around $59 billion. That figure rises sharply if you include shares that could be created from the exercise of options and other forms of compensation.

TechCrunch is speaking with DoorDash’s CFO and the CEO of C3.ai later today.

For a passel of companies coming next, the day’s tidings are more than welcome. Airbnb may be able to secure a higher per-share price when it prices later today. And with Affirm and Upstart and Roblox and Wish quickly approaching their final IPO prices, the explosive early trading of today’s debuts could provide them with a boost as well.

Why are the two companies up so sharply? Your guess is as good as mine, but factors could include — as noted this morning — a boom in retail trading and a possibly constrained float, among other factors. Regardless, for both firms it has been a dream week, first raising more money than they likely anticipated, then receiving a rapturous welcome from public investors.

How should we understand the new valuations? It’s too soon to fully grok what is going on. More trading with more shares in motion will help clarify the two companies’ more stable value.

Until then we’re going to sit back and watch Yahoo Finance.

#airbnb, #c3-ai, #doordash, #roblox, #tc

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How DoorDash and C3.ai can defend their red-hot IPO valuations

Last night both DoorDash and C3.ai priced their IPOs above their raised ranges. In simpler terms, both companies provided the market with a target price interval. Then they both raised it and each priced higher than that raised target.

The IPO market, even as December races along and winter begins to bite, is red-hot.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


But while the new, higher valuations and strong cash hauls from their respective IPOs are great news, they each have a higher bar to cross when they begin to trade later today and over the next few weeks as the market settles on their real value.

This morning, ahead of Airbnb’s pricing later this afternoon — the home-sharing unicorn will begin trading tomorrow morning, provided all goes according to plan — let’s chat about what the markets are implying about both DoorDash and C3.ai, and what means that each must accomplish in the coming few quarters if they want to not only defend their newly-won valuations, but take them higher.

Let’s start by calculating new valuations and revenue multiples. This will be fun!

How to keep winning

Let’s kick off with DoorDash, the larger of the two IPOs.

After raising its IPO range from $75 to $85 per share, a price point that already appraised the company far above its final private valuation, DoorDash raised its range to $90 to $95 per share. Then it priced at $102.

The company has a non-diluted valuation of $32.4 billion at that price, a figure that rises as high as $38.4 billion if you include shares that currently exist as unexercised options and the like. For a company worth just $16 billion earlier this summer, its IPO price is a coup.

And given DoorDash’s huge consumer brand, the recent IPO climate, a possibly limited first-day float and the impact of a retail-investing boom, its shares may soar today.

But to defend its new valuation, pop or not, DoorDash has a steep road ahead of it. Investors have valued the firm as if it will not only defend its 2020 growth, but that it will continue to accrete new revenues even as the pandemic subsides as vaccines roll out in 2021.

Recall that COVID-19 took an already-growing DoorDash, accelerated its revenue growth and helping it drive operating leverage against its new scale; the company’s economics seem to improve with scale, a good thing, but one that might worry the more ursine amongst us if one expects consumers to order less food when it’s safer to go outside.

DoorDash is not the only COVID-accelerated company to receive a shiny, new, larger valuation during the pandemic. Robinhood and Instacart are further examples of the trend.

#airbnb, #artificial-intelligence, #c3-ai, #doordash, #food, #fundings-exits, #tc, #the-exchange

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The IPO market looks hot as Airbnb and C3.ai raise price targets

So much for a December slowdown — this morning, Airbnb and C3.ai raised their IPO price ranges and we got early pricing information from Upstart and Wish.

This gives us a good amount of ground to cover. So, we’ll dig into Airbnb’s new price range first, working to understand how richly investors are valuing the American home-sharing unicorn. We’ll repeat the experiment with C3.ai, a company we find utterly fascinating. Then we’ll calculate valuation ranges for both Upstart, a consumer lending fintech, and Wish, an e-commerce giant, to see where they stand.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


There are other IPOs in the wings: We’re still waiting on early pricing information from Affirm and Roblox, and DoorDash raised its range last week.

The upcoming calendar is busy. C3.ai and DoorDash should price tomorrow and trade Wednesday. Airbnb should price Wednesday and trade Thursday. Upstart will price next Tuesday and trade the following day.

In normal times, we’d take each element of today’s IPO news fusillade and parse it in its own post. But we only have 10 fingers, so let’s double-time through the numbers and get to what matters while you drink coffee. To work!

Airbnb and C3.ai

Public investors are bidding shares of both Airbnb and C3.ai up ahead of their debuts.

This morning, C3.ai, a company that sells enterprise AI technology, raised its IPO price range from $31-$34 to $36-$38 per share. It both raised and tightened its range, the latter often happening as a company gets a better handle on where demand lies as it ramps toward final pricing and eventual trading.

There are two ways to calculate the company’s new valuation range. The first uses the company’s nondiluted, expected post-IPO share count of 98,655,627, a figure that includes a little more than 2 million shares reserved for underwriters. At that share count, C3.ai would be worth between $3.57 billion and $3.77 billion.

#affirm, #airbnb, #doordash, #exit, #fundings-exits, #startups, #tc, #the-exchange, #upstart, #wish

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