Why are we still dating LinkedIn in 2021?

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

Natasha and Danny and Alex and Grace were all here to chat through the week’s biggest tech happenings. Before we get into this week’s show, make sure to check out all the news here about how Equity is expanding, and becoming even more of a thing in 2021! We are beyond hyped about it.

Coming on the back of such a wild news week, we had to cut and cut from the notes doc to get the show to size. So, here’s what made the cut:

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

#alexis-ohanian, #bitcoin, #coinbase, #equity-podcast, #finix, #fundings-exits, #hopin, #olo, #reddit, #shippo, #startup-communities, #startups, #toast

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Shippo raises $45M more at $495M valuation as ecommerce booms

This morning Shippo, a software company that provides shipping-related services to ecommerce companies, announced a new $45 million investment. The new capital values the startup at $495 million. TechCrunch is calling the new funding a Series D as it is a priced round that followed its Series C; the company did not award the round a moniker.

Shippo’s 2020 Series C, a $30 million transaction that was announced last April, valued the company at around $220 million. D1 Capital led both Shippo’s Series C and D rounds, implying that it was content to pay around twice as much for the company’s equity in 2021 than it was in 2020. (Recall that investors doubling-down on previous bets as lead investor in successive rounds is no longer considered to be a negative signal concerning startup quality, but a positive indicator.)

Why raise more money so soon after its last round? According to Shippo CEO and founder Laura Behrens Wu, her company made material progress on customer acquisition and partnerships last year. That led to a decision around the time of Shippo’s Q4 board meeting with her investors that it was a good time to put more capital into the company.

In a sense the timing is reasonable. As Shippo scales its customer base, it can negotiate better shipping deals with various providers, which, in turn, help it continue to attract new customers. Behrens Wu noted in an interview with TechCrunch that when her company was helping its early customers ship just a few packages, shipping companies it supports on its platform didn’t want to meet with the startup. Now armed with more volume, Shippo can recycle customer demand into partner leverage, improving its total customer offering.

Behrens Wu said that Shippo had secured such a partnership with UPS before it raised its new round.

Turning to growth, Shippo doubled its platform spend, or “GPV” last year. GPV is the company’s acronym for gross postage volume. It roughly tracks with revenue, TechCrunch confirmed. So Shippo likely doubled its top-line last year. That’s good. Shippo wants to do that again this year, Behrens Wu told TechCrunch. The startup will also double its headcount this year, adding around 150 people.

Now flush with more capital, what’s next for Shippo? Per its CEO, the startup wants to invest more in platforms (where Shippo is baked into a marketplace, for example), international expansion (Shippo only does a “little bit” of international shipping, per Behrens Wu), and double-down on what it considers its core customer base.

TechCrunch was curious about how broad Shippo might take its product from its original home in shipping labels. The startup said that there’s lots of room in the journey of a packaged, from pre-purchase on, where her company might expand into. However, Behrens Wu cautioned that such a broadening of product work is not an immediate focus at her company.

Let’s see how long the current ecommerce boom lasts and how far this new capital can take Shippo. If it doubles in size again this year we’ll have to start its IPO countdown sometime in mid-2022.

#ecommerce, #fundings-exits, #shippo, #startups, #tc

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If we let the US Postal Service die, we’ll be killing small businesses with it

Since moving to the United States, I’ve come to appreciate and admire the United States Postal Service as a symbol of American ingenuity and resilience.

Like electricity, telephones and the freeway system, it’s part of our greater story and what binds the United States together. But it’s also something that’s easy to take for granted. USPS delivers 181.9 million pieces of First Class mail each day without charging an arm and a leg to do so. If you have an address, you are being served by the USPS — and no one’s asking you for cash up front.

As CEO of Shippo, an e-commerce technology platform that helps businesses optimize their shipping, I have a unique vantage point into the USPS and its impact on e-commerce. The USPS has been a key partner since the early days of Shippo in making shipping more accessible for growing businesses. As a result of our work with the USPS, along with several other emerging technologies (like site builders, e-commerce platforms and payment processing), e-commerce is more accessible than ever for small businesses.

And while my opinion on the importance of the USPS is not based on my company’s business relationship with the Postal Service, I want to be upfront about the fact that Shippo generates part of its revenue from the purchase of shipping labels through our platform from the USPS along with several other carriers. If the USPS were to stop operations, it would have an impact on Shippo’s revenue. That said, the negative impact would be far greater for many thousands of small businesses.

I know this because at Shippo, we see firsthand how over 35,000 online businesses operate and how they reach their customers. We see and support everything from what options merchants show their customers at checkout through how they handle returns — and everything in between. And while each and every business is unique with different products, customers operations and strategies, they all need to ship.

In the United States, the majority of this shipping is facilitated by the USPS, especially for small and medium businesses. For context, the USPS handles almost half of the world’s total mail and delivers more than the top private carriers do in aggregate, annually, in just 16 days. And, it does all of this without tax dollars, while offering healthcare and pension benefits to its employees.

As has been the case for many organizations, COVID-19 has significantly impacted the USPS. While e-commerce package shipments continue to rise (+30% since early March based on Shippo data), it has not been enough to overcome the drastic drop in letter mail. With this, I’ve heard opinions of supposed “inefficiency,” calls for privatization, pushes for significant pricing and structural changes, and even indifference to the possibility of the USPS shutting down.

Amid this crisis, we all need the USPS and its vital services now more than ever. In a world with a diminished or dismantled USPS, it won’t be Amazon, other major enterprises, or even Shippo that suffer. If we let the USPS die, we’ll be killing small businesses along with it.

Quite often, opinions on the efficiency (or lack thereof) of the USPS are very narrow in scope. Yes, the USPS could pivot to improve its balance sheet and turn operating losses into profits by axing cumbersome routes, increasing prices and being more selective in who they serve.

However, this omits the bigger picture and the true value of the USPS. What some have dubbed inefficient operations are actually key catalysts to small business growth in the United States. The USPS gives businesses across the country, regardless of size, location or financial resources, the ability to reach their customers.

We shouldn’t evaluate the USPS strictly on balance sheet efficiency, or even as a “public good” in the abstract. We should look at how many thousands of small businesses have been able to get started thanks to the USPS, how hundreds of billions of dollars of commerce is made possible by the USPS annually and how many millions of customers, who otherwise may not have access to goods, have been served by the USPS.

In the U.S., e-commerce accounts for over half a trillion dollars in sales annually, and is growing at double-digit rates each year. When I hear people talk about the growth of e-commerce, Amazon is often the first thing that comes up. What doesn’t shine through as often is the massive growth of small business — which is essential to the health of commerce in general (no one needs a monopoly!). In fact, the SMB segment has been growing steadily alongside Amazon. And with the challenges that traditional businesses face with COVID-19, more small businesses than ever are moving online.

USPS Priority Mail gets packages almost anywhere in the U.S. in two to three days (average transit time is 2.5 days based on Shippo data) and starts at around $7 per shipment, with full service: tracking, insurance, free pickups and even free packaging that they will bring to you.

In a time when we as consumers have become accustomed to free and fast shipping on all of our online purchases, the USPS is essential for small businesses to keep up. As consumers we rarely see behind the curtain, so to speak, when we interact with e-commerce businesses. We don’t see the small business owner fulfilling orders out of their home or out of a small storefront, we just see an e-commerce website. Without the USPS’ support, it would be even harder, in some cases near impossible, for small business owners to live up to these sky-high expectations. For context, 89% of U.S.-based SMBs (under $10,000 in monthly volume) on the Shippo platform rely on the USPS.

I’ve seen a lot of talk about the USPS’s partnership with Amazon, how it is to blame for the current situation, and how under a private model, things would improve. While we have our own strong opinions on Amazon and its impact on the e-commerce market, Amazon is not the driver of USPS’s challenges. In fact, Amazon is a major contributor in the continued growth of the USPS’s most profitable revenue stream: package delivery.

While I don’t know the exact economics of the deal between the USPS and Amazon, significant discounting for volume and efficiency is common in e-commerce shipping. Part of Amazon’s pricing is a result of it actually being cheaper and easier for the USPS to fulfill Amazon orders, compared to the average shipper. For this process, Amazon delivers shipments to USPS distribution centers in bulk, which significantly cuts costs and logistical challenges for the USPS.

Without the USPS, Amazon would be able to negotiate similar processes and efficiencies with private carriers — small businesses would not. Given the drastic differences in daily operations and infrastructure between the USPS and private carriers, small businesses would see shipping costs increase significantly, in some cases by more than double. On top of this, small businesses would see a new operational burden when it comes to getting their packages into the carriers’ systems in the absence of daily routes by the USPS.

Overall, I would expect to see the level of entrepreneurship in e-commerce slow in the United States without the USPS or with a private version of the USPS that operates with a profit-first mindset. The barriers to entry would be higher, with greater costs and larger infrastructure investments required up-front for new businesses. For Shippo, I’d expect to see a much greater diversity of carriers used by our customers. Our technology that allows businesses to optimize across several carriers would become even more critical for businesses. Though, even with optimization, small businesses would still be the group that suffers the most.

Today, most SMB e-commerce brands, based on Shippo data, spend between 10-15% of their revenue on shipping, which is already a large expense. This could rise well north of 20%, especially when you take into account surcharges and pick-up fees, creating an additional burden for businesses in an already challenging space.

I urge our lawmakers and leaders to see the full picture: that the USPS is a critical service that enables small businesses to survive and thrive in tough times, and gives citizens access to essential services, no matter where they reside.

This also means providing government support — both financially and in spirit — as we all navigate the COVID-19 crisis. This will allow the USPS to continue to serve both small businesses and citizens while protecting and keeping their employees safe — which includes ensuring that they are equipped to handle their front-line duties with proper safety and protective gear.

In the end, if we continue to view the USPS as simply a balance sheet and optimize for profitability in a vacuum, we ultimately stand to lose far more than we gain.

#amazon, #column, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #government, #logistics, #online-purchases, #opinion, #package-delivery, #payment-processing, #policy, #shippo, #startups, #us-postal-service, #usps

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Shippo raises a $30M Series C after posting rapid 2019 growth

Early this afternoon Shippo, a shipping software and services company, announced that it has closed a $30 million Series C. The funding round roughly doubles the capital that the firm has raised to-date, from a little over $29 million to just under $60 million.

The round, however, wasn’t put together recently. As is often the case with funding events, Shippo raised its capital a while back and is only announcing it now. According to its CEO, Laura Behrens Wu, her startup started raising its Series C in late Q4 2019, with the capital hitting its accounts the day after Christmas. So, Shippo started 2020 well capitalized, and should have a comfortable capital base heading into this year’s economic uncertainty.

The funding round was led by a new investor, D1 Capital Partners, and participated in by a number of prior investors including Uncork Capital (which led a 2014 Seed investment into the company), Union Square Ventures (which led the company’s Series A in 2016) and Bessemer (which led its 2017 Series B).

Growth, margins

Shippo sits between retailers and consumers, helping sellers ship goods to buyers quickly and, it promises, inexpensively. The startup works with nearly five dozen shipping partners around the world, and plugs into the merchant worlds of Amazon, Shopify, Wix and others.

Like a number of successful startups, Shippo is trying to take something that is complex, and make it simple while generating revenue along the way. There are a number of loose examples we can lean on. For example, Plaid took all the complexity of talking to different financial institutions and shoved it into an accessible API. Twilio did something similar for telephony. Stripe made payments simple for others to integrate. You get the idea. Shippo wants to the same for shipping.

So far its model has good momentum. Heading into its funding round the firm had doubled (“100% growth,” Behrens Wu) in the preceding year, the sort of expansion that investors covet. It’s never bad to raise on the back of aggressive growth, as Shippo’s Series C shows; the company’s new valuation is “slightly higher” than TechCrunch’s estimate of $150 million, according to its CEO.

And even more, Shippo’s hybrid software and sales model (it charges for access to its shipping software and generates revenue from select shipping spend) creates attractive economics. Shippo’s gross margins are right around 80%, according to the startup, putting the company in the middle-upper tier of SaaS firms. Its growth isn’t based on the upselling shipping by a few points at volume; Shippo does have venture-ready economics.

It might seem odd to stress that point, but after WeWork’s implosion, it’s worth checking to make sure that startups raising as if they have strong revenue quality actually do.

Shippo has big aspirations, as you’d expect. “When you think about shipping software,” Behrens Wu told TechCrunch during an interview, “most people, even in tech, can’t name a single shipping software company, but everyone can name one or two payment companies. Everyone knows PayPal, Stripe, maybe Adyen or Braintree.” She wants to make Shippo as well known for shipping as Stripe is for payments.

There was secular movement towards her vision even before the pandemic. Today, online shopping — the grist for Shippo’s mill — is even more important. And it’s likely to become even more so over time, if growth shown by Amazon and Shopify in recent quarters is any indication of what’s to come, which means that the market for Shippo’s services will grow in time, and it’s always easier to grow in an expanding market than to claw for share in a stagnant pool.

Finally, in addition to its new capital and raised valuation, Shippo also announced that it has hired Catherine Stewart, former chief business officer at WordPress juggernaut Automattic, to be its COO. If Shippo is hiring a COO now, then we expect to see a CFO added around the time of its Series D. And then we get to start annoying the company about its IPO timeline.

Shippo is one of the lucky startups that raised right before the world changed. Now it’s up to the startup to conserve cash while continuing to grow while the global economy struggles. Let’s see how it performs.

#ecommerce, #fundings-exits, #laura-behrens-wu, #shippo, #startups, #tc

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