Xbox becomes first game console to formally support Discord voice chat

Discord and Xbox, seen here getting chummy by way of cute cartoon avatars attached to Discord iconography.

Enlarge / Discord and Xbox, seen here getting chummy by way of cute cartoon avatars attached to Discord iconography. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Discord)

After trying, and failing, to acquire the popular chat platform Discord for $10 billion, Microsoft has opted for the next-best thing: directly integrating Discord’s voice-chat capabilities into Xbox consoles.

The news arrived on Wednesday on Xbox Blog, and it clarified that for the time being, Discord access would be exclusive to the optional “Xbox Insider” tier of early, beta, and preview console OS updates. That update is already going live in waves to Xbox Insiders today, and it adds a new tooltip to the system’s “chat” sidebar: “Try Discord Voice on Xbox today!”

Simplifying your Discord life adds a few complications

Since its debut in 2015, Discord has exploded in popularity as a gaming-friendly chat platform on computers and smartphones. One major differentiator over a service like Slack, which looks and operates similarly, is Discord’s clever ties into existing gaming networks. The idea being, wherever you’re playing a game, Discord can broadcast that status to friends via ties to other platforms’ APIs (“playing Stray on PlayStation,” “LFP in World of WarCraft,” “streaming a session of Peggle 2 on Twitch”). Users can switch between direct messages, game-specific text chat rooms, real-time voice channels, and even video-sharing services to coordinate their next online gaming sessions.

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#discord, #gaming-culture, #voice-chat, #xbox

Social media sites work to limit spread of Buffalo shooting footage

An icon for the Twitch app displayed on a smartphone screen.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Thomas Trutschel)

Twitch, the Amazon-owned livestreaming site that caters primarily to gamers, said it removed streamed footage of a shooting in Buffalo, New York, this weekend “less than two minutes after the violence started.”

An 18-year-old white man used an assault rifle to fire on crowds of shoppers in a Buffalo supermarket Saturday, authorities said. The attack—which killed 10 and injured three, including 11 Black victims—is being investigated as a hate crime after the shooter allegedly posted a lengthy manifesto citing 4chan posts regarding the racist “great replacement theory” as his motivation.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Saturday that the shooter “had a camera and was livestreaming what he was doing” during the attack. The Twitch channel that had hosted that video has now been taken down, with its content marked as “currently unavailable due to a violation of Twitch’s community guidelines or terms of service.”

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#discord, #facebook, #gaming-culture, #moderation, #policy, #shooting, #twitch, #twitter

Discord CEO backs away from hinted NFT integration after backlash

Discord CEO backs away from hinted NFT integration after backlash

Enlarge

Discord’s CEO is publicly backing away from hints that the gaming-focused social networking company was seeking to integrate non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrency wallets into the platform directly.

The news comes after Jason Citron, who founded and leads the company, tweeted a mockup on Monday of a Discord interface showing integration with crypto products like MetaMask, WalletConnect, and Ethereum in the Discord app (alongside currently integrated services like YouTube, Twitch, etc.). That post led to serious pushback from some Discord users and watchers, leading Citron to send out a tweet backing away from the concept late Wednesday.

“Thanks for all the perspectives everyone,” Citron wrote. “We have no current plans to ship this internal concept. For now, we’re focused on protecting users from spam, scams, and fraud. Web3 has lots of good but also lots of problems we need to work through at our scale. More soon.”

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#discord, #gaming-culture, #nfts

Men are a niche demographic

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Danny was back, joining Natasha and Alex and Grace and Chris to chat through the week’s coming and goings. But, before we get to the official news, here’s some personal news: Danny is stepping back from his role as co-host of the Friday show! Yes, Mr. Crichton will still take part in our mid-week, deep dive episodes, but this is the conclusion of his run as part of the news roundup. We will miss him, glad that his transitions and wit will continue to be part of the Equity universe.

Who will take the third chair? Well, stay tuned. We have some neat things planned.

Now, the rundown:

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#brazil, #carta, #chime, #databricks, #decacorns, #discord, #equity, #equity-podcast, #fundings-exits, #informed, #launch-house, #maven, #media, #monte-carlo, #news-economics, #nuvemshop, #startups, #unicorns, #yik-yak

Roblox acquires Discord competitor Guilded

Roblox is using M&A to bulk up its social infrastructure, announcing Monday morning that they had acquired the team at Guilded which has been building a chat platform for competitive gamers.

The service competes with gaming chat giant Discord, with the team’s founders telling TechCrunch in the past that as Discord’s ambitions had grown beyond the gaming world, its core product was meeting fewer competitive gaming needs. Like Discord, users can have text and voice conversations on the Gulded platform, but Guilded also allowed users to organize communities around events and calendars, with plenty of specific functionality designed around ensuring that tournaments happened seamlessly.

The startup’s product supported hundreds of games, with specific functionality for a handful of titles including League of Legends, Fortnite, CS: GO and, yes, Roblox. Earlier this year, the company launched a bot API designed to help non-technical users build bots that could enrich their gaming communities.

Guilded had raised $10.2 million in venture capital funding to date according to Crunchbase, including a $7 million Series A led by Matrix Partners early last year. The company launched out of Y Combinator in mid-2017.

Terms of the Roblox deal weren’t disclosed. In an announcement post, Roblox detailed that the Guilded team will operate as an independent product group going forward. In a separate blog post, Guilded CEO Eli Brown wrote that existing stakeholders will be able to continue using the product as they have previously.

“Everyone – including communities, partners, and bot developers – will be able to keep using Guilded the same way you are now,” Brown wrote. “Roblox believes in our team and in our mission, and we’re going to continue to operate as an independent product in order to achieve it.”

Roblox has seen profound success and heightened investor attention in recent years as the pandemic has pushed more gamers online and brought more users into the fold, but that success has drawn the attention of competitors. In June, Facebook acquired a small Roblox competitor called Crayta, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg announcing just weeks ago that he planned to transform Facebook into a “metaverse” company, using a term many have come to associate closely with what Roblox has been building. Guilded represents an opportunity for Roblox to bring its user base deeper inside its own suite of products, creating a social infrastructure that keeps users bought in.

#api, #ceo, #core, #discord, #facebook, #freeware, #gaming, #guilded, #league-of-legends, #mark-zuckerberg, #matrix-partners, #metaverse, #online-games, #product, #roblox, #social-infrastructure, #software, #tc, #video-gaming, #y-combinator

Equity Monday: Hacks, IPOs, and the next generation of American tech giants

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here. I also tweet.

It’s a surreal day to talk about technology, but here we are. If you can pull your eyes away from the greater geopolitical tragedy that is our world today, here’s what we talked about:

  • T Mobile may have suffered a material breach. If this bears out, it could be a leading tech story for the week. Vice has confirmed that at least some of the data in the leak appears genuine.
  • Indian travel service ixigo is going public. The company’s IPO follows Zomato’s own domestic debut.
  • And speaking of IPOs, the Tencent Music offering in Hong Kong could be on hold until next year.
  • And a trio of American tech companies raised a raft of capital as last week concluded. Carta put together $500 million in a huge deal, as Chime raised $750 million. And as the week closed, Discord was reported to be hunting up a new round at a $15 billion price tag.

And stocks are set to open lower this morning. That’s the morning report. Equity is back on Wednesday.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#carta, #chime, #china, #data-breach, #discord, #equity, #equity-monday, #fundings-exits, #india, #ixigo, #startups, #t-mobile, #tc, #telecomm, #tencent, #zomato

Discord now lets you customize your user profile on its apps

For mobile users, Discord is adding one new feature that you’d find on a more traditional social app. The company rolled out an option for users to customize their profiles across its iOS and Android apps Tuesday, following the feature’s release on the desktop version of Discord in late June.

The new option lives in Discord’s user settings menu under “user profile.” There, you can describe what you’re all about in 190 characters or less, including links and emojis. You can also select a custom profile color if the new default profile color that Discord assigned you isn’t vibing with your whole thing. If you don’t see the option yet, check back as the feature rolls out widely.

With the addition of custom profiles, the company also offered premium Nitro subscribers the option to choose an image or an animated GIF as a profile banner. The options have been out in the wild for desktop for a bit now, but the additional customization features will now give anyone who mostly uses Discord on iOS or Android a way to spice things up a bit.

The feature addition is small, but it’s a step toward the chat app becoming a touch more like more profile-centric social networks. Discord’s chat rooms, known as servers, have long been the platform’s sole focus, but the company has introduced a flurry of quality of life features in recent months.

Discord rolled out threaded, auto-archiving conversations and Clubhouse-like audio event spaces earlier this year, and also picked up a company called Sentropy that makes AI-powered platform moderation software. The app is already a killer service for community-driven voice and text chat, and the recent additions should help the app attract more users well beyond its humble gaming roots.

#android, #artificial-intelligence, #chat-apps, #clubhouse, #discord, #mobile-applications, #social, #social-media, #social-media-platforms, #software, #tc

Discord rolls out threads, side conversations that auto-archive

After announcing that threads were on the way earlier this year and teasing the feature on Twitter, Discord is now introducing the long-requested way to make conversations in bustling servers more comprehensible.

Starting today, any server with “community” features enabled will be able to transform messages into threaded conversations, across mobile and desktop. Threads are designated by their own subject name, making it easy to compartmentalize an off-topic idea into its own mini-conversation.

 

Channel members can create a thread by selecting a new hashtag symbol that now appears in the contextual menu when hovering over messages or pressing the plus sign in the chat bar and and choosing “create thread.” The feature will be enabled in all servers automatically by August 17.

“… We wanted to help communities stay engaged while avoiding having to shut down conversation to maintain organization,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the feature, noting that hopping into a busy new channel can “feel like walking into the middle of three different movies.” Discord introduced replies last year to help the flow of conversations and threads is an expansion of that same idea.

From the flow of a channel, Discord’s new threads open up into a split-view pane instead of taking over the full screen, serving their function as side conversations naturally. Threaded topics will also show up in the list of channels and will open to the full screen if selected from the channel list.

Discord thread about plants

Threads will auto-archive after 24 hours of inactivity — a nice way to keep channels from being clogged up with off-topic or time-sensitive chat. Boosted servers can keep a thread around for a week instead of a single day, giving a channel’s members more time to hop into relevant side conversations.

Servers that are boosted through Discord’s premium features will also be able to create private threads that don’t show up in the channel list. Private threads only appear to users who are manually added into them or mentioned by name within a thread.

Discord designed private threads so that users could hold group conversations without adding each person in the conversation as a friend, a feature that may be a boon to moderators looking to have one-on-one or small group chats more easily.

Discord private thread

Moderators will also be able to designate who can create threads within a channel. Channel members can be given permissions to use private threads, manage threads or just be allowed to use public threads (“send messages” must be toggled on to allow them to create new threads). Threads will work the same way regular channels do for moderation bots.

#discord, #social, #tc

The price differential for engineers is declining

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture-capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

The whole crew was here this week, with Danny and Natasha and Alex  together with Grace and Chris to sort through a very, very busy week. Yep, somehow it is Friday again which means it’s time for our weekly news roundup.

Here’s what we got to in our short window of time:

Like we said, a busy week! Chat you all on Monday morning, early.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#affirm, #ai, #apple, #artificial-intelligence, #beyond-meat, #bnpl, #china, #chorus-ai, #commodity-capital, #discord, #early-stage-startup, #edtech, #emerging-fund-manager, #equity, #equity-podcast, #fintech, #gourmey, #india, #ipo, #jianzhi-education, #klarna, #next-gen-foods, #nooks, #public-market, #reddit, #sentropy, #tc, #venture-capital, #virtual-hq, #zomato, #zoominfo

Discord buys Sentropy, which makes AI moderation software to fight online hate and abuse

The online chat platform Discord is buying Sentropy, a company that makes AI-powered software to detect and remove online harassment and hate.

Discord currently uses a “multilevel” approach to moderation, relying on an in-house human moderation team as well as volunteer mods and admins to create ground rules for individual servers. A Trust and Safety team dedicated to protecting users and shaping content moderation policies comprised 15% of Discord’s workforce as of May 2020.

Discord plans to integrate Sentropy’s own products into its existing toolkit and the company will also bring the smaller company’s leadership group aboard. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the acquisition is a sign that taking toxic content and harassment seriously isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s good business too.

“T&S tech and processes should not be used as a competitive advantage,” Sentropy CEO John Redgrave said in a blog post on the announcement. “We all deserve digital and physical safety, and moderators deserve better tooling to help them do one of the hardest jobs online more effectively and with fewer harmful impacts.”

Discord hasn’t always had a reputation for taking dangerous content seriously. Far-right groups with ties to real-world violence previously thrived on the platform. Discord cracked down on hate and extremism following the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which left anti-racist protester Heather Heyer dead.

By February of 2018, the company was purging white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups, cleaning up the platform on its journey to transcend its gaming roots and grow into a mainstream social network. Now, Discord boasts 150 million monthly active users and is positioning itself as a comfy home for all kinds of communities while holding onto its core user base of gamers.

In a blog post, Redgrave elaborated on the company’s natural connection with Discord:

“Discord represents the next generation of social companies — a generation where users are not the product to be sold, but the engine of connectivity, creativity, and growth. In this model, user privacy and user safety are essential product features, not an afterthought. The success of this model depends upon building next-generation Trust and Safety into every product. We don’t take this responsibility lightly and are humbled to work at the scale of Discord and with Discord’s resources to increase the depth of our impact.”

Sentropy launched out of stealth last summer with an AI system designed to detect, track and cleanse platforms of online harassment and abuse. The company emerged then with $13 million in funding from notable backers including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and his VC firm Initialized Capital, King River Capital, Horizons Ventures and Playground Global.

Sentropy will offer existing enterprise customers who use its software products Detect and Defend service through the end of September. The company shut down its free consumer dashboard, Sentropy Protect, earlier this month.

Sentropy’s products were conceived as social network-agnostic tools rather than as platform-specific solutions. It sounds like even under Discord’s wing, the team plans to share insights on building safer online spaces with the internet at large.

“We are excited to help Discord decide how we can most effectively share with the rest of the Internet the best practices, technology, and tools that we’ve developed to protect our own communities,” Redgrave said.

Discord’s future is looking bright. The company walked away from a possible acquisition by Microsoft earlier this year that reportedly valued it at around $10 billion. Discord looks content to remain independent for now and could chart a path toward an IPO in the not-too-distant future.

#alexis-ohanian, #artificial-intelligence, #discord, #horizons-ventures, #initialized-capital, #internet-culture, #john-redgrave, #king-river-capital, #online-harassment, #playground-global, #reddit, #sentropy, #social, #software, #tc

Discord acquires augmented reality startup Ubiquity6

After raising tens of millions from investors and executing a pretty substantial pivot earlier this year, augmented reality startup Ubiquity6 and its team have been acquired by gaming chat app giant Discord.

The ambitious AR startup had raised $37.5 million from a series of top investors including Benchmark, First Round, Kleiner Perkins and Google’s Gradient Ventures who were betting on its vision of building a consumer-facing platform for hosting augmented reality content. Its most recent publicly disclosed financing was a $27 million Series B in October of 2018.

Terms of the Discord acquisition weren’t disclosed, though in recent months the startup seemed to abandon most of the products it had spent its first several years building, suggesting that Ubiquity6 had been having some issues finding wide audiences for its products.

Launching back in 2017, Ubiquity6 hoped to build an app that would be the central way mobile phone users would browse augmented reality content. In late 2019, the startup launched a product called Displayland, which aimed to gamify the process of 3D scanning physical environments with a smartphone’s camera.

The company’s efforts to find mass adoption were hampered by a mobile AR market which has largely failed to gain any momentum in recent years despite hefty investment from tech giants including Apple and Google.

In early 2020, CEO Anjney Midha told TechCrunch that the startup had some 65 employees.

In recent months, Ubiquity6 had executed a pretty drastic pivot, leaving augmented reality completely behind in favor of building out a desktop platform that allowed users to play simple online party games together remotely. The beta platform, called Backyard, was designed for pandemic era habits that seem to be on the decline as the US springs back into action. Backyard was discontinued this week as part of the acquisition announcement.

In a Medium post announcing the acquisition, Midha seems to downplay any expectations that Ubiquity6’s augmented reality technology will be living on inside Discord.

“Our mission at Ubiquity6 has always been to unlock new ways for people to connect through shared experiences,” Midha wrote. “Joining Discord today allows us to accelerate that mission — Ubiquity6’s team, Backyard product and multiplayer technology will be integrated into Discord.”

#anjney-midha, #apple, #augment, #augmented-reality, #augmented-reality-technology, #ceo, #discord, #freeware, #google, #kleiner-perkins, #mobile-applications, #smartphone, #software, #tc, #ubiquity6, #united-states

GameStop FOMO inspires a new wave of crypto pump-and-dumps

Physical representations of virtual dogecoins sit atop computer components.

Enlarge (credit: peng song / Getty)

After the California Gold Rush, in 1870, two Kentucky swindlers whipped up a scheme to prey on thirsty financiers’ FOMO. They invented a diamond field out West. Investors sunk millions in today’s money into the scheme. All of it, of course, was for naught—a cautionary tale about believing anyone who claims they have a surefire plan to get rich quick.

A hundred and fifty years later, a new generation of amateur investors is equally desperate not to miss the next big thing in the finance world. After watching the great GameStop stock boom play out on sites like Reddit and Discord this winter, hundreds of thousands of hopefuls are joining Discord groups that promise big earnings from manipulating the crypto market—also known as crypto pump-and-dumps. Step 1: Buy in early, when the coin is low. Step 2: convince other people to join you—the more, the merrier, the bigger the potential gains as the price of the coin goes up. Step 3: Sell out before the price tanks. Get the timing right, these groups promise, and you come out a winner (and richer). Losers are left holding the bag.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#bitcoin, #cryptocurrency, #day-trading, #discord, #gamestop, #gaming-culture, #policy

Discord announces Stage Discovery, a portal that connects events with communities

If you’re new to Discord, you might be thrown off by the lack of an endless feed peppered with ads. On Discord, all of the action happens in interest-specific servers, and the company wants to make it easier for anyone to stumble across and plunge into those communities.

The company launched Stage Channels, its own Clubhouse-like voice event rooms, in late March. With those building blocks in place, in June Discord will start surfacing events (think open mic nights, book clubs, etc.) through a new portal called Stage Discovery, adding a way for anybody to connect with the cool communities in the process.

Discord Product Manager Rick Ling says Stage Channels are a hit so far, and the company realized that events can be a gateway to introduce new users to the communities at the heart of the platform.

“For us, just dropping in and out of these audio conversations is not the end goal,” Ling said during a press event. Soon, servers will be able to list public events, inviting anybody to come check things out. Discord also says that its new discovery feature will launch with some noteworthy partners, hinting that “one rhymes with…… rhymes.” (It’s Grimes.)

Stage Discovery is a little bit of a departure for Discord. Previously, to check out a live event, you needed to pop into a server first. Because the platform is so community based, people interested in a topic, say a particular Twitch streamer, often hop directly into those servers from elsewhere.

Discord does have some discovery and search functionality — users can thumb through popular and featured public servers in its Discover tab — but historically it’s been relatively basic. But by expanding the “discovery surface,” Discord is likely to attract a lot of people who either haven’t heard of the app or think it’s just a voice chat utility for gamers.

The new feature will show up in the home tab, offering a directory of live voice events. While that much is Clubhouse-esque, the feature’s real promise is that those events can bring new users into the fold, connecting them to thriving communities that have a lot more going on beyond events. Users will be able to see voice events their friends are hanging, events that servers they belong to are hosting and other live events that they aren’t connected to.

“At the end of the day, this is still really a window into communities and how to join communities,” Discord Product Marketing spokesperson Jesse Wofford told TechCrunch. Wofford emphasized that Discord isn’t trying to lure anybody into an endless scrolling loop — instead the goal is connecting users with the vibrant communities the platform is known for.

Discord has a few other new features around the corner too. Threaded conversations are on the way this summer and the company is about to begin a pilot program to test paid, ticketed audio events. The latter could be a huge boon for creators, who haven’t been able to make money through the platform previously, and an important extra revenue stream for a platform that has no plans to get into the targeted advertising game.

Discord is also celebrating its 6th birthday by sprucing up its brand a little, brightening its color scheme and making a few tweaks to its apparently beloved anthropomorphized little purple controller dude, Clyde. (Discord insists that Clyde is “blurple.”) The company says it wants to keep things playful while making its visual identity “more inclusive and welcoming” to the kind of people who haven’t been using the app for years.

While a big boost to discovery is on the near horizon, Discord’s product philosophy hasn’t changed. “There are no feeds, no likes, no way for anything to go viral,” Discord Founder and CEO Jason Citron said, adding that Discord was designed with community building in mind from day one.

Discord wasn’t always such a welcoming place. The app has always served gamers, but it was also a haven for white supremacists, like the ones who organized the Charlottesville rally that left Heather Heyer dead. In a not-so-distant past life, dangerous far-right extremism thrived on Discord, even as the company largely avoided the bad headlines that slammed more mainstream social platforms for facilitating hate.

Discord rooted out neo-Nazis and other dangerous communities starting in 2017, and by 2021 the company was well-positioned to tell a different story. Now, 15 percent of the company works on its Trust and Safety team, a group dedicated to moderation, user privacy and other concerns.

Discord says it has 150 million monthly active users and most of them are Gen Z 18-24 year olds. The product was built for gamers from the get-go, but Discord has been broadening its horizons recently and started having conversations with users about how it’s helped them fight isolation during the pandemic.

Unlike Instagram’s ad-choked social feed or Twitter’s often brain-melting endless feed, Discord is often a joy to use. And all of that user-friendliness doesn’t appear to be a bait and switch either. Revenue from its Nitro premium product and other paid perks are growing fast and the company has no plans for targeted ads.

Discord’s savvy pandemic-era campaign to broaden Discord’s appeal to non-gaming communities — musicians, study groups, surrealist fantasy baseball leagues — appears to be paying off. Discord’s user numbers are explosive and the company is adding sensible new features at a healthy clip. The outlook is good for the company and its users alike — and what a rare convergence that is.

#discord, #social, #tc

If 12% is the new 30%, 4% is the new 12%

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

The whole team was aboard for this recording, with Grace and Chris behind the scenes, and Danny, Alex, and Natasha on the mics. We had to cut more than we included this week, which should give you a good idea of how busy the startup and VC worlds are of late.

Make sure that you are following the podcast on Twitter, where we post all sorts of memes and cuts and, perhaps, the occasional video here and there. That aside, here’s the rundown:

  • Investing legend David Swenson passed away.
  • Twitter is buying Scroll (neat, very cool) as part of its subscription push, but also killing Nuzzel in the process (bad, very uncool). Natasha and Danny fill us in on why Nuzzel will be missed. Alex has thoughts on why Twitter-Scroll is good.
  • Epic bought ArtStation and cut its marketplace take rate. This is the future, says Danny, who throws his own estimates in, too.
  • Sony and Discord are tying up after the Microsoft-Discord deal fell apart.
  • Edtech is doing the edtech thing in which it raises money and consolidates, as shown by Kahoot’s latest scoop.
  • A friend of the pod, Jomayra Herrera, is joining Reach Capital as its first ever outside-partner hire.
  • Uber is teaming up with Arrival for ride-hailing designed electric vehicles. We’re pretty bullish on the idea. Also Alex likes to say “microfactories.”
  • IVF startups are raising venture capital, and this time its Alife Health that we’re talking about. 
  • WorkBoard raised again. Alex once again made us talk about OKR-focused startups. He needs to get a life, and so does the rest of the Equity team which fought to do the transition into this segment.
  • To end, we spoke about Leda Health, a new startup focused on at-home rape kits for sexual assault survivors. It’s a controversial company, and we discuss critiques and opportunities,

And that’s our show! No private equity deal can slow the Equity team down, so we’ll see you Monday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#alife-health, #arrival, #clever, #discord, #early-stage, #edtech, #electric-vehicles, #epic, #epic-games, #equity, #equity-podcast, #ev, #kahoot, #leda-health, #microsoft, #nuzzel, #okr, #reach-capital, #scroll, #sony, #tc, #twitter, #uber, #venture-capital, #workboard

Sony announces investment and partnership with Discord to bring the chat app to PlayStation

Sony and Discord have announced a partnership that will integrate the latter’s popular gaming-focused chat app with PlayStation’s own built-in social tools. It’s a big move and a fairly surprising one given how recently acquisition talks were in the air — Sony appears to have offered a better deal than Microsoft, taking an undisclosed minority stake in the company ahead of a rumored IPO.

The exact nature of the partnership is not expressed in the brief announcement post. The closest we come to hearing what will actually happen is that the two companies plan to “bring the Discord and PlayStation experiences closer together on console and mobile starting early next year,” which at least is easy enough to imagine.

Discord has partnered with console platforms before, though its deal with Microsoft was not a particularly deep integration. This is almost certainly more than a “friends can see what you’re playing on PS5” and more of a “this is an alternative chat infrastructure for anyone on a Sony system.” Chances are it’ll be a deep, system-wide but clearly Discord-branded option — such as “Start a voice chat with Discord” option when you invite a friend to your game or join theirs.

The timeline of early 2022 also suggests that this is a major product change, probably coinciding with a big platform update on Sony’s long-term PS5 roadmap.

While the new PlayStation is better than the old one when it comes to voice chat, the old one wasn’t great to begin with, and Discord is not just easier to use but something millions of gamers already do use daily. And these days, if a game isn’t an exclusive, being robustly cross-platform is the next best option — so PS5 players being able to seamlessly join and chat with PC players will reduce a pain point there.

Of course Microsoft has its own advantages, running both the Xbox and Windows ecosystems, but it has repeatedly fumbled this opportunity and the acquisition of Discord might have been the missing piece that tied it all together. That bird has flown, of course, and while Microsoft’s acquisition talks reportedly valued Discord at some $10 billion, it seems the growing chat app decided it would rather fly free with an IPO and attempt to become the dominant voice platform everywhere rather than become a prized pet.

Sony has done its part, financially speaking, by taking part in Discord’s recent $100 million H round. The amount they contributed is unknown, but perforce it can’t be more than a small minority stake given how much the company has taken on and its total valuation.

#apps, #discord, #funding, #fundings-exits, #gadgets, #gaming, #microsoft, #playstation, #playstation-5, #ps5, #recent-funding, #sony, #sony-interactive-entertainment, #startups, #tc, #voice-chat, #xbox

In a room with no smart speaker, Alexa can’t hear you scream

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

For this week’s deep dive Natasha and Alex and Danny and Chris dove into the world of audio. Sure, you’ve heard of Clubhouse, but there’s lots more going on than just a single app’s cultural rise. So from the biggest companies to niche startups, we compiled all the recent audio news into a single show for all our delectation.

Here’s the rundown:

  • Facebook is building a number of audio products, including a Clubhouse clone and a short-form audio service that we think could be neat.
  • Reddit is also building a Clubhouse-like service, and Alex is excited about it.
  • It’s not just the established social networks that are trying out live audio. Peanut, a social networking app for women, added live audio “Pods” to its platform. It kicked off a conversation on what it takes to win this market, and what’s a smart versus silly bet.
  • While a drop in downloads doesn’t necessarily mean a drop in active users, it’s worth pointing out that Clubhouse’s monthly downloads dropped 72% in March. Where is that gosh darn Android app?
  • And Alex explained why the Clubhouse-NFL deal matters for the company, as it could molt into something more akin to a platform over time.
  • Danny explained how Apple and Spotify are building paid podcast services — more here, and here, respectively — and we have thoughts about which service is being more fair with the money. Natasha tied in how sentiment around the creator economy might be driving some of these individual-friendly business models.
  • Alex brought up TWiT’s new business model.

All told there’s quite a lot of excitement around the spoken word. Which is good as Equity is a podcast? Right?

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#audio, #clubhouse, #discord, #equity, #equity-podcast, #facebook, #fundings-exits, #reddit, #startups

Social networking app for women Peanut adds live audio rooms

Mobile social networking app for women, Peanut, is today becoming the latest tech company to integrate audio into its product following the success of Clubhouse. Peanut, which began with a focus on motherhood, has expanded over the years to support women through all life stages, including pregnancy, marriage and even menopause. It sees its voice chat feature, which it’s calling “Pods,” as a way women on its app can make better connections in a more supportive, safer environment than other platforms may provide.

The pandemic, of course, likely drove some of the interest in audio-based social networking, as people who had been stuck at home found it helped to fill the gap that in-person networking and social events once did. However, voice chat social networking leader Clubhouse has since seen its model turned into what’s now just a feature for companies like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, Discord, and others to adopt.

Like many of the Clubhouse clones to date, Peanut’s Pods offer the basics, including a muted audience of listeners who virtually “raise their hand” to speak, emoji reactions, and hosts who can moderate the conversations and invite people to speak, among other things. The company, for now, is doing its own in-house moderation on the audio pods, to ensure the conversations don’t violate the company’s terms. In time, it plans to scale to include other moderators. (The company pays over two dozen moderators to help it manage the rest of its app, but this team has not yet been trained on audio, Peanut notes.)

Though there are similarities with Clubhouse in its design, what Peanut believes will differentiate its audio experience from the rest of the pack is where these conversations are taking place — on a network designed for women built with safety and trust in mind. It’s also a network where chasing clout is not the reason people participate.

Traditional social networks are often based on how many likes you have, how many followers you have, or if you’re verified with a blue check, explains Peanut founder CEO Michelle Kennedy.

“It’s kind of all based around status and popularity,” she says. “What we’ve only ever seen on Peanut is this ‘economy of care,’ where women are really supportive of one another. It’s really never been about, ‘I’ve got X number of followers.’ We don’t even have that concept. It’s always been about: ‘I need support; I have this question; I’m lonely or looking for a friend;’ or whatever it might be,” Kennedy adds.

In Peanut Pods, the company says it will continue to enforce the safety standards that make women feel comfortable social networking. This focus in particular could attract some of the women, and particularly women of color, who have been targeted with harassment on other voice-based networking platforms.

“The one thing I would say is we’re a community, and we have standards,” notes Kennedy. “When you have standards and you let everyone know what those standards are, it’s very clear. You’re allowed an opinion but what you’re not allowed to do are listed here…Here are the things we expect of you as a user and we’ll reward you if you do it and if you don’t, we’re going to ask you to leave,” she says.

Freedom of speech is not what Peanut’s about, she adds.

“We have standards and we ask you to adhere to them,” says Kennedy.

In time, Peanut envisions using the audio feature to help connect women with people who have specific expertise, like lactation consultants for new moms or fertility doctors, for example. But these will not be positioned as lectures where listeners are held hostage as a speaker drones on and on. In fact, Peanut’s design does away with the “stage” concept from Clubhouse to give everyone equal status — whether they’re speaking or not.

In the app, users will be able to find interesting chats based on what topics they’re already following — and, importantly, they can avoid being shown other topics by muting them.

The Pods feature is rolling out to Peanut’s app starting today, where it will reach the company’s now 2 million-plus users. It will be free to use, like all of Peanut, though the company plans to eventually launch a freemium model with some paid products further down the road.

#clubhouse, #computing, #discord, #facebook, #linkedin, #michelle-kennedy, #mobile-applications, #operating-systems, #peanut, #social-media, #social-networks, #software, #speaker, #tc

What the MasterClass effect means for edtech

MasterClass, which sells a subscription to celebrity-taught classes, sits on the cusp of entertainment and education. It offers virtual, yet aspirational learning: an online tennis class with Serena Williams, a cooking session with Gordon Ramsay. While there’s the off chance that an instructor might actually talk to you — it has happened before — the platform mostly just offers paywalled documentary-style content.

The vision has received attention. MasterClass is raising funding that would value it at $2.5 billion, as scooped by Axios and confirmed independently by a source to TechCrunch. But while MasterClass has found a sweet spot, can the success be replicated?

Investors certainly think so. Outlier, founded by MasterClass’ co-founder, closed a $30 million Series C this week, for affordable, digital college courses. The similarities between Outlier and its founder’s alma mater aren’t subtle: It’s literally trying to apply MasterClass’ high-quality videography to college classes. This comes a week after I wrote about a “MasterClass for Chess lovers” platform launched by former Chess World Champion Garry Kasparov.

Two back-to-back MasterClass copycats raising millions in venture capital makes me think about if the model can truly be verticalized and focused down into specific niches. After 2020 and the rise of Zoom University, we know edtech needs to be more engaging, but we don’t know the exact way to get there. Is it by creating micro-learning communities around shared loves? Is it about gamification? Aspirational learning has different incentives than for-credit learning. In order to be successful, Outlier needs to prove to universities it can use MasterClass magic for true outcomes that rival in-person lectures. It’s a harder, and more ambtious promise.

My riff aside, I turned to two edtech founders to understand how they see the MasterClass effect panning out, and to cross-check my gut reaction.

Taylor Nieman, the founder of language learning startup Toucan:

Although I do love how these models try to lean into this theme of “invisible learning” like we leverage with Toucan, it faces the same issues as so many other consumer products that try to steal time out of people’s very busy days. Constantly competing for time leads to terrible engagement metrics and very high churn. That leads me to question what true learning outcomes could occur from little to no usage of the product itself.

Amanda DoAmaral, the founder of Fiveable, a learning platform for high school students:

Masterclass is important for showing us why educational content should be treated more like entertainment. All of our bars for content quality is much higher now than it ever was before and I’m excited to see how that affects learning across the board.

For students, it’s about creating environments that support them holistically and giving them space to collaborate openly. It feels so obvious that these spaces should exist for young people, but we’ve lost sight of what students actually need. At my school, we built policies that assumed the worst in students. I want to flip that. Assume the best, be proactive to keep them safe, and create ways to react when we need to.

Anyways, that’s just some nuance to chew on during this fine day. In the rest of this newsletter, we will focus a lot on tactical advice for founders, from the money they raise to the peacock dance they might want to do one day. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @nmasc_ so we can talk during the week, too!

The peacock dance

You know when male peacocks fan their feathers to court a lover? That, but for startups trying to get acquired. As one of our many rabbit holes on Equity this week, we talk about Discord walking away from a Microsoft deal, and if that deal ever existed in the first place or if it was just a way to drum up investor excitement in the audio gaming platform.

Here’s what to know: Discord is reportedly pursuing an IPO after walking away from talks with multiple companies that were looking to acquire the audio gaming giant.

Discord aside, the consolidation environment continues to be hot for some sectors.

Four business people used ropes to tighten their money bags, economic austerity, reduced income, economic crisis

Image Credits: VectorInspiration / Getty Images

Even venture capital knows that the future isn’t simply venture capital

Clearbanc, a Toronto-based fintech startup that gives non-dilutive financing to businesses, has rebranded alongside a $100 million financing that valued it at $2 billion. Now rebranded as Clearco, the startup wants to be more than just a capital provider, but a services provider, too.

Here’s what to know: The startup has been on a tear of product development for the past year, launching services such as valuation calculators or runway tools. It’s a step away from what Clearbanc originally flexed: the 20-minute term sheet and rapid-fire investment. I talk about some of the levers at play in my piece:

Many of Clearco’s newest products are still in their infancy, but the potential success of the startup could nearly be tied to the general growth of startups looking for alternatives to venture capital when financing their startups. Similar to how AngelList’s growth is neatly tied to the growth of emerging fund managers, Clearco’s growth is cleanly related to the growth of founders who see financing as beyond a seed check from Y Combinator.

abstract human brain made out of dollar bills isolated on white background

Abstract human brain made out of dollar bills isolated on white background. Image Credits: Iaremenko / Getty Images

Don’t market your opportunity away

Keeping on the theme of tactical advice for founders, let’s move onto talking about marketing. Tim Parkin, president of Parkin Consulting, explained how startup founders can use marketing as a tool to stand out in the noisy environment. Differentiation has never been harder, but also more imperative.

Here’s what to know: Parkin outlines four ways that martech will shift in 2021, strapped with anecdotes and a nod to the importance of investing in influencers.

Red ball on curved light blue paper, blue background. Image Credits: PM Images / Getty Images

Around TechCrunch

Your humble yet favorite startup podcast, Equity, got nominated for a Webby! Me and the team need your help to win, so please vote for us here. Your support means a ton.

This newsletter will always be free, but if you do want to support me, feel free to use code STARTUPSWEEKLY for 25% off a subscription to Extra Crunch.

Across the site

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Seen on Extra Crunch

Dear Sophie: How can I get my startup off the ground and visit the US?

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European VC soars in Q1

zoom glitch

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Thanks for reading along today and everyday. Sending love to my readers in India and everyone around the world that is facing yet another deadly surge of this horrible disease. I’m rooting for you.

N

#chess, #clearbanc, #clearco, #dell, #discord, #edtech, #education, #entertainment, #funding, #fundraising, #garry-kasparov, #masterclass, #microsoft, #outlier, #startups, #startups-weekly, #tc, #unicorn

No one is talking about remote work from space

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

First and foremost, Equity was nominated a Webby for “Best Technology Podcast”!!! Drop everything and go Vote for Equity! We’d appreciate. A lot. And even if we lose, well, we’ll keep doing our thing and making each other laugh.

Natasha and Danny and Alex and Chris got together to chat through the week’s biggest news. And like every other week in recent memory, it was a busy one. But we did our best to hit some M&A news, some unicorn news, and some funding news from smaller startups.

Now, onto the show rundown, here’s what we discussed:

We’ll see you on Monday.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#albedo, #deel, #discord, #equity, #equity-podcast, #fundings-exits, #microsoft, #queenly, #startups, #uipath

Report: Discord walked away from Microsoft talks, may pursue an IPO

A month after reports that Microsoft sought to buy the hot voice chat app Discord, those talks appear to be off. The Wall Street Journal and Reuters both report that Discord now plans to stay independent, possibly charting a path to its own IPO in the not-too-distant future.

Microsoft was reportedly in “advanced” talks to purchase the company for around $10 billion before Discord walked away. According to the WSJ, Microsoft was just one of three companies in acquisition talks. Neither publication cited named sources in their reports that any deal was off.

Discord’s valuation doubled in less than six months last year and its stock is only looking hotter in 2021. A well-loved voice chat app originally built for gamers, Discord was in the right place well ahead of the current voice chat trend that Clubhouse ignited. As companies from Facebook to Twitter scramble to build their own voice-based community tools, Discord rolled out its own support for curated audio events last month.

Discord’s decision to veer away from a sale makes sense for a company keen to keep its unique DNA rather than being rolled into an existing product at a bigger company. The choice could also keep the company distant from a protracted antitrust headache, as lawmakers mull legislation that could block big tech deals to prevent further consolidation in the industry.

#clubhouse, #discord, #facebook, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #microsoft, #social-media, #software, #tc, #voice-chat

iOS users—and only iOS users—face NSFW content ban on Discord app

This cute little pig has obviously seen some things that iOS users will no longer be allowed to see on Discord.

Enlarge / This cute little pig has obviously seen some things that iOS users will no longer be allowed to see on Discord.

Discord users who access the Discord app through iOS will now face restrictions on adult content that go beyond those for other platforms. The gaming-focused social networking app—which lets users create public or private servers to chat via with text, image, voice, and video livestreaming—announced this week that “all users on the iOS platform (including those aged 18+) will be blocked from joining and accessing NSFW servers. iOS users aged 18+ will still be able to join and access NSFW communities on the desktop and web versions of Discord.”

That NSFW designation can be set by the server owner or by Discord itself, in keeping with community guidelines requiring the label on loosely defined “adult content.” Individual channels within a server can be designated as NSFW without imposing limits on the full server, but an entire server may be labeled as NSFW “if the community is organized around NSFW themes or if the majority of the server’s content is 18+,” the company said.

Discord has set up an appeals process for server owners to challenge an NSFW designation. Individual users can also contact Discord if they were accidentally identified as minors during an age-verification process. But that age change will still be meaningless on iOS, where users of all ages will be barred from NSFW content.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#app-store, #apple, #discord, #gaming-culture, #ios, #tech

You might have just missed the best time to sell your startup

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a 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? Sign up here

Happy Saturday, everyone. I do hope that you are in good spirits and in good health. I am learning to nap, something that has become a requirement in my life after I realized that the news cycle is never going to slow down. And because my partner and I adopted a third dog who likes to get up early, please join me in making napping cool for adults, so that we can all rest up for Vaccine Summer. It’s nearly here.

On work topics, I have a few things for you today, all concerning data points that matter: Q1 2021 M&A data, March VC results from Africa, and some surprising (to me, at least) podcast numbers.

On the first, Dan Primack shared a few early first-quarter data points via Refinitiv that I wanted to pass along. Per the financial data firm, global M&A activity hit $1.3 trillion in Q1 2021, up 93% from Q1 2020. U.S. M&A activity reached an all-time high in the first quarter, as well. Why do we care? Because the data helps underscore just how hot the last three months have been.

I’m expecting venture capital data itself for the quarter to be similarly impressive. But as everyone is noting this week, there are some cracks appearing in the IPO market, as the second quarter begins that could make Q2 2021 a very different beast. Not that the venture capital world will slow, especially given that Tiger just reloaded to the tune of $6.7 billion.

On the venture capital topic, African-focused data firm Briter Bridges reports that “March alone saw over $280 million being deployed into tech companies operating across Africa,” driven in part by “Flutterwave’s whopping $170 million round at a $1 billion valuation.”

The data point matters as it marks the most active March that the African continent has seen in venture capital terms since at least 2017 — and I would guess ever. African startups tend to raise more capital in the second half of the year, so the March result is not an all-time record for a single month. But it’s bullish all the same, and helps feed our general sentiment that the first quarter’s venture capital results could be big.

And finally, Index Ventures’ Rex Woodbury tweeted some Edison data, namely that “80 million Americans (28% of the U.S. 12+ population) are weekly podcast listeners, +17% year-over-year.” The venture capitalist went on to add that “62% of the U.S. 12+ population (around 176 million people) are weekly online audio listeners.”

As we discussed on Equity this week, the non-music, streaming audio market is being bet on by a host of players in light of Clubhouse’s success as a breakout consumer social company in recent months. Undergirding the bets by Discord and Spotify and others are those data points. People love to listen to other humans talk. Far more than I would have imagined, as a music-first person.

How nice it is to be back in a time when consumer investing is neat. B2B is great but not everything can be enterprise SaaS. (Notably, however, it does appear that Clubhouse is struggling to hold onto its own hype.)

Look I can’t keep up with all the damn venture capital rounds

TechCrunch Early Stage was this week, which went rather well. But having an event to help put on did mean that I covered fewer rounds this week than I would have liked. So, here are two that I would have typed up if I had had the spare hours:

  • Striim’s $50 million Series C. Goldman led the transaction. Striim, pronounced stream I believe, is a software startup that helps other companies move data around their cloud and on-prem setups in real time. Given how active the data market is today, I presume that the TAM for Striim is deep? Quickly flowing? You can supply a better stream-centered word at your leisure.
  • Kudo’s $21 million Series A. I covered Kudo last July when it raised $6 million. The company provides video-chat and conferencing services with support for  real-time translation. It had a good COVID-era, as you can imagine. Felicis led the A after taking part in the seed round. I’ll see if I can extract some fresh growth metrics from the company next week. One to watch.

And two more rounds that you also might have missed that you should not. Holler raised $36 million in a Series B. Per our own Anthony Ha, “[y]ou may not know what conversational media is, but there’s a decent chance you’ve used Holler’s technology. For example, if you’ve added a sticker or a GIF to your Venmo payments, Holler actually manages the app’s search and suggestion experience around that media.”

I feel old.

And in case you are not paying enough attention to Latin American tech, this $150 million Uruguayan round should help set you straight.

Various and sundry

Finally this week, some good news. If you’ve read The Exchange for any length of time, you’ve been forced to read me prattling on about the Bessemer cloud index, a basket of public software companies that I treat with oracular respect. Now there’s a new index on the market.

Meet the Lux Health + Tech Index. Per Lux Capital, it’s an “index of 57 publicly traded companies that together best represent the rapidly emerging Health + Tech investment theme.” Sure, this is branded to the extent that, akin to the Bessemer collection, it is tied to a particular focus of the backing venture capital firm. But what the new Lux index will do, as with the Bessemer collection, is track how a particular venture firm is itself tracking the public comps for their portfolio.

That’s a useful thing to have. More of this, please.

Alex

#bessemer, #discord, #equity, #fundings-exits, #lux, #startups, #the-exchange, #the-techcrunch-exchange

Nonobvious acquisitions are on my 2021 bingo board

At the end of 2020, I argued that edtech needs to think bigger in order to stay relevant after the pandemic. I urged founders to think less about how to bundle and unbundle lecture experience, and more about how to replace outdated systems and methods with new, tech-powered solutions. In other words, don’t simply put engaging content on a screen, but innovate on what that screen looks like, tracks and offers.

A few months into 2021, the exit environment in edtech…feels like it’s doing exactly that. The same startups that hit billion and multi-billion valuations during the pandemic are scooping up new talent to broaden their service offerings.

Ruben Harris, the founder of Career Karma, a platform that matches aspiring coding professionals to bootcamps, put together a massive report recently with his team to talk about the pandemic’s impact on the bootcamp market.

James Gallagher, the author of the report, tells me:

It is important to note that the full potential of bootcamps has not yet been realised. We are now seeing more exploration of niches like technology sales which provide gateways into new careers in tech for people who otherwise may not have been able to acquire training. To scale such models, new businesses will need venture capital.

He went on to explain how a notable acquisition from 2020 was K12 scooping up Galvanize, “which would give K12 exposure into corporate training and the coding bootcamp space, a market outside of K12’s focus at the moment.”

To me this report signal two things: the financial interest in boot camps isn’t simply stemming from other bootcamps (although that is happening), but it’s surprising partnerships. Leaving this subsector, we see creative acquisitions such as a Roblox for edtech buying a language learning tool, and a startup known for flashcards scooping up a tech tutoring service.

Readers should know by this point that I love a nonobvious acquisition (except when this almost happened), so if you have any more tips on coming deals in edtech, please Signal me or direct message me on Twitter.

I’ll end with this: Successful startup founders are innately ambitious, finding opportunity in moonshots and convincing others that the odds are in their favor. However, the ceiling for what defines ambition heightens almost everyday. What used to be a win is now a nonnegotiable, and a feat is only a feat until your competitor hits the exact same milestone.

Acquisitions are one way to scoop up competition and synergistic talent, but it’s what happens next that matters the most.

In the rest of this newsletter, we will talk about Clubhouse competitors, how a homegrown experiment became one of the fastest growing companies in fitness tech and a cool-down in public markets (?!). As always, you can get this newsletter in your inbox each Saturday morning, so subscribe here to join the cool kids.

Clubhouse might create billions in value, but could capture none of it

Remember when everyone was buzzing around about building Stories? That’s so pre-pandemic. A number of companies recently announced plans to build their own versions of Clubhouse, after the buzzy app unearthed the consumer love for audio.

Here’s what to know: It might be easier to start guessing who isn’t building a Clubhouse clone at this point. Our predictions are already starting, but jokes aside, the rise in clones could mean that Clubhouse might have to make a run for its pre-monetized money (cough, cough, Twitter spaces). It doesn’t matter if a startup is first in unlocking a key insight, all that matters is who executes that key insight the best.

Image Credits: Getty Images

A strong unicorn, literally

Tonal, a fitness tech startup, became a unicorn this week after raising a new tranche of capital.

Here’s what to know: The new status underscores market growth for at-home fitness solutions. And while we don’t have a Tonal S-1 yet, we do have a Tonal EC-1. EC-1’s are TechCrunch’s riff on an S-1, and are essentially a deep dive into a company.

Reporter JP Mangalindan wrote thousands and thousands of words about Tonal, from its origin story to business model, its focus on communities and its biggest hurdles ahead.

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman

Initial public o….no

You’ve probably had a better week than Compass, Deliveroo and Kaltura. The three companies all had different events that illustrate a potential damper on the part that has been the public markets.

Here’s what to know: Compass cut its shares and lowered pricing of said shares, Deliveroo had a rough debut as a delivery company on the public markets, and Kaltura postponed its IPO after valuation demand didn’t hit expectations.

In other news, though:

Photo Taken In Arizona, United States. Image Credits: Jure Batagelj / 500px / Getty Images

Around TechCrunch

Thanks to everyone who tuned in to TechCrunch Early Stage! If you enjoyed the event (or missed it), don’t worry: Disrupt is almost here.

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#clubhouse, #compass, #coursera, #deliveroo, #discord, #edtech, #education, #ipo, #linkedin, #spotify, #startups, #startups-weekly, #swell, #tc

Clubhouse will create billions in value and capture none of it

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Natasha and Danny and Alex and Grace were all here to chat through the week’s biggest tech happenings. It was a busy week on the IPO front, Danny was buried in getting the Tonal EC-1 out, and Natasha took some time off. But the host trio managed to prep and record a show that was honestly a kick to record, and we think, a pleasure to listen to!

So, for your morning walk, here’s what we have for you:

It was a mix of laughs, ‘aha’ moments, and honest conversations about how complex ambition in startups should be. One listener the other day mentioned to us that the pandemic made it harder to carve out time for podcasts, since listening was often reserved for commutes. We get it, and in true scrappy fashion, we’re curious how you’ve adapted to remote work and podcasts. Let us know how you tune into Equity via Twitter and remember that we’re thankful for your ears!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#cameo, #clubhouse, #discord, #equity, #equity-podcast, #funding, #fundings-exits, #harlem-capital, #linkedin, #mac-venture-capital, #media, #miami, #microsoft-excel, #pipe, #podcasts, #spotify, #startups, #substack

Discord is launching new Clubhouse-like channels for audio events

Everyone is scrambling to build a Clubhouse clone right now, but for Discord it makes perfect sense.

With everyone stuck at home searching for safe ways to rekindle their social lives over the last year, Discord’s appeal exploded. The company cites new behavior it observed during the pandemic as the inspiration for Stage Channels, a new feature that will facilitate more structured voice chats with designated speakers and listeners.

Voice chat is already Discord’s core feature. It’s been that way for years, offering gamers a crystal clear, seamless voice chat service that blew the functionality of in-game chat services out of the water. But there’s no denying the Clubhouse-inspired voice event zeitgeist at the moment, even if ultimately Discord was there first in many ways.

Discord Stage Channels

Discord says the new kind of channel will be useful for stuff like voice-based AMAs and interviews, book clubs and even karaoke. The new channels will capture activity that’s already happening on Discord, making it way easier for anyone who runs a server to host formalized conversations without needing to mess around with a bunch of granular user permissions stuff.

The new channel type fits right in with Discord’s existing vibe. Stage Channels do what’s on the label, allowing anyone who runs a Discord to curate a speaker experience and use moderator tools to control who gets the mic and when. Much like Clubhouse (or Zoom), participants can raise their hand to speak. They can also slink out quietly.

Stage Channels will be specific to community servers, which are geared around larger groups on Discord. To enable the new kind of channel, server owners will need to convert a channel to a community server if it isn’t one already.

Because Discord is Discord, discovery for voice-based events won’t work like it does on Clubhouse, which serves up user-created live events front and center to anyone who opens the app. Community servers on Discord can apply to be featured in the server discovery menu, but the app’s focus remains on private, intimate groups and larger interest-based communities that you’re already a part of.

Given its healthy user base and existing utility as the go-to app for casual, seamless voice chat, Discord is well positioned to capture a completely different market for voice-based events. The app is a mainstay of the gaming community and generally skews young, putting it in contrast with the entrepreneurs, VCs and brands that flocked to Clubhouse’s early buzz.

Discord’s gaming DNA isn’t holding it back. In recent years, Discord has grown beyond its gaming roots without betraying them, expanding into a seamless chat experience for everything from college study groups to influencer fan hubs. Last year, Discord doubled its valuation within six months. Just a quarter later, Microsoft is reportedly in talks with the company on a $10 billion deal.

#clubhouse, #discord, #social, #tc

You can only invest if you promise not to read the fine print, ok?

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Natasha and Danny and Alex and Grace were all here to chat through the week’s biggest tech happenings. News was right back up to a dull roar this week, so we did our best to trim and hone and just bring you the most important things.

Here’s the rundown:

Let’s all get some rest!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#bevy, #demo-day, #discord, #dispo, #dobrik, #equity, #equity-podcast, #finrise, #fundings-exits, #microsoft, #plaid, #ro, #robinhood, #startups, #tc, #y-combinator

Report: Microsoft in talks for $10 billion acquisition of Discord

Report: Microsoft in talks for $10 billion acquisition of Discord

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Microsoft is reportedly in the late stages of $10 billion acquisition talks with Discord, a gaming-focused community chat platform, according to unnamed “people familiar with the matter” who spoke to Bloomberg.

Epic Games and Amazon were also involved in acquisition talks previously, according to Bloomberg’s sources. VentureBeat also reported this week that Discord is exploring sale options with “multiple parties.”

First launched in 2015, Discord lets individual users create public or private servers that allow members to chat with others in that server via text, images, voice, and video livestreaming. The service now reportedly has 6.7 million such servers, which serve as centralized communication hubs for everything from official news and discussion from game publishers and multiplayer match organization among small groups of friends to a chaotic gathering place for people betting on the stock market—and everything in between.

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#discord, #gaming, #gaming-culture, #microsoft, #social-media

Twitter’s ‘Super Follow’ creator subscription takes shots at Substack and Patreon

It’s been an all-around more ambitious year for Twitter. Following activist shareholder action last year that aimed to oust CEO Jack Dorsey, the company has been making long overdue product moves, buying up companies and aiming to push the envelope on how it can tap its network and drive new revenue streams. Things seem to be paying off for the company, as their share price sits at an all-time high — double that of its 2020 high.

Today, the company shared early details on its first ever paid product, a feature called “Super Follow” which aims to combine the community trends of Discord, the newsletter insights of Substack, the audio chat rooms of Clubhouse and the creator support of Patreon into a creator subscription. The company announced the service during its Analyst Day event Thursday morning.

Plenty of details are still up in the air for the feature, which notably does not have a launch timeline.

Image Credits: Twitter

Screenshots shared by Twitter showcase a feature that allows Twitter users to subscribe to their favorite creators for a monthly price (one screenshot details a $4.99 per month cost) and earn certain subscriber-only perks, including things like “exclusive content,” “subscriber-only newsletters,” “community access,” “deals & discounts,” and a “supporter badge” for subscribers. Creators in the program will also be able to paywall certain media they share, including tweets, fleets and chats they organize in Twitter’s Clubhouse competitor Spaces.

The company’s other big announcement of the event was “Communities,” a product that seems designed to compete with Facebook Groups but also will likely provide “Super Follow” networks a place to interact with creators in close cahoots.

Introducing paywalls into the Twitter feed could dramatically shift the mechanics of the service. Twitter has been pretty conservative over the years in building features that are intended for singular classes of users. Creator-focused features built for a network that is already home to so many creators could be a major threat to services like Patreon, which have largely popped up due to the lackluster monetization tools available from the big social platforms.

New revenue streams will undoubtedly be key to Twitter’s ambitious plan to double its revenues by 2023.

 

#analyst, #ceo, #clubhouse, #computing, #day, #discord, #facebook, #jack-dorsey, #operating-systems, #patreon, #paywall, #real-time-web, #software, #tc, #text-messaging, #twitter

WallStreetBets goes dark

After a wild day for public markets driven by Reddit traders commandeering stocks and combatting hedge fund short sellers, the community at r/wallstreetbets no longer has a home on Discord and its Reddit community has been locked down as an invite-only subreddit for the time being.

Discord announced this afternoon that they had banned the WallStreetBets Discord server following hate speech violations after “repeated warnings.” The Discord server had been seeing heavy traffic of new users in the past several days as traffic surged to the subreddit as well.

On Reddit’s end, it’s not quite so clear what has happened. It does not appear as though Reddit took direct action against the community, but instead that r/wallstreetbets moderators were overwhelmed by the influx of new users and have taken the subreddit down themselves. The site notes that only moderators and “approved users” are currently allowed in the community. A number of long-time subscribers have noted on social media that they are unable to access the community which boasted several million subscribers.

We’ve reached out to Reddit for further clarification.

In a statement given to TechCrunch earlier today before the WallStreetBets subreddit went private, a company spokesperson says, “Reddit’s site-wide policies prohibit posting illegal content or soliciting or facilitating illegal transactions. We will review and cooperate with valid law enforcement investigations or actions as needed.”

The full statement from a Discord spokesperson to TechCrunch:

The WallStreetBets server has been on our Trust & Safety team’s radar for some time due to occasional content that violates our Community Guidelines, including hate speech, glorifying violence, and spreading misinformation. Over the past few months, we have issued multiple warnings to the server admin.

Today, we decided to remove the server and its owner from Discord for continuing to allow hateful and discriminatory content after repeated warnings.

To be clear, we did not ban this server due to financial fraud related to GameStop or other stocks. Discord welcomes a broad variety of personal finance discussions, from investment clubs and day traders to college students and professional financial advisors. We are monitoring this situation and in the event there are allegations of illegal activities, we will cooperate with authorities as appropriate.

Updating

#articles, #discord, #gamestop, #internet-culture, #reddit, #software, #spokesperson, #tc, #wikis