What to Know About the Covid Vaccine for Little Kids

Here are answers to five common questions.

#children-and-childhood, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #newsletters, #parenting, #vaccination-and-immunization

When Art Goes Global, It Loses Something

The things we create are better when they come out of a specific, lived context.

#computers-and-the-internet, #internal-sub-only-nl, #music, #news-and-news-media, #newsletters, #social-media, #twitter

Will Substack Go Beyond Newsletters? A Company Weighs Its Future.

The publishing platform’s founders want Substack to be an “alternate universe on the internet.” But it faces copycat rivals, an exodus by writers and a need to move beyond newsletters.

#computers-and-the-internet, #media, #news-and-news-media, #newsletters, #social-media, #substack-inc, #writing-and-writers

How Emily Nunn Turned Salad Into a Soapbox

Brash and funny, she uses her popular Substack newsletter, The Department of Salad, to hold forth about ageism, politics and, oh yes, leafy greens.

#atlanta-ga, #content-type-personal-profile, #cooking-and-cookbooks, #discrimination, #newsletters, #nunn-emily, #recipes, #salads, #substack-inc, #writing-and-writers

Axios Wants Us to Read Everything in Bullet Points

The news organization that prides itself on short-format writing has big plans to expand in local news, paid newsletters and even the emails sent by your bosses.

#allen-michael-1964, #axios-media-inc, #charlotte-agenda-web-site, #news-and-news-media, #newsletters, #vandehei-jim

Alex Ebert, a Neo-Hippie Pop Star, Becomes a Guru

Alex Ebert, the lead troubadour of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, flips to the B side of his career: philosopher.

#content-type-personal-profile, #ebert-alex, #edward-sharpe-and-the-magnetic-zeros-music-group, #newsletters, #pop-and-rock-music, #substack-inc

Ruth Reichl Will Write a Substack Newsletter

The former restaurant critic and Gourmet editor is joining a cadre of chefs and authors enlisted to expand the platform’s culinary content.

#cooking-and-cookbooks, #food, #newsletters, #reichl-ruth, #restaurants, #ricker-andy, #substack-inc, #writing-and-writers, #zimmern-andrew

Introducing Tom Morello’s Newsletter

The Rage Against the Machine guitarist contemplates poetry, protest and the power of unions.

#labor-and-jobs, #music, #newsletters, #rage-against-the-machine-music-group

These Online Publications Are Not Free … and Readers Don’t Mind

Defector, The Daily Memphian, The Dispatch and other outlets of recent vintage are driving a shift in the digital media business.

#daily-memphian, #defector-media-llc, #dispatch-the-web-site, #havrilesky-heather, #hayes-stephen-f, #news-and-news-media, #newsletters, #prices-fares-fees-and-rates, #quartz-atlantic-media-co, #substack-inc

Daily Crunch: European regulators share more privacy concerns over Facebook “smart” glasses

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for September 20, 2021. It is Disrupt week, everyone, and TechCrunch is buzzing. Kicking off tomorrow morning, Disrupt is set to be a pretty butt-kicking affair. Check the agenda here, speakers here, Battlefield companies here, and if you want to see your humble servant doing his first run (last run?) at hosting, well, stick to the Extra Crunch stage. Nice tweets only, please.

See you tomorrow morning! — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Coinbase pulls plug on lending product: U.S. cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has decided to shelve its “Lend” product that would have provided yield to investors who stake their crypto assets. Why? The U.S. regulatory body involved with such products views the creation as a security and said that it would sue Coinbase if it launched the product. Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong publicly made the case that the SEC was being silly, which didn’t seem to help much. Perhaps somewhat-snarky Twitter threads are not the way to regulatory victory.
  • IPOs galore: Alrighty folks who care about public-market liquidity, we have a bevy of stories for you today. Here’s who is going to get rich from GitLab’s IPO, here is a dig into the new pricing for Toast’s IPO, and here are a few notes on Freshworks’ raised IPO price. Enjoy!
  • Europe wants Facebook to turn its lights on: Or at least more on. In the wake of Facebook’s announced Ray-Ban camera-glasses, the “lead privacy regulator in Europe has raised concerns” about the hardware. At issue is the small light indicating that they are recording. Perhaps a bigger light would be better. That or we may be in another cycle of Glasshole discourse, which I am sure we’d all rather avoid.

Startups/VC

  • You don’t have to go to space to image the Earth: That’s the lesson from Near Space Labs’ latest round of capital, a $13 million infusion. While several startups want to take lots of pictures of the Earth for commercial purposes from satellites (Albedo is one we’ve covered before), Near Space wants to use balloons that are merely, well, near space. Reaching orbit is cheaper than ever, but certainly still not cheap. Perhaps this is the way forward?
  • Fivetran raises huge round, buys smaller company: Hard enterprise reporter Ron Miller covered this $565 million investment for TechCrunch, noting that Fivetran is now worth some $5.6 billion. The company is also shelling out $700 million for HVR, what Miller describes as a “data integration competitor that had raised more than $50 million.” The latter deal is a mix of cash and stock. Fivetran helps companies move data around. Given the scale of data in the world, that’s big business.
  • Salesforce makes investment in Razorpay: As the Chinese market for startup investment retreats, India’s continues to collect checks, with the latest being an investment from Salesforce Ventures into Razorpay, a major fintech player in the Indian market that was last valued at $3 billion. This deal doesn’t appear huge in dollar terms, but that Salesforce is bridging the Pacific does in fact matter.
  • Video and photo editing is an industry: As companies like Picsart raise nine-figure rounds, it’s perhaps not a surprise to see the company behind Facetune and other editing applications raise similar-sized rounds. In this case, Facetune developer Lightricks has put together a $130 million round. The company “operates more than a dozen subscription-based photo- and video-editing apps across iOS and Android,” TechCrunch reports.
  • B2B fintech is hot: Airwallex just secured a $200 million round at a $4 billion valuation, which is notable not only for the dollars involved but also due to the fact that the company is based in Australia. The now-multiple unicorn offers embedded fintech services for other companies, as well as business banking services.
  • A marketplace for selling businesses sells part of its business: That’s the news from Flippa, a marketplace where online businesses and digital assets can be bought and sold. The company just secured an $11 million round, and as part of that released what has to be the single worst non-GAAP metric since community-adjusted EBITDA. TechCrunch writes that the company “sees over 600,000 monthly searches from investors looking to connect with business owners.” To which I say, sirs, are you so afraid of sharing real metrics that that is what you went with?
  • In related news, this newsletter is the leading internet missive that includes both “daily” and “crunch” in its heading, giving us a market-leading pace of readership activation and conversion of our newsletter-to-reads pipeline.
  • Cars24 raises $450 million in cash, debt: Indian used-car marketplace Cars24 is now worth $1.84 billion after raising $340 million in equity capital and $110 million in debt. It’s a healthy round for a company that has “sold 400,000 vehicles to date.” See? That’s an actually useful metric. Not incredibly useful; a rate of sales would be better than an absolute stat, but still!

The next healthcare revolution will have AI at its center

In an excerpt from “AI 2041: Ten Visions For Our Future,” author Kai-Fu Lee makes the case that recent advances in artificial intelligence are starting to transform healthcare.

Studies have shown that AI is as good as humans when it comes to diagnosing disease, but the pandemic has accelerated the digitization of patient records and data.

“Over the coming decades, we can expect medical diagnosis to evolve from an AI tool that provides analysis of options to an AI assistant that recommends treatments,” writes Lee.

Lee identifies several areas where AI will improve outcomes in drug discovery, complex surgeries and monitoring, but also looks at potential concerns, such as legal liabilities.

“AI healthcare is not just a market — it represents a tidal wave of transformations that will change the entire industry.”

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Maybe we’ve figured out this generation of mobile operating systems: TechCrunch’s dive into iOS 15 notes that the new mobile OS brought with it quality-of-life improvements and feature-bumps to Apple’s own apps. That’s what you have to look forward to. Or, more precisely, you will update to the new code, I reckon, and then instantly forget that you have. Such is the state of today’s mobile OSes, which, along with smartphone hardware, seem to have reached a plateau of boring excellence. It’s time for a new paradigm to shake things up.
  • Big Tech wins some awards that your parents cared about: How much stock do you put in the Emmys? Do you actually know what an Emmy is? I don’t. But it turns out that Netflix and Apple won some the other day. Good for them. It turns out that if you are among the most wealthy companies in the history of the world, you are able to buy talent and take enough shots on goal that you score some points. Or in this case, small, ugly trophies.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

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Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

TechCrunch wants you to recommend growth marketers who have expertise in SEO, social, content writing and more! If you’re a growth marketer, pass this survey along to your clients; we’d like to hear about why they loved working with you.

If you’re curious about how these surveys are shaping our coverage, check out this interview Anna Heim did with Ammo, “Australian growth marketing agency Ammo helps startups calibrate their efforts.”

#daily-crunch, #newsletters, #tc

Daily Crunch: Lucid Air puts Tesla in rearview mirror by earning 520-mile EPA range rating

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for September 16, 2021. We are still on the countdown to Disrupt, so make sure you have a ticket, and get ready to drop your pitch deck into the hat. We’re going to space! — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Tigers love robots: Sure we’re accustomed to seeing Tiger cut checks into every software company still alive, but did you know that the capital fund is also into physical goods? Our own Brian Heater has the news.
  • What could stop the startup boom? Today on the site TechCrunch dug back through its coverage of the Q2 venture capital cycle, asking what could stop the momentum that we’ve seen in recent quarters. The short answer? Not too much. The heady startup market is more stable than you’d think, but only partially on its own merit.
  • The American government gets serious about breaches: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is making sure that companies know that if their apps “collect personal health information [they] must notify consumers if their data is breached or shared with third parties without their permission.” Which is good. But how was that not always the rule?

Startups/VC

Apple held an event this week, so the technology market is still reverberating with takes about why it’s the iPhone 13 and not the iPhone 12S. Regardless of your take there, Apple’s long shadow is making itself known in other places. Like the market for helping folks find their gadgets. The Cupertino-based giant made waves the other month by introducing AirTags, in competition with Tile, a startup. Well, Tile is now back with $40 million in new capital. To war!

  • Fiberplane raises capital to build Google Docs for SREs: Building software tuned for a particular market is hot these days. The strategy is akin to building an anti-Word, if you will. In Fiberplane’s case — the company just raised $8.8 million — it’s building a Google-Docs-style product for site reliability engineers, or SREs. Is that niche too small? Probably not?
  • CodeSignal raises (again): Ah, credentialing. CodeSignal wants to make applying for developer gigs a bit more based on skill and a bit less based on where one went to school. Investors are lining up to fund its vision, dropping a fresh $50 million into the company’s coffers less than a year after it raised $25 million.
  • Self Financial proves that credit-building is still venture-backable: Altos Ventures led a $50 million Series E for the company, which wants to help “consumers build credit and savings at the same time.” It’s a good idea, given how broken the American credit system still is today.
  • Byju’s buys coding platform Tynker: The $200 million transaction will help Byju’s continue to expand in the United States. The Indian company’s bullishness on its own sector is perhaps balm to founders and investors worried about edtech in the wake of China’s decision to kneecap its domestic startup class chasing the market.
  • Open Mineral: What a great startup name. And it is more than apt, as the company wants to bring transparency to the global commodities markets. Which is good, as more transparency means better price discovery, and a more efficient market. Open Mineral just closed $33 million in a Series C.

3 strategies to make adopting new HR tech easier for hiring managers

Most of us prefer to trust our instincts instead of letting automated tools help us make decisions, particularly when it comes to hiring. But that’s not smart.

If your startup has an ad hoc hiring process, you’re not tracking candidates properly, there’s little consistency regarding how they’re treated and bias plays a major role in who gets hired.

It’s fine to be skeptical of automated hiring tools —- but not ignorant.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Twitter Super Follows may not be super lucrative: Data coming out from the Twitter Super Follows product indicates that its early performance is lackluster. So much so that it might go the way of Fleets. Do you Super Follow? If so let us know.
  • Ford spends to boost electric truck production: Worried that EVs might be a fad? Stop fretting. Traditional American car company Ford is doubling-down on its electric F-150 production, TechCrunch reports. And if Ford is doing well with EVs, they well and truly are mainstream.
  • Lucid Air snags the longest-range EV title, surpassing Tesla: Dodging the Elon fanboys for a minute, Lucid Motors is pushing the state of the EV art a bit forward with a car that sports a 520-mile range. That’s one hell of a hike. In general terms, the distance bump that Lucid — recall that the company is going public later this year — intends to offer could spark an arms race regarding EV range. Yes, please.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

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Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

TechCrunch wants you to recommend growth marketers who have expertise in SEO, social, content writing and more! If you’re a growth marketer, pass this survey along to your clients; we’d like to hear about why they loved working with you.

If you’re curious about how these surveys are shaping our coverage, check out this guest column by Bryan Dsouza on Extra Crunch, “5 things you need to win your first customer.”

#daily-crunch, #newsletters, #tc

Google’s R&D division experiments with newsletters powered by Google Drive

Following entries into the newsletter market from tech companies like Facebook and Twitter, Google is now experimenting with newsletters, too. The company’s internal R&D division, Area 120, has a new project called Museletter, which allows anyone to publish a Google Drive file as a blog or newsletter to their Museletter public profile or to an email list.

The effort would essentially repurpose Google’s existing document-creation tools as a means of competing with other newsletter platforms, like Substack, Ghost, Revue, and others, which are today attracting a growing audience.

Google’s experiment was spotted this week by sites including 9to5Google and Android Police.

Reached for comment, an Area 120 spokesperson declined to share further details about Museletter, saying only that it was “one of the many experiments” within the R&D group and that “it’s still very early.”

From the Museletter website, however, there is already much that can be learned about the project. The site explains how Google Drive could be monetized by creators in a way that would allow Google’s newsletter project to differentiate itself from the competition. Not only could newsletters be written in a Google Doc, other productivity apps could also be used to share information with readers. For example, a newsletter creator could offer a paid subscription plan that would allow readers to access their Google Slides. A creator who writes about finance could publish helpful spreadsheets to Google Sheets, which would be available to their subscribers.

Image Credits: Google

To make this possible, Museletter publishers would create a public profile on their Google Drive, then publish any Google Drive file directly to it. This provides them with a landing page where they can market their subscriptions and showcase how many different Drive files they’ve made publically available across Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

Creators can also optionally publish to an email list — including a list brought in from other platforms. The newsletter subscriptions can be free or paid, depending on the creator’s preferences, but using Museletter itself will be free. Instead, the project aims to monetize with premium features like custom domains, welcome emails, and more.

The platform also promises tools and analytics to engage audiences and track the newsletter’s performance.

While the site doesn’t mention any plans for advertising, a success in this space could provide Google with a new ad revenue stream — and one that arrives at a time when the tech giant’s multi-billion dollar advertising market has a new challenger in the form of Amazon, whose own ad business could eventually challenge the Facebook-Google duopoly.

Google didn’t say when it plans to launch Museletter, but the website is offering a link to a form where users can request early access.

#amazon, #android, #area-120, #computing, #creators, #finance, #google, #google-sheeets, #google-slides, #google-docs, #google-drive, #media, #news, #newsletter, #newsletters, #publish, #publishers, #rd, #substack, #world-wide-web

Daily Crunch: SpaceX set to launch 4 civilians into orbit for 3-day mission

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for September 15, 2021. Today we have everything in the newsletter. Bad behavior in the crypto world? Yep. Why the Mailchimp deal might make good sense? You bet.

But before we get into the mix, a few TechCrunch notes. First, Jordan Crook’s regular series of streamed chats with investors and founders is now called TechCrunch Live. And Chamath Palihapitiya is coming to Disrupt. Which is in less than a week!

Oh, and as you are reading this, SpaceX’s first “all-civilian crew” may be taking off into space. In case you wanted to tune in. — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Today in bad actors: Want to know if you are living in overheated times? Check for a rise in fraud and related bad behavior. And oh boy has there been news in the last day. Startup App Annie will pay $10 million in SEC fines for securities fraud. Which is Not Good. And NFT marketplace OpenSea ate a buffet of crow earlier today when it admitted that an executive at the concern was front-running NFT sales. ?
  • Maybe the Intuit-Mailchimp deal is not dumb? Sure, TechCrunch’s first reaction to the news that TurboTax parent company Intuit wants to spend $12 billion on Mailchimp was skeptical. But Ron Miller hit up a bunch of smart folks, and there was more positive sentiment to be recorded than we might have guessed.
  • Tech companies are still going public: We’re waiting for Toast and Freshworks and Warby Parker to get their debuts launched, but other companies aren’t waiting for a clear news cycle. Secondary share marketplace Forge is going public via a SPAC, so we had to take a look.

Startups/VC

First things first, more news from the BNPL beat. Yes, the method of paying for a transaction in installments is still making news. This time it’s Ascend raising $5.5 million to bring BNPL services to the commercial insurance world. Recent liquidity in the fintech market could help drive fresh venture interest in coming quarters.

  • Sendcloud raises $177M for SaaS: No, not that SaaS. Shipping as a service, in Sendcloud’s space. The Dutch startup now flush with SoftBank cash “has built a service [that provides] a cloud-based platform to easily organize and carry out shipping services by choosing from a wide range of carriers and other options.” It sounds a bit like a European Shippo?
  • Rivian proves it’s not vaporware: After raising dump trucks worth of capital, Rivian’s first production R1T electric pickup has rolled off the line. It’s a big moment for the company and sets Rivian apart from a host of other EV companies that hope to match its new milestone. Also apparently there is a color called Rivian Blue, and I am here for it.
  • Clubhouse hires head of news: NPR vet Nina Gregory has taken on the role of Clubhouse’s head of News and Media Publishers, TechCrunch reports. Her role will be to work with both the social platform and news orgs. Perhaps her job would be a smidgen easier if Clubhouse backer a16z wasn’t so antagonistic toward the media. But, hey, the hire still makes good sense.
  • Speaking of news, SmartNews is now worth $2 billion: Sure, media is a trash business — mostly — but perhaps media aggregation is the golden ticket. Investors just put $230 million into news aggregator SmartNews, giving it a shiny new valuation. I have a soft spot for SmartNews as we partnered with them back in the Crunchbase News days, but past that, I am impressed and curious how it is going to generate the revenue needed to surpass its new price tag.
  • Airbase further differentiates itself from Brex, Ramp: The corporate spend wars are good fun because there are a number of startups in the space that are growing quickly, raising money and making deals. And they are increasingly carving up their market. Airbase just built some new capabilities that may help it attack larger customers than what some of its rivals appear to have their eyes on.
  • Finally today, Inspired Capital has raised a second fund just two years after its first.

5 things you need to win your first customer

Congratulations on shipping your product, but how much do you know about your target customers?

Companies that haven’t created an ideal customer profile and performed a SWOT analysis are making big bets on guesswork and intuition. Sometimes that works out, but more frequently, it leads to tears.

In a guest post that walks readers through the fundamentals of creating customer personals that map to your company’s goals, Grammarly product marketing lead Bryan Dsouza shares five basic requirements for customer acquisition.

“Understanding and executing on these things can guarantee you that first customer win, provided you do them well and with sincerity,” he says. “Your investors will also see the fruits of your labor and be comforted knowing their dollars are at good work.”

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

Want some government news? Yes, you do. Trust me. This stuff matters:

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

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Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

TechCrunch wants to help startups find the right expert for their needs. To do this, we’re building a shortlist of the top growth marketers. We’ve received great recommendations for growth marketers in the startup industry since we launched our survey.

We’re excited to read more responses as they come in! Fill out the survey here.

Our editorial coverage about growth marketing includes articles from the TechCrunch team, guest columns and posts like “In growth marketing, signal determines success” by Jonathan Martinez.

Community

Image Credits: Basic Books

Join Danny Crichton, tomorrow Thursday, September 16, at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT on Twitter Spaces. Danny will be joined by Martin Ford, author of “Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Everything.” Make sure you’re following the TechCrunch Twitter account to stay up to date with our news and events.

#daily-crunch, #newsletters, #tc

Daily Crunch: Here’s what happened at Apple’s virtual 2021 fall event

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for September 14, 2021. It was an Apple day on the internets, so we’ve all spent the afternoon trying to figure out if we need a new smartphone. Answer? Probably not, but that won’t stop a good portion of the TechCrunch crew from deploying fresh Yahoo lucre into Cupertino’s market cap. We love this stuff.

On the TechCrunch front, Disrupt is in a week’s time. Your humble servant is going shopping later this afternoon so that he can look slightly less disheveled. Jordan, of course, will look brilliant on the Disrupt Desk. See you there! — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Apple drops grip of new hardware: Anytime Apple hosts an event, it’s like time stops in the technology world. If that should still be the case is up to you, but it remains fact. Here’s our rundown of iPhone news, Apple Watch news, iPad updates and a general roundup in case you want to go meta. Enjoy!
  • Atlanta booming: TechCrunch continued its tour of U.S. cities today after hitting up Chicago and Boston in recent weeks. This time, we dug into Atlanta’s booming startup scene, which is seeing record capital inflows. We talked to some founders and investors to get the latest. Don’t forget that Atlanta just produced a decacorn exit.
  • And speaking of decacorns, Canva just raised $200 million at a $40 billion valuation. In percentage terms, the Australian design software company managed to raise two bills for 0.5% of its equity value. A steal at twice the price. Why is Canva worth so much? Huge scale, as our notes regarding its revenue growth illuminate.

Read more about Apple's Fall 2021 Event on TechCrunch

Startups/VC

Before we dive into our usual rundown of startup news, TechCrunch did a dig into the value of the myriad BNPL startups around the world through the lens of some recent acquisitions. I wrote it. Read it if that’s your jam.

  • In light of the day’s Apple Fitness news, it matters that Tonal just announced live classes are coming to its service. Tonal competes in the hardware-and-software market against Peloton and other players. Notably it’s the startups of the world that are fusing hardware and software more than Apple in this case, which is mostly bundling services into its existing products. Regardless, good news for you Tonal users out there.
  • 1047 Games closes $100M: If you are hot, Brian Heater writes, you are hot. And 1047 games with its hit title Splitgate is more than warm. So sweltering that it just closed a third round since May. What’s Splitgate? An FPS that includes portals. (Which frankly sounds awesome.)
  • Grammarly opens up for developers: Grammarly is well known as a product that folks use to help tighten up their writing. But what if you wanted to bake Grammarly tech into your own product? Well, now you can. The company just announced a developer product. The finance nerd in me wonders how lucrative the new business line will prove, and if it will help the company file its damn S-1 already.
  • EverAfter raises $13M, underscores that HRtech is still hot: Per our own reporting, EverAfter has built a “no-code customer-facing tool that streamlines onboarding and retention.” That’s a bit like Sora, a startup that TechCrunch has also written about. A few rounds focused on the same space is signal!
  • Today’s Tiger round is Indonesian fintech Xendit: Xendit is now a unicorn thanks to a $150 million check led by Tiger. At this point, we reckon that every time Tiger’s managing partners go to dinner they tip $150 million. It’s the only number that they know! Regardless, the Jakarta-based fintech with a payments focus has big expansion plans that are now well financed.

Is it so bad to take money from Chinese venture funds?

Are founders in fundraising mode short-sighted when it comes to working with Chinese investors?

Asia Business development manager for Runa Capital Denis Kalinin studied data from iTjuzi, a database of Chinese venture capitalists and found:

 … Chinese funds invested around $250 billion in 2020 (three times higher than the figure reported in Crunchbase). This figure puts Chinese VC investments only 30% lower than investments by U.S. funds, but three times that of U.K. funds and 12.5 times more than German funds.

The pandemic, geopolitical tensions and other factors led many Chinese venture funds to reduce their international investments, but that’s largely “because during COVID, China’s economy recovered much faster than other countries,” writes Kalinin.

His analysis covers multiple angles: Chinese investments in Europe are catching up with those in Asia and the United States, half of China’s top cross-border investors are CVCs, and investors are particularly interested in fintech, deep tech and digital health at the moment.

“Chinese investors can bring value to foreign startups, but you need to study their expertise and how it can be useful for you.”

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of Big Tech news, an update from the U.S. government: “Biden’s new FTC nominee is a digital privacy advocate critical of Big Tech,” it turns out. That matters.

  • LinkedIn pledges $25M to creators: In case your LinkedIn feed was lacking in pizazz, the Microsoft subsidiary has plans to bolster your content influx. A $25 million “Creator Accelerator Program” has been established to encourage more, well, creation. Also LinkedIn is getting into live audio.
  • 51 more Starlink satellites take flight: We’re including this news item in Daily Crunch today in case you are also considering a move to rural Montana but need to stay employed.
  • Spaceflight looks to fly to the moon: Elon’s space company is not the only player looking to get humans off the plant. Spaceflight will “shuttle customers on a lunar flyby mission next year,” which is more than neat. How much for a ticket?

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

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Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

We’re reaching out to startup founders to tell us who they turn to when they want the most up-to-date growth marketing practices. Fill out the survey here.

Read one of the testimonials we’ve received below!

Marketer: Andrew Race, Juice

Recommended by: Orin Singh, Merchant Industry

Testimonial: “We were referred to Juice by a family friend of my company’s owner, and as a personal courtesy, they said they were giving us their best guy. Naturally, we thought that is what everyone says, but they were not kidding. Andrew was singularly leagues above our previous marketing company. Having someone so knowledgeable and willing to learn a new industry proved to be the turning point for us.”

Community

Image Credits: Basic Books

From planned Twitter Spaces to impromptu chats with the Equity crew, the TechCrunch team is constantly on Twitter. Tomorrow, Wednesday, September 15 at 2 p.m. PDT/5 p.m. EDT, the Disrupt Battlefield judges will be talking on Twitter Spaces. On Thursday, September 16, at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT, Danny Crichton will be joined by Martin Ford, author of “Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Everything.” Make sure you’re following the TechCrunch Twitter account to stay up to date with our news and events.

#daily-crunch, #newsletters, #tc

Daily Crunch: Apple urges users to update all devices after hacktivists reveal zero-day flaw

Hello and welcome back to Daily Crunch for September 13, 2021. This is Alex and I am back! A big thanks to Greg for taking over last week while I was on staycation. It is lovely to be back with you all.

Before we dive into the news, a reminder that Disrupt is next week. So, make sure you have a ticket and get hype. More here. It’s going to be a heck of a show.

The TechCrunch Top 3+

  • The Apple-Epic war far from over: While the internet digests the recent, controversial ruling between Apple and gaming giant Epic, the latter party is not letting the decision sit. Epic is appealing. What’s at stake is the monetization of mobile applications for years to come. Given how much money is in the mix, it’s not a huge surprise that the legal wrangling is taking time.
  • Welcome back to IPO season: Toast, a software-and-hardware startup that is the, well, toast of Boston, is targeting a huge valuation gain in its IPO. So is Freshworks. We’re tracking both companies and will have more notes as they get closer to trading. Expect many, many more offerings in the coming weeks.
  • China’s regulatory crackdown could harm its cloud market: That’s the recent summary of a report that TechCrunch covered, discussing the larger Chinese software market. News also broke earlier today that the Chinese government may break up Ant, the Alibaba financial affiliate, and that the country wants to reduce the number of EV companies its market currently supports.
  • BREAKING NEWS TODAY: Apple has released a patch to a zero-day flaw “that affects every iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch,” TechCrunch reports. Update your devices, folks.

Startups/VC

  • GrubMarket lands $120M to connect food growers, consumers: Sure, you’ve ordered food delivery. That’s one plank of the food game. But for distributors, wholesalers and supermarkets, there are far greater needs to be served than just what you and I can consume for dinner. That’s the market that GrubMarket plays in, and it just raised a huge bloc of cash to keep its growth rates up.
  • BitSight raises from Moody’s, buys VisibleRisk: BitSight, a startup that “assesses the likelihood that an organization will be breached,” per TechCrunch, has purchased an Israeli cyber-risk-assessment startup VisibleRisk for an undisclosed price. The Moody’s round put $250 million into BitSight, funds that we presume it used to snag VisibleRisk. What’s the connection? Moody’s wants to use cyber risks in its credit ratings, we reckon.
  • SpotOn also raises, buys smaller company: Unicorn SpotOn, which provides financial software and technology to small businesses, has raised a $300 million round that values the company at $3.15 billion. It’s also buying Appetize, “a digital and mobile commerce payments platform for enterprises such as sports and entertainment venues, theme parks and zoos.” The round is notable not only for its size, but also because SpotOn raised at a $1.875 billion valuation in May and a $625 million valuation last year.
  • JumpCloud raises $159M: JumpCloud sells cloud directory services and a host of other cloud-based identity services. It’s now worth $2.56 billion, a tidy sum. Sapphire Ventures’ Jai Das led the round. He’s a nice dude in my experience. The company grew its customer base by around 40% since last November. I asked the story’s author Ron Miller why JumpCloud was cool enough for him to cover. He said that the company’s effort to “provide a range of identity services, such as single sign-on and multifactor authentication” is important.
  • I suppose it’s time to learn what DevSevOps is: Every technology wants its own neologism. DevOps. Adtech. Finservices. Hell, even Databricks’ Lakehouse. Add DevSecOps to your personal lexicon. Per our own Ingrid Lunden, DevSecOps is “the area of IT that addresses the needs of security teams and the technical work that they need to do in their jobs.” Startup Rezilion just raised $30 million for its efforts to serve that particular market.
  • Everyone loves an e-commerce platform play: Shopify is big. BigCommerce is growing nicely. And investors want to put capital into the next, similar effort. Enter Egyptian startup Capiter, which just snagged a $33 million round to “help manufacturers and sellers distribute products and [ … ] access them on a single platform” in Africa.
  • To close out our startup coverage, GM just invested into radar software startup Oculi. The move fits neatly into the trend of self-driving cars getting better and better over time, even if they are not yet there, if you will.

3 keys to pricing early-stage SaaS products

Every founder who launches an enterprise software startup has to figure out the “right” pricing model for their products.

It’s a consequential decision: Per-seat licenses are easy to manage, but what if customers prefer a concurrent licensing model?

“Early pricing discussions should center around the buyer’s perspective and the value the product creates for them,” says Ridge Ventures partner Yousuf Khan, who previously worked as a CIO.

“Of course,” he notes, “self-evaluation is hard, especially when you’re asking someone else to pay you for something you’ve created.”

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

Kicking off our short big technology section today, let’s pick back up with the automotive theme from GM’s news we discussed above. Ford also made headlines today by hiring Mike Amend to be its chief of digital and information. That it is not surprising that Ford would make such a hire is good indication of where the automotive market is heading.

  • Instagram thinks you follow too many people: That’s my read of the social service’s effort to build a product in its service that will allow users to favorite accounts and thus not miss their updates. Algorithmic timeline problems, I suppose.
  • Dutch judge makes Uber sad: Sure, that’s a slightly subjective summary, but news that a Dutch judge has ruled that Uber drivers are actually employees is antithetical to the ride-hailing company’s position. So it can’t be happy. And what’s the opposite of happy?

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

Illustration montage based on education and knowledge in blue

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Are you all caught up on last week’s coverage of growth marketing? If not, read it here.

TechCrunch wants you to recommend growth marketers who have expertise in SEO, social, content writing and more! If you’re a growth marketer, pass this survey along to your clients; we’d like to hear about why they loved working with you.

Community

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

Join Danny Crichton on Twitter Spaces tomorrow, Tuesday, September 14, at 2 p.m. PDT/5 p.m. EDT as he discusses whether remote work will make H-1B visas redundant with Sophie Alcorn, a lawyer at Alcorn Immigration Law and guest columnist for “Dear Sophie” on Extra Crunch.

#daily-crunch, #newsletters, #tc

The next big startup may just help venture back more startups

Welcome to Startups Weekly, a fresh human-first take on this week’s startup news and trends. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here. 

Oper8r, built by Winter Mead and Welly Sculley, wants to help new entrants in the VC world scale. The accelerator launched last year as a “Y Combinator for emerging fund managers,” built to help solo capitalists and people launching rolling funds grow up.

The idea was that a well-networked, smart individual may be able to raise their first $10 million in a debut fund off of connections, but when it comes time to scale to a $50 million or $200 million fund, managers need to have a sophisticated understanding of how the LP world works.

Now, Mead claims that all 18 graduates within his first cohort, which include Stellation capital, Maple VC, Interlace Ventures and Supply Change Capital, have successfully closed funds. Its second cohort is still in the fundraising process, but across both cohorts, over $500 million has been closed. Oper8r is launching its third cohort next week and soon will announce the launch of Cr8r, an early-stage program to help talented angel investors grow their investment cadence.

Oper8r’s expansion comes as the rate of first-time venture fundraising grows as well. The Wall Street Journal’s Yuliya Chernova wrote a story this week about how, after years of being on the decline, the rate of first-time venture fundraising in the United States is “on track to reverse course.” The story, pulling analysis from advisory firm Different Funds, states that “in the second quarter of this year, some 40% of venture-fund announcements, which includes funds just setting out to raise capital, were made by debut funds, whereas they represented between roughly 20% and 30% of fund announcements in each quarter over the past two years.”

This data screams that the rise of a solo GP, or an ambitious rolling-fund-turned-venture firm, isn’t a one-off, it’s an actual trend. This means there’s more pressure for venture firms to go beyond a scout program when it comes to supporting the next big investors — and there’s more of a market for formal efforts to scale operations.

Mead, meanwhile, is cooking up ways to add validation and signal to Oper8r. Many accelerators write checks to further validate their choices, but also to tap into the access they’re getting by helping budding entrepreneurs before top-tier LPs and VCs notice them. He hinted that Oper8r may pursue a similar strategy as it seeks to be the go-to for emerging managers.

“I think capital speaks louder than educational programs,” he said. “If you’re putting money into the opportunities you’re engaged with, I think it serves as a greater signal than someone just coming through the program.”

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll discuss the creator economy’s latest dance, international BNPL week, and why I’m putting Reid Hoffman in the hot seat. As always, you can find me on Twitter @nmasc_ and listen to my podcast, Equity.

Edtech wants to have its creator economy moment, and it’s complicated

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Edtech and the creator economy certainly differ in the problems they try to solve: Finding a VR solution to make online STEM classes more realistic is a different nut to crack than streamlining all of a creator’s different monetization strategies into one platform. Still, the two sectors have found common ground in the past year — as encapsulated by the rise of cohort-based class platforms.

Here’s what to know: I wrote about how the overlap of both sectors is leading to some complications during the rise of cohort-based classes. Some fear that turning creators into educators could bring in a rush of unqualified teachers with no understanding of true pedagogy, while others think that the true democratization of education requires a disruption of who is considered a teacher.

Edtech extras: 

TTYL, BNPL

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

This week on Equity, Mary Ann and I made sense of what felt like international BNPL week: PayPal acquired Japan’s Paidy for $2.7 billion, Zip bought Africa’s Payflex and Addi raised $75 million to prove BNPL’s power in LatAm.

Here’s what to know: The global boom is partly in response to e-commerce trends, partly in response to consumer demand for more flexibility when it comes to financing. The market isn’t a winner-takes-all, so expect more well-capitalized startups buying their way into consumer markets outside of their geography.

Other news of note:

Reid Hoffman on the hot seat

Reid Hoffman

Image Credits: Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for LinkedIn

I read Reid Hoffman’s podcast-turned-new-book “Masters of Scale” over the past few days. The entire time, I felt like a well-networked mentor was giving me a pep talk, with name-drops that turned into generalist advice and a behind-the-scenes look at humanity’s decisions.

Here’s what to know: While the book gave me a needed boost of optimism, I still had some critiques. I felt like the book’s choice to not talk much about the ugly within startupland creates an imbalance of sorts. It would have benefitted from talking directly about divisive dynamics, ranging from how WeWork’s Adam Neumann impacted the way we talk about visionary founders, Brian Armstrong’s Coinbase memo and what it means for startup culture, or even the role of the tech press today.

So, I have an idea. Let’s balance out the cheerfulness with the cynical, and let’s do it live. I’m interviewing Hoffman at TechCrunch Disrupt this year, where I’ll put him on the hot seat and push him to explain some of the choices he made in the book. Other people I’m excited to see at the show include Peloton’s CEO and chief content officer and Ryan Reynolds.

Buy your tickets to TechCrunch Disrupt using this link, or use promo code “MASCARENHAS20” for a little discount from me.

Around TC

I’ll be honest, all we’re talking about internally these days is one thing: Disrupt, Disrupt, Disrupt. Here’s the agenda for the Disrupt Stage, which includes three virtual days of nonstop chatter on disruptive innovation.

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

Seen on Extra Crunch

And that’s it! Didn’t feel like a short week at all, huh?

Talk soon,

N

#newsletters, #startups-weekly, #tc

BNPL everywhere

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by what the weekday Exchange column digs into, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here

 

Hello everyone – Anna here, covering for Alex who’s enjoying some well-deserved but soon-ending vacation time. The Exchange also went on pause for the week, but the news didn’t stop, so strap on!

The buy now, pay later space has been one of the hottest fintech verticals since at least last August, when Square announced that it would spend a mind-blowing $29 billion to acquire Australian company Afterpay. But things really caught fire this week, with newsworthy BNPL-related announcements all around. Let’s take a closer look:

While the biggest news was undoubtedly PayPal’s decision to acquire Japan’s Paidy for $2.7 billion, Amazon closing a deal with Max Levchin’s Affirm was also a major move. What clearer sign that BNPL is going mainstream than the ability for U.S.-based Amazon shoppers to defer payments on purchases of $50 or more?

And it’s not just about a handful of players in the world’s leading e-commerce markets: BNPL startups all over the world have been growing, as reflected in recent rounds. For instance, Europe-focused Scalapay raised $155 million at a $700 million valuation, while Colombia’s Addi disclosed a $75 million extension to its Series B totaling $140 million.

“Buy now, pay later is officially everywhere, and Latin America is no exception,” Mary Ann Azevedo wrote for TechCrunch. This isn’t a copy-and-paste of the same model, though. Different markets have different needs, leading to important tweaks. The main one? BNPL isn’t necessarily synonymous with e-commerce.

As a matter of fact, Addi’s partners also include brick-and-mortar stores. This is understandable in markets where e-commerce, although fast growing, doesn’t yet have the same levels of adoption as in the U.S., and where installments were already a thing; but it is also happening as a natural expansion of BNPL beyond e-commerce and retail.

San Francisco-based startup Wisetack is a good example of this trend: It brings buy now, pay later to in-person home services, from HVAC repairs to plumbing. A very fragmented space that Wisetack cleverly worked its way around by teaming up and accessing the professional customer base of vertical SaaS providers such as Housecall Pro and Jobber. Oh, and it just raised $45 million.

What’s particularly relevant with buy now, pay later expanding beyond retail is that it encompasses larger expenses. For example, according to Wisetack CEO Bobby Tzekin, purchases made to service-based businesses average $4,000 to $5,000. Exciting for BNPL companies … and also likely to increase scrutiny from regulators who already had this new segment under review.

Although BNPL is framed as interest-free and an alternative to credit card payments, public authorities and consumer protection bodies have expressed concerns that it may encourage overspending and underplay the risks that customers are taking.

This translated into a regulatory push in the U.K, and in the EU, potentially casting a shadow over Klarna’s “plausible but not imminent” listing. Having raised $3.7 billion to date according to Crunchbase, it would be logical for the Swedish quadradecacorn to follow Affirm’s footsteps and go public, but timing will matter.

With so much funding flowing into the sector and consolidation already happening, it will definitely be interesting to watch.

Factorial, Wave and SPACs

The Exchange may have been on hiatus this week, but there were plenty of stories to digest across TechCrunch and Extra Crunch. Here are the ones that most caught my attention:

Factorial and betting on SMBs: Spanish HR startup Factorial raised an $80 million Series B round at a $530 million valuation. This is noteworthy in itself, and also for being led by Tiger Global. However, my favorite part is that it puts the spotlight on the money to be made by serving SMBs.

Shameless plug: This was also a key point of my Expensify EC-1 a few weeks ago.

As TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden pointed out, “Factorial’s rise is part of a much longer-term, bigger trend in which the enterprise technology world has at long last started to turn its attention to how to take the tools that originally were built for larger organizations, and right-size them for smaller customers.”

Right-sizing typically means avoiding unnecessary complexity in the product, and it is often done better by companies that only focus on this, rather than by enterprise incumbents. And it isn’t just a phase either: More and more, it is understood as a segment that companies can focus on forever.

A Wave of funding: Earlier this week, Africa recorded its biggest Series A to date: a $200 million round into mobile money startup Wave. With a valuation of $1.7 billion, this also turned the U.S.- and Senegal-based company into French-speaking Africa’s first unicorn.

It is not surprising that a fintech company was the first one to reach this milestone, Tage Kene-Okafor noted: Fintech has been attracting the lion’s share of VC funding on the continent. Per The Big Deal, a Substack newsletter on Africa’s startup scene, 48% of venture capital flowing into African startups in the first half of 2021 went to fintech — and this giant round may skew things even further when the time comes to check yearly tallies.

On a higher level, this seems to confirm that Africa’s tech sector is set to break records in 2021, which would be nice to see — especially after a tough 2020, and more generally, in a context of underfunding.

To SPAC or not to SPAC: According to Bloomberg, Traveloka is pulling back on its plans to go public via a SPAC with Peter Thiel’s Bridgetown Holdings. The question, it seems, is not whether to list: Talking to travel industry news site Skift, a Traveloka spokesperson described going public as “a natural evolution given Traveloka’s position as a category leader [with] aspirations to grow the business further.”

Instead, the Indonesian travel heavyweight is debating which path to follow — and sources told Bloomberg that it now will likely choose a traditional U.S. IPO instead, as SPACs “have fallen out of favor.” These are Bloomberg’s words, not mine; because it might still be early to say.

Sure, tighter regulation is looming, amid criticism that is well captured by this February headline: “When it comes to SPAC investing, the house always wins. The public, not so much.”

Nevertheless, my colleague Ryan Lawler brought a great counterpoint this week: Better.com is set to merge with blank-check company Aurora Acquisition Corp. at “a post-money equity value of approximately $7.7 billion.” According to its chief executives, a traditional IPO makes sense for companies that can easily be categorized. But a SPAC may be a better fit for a company like Better, which as Ryan reports, “has bigger ambitions than just being seen as a mortgage lender compared with other financial services companies.”

Is this the exception to the rule? Maybe, but it could also be a sign that SPACs still have a card to play.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend, The Exchange will be back to its regular schedule from Monday onward!  — Anna

#newsletters, #tc, #techcrunch-exchange

Daily Crunch: Microsoft acquires tutoring platform TakeLessons for undisclosed sum

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hi friends!

Welcome back to the Daily Crunch — it’s September 10, 2021. Alex Wilhelm returns next week, so this is my last day as the captain of this ship. Captain of the Daily Crunch. Captain … Crunch? Oh no.

Image Credits: evemilla / Getty Images

Things I’ve learned:

  • Email newsletters are more stressful than blog posts because you can’t fix typos once they’re out (and now that I’ve mentioned it, Murphy’s law demands this newsletter will have 300% more typos ). [Ed. note: Not on my watch, Captain.]
  • I have a weird tendency to not link to my own stories in this newsletter because it feels weird? (But I’m going to today, because I’VE EARNED IT. Also because it’s my birthday. Also because it ended up being one of our top stories since the last newsletter, so I probably should.)
  • Alex is a much, much more efficient writer than I am. He gets this done in like a third of the time it takes me. This works well with my theory that, based on the amount of work he does in a day, Alex is actually three people.

Bye friends!

Greg

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Apple will use Shazam to ID songs in DJ mixes: If a DJ mixes a bunch of songs into one big set, how do all the original artists get paid? Apple says the answer, at least for their purposes, starts with Shazam, which it bought back in 2018 for $400 million.
  • JioPhone delayed: Google and India’s Jio Platforms have been working on a phone tailored for the Indian market, intending to launch it today. Alas, that’s not going to happen. In a very last-minute announcement, Jio says that global semiconductor shortages are behind the delay, and that two more months should let them leap that hurdle.
  • Epic is shutting down Houseparty: Just two years after acquiring Houseparty for a reported $35 million, Epic says the party is over. It’ll be shutting down the video chat app in October, though bits of Houseparty DNA will remain — Fortnite’s cross-platform voice chat, for example, is based on Houseparty tech.

Startups/VC

  • Mammoth, the unicorn: Mammoth Biosciences, a biotech company co-founded by CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna, has blown past the billion-dollar valuation milestone. There’s literally zero chance that I’m going to be able to properly explain what this company does in one or two sentences, so check out Emma Betuel’s writeup for the breakdown.
  • Supabase raises $30M: This one’s mine! Supabase is building an open source platform meant to automatically handle a lot of the annoying back-end work that comes with starting a new app project — the database, the API (and documentation!), etc. I’ve been hearing buzz about it constantly since it graduated from YC last year. Supabase just closed a $30 million Series A and is rolling out new features on the regular, all while being fully remote with a team distributed across the world.
  • Snyk’s massive raise: Another company is raising an absolutely massive round at a mind-blowing valuation — this time it’s Snyk, which Ron Miller describes as a “Boston-based late-stage startup that is trying to help developers deliver more secure code.” It’s raising $530 million at a valuation of $8.5 billion. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here trying my hardest not to make any ’90s Nickelodeon references.

What China’s new data privacy law means for US tech firms

China’s first data privacy laws go into effect on November 1, 2021. Will your company be in compliance?

Modeled after the EU’s GDPR, the new regulations “[introduce] perhaps the most stringent set of requirements and protections for data privacy in the world,” writes Scott W. Pink, special counsel in O’Melveny’s Data Security & Privacy practice.

In a comprehensive overview, he explains its key requirements and compliance steps for U.S.-based firms that service Chinese consumers.

“American firms doing business in China or with companies inside China will need to immediately start assessing how this new law will impact their activities,” he advises.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Microsoft buys TakeLessons: Another Microsoft acquisition! Just a few days after announcing it’s buying web-based video editor Clipchamp, MSFT announced it’s picking up TakeLessons. Based in San Diego, TakeLessons connects individual students with specialist tutors (both online and off) on topics like math, music, drawing and more. Given that Microsoft says over 100 million students use its Teams platform for school, it makes sense for it to dig a bit deeper on edtech.
  • Judge says Apple must change App Store rules: Big shift in the Epic-versus-Apple legal battle royale this morning, with the judge declaring that Apple must allow developers to offer alternative payment options beyond Apple’s own in-app purchase system. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney says it’s not enough and that the company “will fight on.”
  • Epic wants Fortnite back in the App Store in South Korea: Speaking of Epic-versus-Apple … South Korea recently passed a bill that will require Apple to allow developers to use their own payment systems. As such, Epic says it’s time for Apple to let it (and Fortnite) back on the App Store in the country. Apple says no, and that “as of now, there’s no legitimate basis for the reinstatement of their developer account.”
  • What to expect from Apple’s event next week: It’s September, which means Apple is holding a big event. What will they announce — besides, if tradition holds, a new iPhone? Brian Heater has the roundup.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

Illustration montage based on education and knowledge in blue

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

We’re reaching out to startup founders to tell us who they turn to when they want the most up-to-date growth marketing practices. Fill out the survey here.

Read one of the testimonials we’ve received below!

Marketer: Mike Le, CB/I Digital

Recommended by: Tony Drockton, Hammitt

Testimonial: “In the two years of conversations I’ve only spoken to a few people that are so analytical and data driven. His unique in-house algorithms to scale spend have allowed us to maintain the hypergrowth (60%) that we’re on.”

Community

Join Danny Crichton on Twitter Spaces Tuesday, September 14, at 2 p.m. PDT/5 p.m. EDT as he discusses whether remote work will make H-1B visas redundant with Sophie Alcorn, a lawyer at Alcorn Immigration Law and guest columnist for “Dear Sophie” on Extra Crunch.

#daily-crunch, #newsletters, #tc

Daily Crunch: Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses are latest step in Facebook’s AR ambitions

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hi friends!

Greg here again for this edition of the Daily Crunch on Thursday, September 9, 2021. Alex Wilhelm is still out on vacation for a few more days … even though he’s still tweeting a lot, which leads me to think he’s either bad at vacation or dislikes Twitter less than I do. Whatever the case, I’ll keep that daily recap goodness flowing to give you a glimpse into the biggest stories to cross our front page.

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Facebook’s smart Ray-Bans: Five years after Snap shipped its Spectacle sunglasses, Facebook is taking a swing at the concept. But you won’t find the Facebook logo anywhere on these things (presumably because nobody on the planet wants the Facebook logo on their face). Built in partnership with Ray-Ban’s parent company, they look just like a classic pair of Wayfarers with an added bit of heft … and cameras. A white LED lights up when you’re shooting photos or videos, and near-ear speakers pipe in your tunes and phone calls. You can’t get them wet, which is great because no one wears sunglasses around places with water, like pools or beaches. Lucas Matney reviewed them here.
  • Roomba gets smarter: New Roomba incoming! The big new feature? It’ll try to detect and avoid poop your pets might have left in its path. Past models would just blast right through that mess and drag it around, leaving owners quite the horror show to come home to.
  • Notion acquires Automate.io: Notion is buying Automate.io, a startup out of India that lets you easily hook into services like Mailchimp or Gmail or Salesforce (or Notion!) and create complex automated workflows. “It’s a sizable acquisition,” Notion’s COO said without disclosing exactly how much it spent.

Startups/VC

  • Skydweller Aero raises $8M for solar-powered planes: “Airplanes and drones today, regardless of size or fuel type, all face the same limitation: eventually they have to land.” writes Aria Alamalhodaei. “Skydweller Aero, the U.S.-Spanish aerospace startup, wants to break free from that constraint … “
  • The $510M Series E: Varo Bank just won’t stop raising money. In June 2020, it raised $241 million, tacking on another $63 million in February 2021 because why not. Now it’s raised a staggering $510 million in a Series E round that values the company at $2.5 billion. “We didn’t set out to raise this much money. It was coming in fast and furious and we were at like $510 [million] and I finally said, ‘OK, enough,’” says Varo CEO Colin Walsh in a statement we can all totally relate to. Right? Anyone?
  • Affinity raises $80M to use machine learning to close deals: Who in your organization is best suited to close that deal? Can machine learning algorithms chew through your company’s data (past email interactions, calendar availability, etc.) and recommend the right person? That’s part of what Affinity is working on, and they’ve raised another $80 million to keep the ball moving and the company growing. Affinity currently has 125 employees, with plans to balloon to over 200 in the next year.

Anatomy of a SPAC: Inside Better.com’s ambitious plans

Online mortgage company Better.com isn’t waiting to complete its SPAC merger before making big moves: Today, Ryan Lawler reported that it purchased Property Partners, a U.K.-based startup that offers fractional property ownership.

It’s the second company Better bought in recent months: In July, it snapped up digital mortgage brokerage Trussle.

“We aren’t so easily categorized,” said Better CEO Vishal Garg, who told Ryan that the company plans to soon expand into traditional financial services like auto loans and insurance.

Said CFO Kevin Ryan, “A lot of people have their niches in the way they’re attacking this, but we feel like we’re on a path to being full stack where everything’s embedded in the same flow.”

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Twitter communities: Twitter keeps trying new things to make Twitter more approachable for people who don’t already have 10,000 followers. The latest experiment: Communities, or moderated social hubs, in which you can tweet with others around a shared interest. Twitter is limiting the categories, for now, to topics like dogs, weather, sneakers, skincare and astrology, and presumably hoping to stay way, way, way far away from politics for as long as possible.
  • Microsoft is buying Clipchamp: Ever wished Microsoft’s 365 tool suite included a video editor? Seems it’s on the way. Microsoft announced that it’s buying up Clipchamp, a web-based tool for creating/editing videos. As for when it might be integrated into 365? TBD.
  • Quicken gets sold again: Well that was quick(en). Just a few years after being acquired by a private equity firm, Quicken is being sold off to a different private equity firm. Quicken CEO Eric Dunn shared his thoughts on the deal (plus some insights on the company’s growth as of late) with TC’s Mary Ann Azevedo.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

Illustration montage based on education and knowledge in blue

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

We’re reaching out to startup founders to tell us who they turn to when they want the most up-to-date growth marketing practices. Fill out the survey here.

Read one of the testimonials we’ve received below!

Marketer: Kevin Miller, GR0

Recommended by: Leeann Schudel, The Word Counter

Testimonial: “Super detailed analysis of the space and what keywords to target that would move the needle the most. There is a full dedicated SEO team that communicates weekly at the minimum and provides in-depth analysis. They are very transparent with their strategies and explain all moves they are making on their end and how it will benefit our company. Super easy and flexible to work with, aren’t stingy on deliverables and are always there as a consultant.”

#daily-crunch, #newsletters, #tc

Daily Crunch: Google rolls out new Workspace features for all users

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hi friends!

Welcome to the Daily Crunch for Wednesday, September 8, 2021. Alex is still out, so I’ll be steering this ship for a few more days while (I hope) he stares at trees, or the ocean, or really anything but words on a computer screen. Alex, if you’re reading this, please put your phone in airplane mode and do something cool. — Greg

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Wright tests its electric engine for passenger planes: Electric planes face challenges that electric cars don’t, like … you know, needing to get off the ground. Current battery tech is just too heavy for existing engines to get up in the air efficiently. Devin Coldewey has a profile on Wright, a startup looking to tackle this by making an electric engine that produces more thrust from less energy. They’re currently testing it at sea level, with plans to get it up to flying heights sometime next year.
  • Howard University cancels classes after ransomware attack: “Sorry class, lessons are canceled for the day because we got hacked.” It’s the oh-so-2021 version of a snow day. Snow Crash Day?
  • SEC threatens to sue Coinbase: Looks like there’s a bit of a battle potentially brewing between Coinbase and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Coinbase wants to launch a service that would let users loan out crypto assets to a lending pool and gain interest (noting that others already have launched similar services). Coinbase gave the SEC a heads-up … which, according to Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, led to the SEC threatening to sue Coinbase if it moved forward.

Startups/VC

  • The credit card with a $27 limit: “The relatively young credit-rating system in India covers only a tiny fraction of the nation’s population,” writes Manish Singh. As a result, an equally tiny fraction of the population has access to credit cards. Slice, a startup out of Bangalore, is looking to help young people in the region start to slowly build their credit by introducing a card with a cap of 2,000 Indian rupees — or about $27.
  • A social network for making music: TikTok remixed the concept of the remix, allowing users to take another user’s video and remold it into their own thing. Mayk.it, a new social app founded by TikTok/Snap alums, wants to bring the focus back to music. One user makes a beat, others add vocals and everyone crosses their fingers for a hit. The app launched this week, simultaneously announcing it had raised $4 million in seed funding.
  • PayPal buys Paidy: $2.7 billion! That’s how much PayPal is dropping on Paidy, a popular buy now, pay later service from Japan. Kate Park writes that this move should help PayPal dive right into deferred payments in the country — which, as she points out, is the third largest e-commerce market in the world.

Debt versus equity: When do non-traditional funding strategies make sense?

Many potential founders are well versed in startup economics — and many are completely green.

When it comes to raising funds, understanding the relative benefits (and limitations) of debt and equity financing is required knowledge, however.

Founders who are less willing to dilute their control may be willing to use debt financing to fund their capital expenditures, “but it doesn’t make sense for everyone,” says six-time entrepreneur David Friend.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Microsoft launches a personalized news service: Microsoft is taking a swing at the Apple News/Flipboard concept with Microsoft Start, a site/app that aggregates content from your favorite news sources. You can thumbs up/down things to tune the algorithm over time, because what the world needs is more robots telling us what to read. I miss Google Reader.
  • Google opens Spaces for all: Last year Google rebranded its built-for-work toolset from G Suite to Google Workspace. Around the same time, it started testing new features that makes the myriad Workspace tools (Gmail, Docs, Meet, etc.) work more cohesively, retuning them with the sudden work-from-home spike in mind. As of today, those features are rolling out to everyone.
  • Twitter is testing big ol’ full-width photos and videos: “While the result looks like a win to us, any change to Twitter’s design is likely to inspire a vocal subset of users to hate-tweet about it for a day or so before forgetting the changes altogether,” Taylor Hatmaker so perfectly sums up.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

Illustration montage based on education and knowledge in blue

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

TechCrunch wants to help startups find the right expert for their needs. To do this, we’re building a shortlist of the top growth marketers. We’ve received great recommendations for growth marketers in the startup industry since we launched our survey.

We’re excited to read more responses as they come in! Fill out the survey here.

Our editorial coverage about growth marketing includes articles from the TechCrunch team, guest columns, and posts like “Use cohort analysis to drive smarter startup growth” by Jonathan Metrick on Extra Crunch.

#daily-crunch, #newsletters, #tc

Daily Crunch: Hyundai to provide hydrogen fuel cell versions of all commercial vehicles by 2028

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome back to the Daily Crunch for Tuesday, September 7, 2021! Your regular host Alex Wilhelm is AFK for the next few days, so I (Greg Kumparak) will be handling his newsletter duties. Alex may be smarter, nicer and generally a better human than I am, but I’m at least more … well, more not currently on vacation. I’ll do my best.

Most of TechCrunch took a lonnnnng weekend (Labor Day + a surprise all-company holiday bestowed upon us by the higher-ups to celebrate the arrival of new even-higher-ups), so let’s check in on what’s happened since Alex last wrote.

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • ProtonMail forced to log a user’s IP: Privacy-minded email service ProtonMail does more than most alternatives to keep user data away from prying eyes, but it’s not going to break the laws of its home country of Switzerland to do it. Last week a story broke about ProtonMail being pushed by French authorities to reveal the IP of a French activist; it didn’t initially comply, but had to once that request was rerouted “to Swiss police via Europol.” The whole story is an evolving back-and-forth that has grown too complicated to wrap up in a single paragraph, so dive into the linked story for all the details.
  • VW’s autonomous driving efforts move forward: Volkswagen’s commercial vehicle arm has been working with autonomous driving tech company Argo AI, and the pair showed off the mostly final version of its first test vehicle over the weekend. While there’s no shortage of in-the-works autonomous cars out there, Argo AI is one to watch here; the company is also working with Ford on a self-driving initiative for Lyft, with Argo AI’s valuation said to have cracked $12 billion back in July.
  • Hyundai goes heavy on hydrogen: Have doubts about hydrogen as the fuel source of the future? Hyundai seemingly does not — or, at least, it’s hedging its bets. The South Korean company announced this morning that it’ll be making hydrogen fuel cell versions of all of its commercial vehicles by 2028. It’ll keep working on electric vehicles in parallel, but says it hopes to make hydrogen cost-competitive with EV batteries by 2030.

Startups/VC

We spent a good chunk of last week covering Y Combinator’s Demo Day, where hundreds of startups (seriously, hundreds!) debuted to an audience of investors. It’s gotten big enough that Demo Day has become Demo Days; if you haven’t already, check out our coverage of Day One here, and Day Two here.

  • OLIO raises $43M to help fight food waste: Got food to spare? Snap a picture of the food, share it with your neighbors and hopefully don’t let it go to waste. A super nice idea, but can it be a big business? Mike Butcher has the details on how its founders — and its bevy of investors — expect it to get there.
  • Africa’s biggest Series A: Tage Kene-Okafor has the details about some massive milestones from African fintech company Wave — it just raised the largest Series A ($200 million) to date in Africa, and, in doing so with a valuation of $1.7 billion, has become what Tage says is Francophone (French-speaking) Africa’s first unicorn.
  • Homage raises $30M for at-home care: Homage, a company out of Singapore that focuses on making it easier to get a caregiver, nurse or doctor to your home, announced this week that it raised $30 million. Considering that no one wants to go sit in a potentially crowded waiting room to see a doctor right now, I have to figure that in-home care is having quite the moment.

A founder’s guide to effectively managing your options pool

“In today’s cash-rich environment, options are more valuable than cash,” says Allen Miller, a principal at Oak HC/FT.

“In turn, managing your option pool may be the most effective action you can take to ensure you can recruit and retain talent.”

In an article squarely aimed at early-stage founders, Miller shares best practices for protecting your option pool, lists the mistakes many founders make and offers multiple tips for course-correcting “if you made mistakes early on.”

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • The time Animoto almost brought AWS to its knees: Having a product so successful that it makes Amazon’s cloud infrastructure sweat is kind of a nice problem to have, if only once it’s over. The lovely Ron Miller tells that story this week from the perspective of Animoto, which saw its bandwidth-intensive user base explode from 25,000 to 250,000 pretty much overnight in 2008, making even AWS creak a bit.
  • Hulu bumps up the price: The bad news? Hulu is bumping up the price of its on-demand plans. The less bad news? It’s not nearly as big of a bump as the one Hulu’s live TV service got back in 2019, which jumped from $35 to $55 over just a few months. Both the ad-supported and no-ad versions of Hulu will jump up one dollar, to $7 per month and $13 per month respectively. Expect the price hike to go live on October 8 of this year and apply to both existing and new subscribers.
  • Apple’s next event: It’s September, which usually means a new iPhone is about to be announced … and sure enough, Apple just sent out invites for an event on September 14. What’ll change this time around? The rumor mill says to expect a better, faster-refreshing display … but as always, we’ll have all the news up on TechCrunch the second it breaks.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

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Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

TechCrunch wants you to recommend growth marketers who have expertise in SEO, social, content writing and more! If you’re a growth marketer, pass this survey along to your clients; we’d like to hear about why they loved working with you.

If you’re curious about how these surveys are shaping our coverage, check out this interview Anna Heim did with MuteSix, “Performance marketing agency MuteSix bets on content and data to boost DTC e-commerce.”

#daily-crunch, #newsletters, #tc

The Medium of the Moment

Newsletters are a natural evolution of the creator-fan relationship.

#all-things-digital, #apple-inc, #carter-graydon, #child-abuse-and-neglect, #cook-timothy-d, #kutcher-ashton, #newsletters, #sex-crimes, #zuckerberg-mark-e

What 377 Y Combinator pitches will teach you about startups

Along with a cadre of other TechCrunch folks, I spent this week extremely focused on one event: Y Combinator. The elite accelerator announced a staggering 377 startups as its Summer 2021 cohort. We covered every single on-the-record startup that presented and plucked out some favorites:

There’s something quite earnest and magical about spending literally hours hearing founder after founder pitch their ideas, with one minute, a single slide and a whole lot of optimism. It’s why I like covering demo days: I get tunnel vision into where innovation is going next, what behemoths are ripe for disruption and what founders think is a witty competitive edge versus a simple baseline.

That said, I will share one caveat. While YC is an ambitious snapshot, it’s not entirely illustrative of the next wave of decision-makers and leaders within startups — from a diversity perspective. The accelerator posted small gains in the number of women and LatinX founders in its batch, but dropped in the number of Black founders participating. The need for more diverse accelerators has never been more obvious, and as some in the tech community argue, is Y Combinator’s biggest blind spot.

This in mind, I want to leave you with a few takeaways I had after listening to hundreds of pitches. Here’s what 377 Y Combinator pitches taught me about startups:

  1. Instacart walked so YC startups could stroll. Instacart, last valued at $39 billion, is one of Y Combinator’s most successful graduates — which makes it even more spicier that a number of startups within this summer’s batch want to take on the behemoth. Instead of going after the obvious — speed — startups are looking to enhance the grocery delivery experience through premium produce, local recipes and even ugly vegetables. It suggests that there may be a new chapter in grocery delivery, one in which ease isn’t the only competitive advantage.
  2. Crypto’s pre-seed world is quieter than fintech. YC feels more like a fintech accelerator than ever before, but when it comes to crypto, there weren’t as many moonshots as I’d expect. We discussed this a bit in the Equity podcast, but if anyone has theories as to why, I’m game to hear ‘em.
  3. Edtech wants to disrupt artsy subjects. It’s common to see edtech founders flock to subjects like science and mathematics when it comes to disruption. Why? Well, from a pure pedagogical perspective, it’s easier to scale a service that answers questions that only have one right answer. While math may fit into a box that works for a tech-powered AI tutoring bot, arts, on the other hand, may require a little bit more human touch. This is why I was excited to see a number of edtech startups, from Spark Studio to Litnerd, focusing on humanities in their pitches. As shocking as it sounds, to rethink how a bookclub is read is definitely a refreshing milestone for edtech.
  4. Sometimes, the best pitch is no pitch at all. One pitch stood out simply because it addressed the elephant in the room: We’re all stressed. Jupe sells glamping-in-a-box and the profitable business likely benefited from COVID-19. I remember that because the founder used a portion of his pitch to tell investors to breathe, because it’s been a long two days. Being human, and more importantly, speaking like one, is what it takes to stand out these days.

On that note, exhale. Let’s move on to the rest of this newsletter, which includes nostalgic nods to Wall Street, public filings and my favorite new podcast. As always, you can find and support me on Twitter @nmasc_ or send me tips at natasha.m@techcrunch.com.

A return to old school Wall Street

With so many new funds, solo-GPs and alternative capital sources on the market these days, founders are confused. Funding may have moved away from three dudes on Sand Hill Road, but it’s also become more fragmented, which means entrepreneurs need to be even more sophisticated in how they fill up their cap tables. This week, I interviewed one recently venture-backed startup that proposed a solution: a return to old school Wall Street. 

Here’s what to know: Hum Capital wants to help investors allocate their resources to ambitious businesses, perfectly. The startup seeks to emulate the world of old school Wall Street, which helped ambitious business owners find the best financing option for their goal, instead of today’s dance of startups trying to prove worthiness for one type of capital. In my story, I explained more about the business.

At this stage, Hum Capital’s product is easy to explain:

It uses artificial intelligence and data to connect businesses to the available funders on the platform. The startup connects with a capital-hungry startup, ingests financial data from over 100 SaaS systems, including QuickBooks, NetSuite and Google Analytics, and then translates them to the some 250 institutional investors on its platform.

From Hum to mmhmm:       

IPO filings & other hubbub

Image Credits: ansonmiao / Getty Images

When the pandemic began to impact startups, Toast was top of the list. The restaurant tech startup had a series of deep layoffs as many of its clients in the hospitality industry had to shut down. Months later, Toast reentered headlines with a dramatically different message: It’s going public, and here’s all of our financial data.

Here’s what you need to know: This week, Toast published its S-1, offering a portrait into how the startup was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and answering questions on why it’s going public now. After ripping apart the Warby Parker S-1, Alex had five takeaways from the Toast S-1. My favorite excerpt? Toast was smart to diversify beyond its hardware, hand-held payment processors:

Toast’s two largest revenue sources — software and fintech incomes — have posted constant growth on a quarter-over-quarter basis. Hardware revenues have proved slightly less consistent, although they are also moving in a positive direction this year and set what appears to be an all-time record result in Q2 2021.

Toast would have had a much worse second quarter last year if it didn’t have software revenues. And since then, its growth would not have been as impressive without payments revenues (its fintech line item, speaking loosely). The broad revenue mix that Toast built has proved to limit downside while opening lots of room for growth.

Butter or jam:

Around TC

You already bought your tickets to Disrupt right? If not, here’s the link, with a fancy discount from yours truly.

Now that that’s out of the way, I want you to listen to Found, TechCrunch’s newest podcast that focuses on talking to early-stage founders about building and launching their companies. Recent episodes include:

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

Seen on Extra Crunch

Talk next week,

N

#newsletters, #startups-weekly, #tc

From passion to hobby to startup

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by what the weekday Exchange column digs into, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

Hey team! Alex here. I am off next week. Anna, my regular co-pilot on the weekday column, will be handling next week’s newsletter. It will be beyond good. Enjoy!

A few weeks back we took a look at some startup results, with a focus on growth. Today we’re narrowing our focus to a single company from the collection of startups that wrote in: Water Cooler Trivia.

Many startups begin life as a solution to a problem. A developer finds a flaw in their workflow, codes up a solution for it and later builds that hack into a product that scales. That sort of thing.

Collin Waldoch did something different, turning a hobby of his into a business.

Coming from a family of six kids in what he called a competitive family, Waldoch hosted bar trivia during college, and later sent around weekly trivia questions at his workplace after he completed his schooling. He kept the habit up during his early career, which included a stint at Lyft.

It was during his corporate life that Waldoch realized that companies were willing to spend heavily on team activities. Like a soccer team that he joined during one job that his employer spent a few grand on, but which struggled to find enough regular players. If companies would drop that much money on a group sport that few of its denizens wanted, he thought, perhaps there was some budget he could attack with a trivia product.

So Waldoch started Water Cooler Trivia, building it as a corporate product that he and some friends scaled to around $20,000 in ARR as a side project. The founder described its level of success at the time as pretty good beer money. Helping the project bring in revenue was a super-low churn rate, something that helped Waldoch decide to quit his day job at Lyft and take his side project full time.

Today Water Cooler Trivia has reached $300,000 worth of ARR and sports a collection of workers around the globe that help it run. Companies can select difficulty levels for their weekly trivia questions and track employee scores with longitudinal leaderboards.

Part of the idea’s success in Waldoch’s view is that it is built for the end user — employees — instead of HR. Which means that it’s actually fun. Today the company has experienced some churn, but still sports net retention rates of just under 100%. That’s great for a product that doesn’t feature enterprise-SaaS level upsells.

And the service is cheap. Probably too cheap frankly. At $100 per month for 100 seats, Water Cooler could likely boost what it charges and push its revenues higher in short order. Waldoch said that his company might start raising its rates in Q4 of this year. But even without that, Water Cooler thinks that it has a huge amount of growth open to it from its core product.

I dig it. Long live software making life a bit more fun.

Drift, Xometry, Carrot

It was a busy week with infinite IPO filings and eight billion YC startups pitching, but other things did happen that we need to talk about:

I’m curious about Drift’s sale to private equity: Boston’s Drift sold the majority of its shares to Vista Equity Partners, it announced this week. I’ve been to the Drift offices, as the company once lent us a room to record a podcast in. The folks there were nice. But with the company reporting 70% ARR growth in 2020, I am dead curious why Drift didn’t just raise more capital and keep growing. The company was able to raise lots of private money in the past, including, say, a $60 million round back in 2018. Exiting the bulk of the company early feels a little weird, similar to how the Gainsight sale to PE was a bit of a head scratcher. For Boston, the exit is good news as it may help mint new angel investors. But it still feels like an exit for which we’re missing a key detail.

Xometry: This one has been in the notes folder for too long, and since I’m off next week we’re including it here. I spoke with Xometry CEO Randy Altschuler after his company reported earnings a few weeks back. Recall that Xometry went public earlier this year. Altschuler reported generally bullish views on the process of going public during the COVID-19 era, calling his company’s Zoom roadshow efficient in a manner that allowed his company to chat to more folks while also saving on travel-related exhaustion.

Xometry, continued: But past the standard post-IPO chit chat, Altschuler had a few notes that stood out in my memory. The first being that inflation can impact technology businesses. Rising costs are impacting companies like Root, who have to deal with used car prices impacting claims costs. Inflation also crops up in Xometry’s business connecting manufacturing demand with manufacturing supply. It’s a good reminder that macro market conditions really do matter in the technology world, just not in ways that we can always easily see.

Xometry, even more: Altschuler also said that he thinks that a carbon tax at some point is inevitable. This came up in our discussion of onshoring manufacturing in the United States over time. Shipping stuff is expensive today and would prove even more costly if we added in the price of carbon emissions via a tax. That could make local manufacturing more competitive, notably. Perhaps that will prove a boon to folks in favor of more industrial production in post-industrial societies. For tech companies that deal with physical-world goods, it’s something to keep in mind.

And, finally, Carrot: Another entry from the notes archive, let’s talk about Carrot. The startup raised a $75 million round a few weeks back, so I asked the company about its growth history and a few other things. Carrot sells a product to employers so that they can offer their workers fertility benefits. Given falling human fertility rates, coverage of this sort is, in my view, likely to become more popular over time.

Other factors are at work, of course, but the last 18 months have proved accelerative for Carrot’s business. Per the company, it has seen “nearly 5x overall growth” in the last six quarters. The startup expects to reach 450 customers by the end of 2021, which will add up to around one million covered folks.

Carrot declined to share a valuation differential from its Series B to its Series C. Happily PitchBook has data on the matter, so we can report that per its dataset, Carrot’s valuation rose from around $66 million (post-money) following its $21 million Series B to around $260 million after its Series C. That’s a good markup for the company’s employees and founders.

My general bullishness around rising needs for fertility support matches the company’s ethos, which it described in an email by saying that it thinks fertility and “family-forming care could and should be the fourth pillar of employee benefits and health care more broadly, much like medical or dental or vision.” A hard yes to that one.

OK, that’s all from me for a few weeks. Stay safe, get vaccinated, and let’s be kind to one another. — Alex

#newsletters, #tc, #techcrunch-exchange

Daily Crunch: Fintech startup Jeeves snags $500M valuation after $57M Series B

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for September 3, 2021. As noted yesterday, most of TechCrunch has the day off so today’s newsletter is a little bit different than usual.

Up top let’s chat early-stage startups. The TechCrunch team spent an age this week cataloging a host of startups from Y Combinator’s marathon demo day, with our notes covering all presentations from day one and day two. We also yanked our favorites in two batches, in case you wanted to avoid the full download and want to skip straight to the highlights.

But that’s not all. We also dug into trends from the group and hopped on Twitter Spaces to chat about what we saw. Of course, Y Combinator is a single accelerator, but given its mammoth cohort sizes we pay extra attention to the trends that its startups detail.

That behind us, let’s take a moment to highlight some great stuff from newer TechCrunch reporters:

Finally, Disrupt is coming up. So make sure that you have a ticket. As it’s a virtual event they are cheaper than they have been in years past, despite the event having perhaps its strongest content lineup ever. We’re excited!

With that, let’s head into the weekend — a long one here in the United States — and get some rest. What a week in the world at large and in our startup-focused niche. I’ll be taking all next week off, but I will leave the Daily Crunch in the very capable hands of one Greg Kumparak. — Alex

Use cohort analysis to drive smarter startup growth

Cohort analysis is a basic tool for startups that need to better understand customer behavior, but many early-stage companies let it slide.

Grouping users into “buckets” is common practice at most startups, but robust cohort analysis uncovers trends and missed opportunities that young companies can pounce on.

Don’t wait to hire a senior marketing person or a consultant to start this critical work: In a guest column, Jonathan Metrick, chief growth officer at Sagard & Portage Ventures, offers a detailed example explaining the value of this type of analysis.

If you have questions after reading this comprehensive step-by-step, please join us for a Twitter Spaces chat with Metrick on Tuesday, September 7, at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT. For details and a reminder, follow @TechCrunch on Twitter.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

Illustration montage based on education and knowledge in blue

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

TechCrunch wants to help startups find the right expert for their needs. To do this, we’re building a shortlist of the top growth marketers. We’ve received great recommendations for growth marketers in the startup industry since we launched our survey.

We’re excited to read more responses as they come in! Fill out the survey here.

Community

Jonathan Metrick

Image Credits: Jonathan Metrick

Join Danny Crichton and Mary Ann Azevedo Tuesday, September 7, at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT on Twitter Spaces as they talk with Jonathan Metrick about fintech and growth marketing.

#daily-crunch, #newsletters, #tc

Daily Crunch: 8 Indian banks launch Account Aggregator to centralize consumers’ financial data

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Thursday, September 2, 2021. TechCrunch is largely off tomorrow thanks to a pan-Yahoo corporate reprieve. But don’t worry, all systems will continue to function while we recharge ahead of the next chapter of TechCrunch’s varied history of corporate ownership. — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • China is hacking U.S.-based Uyghurs: The campaign by China’s government to erase Uyghur culture and undermine the Uyghur population inside its borders doesn’t stop there. The Chinese state has been hacking Uyghurs while traveling, for example. And the FBI reports today that the Chinese Communist Party is doing the same thing inside the United States’ borders.
  • SEO is far from dead: A new $55 million funding round into startup Botify underscores how the era of search engine optimization is hardly behind us. The company said that despite seeing “more and more sections of the search results coming from first-party or paid results,” organic traffic is still growing. And everyone wants a piece of that clickstream.
  • Europe, where net neutrality lives on: Europe’s top court has dealt another blow to “zero rating,” TechCrunch reports. Zero rating is the practice by which internet providers don’t count certain content against bandwidth limits, giving certain materials — often their own — a leg up. It’s a practice frowned on by open-internet advocates, and the EU is apparently unwilling to bend on the matter.

Startups/VC

We’ll have a huge digest of our Y Combinator coverage so that you can peruse a few hundred different startups tomorrow in Daily Crunch. But we could not resist adding in a teaser. How’s this for a headline: “Fintech startup Jeeves raises $57M, goes from YC to $500M valuation in one year.” Even in 2021 that’s rapid valuation creation for an early-stage startup.

  • Yet more capital for neobanks: Challenger bank Point has put together a $46.5 million Series B, pouring more fuel into the startup’s goal of building a debit card that offers credit-card-level perks. Point’s service isn’t free, but for folks who don’t want to use revolving consumer credit accounts that often come with high interest rates, its model could be a neat way forward.
  • Shepherd raises $6.2M for construction insurance: TechCrunch is tracking a number of B2B neoinsurance companies today, including Shepherd. The startup is working to offer excess liability insurance to construction companies, building technology usage data into its underwriting models. It’s a neat idea. Procore put capital into the funding round.
  • HomeLight raises $100M: The real estate technology upstart wants to connect buyers and sellers, and also provides title and escrow services. And after its latest funding event, it’s worth $1.6 billion. HomeLight managed such a large round after projecting that its revenues will “triple to over $300 million in 2021.” So, when’s the IPO?
  • Edtech’s boom is not done: That’s our takeaway from news that General Atlantic has helped pour $60 million into Panorama Education, which has built a “a K-12 education software platform,” per TechCrunch reporting. Edtech startups got a huge boost in 2020 when schools around the world went remote. It appears that that wave has yet to crest.

All the reasons why you should launch a credit or debit card

The ongoing fintech revolution continues to level the playing field where legacy companies historically dominated startups.

To compete with retail banks, many startups are offering customers credit and debit cards; developer-friendly APIs make issuance relatively easy, and tools for managing processes like KYC are available off the shelf.

To learn more about the low barriers to entry — and the inherent challenges of creating a unique card offering — reporter Ryan Lawler interviewed:

  • Michael Spelfogel, founder, Cardless
  • Anu Muralidharan, COO, Expensify
  • Peter Hazlehurst, founder and CEO, Synctera
  • Salman Syed, SVP and GM of North America, Marqeta

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • All hail the Googlebot: Alphabet has built an exoskeleton, our own Brian Heater reports in his Actuator series. It frankly looks rad. At times it’s easy to forget that Alphabet retains a large skunkworks effort despite being best known today for its Android mobile software, ad technology and online document editing services.
  • Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flight coming soon: After sending some folks to either space, or near-space the other month, Virgin Galactic is getting ready for commercial work. Per the company, that mission could come later this month, or in early October. For the company’s shareholders, it’s good news. Scratch that! After we wrote that blurb, news broke that the next Virgin flight is off after the FAA grounded the company. More here.
  • Today in Tesla: Two things from Elon-world today. First, Tesla has been told to share Autopilot data with the United States’ traffic safety agency. And Tesla’s hyper-quick Roadster car might not come until 2023. Follow-up question: When will the Cybertruck roll out?
  • And, finally, news from India: Eight banks in the country are soon rolling out “a system called Account Aggregator to enable consumers to consolidate all their financial data in one place.” India’s banking industry has a history of banding together to create products for consumers, including the “interoperable UPI rails” that many fintech companies in the country depend on, TechCrunch reports.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

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Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

TechCrunch wants to help startups find the right expert for their needs. To do this, we’re building a shortlist of the top growth marketers. We’ve received great recommendations for growth marketers in the startup industry since we launched our survey.

We’re excited to read more responses as they come in! Fill out the survey here.

Community

Jonathan Metrick

Image Credits: Jonathan Metrick

Join Danny Crichton and Mary Ann Azevedo Tuesday, September 7, at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT on Twitter Spaces as they talk with Jonathan Metrick about fintech and growth marketing.

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Daily Crunch: Databricks reaches $38B billion valuation with $1.6B Series H

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for August 31, 2021. Today the TechCrunch machine was busy covering the first day of Y Combinator’s Demo Day event, so expect to see all sorts of coverage on the site after this hits your inbox. We’ll bring you a recap in tomorrow’s edition, though we do have a first taste down below.

In Disrupt news, TechCrunch is bringing an AI investor and a science-fiction author together and will have lots on deck for startups currently raising external capital. — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Databricks is now worth $38B: Data and AI unicorn Databricks confirmed its previously reported financing event today, raising $1.6 billion at a $38 billion valuation. TechCrunch spoke with the company’s CEO about what the money’s for, and we dug a bit more deeply into its revenue results. The late-stage market has been busy, but this Databricks round is big even by today’s venture standards.
  • More African startups than ever in YC batch: As we write, Demo Day is ongoing, so most of our first-day coverage will be finished too late to include. But we got a look at the African startups in the summer batch, and there are more than ever. Given how active the African startup market is proving this year, we’re not surprised.
  • Apna could be India’s next unicorn: Focusing on upskilling Indian consumers, Apna could become a unicorn if a Tiger Global-led round comes to fruition. TechCrunch reports that the round could be worth $100 million at a valuation of more than $1 billion. Edtech in India remains one of the key startup narratives in recent years.

Startups/VC

Because this is the last day of August, we presume that the summer lull in funding events has come and gone. Not that we really noticed a downtick in volume, frankly, but all the same, expect things to get even crazier in the coming weeks. Here’s a sampling of the rounds that we covered today:

  • $200M more to roll-up Amazon merchants: Beyond Indian edtech companies, another trend that has raised nigh-infinite funds this year is startups raising capital to buy up smaller e-commerce merchants, often with a focus on those selling on Amazon. Heroes is the latest to raise capital for the concept, with the U.K.-based startup adding a few hundred million to its accounts in a single go.
  • Whoop, the Peloton of Apple Watches, raises $200M: If you are a fitness-wearable user, you may be familiar with Whoop. The company’s athlete-focused wristband has helped Whoop raise more than $400 million, now valuing the company at $3.6 billion. That’s many duckets for a fitness wearable. But as Whoop has a software fee bundled into its hardware — hence our Peloton analogy — it is not simply another hardware company.
  • Synthetic coffee is coming: Maricel Saenz, the founder and CEO of Compound Foods, wants to create and sell coffee sans beans. Why? Well, climate change is making growing coffee beans harder, and the process is hard on the environment to boot. So why not just synthesize your morning java? I am willing to try this out, with the caveat that coffee is delicious so it’s going to take a little convincing for me to change my routines.
  • Borzo wants to bring on-demand to more markets: Delivery service Dostavista is rebranding to Borzo, bringing its multicountry business under a single brand. The startup, per TechCrunch, was founded in 2012 and has a customer base of 2 million.
  • Former TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Alley company Quip raises $100M: Quip is best known as a toothbrush company, but it hit profitability last year, expanded its product line and landed nine figures in new capital. The company today offers a host of oral cleaning products as well as invisible teeth aligners.
  • To close out our startup coverage today, Peak has raised $75 million to help non-tech companies build AI apps. The Manchester, England-based Peak wants to help companies that lack in-house AI talent apply the software technique to their own businesses. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the latest investment, which the company intends to use to scale its staff and hit up new markets.

6 tips for establishing your startup’s global supply chain

The barrier to entry for launching hardware startups has fallen; if you can pull off a successful crowdfunding campaign, you’re likely savvy enough to find a factory overseas that can build your widgets to spec.

But global supply chains are fragile: No one expected an off-course container ship to block the Suez Canal for six days. Due to the pandemic, importers are paying almost $18,000 for shipping containers from China today that cost $3,300 a year ago.

After spending a career spinning up supply chains on three continents, Liteboxer CEO Jeff Morin authored a guide for Extra Crunch for hardware founders.

“If you’re clear-eyed about the challenges and apply some rigor and forethought to the process, the end result can be hard to match,” Morin says.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • TikTok wants to help match influencers and brands: That’s the takeaway from our story today that TikTok’s “new Creator Marketplace API lets influencer marketing companies tap into first-party data.” Given how much we’ve read about astroturfing influencers, the concept makes sense. And TikTok wants its leading creators to make lots of money on its platform so they stick around. Expect to see more of this from other platforms in time.
  • Windows 11 launches October 5: As a Windows fan (and a macOS fan, for the record), I am somewhat hyped to try out the latest Windows build, though I worry if my CPU is sufficiently new. Regardless, the new code drops in early October, so the wait is nearly over.
  • Now you can troll your friends on Spotify with your musical tastes: Love music? Have friends that love music? And do you enjoy different music than your friends? Good news! Now you can create blended playlists with your team, so that you wind up with a playlist that pleases precisely no one.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

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Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

TechCrunch Disrupt is in less than a month, and we’re excited to share that we’re giving away one free ticket through the Experts survey. Check out the schedule for Disrupt, and read on to learn about the giveaway details:

  • Have you already submitted a recommendation? That’s great — we’re counting all previous survey submissions as an entry for the Disrupt ticket.
  • We’ll also enter the next 100 survey submissions into the giveaway.
  • Do you want to submit 10 recommendations to increase your chance at winning? We love the enthusiasm, but we ask that you only submit one recommendation for each marketer that you’ve worked with.
  • Don’t know what to say in your recommendation? Start with what traits they had, what they did to help your company, how their work affected your business and go from there!
  • We manually go through all entries, so please don’t copy and paste the same response multiple times.
  • Have a question about the giveaway? Send us an email at ec_editors@techcrunch.com.

#daily-crunch, #newsletters, #tc

Daily Crunch: China sets three-hour weekly time limit for under-18 gamers

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for August 30, 2021. The startup world is gearing up for Y Combinator Demo Day this week, but the rest of tech isn’t taking a pause. So we have Apple news, Telegram news, antitrust news, video game news, you name it.

But we have some TechCrunch news to start: Ryan Reynolds is coming to Disrupt to talk about his company, Maximum Effort. That’s pretty hype. And we’re going to be talking about software. A lot. — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • China restricts youth gaming: To three hours per week! Which isn’t much! For a country with a large games market like China, this is big darn news. But it’s just one part of a larger regulatory push in China (including things as far afield as taking on online fan culture!) to bring its private companies more in line with the government’s plans.
  • Toast’s IPO looks tasty: TechCrunch took a longer look at Boston-based Toast’s IPO filing today. Our takeaways? That the company has posted admirable growth since its COVID lows and has a very sturdy multipart business model. The company is doing the very active Boston startup scene proud.
  • Spotify buys Joe Rogan, Apple buys classical music? The campaign to build differentiated music streaming services in an era when music is available everywhere hotted up this week with Apple buying Primephonic. The smaller company, based in Amsterdam, will be absorbed into Apple Music.

Startups/VC

Ready for a broadside of startup news? Good. We have what you need. But first, as a sign of the times, Telegram just crossed the 1 billion download mark. That’s an achievement, sure, but also goes to show that maybe consumers do care about privacy after all.

  • Casper’s unfriendly ghost fails to haunt Eight Sleep: Remember when D2C mattress company Casper went public, and it went poorly? That misstep has not stopped investors from putting new capital into Eight Sleep, which makes smart mattresses. The startup just raised $86 million in a Series C round of funding that values it at nearly a half-billion dollars.
  • Prive raises $1.7M for better e-commerce subscriptions: Two ex-Uber folks are building something new to make e-commerce subscriptions, helping both retailers sell more goods and consumers get better recommendations. Win/win.
  • At long last, a personal CRM? I don’t want to get your hopes up, as building a personal CRM has been a white whale in startupland for some time. But Clay, a startup that just raised $8 million, has put together what TechCrunch calls “a system designed to help you be more thoughtful with the people in your life.” Please let it be good. I need help.
  • Alpaca proves that embedded fintech is still hot: TechCrunch has covered Alpaca a few times in recent years, both when it raised capital and when we were delving more deeply into the world of API-delivered startups. Today the company announced a $50 million Series B, a partnership with Plaid and support for crypto trading. Alpaca’s work to provide other fintechs with embedded equities trading appears to be going well.
  • How does one become a travel influencer? I don’t know. But if you become one, Thatch wants you to be able to better monetize your recommendations. If you are currently a travel influencer, this is good news. If you were hoping that influencers would lose influence in the coming years, this is not.
  • To cap us off today, Ola Electric is looking to raise between $250 million and $500 million. That’s a huge chunk of change. The deal has yet to close, but our early reporting indicates that Ola’s electric vehicle business is about to be more than flush. “Falcon Edge Capital is in advanced talks to lead the round, which values Ola Electric between $2.75 billion to $3.5 billion,” TechCrunch reports.
  • Plus, over the weekend I wrote about why startups are going to win the battle to set the tone regarding remote work, in case you wanted to give that a read.

How Amazon EC2 grew from a notion into a foundational element of cloud computing

In August 2006, AWS activated its EC2 cloud-based virtual computer, a milestone in the cloud infrastructure giant’s development.

“You really can’t overstate what Amazon was able to accomplish,” writes enterprise reporter Ron Miller.

In the 15 years since, EC2 has enabled clients of any size to test and run their own applications on AWS’ virtual machines.

To learn more about a fundamental technological shift that “would help fuel a whole generation of startups,” Ron interviewed EC2 VP Dave Brown, who built and led the Amazon EC2 front-end team.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • ByteDance buys VR hardware startup: Sure, Facebook is a leader in the VR hardware game, but it’s hardly the only player. TikTok parent company ByteDance is looking to take Facebook on by buying Pico, which had raised a $37 million round earlier this year. It’s not clear how this news intersects with gaming restrictions in China, but now we should have national champions duking it out in the VR market.
  • Instagram wants to know your birthday: If you aren’t into giving Facebook products more of your data, bad news today from Instagram. It will prompt users to share their birthday and only allow so many deferrals. Why? TechCrunch reports that the change is to help “personalize your experience” on the service. Which means ads.
  • Ideanomics buys Via Motors: Ideanomics, a public mobility company, is spending $450 million in stock to buy Via Motors, an EV company. Shares of Ideanomics are up just over 5% today on the news.
  • It turns out that most Big Tech employees aren’t opposed to antitrust enforcement, even though the ideas being bandied about the halls of Congress could make life harder for the megacorps that currently constitute the top end of the technology industry.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

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Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Are you all caught up on last week’s coverage of growth marketing? If not, read it here.

TechCrunch wants you to recommend growth marketers who have expertise in SEO, social, content writing and more! If you’re a growth marketer, pass this survey along to your clients; we’d like to hear about why they loved working with you.

Community

Image Credits: Diversion Books

Join Danny Crichton on Twitter Spaces tomorrow, Tuesday, August 31st at 1 p.m. PDT/4 p.m. EDT as he talks with Azeem Azhar about his upcoming book, “The Exponential Age: How Accelerating Technology is Transforming Business, Politics and Society,” which will be released on September 7, 2021.

#daily-crunch, #newsletters, #tc