Spotify playlist curators complain about ongoing abuse that favors bad actors over innocent parties

A number of Spotify playlist curators are complaining that the streaming music company is not addressing the ongoing issue of playlist abuse, which sees bad actors reporting playlists that have gained a following in order to give their own playlists better visibility. Currently, playlists created by Spotify users can be reported in the app for a variety of reasons — like sexual, violent, dangerous, deceptive, or hateful content, among other things. When a report is submitted, the playlist in question will have its metadata immediately removed, including its title, description, and custom image. There is no internal review process that verifies the report is legitimate before the metadata is removed.

Bad actors have learned how to abuse this system to give themselves an advantage. If they see a rival playlist has more users than their own, they will report their competitors in hopes of giving their playlist a more prominent ranking in search results.

According to the curators affected by this problem, there is no limit to the number of reports these bad actors can submit, either. The curators complain that their playlists are being reported daily, and often multiple times per day.

The problem is not new. Users have been complaining about playlist abuse for years. A thread on Spotify’s community forum about this problem is now some 30 pages deep, in fact, and has accumulated over 330 votes. Victims of this type of harassment have also repeatedly posted to social media about Spotify’s broken system to raise awareness of the problem more publicly. For example, one curator last year noted their playlist had been reported over 2,000 times, and said they were getting a new email about the reports nearly every minute. That’s a common problem and one that seems to indicate bad actors are leveraging bots to submit their reports.

Many curators say they’ve repeatedly reached out to Spotify for help with this issue and were given no assistance.

Curators can only reply to the report emails from Spotify to appeal the takedown, but they don’t always receive a response. When they ask Spotify for help with this issue, the company only says that it’s working on a solution.

While Spotify may suspend the account that abused the system when a report is deemed false, the bad actors simply create new accounts to continue the abuse. Curators on Spotify’s community forums suggested that an easy fix to the bot-driven abuse would be to restrict accounts from being able to report playlists until their accounts had accumulated 10 hours of streaming music or podcasts. This could help to ensure they were a real person before they gained permission to report abuse.

One curator, who maintains hundreds of playlists, said the problem had gotten so bad that they created an iOS app to continually monitor their playlists for this sort of abuse and to reinstate any metadata once a takedown was detected. But not all curators have the ability to build an app or script of their own to deal with this situation.

Image Credits: Spotify (screenshot of reporting flow)

TechCrunch asked Spotify what it planned to do about this problem, but the company declined to provide specific details.

“As a matter of practice, we will continue to disable accounts that we suspect are abusing our reporting tool. We are also actively working to enhance our processes to handle any suspected abusive reports,” a Spotify spokesperson told us.

The company said it is currently testing several different improvements to the process to curb the abuse, but would not say what those tests may include, or whether tests were internal or external. It could not provide any ballpark sense of when its reporting system would be updated with these fixes, either. When pressed, the company said it doesn’t share details about specific security measures publicly as a rule, as doing so could make abuse of its systems more effective.

Often, playlists are curated by independent artists and labels who are looking to promote themselves and get their music discovered, only to have their work taken down immediately, without any sort of review process that could sort legitimate reports from bot-driven abuse.

Curators complain that Spotify has been dismissing their cries for help for far too long, and Spotify’s vague and non-committal response about a coming solution only validates those complaints further.

#abuse, #app-store, #computing, #curator, #mobile, #operating-systems, #playlist, #search-results, #social-media, #software, #spotify, #techcrunch

Calendly CEO Tope Awotona is joining us at Disrupt 2021

It all seems so simple. Instead of the dreaded back-and-forth on email, what if there was a solution that helped two parties (or multiple parties) schedule a call or a hangout?

Calendly was born out of that question. Today, the company is worth more than $3 billion, according to reports, and has more than 10 million users. The growth of the product is insane, with more than 1,000% growth from last year.

But that kind of success doesn’t come without hard work and dedication.

To hear more about the journey from bootstrapped to billions, Calendly founder and CEO Tope Awotona will join us at Disrupt this September.

P.S. Early Bird Tickets to Disrupt end today, Friday, July 30. Book your tickets now! 

Awotona put his entire life savings into Calendly and managed to bootstrap it for years before taking a $350 million funding round led by OpenView and Iconiq.

We’ll chat with Awotona about the early days of Calendly, how he navigated the hyper-growth phase, what made him choose to finally take institutional funding, his thoughts on pricing and packaging, and much more.

Awotona joins an incredible roster of speakers, including Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Mirror’s Brynn Putnam, Chamath Palihapitiya, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield and more. Plus, Disrupt features the legendary Startup Battlefield competition, where startups from across the globe compete for $100,000 and eternal glory.

Disrupt’s virtual format provides plenty of opportunity for questions, so come prepared to ask the experts about the issues that keep you up at night.

One post can’t possibly contain all of Disrupt’s events. Don’t miss the epic Startup Battlefield competition, hundreds of early-stage startups exhibiting in the Startup Alley expo area, special breakout sessions — like the Pitch Deck Teardown — and so much more.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 offers tons of opportunities. Don’t miss out on the first one — buy your Disrupt pass today, July 30, by 11:59 pm (PT) for less than $100. It’s a sweet deal!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#articles, #brynn-putnam, #ceo, #chamath-palihapitiya, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #pete-buttigieg, #private-equity, #startup-company, #stewart-butterfield, #tc, #techcrunch, #tope-awotona

Last day to snag early bird passes to TechCrunch Disrupt 2021

Don’t miss your chance to experience TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 — the startup world’s must-attend event of the season — for less than $100. Why not get the best ROI of your time while simultaneously learning about the latest industry trends and mining for opportunities that can take your startup to new levels of success?

Disrupt takes place on September 21-23, but the early-bird deal expires today, July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT). Buy your Disrupt 2021 pass now and save.

Let’s talk about what you’ll experience at Disrupt. Over on the Disrupt Stage you’ll find one-on-one interviews with icons and interactive, expert-led, presentations from across the tech, investing and policy sectors. Folks like Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn and Mirror CEO Brynn Putnam. And that’s just the tip of the tech iceberg. You can check out all the speakers here.

You’ll find plenty of actionable advice and how-to tips and strategies on the Extra Crunch Stage. Take a gander at just two of the topics we have scheduled there and explore the full Disrupt agenda here.

Crafting a Pitch Deck that Can’t Be Ignored: Investors may be chasing after the hottest deals, but for founders selling their startup’s vision, it’s never been more important to communicate it in the clearest way possible. Pitch deck experts Mercedes Bent (partner, Lightspeed Venture Partners), Mar Hershenson (co-founder & managing partner, Pear VC) and Saba Karim (Techstars’ head of accelerator pipeline) dig into what’s essential, what’s unnecessary and what could just make all the difference in your next deck.

How Do You Select the Right Tech Stack: From day zero, startups have to make dozens of trade-offs when it comes to the infinite variety of tech stacks available to today’s engineers. Choose the wrong combination or direction, and a startup could be left with years of refactoring to fix the legacy damage. What are the best practices for assessing potential stacks, and how can you minimize the risk of a painful mistake? Preeti Somal (executive vice president of engineering, HashiCorp) and Jill Wetzler (head of engineering, Pilot) will discuss strategies for improving engineering right from the beginning and at every stage of a startup’s journey.

Disrupt’s virtual format provides plenty of opportunity for questions, so come prepared to ask the experts about the issues that keep you up at night.

One post can’t possibly contain all the events and opportunities of Disrupt. Don’t miss the epic Startup Battlefield competition, hundreds of early-stage startups exhibiting in the Startup Alley expo area, special breakout sessions — like the Pitch Deck Teardown — and so much more.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 offers tons of opportunity. Don’t miss out on the first one — buy your Disrupt pass today, July 30, by 11:59 pm (PT) for less than $100. It’s a sweet deal!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#articles, #brian-armstrong, #brynn-putnam, #ceo, #coinbase, #duolingo, #finance, #hashicorp, #jill-wetzler, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #luis-von-ahn, #mining, #money, #pear-vc, #pete-buttigieg, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #techcrunch-disrupt-2021, #techstars, #united-states, #verizon-media

48-hour countdown to early bird savings on passes to TC Disrupt 2021

What’s big enough, bold enough and influential enough to inspire more than 10,000 people around the world to carve out three days from their intensely busy schedules? If you said TechCrunch Disrupt 2021, the grand matriarch of startup tech conferences, well friend, you’d be right on the money.

And speaking of money, you have just 48 hours left to score the early-bird price on TC Disrupt Innovator, Founder and Investor passes. Buy any of these passes and attend all three days of Disrupt for less than $100. Here’s the catch: The early bird price expires on July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Don’t miss the dynamic 1:1 interviews and panel discussions on the Disrupt Stage. We’ve tapped high-profile speakers — all leading voices in their fields — to download their insight, trends and sage advice. You’ll hear U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg discuss some of the major challenges of moving people and packages around the block and across the globe.

Houseplant COO, Haneen Davies will join company co-founders Michael Mohr and Seth Rogen — who, it seems, has a somewhat successful side hustle as a Hollywood writer, director and actor — for a lively CBD: Cannabis Business Discussion.

Head on over to the Extra Crunch Stage where you’ll find strategic insight across a range of essential startup skills. Think fundraising, product iteration, tech stack development and growth marketing.

Here’s a quick peek at just some of what’s going down Extra Crunchy.

How to Cultivate a Community for your Company that Actually Lasts: The word of the year in startup-land is “community.” In this panel, Community Fund’s Lolita Taub, Commsor’s Alex Angel and Seven Seven Six’s Katelin Holloway will extract buzz from reality and help founders understand the growing importance of chief community officers in startup culture and, ultimately, financial success today.

The Path for Underrepresented Entrepreneurs: Founding a startup comes with a wide array of challenges but, unfortunately, underrepresented founders face an extra layer of bias, both conscious and unconscious. We’ll talk with Hana Mohan (MagicBell), Leslie Feinzaig (Female Founders Alliance) and Stephen Bailey (ExecOnline) about their journeys, as founders, through fundraising and scaling — and as advocates who can offer tactical insights and advice.

We’re just warming up, folks. You’ll hear from execs, founders and CEOs from companies like Twitter, Calendly, Mirror, Evil Geniuses, Andreessen Horowitz and plenty more. Check out the Disrupt 2021 agenda. We’ll add even more speakers, events and ticket discounts in the coming weeks. Register for updates so you don’t miss out.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place on September 21-23. Buy your Disrupt pass before July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT), and get ready to join the big, bold and influential — for less than $100.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#andreessen-horowitz, #calendly, #coo, #entrepreneurship, #female-founders-alliance, #hana-mohan, #leslie-feinzaig, #operating-systems, #pete-buttigieg, #private-equity, #software, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #techcrunch-disrupt-2021, #technology, #twitter, #united-states

Dan Olsen leads a product-market fit masterclass for the Startup Alley+ cohort

Yes Virginia, there are advantages to exhibiting in (the sold-out) Startup Alley at TC Disrupt 2021. Out of all the early-stage startups ready to exhibit on September 21-23, Team TechCrunch hand-picked 50 to form the Startup Alley+ cohort.

Startup Alley+ is a VIP experience designed to help founders grow their business and increase their opportunities right now in the run-up to Disrupt.

Hold up: Don’t miss the opportunity to meet and network with all the innovative startups you’ll find in Startup Alley — including the Startup Alley+ cohort. Attend Disrupt for less than $100 — if you buy your early bird pass before prices go up on July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT).

The VIP experience includes three masterclass sessions on crucial topics that all startup founders need to, well, master. Case in point: product-market fit. It’s an elusive and yet essential first step to unlocking growth. You can’t build success without a product that quenches the demand of a thirsty market.

On August 24, Dan Olsen will conduct a masterclass on the art and science of product-market fit. Olsen, a product management trainer and consultant, works with CEOs and product leaders to build strong product teams. His clients include Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Box and Walmart.

A best-selling author of The Lean Product Playbook, Olsen has literally written the book on product-market fit. In his masterclass, How to Create Product-Market Fit, Dan will draw on material in the book and share his simple but effective framework. He will explain his Product-Market Fit Pyramid and The Lean Product Process, a six-step methodology that guides you through how to:

  1. Determine your target customer
  2. Identify underserved customer needs
  3. Define your value proposition
  4. Specify your MVP feature set
  5. Create your MVP prototype
  6. Test your MVP with customers

Dan will illustrate these concepts with real-world examples and a comprehensive case study.

We’re especially excited to have Dan present his masterclass because he’s firmly rooted in TechCrunch lore. Way back in 2009, a company called YourVersion — founded by Olsen — won the peoples’ choice at TechCrunch50, the precursor to Disrupt.

Olsen’s product-market fit expertise — and his personal connection to the early-stage founder experience — will help the Startup Alley+ cohort learn how to turn product management into more of a science than an art and improve their odds of success.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place September 21-23. Don’t miss your opportunity to attend for less than $100. Buy your early bird pass here before the deal expires on July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#articles, #author, #box, #business, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #facebook, #product-management, #product-market-fit, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #techcrunch-disrupt-2021, #uber, #virginia, #walmart, #yourversion

Norby raises $3.8M for an all-in-one creator marketing platform

Early in the pandemic, Nick Gerard, Steven Layne, and Samantha Safer Valentine had a hit on their hands. In the era before Zoom fatigue set in, the trio launched Mainstream Live, a website and newsletter that curated live virtual events across platforms and gave people text-based reminders to check them out. 

“We started with the discovery problem of people looking for cool things to do online,” Gerard told TechCrunch. “…Right away we knew that we were tapping into something.” Overnight, tens of thousands of people were on the site, browsing for online events to keep them connected in a period of unprecedented social isolation.

After going viral, the Mainstream Live team found itself inundated with questions about the tools it used to surface events and keep its community in the loop. As the team built more services for its own needs, it eventually opened its custom toolkit, sharing the code to other community leads and content creators who implemented the same set of tools with a rebrand.

“People loved it — more and more people asked for it,” Gerard said. “We got to the point where we were juggling a dozen of [these] for different partners.” By the fall, the team wound down the original community, leaned into the inbound interest in its toolset and built Norby.

Norby platform

The new company rolled together everything that people were asking for: a link-in-bio service, referral tracking, SMS, ticketing and other marketing tools necessary to keep a small brand or creator community humming. 

Gerard says the team at Norby has been “following that signal” ever since. Now, Norby has raised a $3.8M seed round led by Gradient Ventures, Google’s venture AI-focused fund, to grow its team and scale its full-stack marketing platform to new heights. Bungalow Capital, BBG Ventures, Charge VC, and Notation also participated in the funding round. 

Norby’s big idea is to combine services like LinkTree, Eventbrite and MailChimp into a single, affordable, subscription-based service, offering anyone who handles an online community a single solution rather than an expensive patchwork of services that have to be individually set up and managed. Norby is ideal for small brands and solo entrepreneurs and most of its customers run less than 10-person operations. The creator tool suite is purely subscription based and won’t collect any fees like Eventbrite and other popular services.

For brands, it starts at $20 per month and the company has plans in the works for a $5 per month tier for individual use. There’s no free tier, and Gerard prefers to think that Norby’s customers will be excited to save time and money on the company’s bundled offering. “What we found is that people spend an enormous amount of money on these tools,” Gerard said. “We can knock a bunch of tools out of your stack and save you money. But we can also save you time.” 

Norby’s team spends a lot of time talking to creators and small companies. Its customers range from sexual wellness companies to advice columnists and activists — anybody who needs to manage an online community. It counts Sad Girls Club, EVRYMAN and Allbodies among its early customers

The company is growing slowly and organically, bringing new users in through a waitlist and invite system and showing them around the product in group demos. “What’s been really cool for us, we’ll get a new customer for one or two features… then they came into the product and were like ‘oh we’ve always wanted to try SMS’ and then it’s just there and they can start using it,” Gerard said. 

Big picture, Norby views itself as an advocate for creators — and an insulator against the power that big platforms wield. In the long term, Gerard hopes to help creators own their own communities as a kind of “counterbalance” to big platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

Norby hopes to help more people make a reliable living creating content and communities online. “There’s a handful of extreme winners and it’s just barren after that,” Gerard said, citing Li Jin’s ideas on building a creator middle class

Helping creators “own the relationship” with their communities is something that big platforms will never have an incentive to do. But those same platforms are realizing that creators wield some very real power — and the ability to pick up their content empires and take them to go if they choose to. 

“Whats exciting about this moment is that right now looking ahead to the next five or ten years, nothing is inevitable,” Gerard said. “These windows don’t come along all the time.”

#bbg-ventures, #content-creators, #eventbrite, #gradient-ventures, #li-jin, #linktree, #mailchimp, #online-communities, #online-community, #online-events, #sms, #social, #tc, #techcrunch, #tiktok, #verizon-media, #websites

Early bird savings on passes to TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 end this week

Tick tock, early-stage startup fans: If you plan to attend TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 (September 21-23), time is running out to score a pass to the world’s leading conference dedicated to tech startups — for less than $100. The early bird sale ends this week, so buy your pass here before the deal expires on July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT).

And if you’re part of the tech startup ecosystem — or aspire to be — why the heck wouldn’t you dive headlong into three days dedicated to the art and science required to build and scale successful startups? Just listen to what three past attendees said about their Disrupt experience.

Disrupt is a great sweet spot, and highly valuable, for anyone in the idea stage all the way through to having raised some angel money. Soak up the pitch deck teardowns and the VC presentations. They’re telling you what they’re looking for, what motivates them, what pushes them to contact you for a meeting. And that’s exactly what every startup raising capital needs to know. — Michael McCarthy, CEO, Repositax.

“TechCrunch has created a great venue that brings together all the different people within the startup ecosystem. It’s a place where new startups can present, attendees can learn from top industry experts and who knows? One day they might be the person speaking on the Disrupt stage. It’s a great event overall.” — JC Bodson, founder and CEO of Arbitrage Technologies

“The connections I made at Disrupt offer long-term benefits. Investors willing to put forth capital, engineers offering tech expertise and manufacturers to help me streamline. Fostering these relationships will help me grow my company and my bottom line.” — Felicia Jackson, inventor and founder of CPRWrap.

Disrupt is the place to be to learn, connect, collaborate and keep tabs on rapidly changing trends. Here’s just one example of the timely topics and world-class experts we have on tap. Don’t forget to check out the agenda.

Saving the World: COVID-19 changed everything. It not only threatened our individual health and wellbeing, but it also shook industries and economies across the globe. The same could be said about the COVID-19 vaccines. Hear from BioNTech Cofounder and CEO, Ugur Sahin on the process of rapidly developing the world’s most sought-after vaccine, alongside Pfizer, and the long-term potential of mRNA-based therapies. Sahin will be joined by Ursheet Parikh of Mayfield Fund to discuss what’s next for startups in this rapidly evolving industry.

Pro Tip: We’ll add new speakers, events and discounts in the run up to Disrupt — sign up for updates so you don’t miss out.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place September 21-23, but the time to snag serious savings ends this week. Buy your early bird pass here before the deal expires on July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#biontech, #business, #ceo, #companies, #cprwrap, #economy, #felicia-jackson, #founder, #mayfield-fund, #pfizer, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #techcrunch-disrupt-2021, #ugur-sahin, #ursheet-parikh, #verizon-media

One week left to buy passes to TC Disrupt 2021 for less than $100

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021, the world’s original and most epic conference dedicated to tech startups, takes place September 21-23. Are you ready to take full advantage of this opportunity-packed event? Start right now and buy a Disrupt pass for less than $100. But don’t wait — the early bird prices disappear on July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Experience the full range of the global tech startup culture. Disrupt draws thousands of attendees from around the world, ready to learn, network, inspire and inform. You’ll hear from the leading voices across the tech spectrum — people like Coinbase CEO, Brian Armstrong, Pear VC’s Mar Hershenson and Accel’s Arun Matthew. And even a few tech-savvy celebrity founders (we’re looking at you, Seth Rogan).

Head to the Disrupt Stage for compelling interviews, panel discussions and presentations. And if you’re hot for tips, strategies and advice you can put to work in your startup right away, head on over to the Extra Crunch Stage. Our virtual platform makes it easy to pop in and out as your schedule permits, and you’ll have three months of video-on-demand access to all presentations when the event ends. You won’t miss a thing.

Check out the Disrupt 2021 agenda and register here to get updates when we add new speakers, events and discounts.

Startup Alley, our legendary expo area, is already sold out. Do not miss this collection of innovative startups showcasing their impressive tech and talent. Stop by their virtual booths, schedule 1:1 video meeting, ask for a product demo. You might just find a new collaborator, the perfect solution to a nagging problem or a promising addition to your investment portfolio.

Pro Tip: Every Startup Alley exhibitor will take part in one of our pitch feedback breakout sessions. It’s not only an opportunity to learn about the company — the feedback they receive from the Team TechCrunch can help you improve your own pitch.

Of course, Startup Battlefield is where the best-of-the best take the virtual stage to pitch for glory, global exposure and, oh yeah, $100,000 in equity-free prizemoney. It’s the startup world’s best launch pad and, since its inception, 922 companies have collectively raised $9 billion and generated 117 exits. Here’s how Rachael Wilcox, a creative producer at Volvo Cars described watching Startup Battlefield at Disrupt 2020.

“The Startup Battlefield translated easily to the virtual format. You could see the excitement, enthusiasm and possibility of the young founders, and I loved that. You could also ask questions through the chat feature, and you don’t always have time for questions at a live event.”

Tune in to watch this thrilling throwdown. You never know — this year’s cohort might produce a future unicorn or two.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place on September 21-23. Buy your Disrupt pass before July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT), and you’ll pay less than $100. Now that’s an opportunity worth grabbing.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#brian-armstrong, #business, #ceo, #coinbase, #economy, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #techcrunch-disrupt-2021, #techcrunch-disrupt-new-york, #verizon-media, #volvo-cars, #websites

DNSFilter secures $30M Series A to step up fight against DNS-based threats

DNSFilter, an artificial intelligence startup that provides DNS protection to enterprises, has secured $30 million in Series A funding from Insight Partners.

DNSFilter, as its name suggests, offers DNS-based web content filtering and threat protection. Unlike the majority of its competitors, which includes the likes of Palo Alto Networks and Webroot, the startup uses proprietary AI technology to continuously scan billions of domains daily, identifying anomalies and potential vectors for malware, ransomware, phishing, and fraud. 

“Most of our competitors either rent or lease a database from some third party,” Ken Carnesi, co-founder and CEO of DNSFilter tells TechCrunch. “We do that in-house, and it’s through artificial intelligence that’s scanning these pages in real-time.” 

The company, which counts the likes of Lenovo, Newegg, and Nvidia among its 14,000 customers, claims this industry-first technology catches threats an average of five days before competitors and is capable of identifying 76% of domain-based threats. By the end of 2021, DNSFilter says it will block more than 1.1 million threats daily.

DNSFilter has seen rapid growth over the past 12 months as a result of the mass shift to remote working and the increase in cyber threats and ransomware attacks that followed. The startup saw eightfold growth in customer activity, doubled its global headcount to just over 50 employees, and partnered with Canadian software house N-Able to push into the lucrative channel market.  

“DNSFilter’s rapid growth and efficient customer acquisition are a testament to the benefits and ease of use compared to incumbents,” Thomas Krane, principal at Insight Partners, who has been appointed as a director on DNSFilter’s board. “The traditional model of top-down, hardware-centric network security is disappearing in favor of solutions that readily plug in at the device level and can cater to highly distributed workforces”

Prior to this latest funding round, which was also backed by Arthur Ventures (the lead investor in DNSFilter’s seed round), CrowdStrike co-founder and former chief technology officer  Dmitri Alperovitch also joined DNSFilter’s board of directors. 

Carnesi said the addition of Alperovitch to the board will help the company get its technology into the hands of enterprise customers. “He’s helping us to shape the product to be a good fit for enterprise organizations, which is something that we’re doing as part of this round — shifting focus to be primarily mid-market and enterprise,” he said.

The company also recently added former CrowdStrike vice president Jen Ayers as its chief operating officer. “She used to manage their entire managed threat hunting team, so she’s definitely coming on for the security side of things as we build out our domain intelligence team further,” Carnesi said.

With its newly-raised funds, DNSFilter will further expand its headcount, with plans to add more than 80 new employees globally over the next 12 months.

“There’s a lot more that we can do for security via DNS, and we haven’t really started on that yet,” Carnesi said. “We plan to do things that people won’t believe were possible via DNS.”

The company, which acquired Web Shrinker in 2018, also expects there to be more acquisitions on the cards going forward. “There are some potential companies that we’d be looking to acquire to speed up our advancement in certain areas,” Carnesi said.

#arthur-ventures, #artificial-intelligence, #co-founder, #computing, #coo, #crowdstrike, #cto, #cyberwarfare, #director, #dns, #funding, #information-technology, #insight-partners, #lenovo, #newegg, #nvidia, #palo-alto-networks, #ransomware, #security, #startup-company, #techcrunch, #vp, #webroot

Crypto startup Phantom banks funding from Andreessen Horowitz to scale its multi-chain wallet

While retail investors grew more comfortable buying cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum in 2021, the decentralized application world still has a lot of work to do when it comes to onboarding a mainstream user base.

Phantom is part of a new class of crypto startups looking to build infrastructure that streamlines blockchain-based applications and provides a more user-friendly UX for navigating the crypto world, something that can make the entire space more approachable to a non-developer audience. Users can download the Phantom wallet to their browsers to interact with applications, swap tokens and collect NFTs.

The crypto wallet startup has banked a $9 million Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) with Variant Fund, Jump Capital, DeFi Alliance, Solana Foundation and Garry Tan also participating. The round, which closed earlier this summer, comes as some venture capital firms embrace a crypto future even as volatility continues to envelop the broader market. Last month, a16z announced a whopping 2.2 billion crypto fund, the firm’s largest vertical-specific investment vehicle ever.

via Phantom

The co-founding team of CEO Brandon Millman, CPO Chris Kalani and CEO Francesco Agosti all come aboard from crypto infrastructure startup 0x.

At the moment, Phantom is best-known among the Solana community where it has become the go-to wallet for applications on that blockchain. The startup’s ambition is to interface with more and more networks, currently building out compatibility with Ethereum and looking to embrace other blockchains, aiming to be a product built for a “multi-chain world,” Millman tells TechCrunch.

Alongside building out support for other networks, Phantom wants to build more sophisticated DeFi mechanisms right into their wallet, allowing users to stake cryptocurrencies and swap more tokens inside the wallet.

The startup says they have some 40,000 users of their existing wallet product.

Building out a presence on the popular Ethereum blockchain, which already has a handful of popular wallet providers, will be a challenge, but Phantom’s broadest challenge is helping a new breed of crypto-curious users interface with a network of apps that still have a long way to go when it comes to being mainstream-friendly.

“The entire space is kind of stuck in this ‘built by developers for other developers mode,’” Millman says. “This bar has been kind of stuck there, and no one is really stepping up to push the bar up higher.”

#andreessen-horowitz, #articles, #bitcoin, #blockchain, #blockchains, #ceo, #crypto-startups, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #cryptography, #decentralization, #decentralized-finance, #ethereum, #garry-tan, #jump-capital, #retail-investors, #tc, #techcrunch, #venture-capital-firms

FlyMachine raises $21 million to build a virtual concerts platform for a post-pandemic world

As concerts and live events return to the physical world stateside, many in the tech industry have wondered whether some of the pandemic-era opportunities around virtualizing these events are lost for the time being.

San Francisco-based FlyMachine is aiming to seek out the holy grail of the digital music industry, finding a way to capture some of the magic of live concerts and performances in a live-streamed setting. The startup hopes that pandemic era consumer habits around video chat socialization combined with an industry in need of digital diversification can push their flavor of virtual concerts into the lives of music fans.

The startup’s ambitions aren’t cheap, FlyMachine tells TechCrunch it has raised $21 million in investor funding to bankroll its plans. The funding has been led by Greycroft Partners and SignalFire, with additional participation from Primary Venture Partners, Contour Venture Partners, Red Sea Ventures, and Silicon Valley Bank.

The virtual concert industry didn’t have as big of a lockdown moment as some hoped for. Spotify experimented with virtual events. Meanwhile, startups like Wave raised huge bouts of VC funding to turn real performers into digital avatars in a bid to create more digital-native concerts. And while some smaller artists embraced shows over Zoom or worked with startups like Oda who created live concert subscriptions, there were few mainstream hits among bigger acts.

To make FlyMachine’s brand of virtual concerts a thing, the startup isn’t trying to convert potential in-person attendees of a show into virtual participants, instead hoping to create an attractive experience for the folks who would normally have to skip the show. Whether those virtual attendees were too far from a venue, couldn’t get a babysitter for the night, or just aren’t jazzed about a mosh pit scene anymore, FlyMachine is hoping there are enough potential attendees on the bubble to sustain the startup as they try to blur the lines between “a night in and a night out,” CEO Andrew Dreskin says.

The startup’s strategy centers on building up partnerships with name brand concert venues around the US — Bowery Ballroom in New York City, Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco, The Crocodile in Seattle, Marathon Music Works in Nashville and Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles, among them — and live-streaming some of the shows at those venues to at-home audiences. FlyMachine’s team has deep roots in the music industry, Dreskin founded Ticketfly (acquired by Pandora) while co-founder Rick Farman is also the co-founder of Superfly which puts on the Bonnaroo and Outside Lands music festivals.

In terms of actual experience — and I had the chance to experience one of the shows before writing this — FlyMachine has done their best to recreate the experience of shouting over the tunes to talk with your buddies nearby. In FlyMachine’s world this is attending the show in a “private room” with your other friends live-streaming in video chat bubbles from their homes. It’s well-done and doesn’t distract too much from the actual concert, but you can adjust the sound levels of your friends and the music when the time calls for it.

FlyMachine’s platform launch earlier this year, arriving as many Americans have been vaccinated and many concert-goers are preparing to return to normal, might have been considered a bit late to the moment, but the founding team sees a long-term opportunity that COVID only further highlighted.

“We weren’t in a mad dash to get the product out the door while people were sequestered in their homes because we knew this would be part of the fabric of society going forward,” Dreskin tells TechCrunch.

#articles, #ceo, #co-founder, #concert, #contour-venture-partners, #entrepreneurship, #greycroft-partners, #los-angeles, #microsoft-windows, #nashville, #new-york-city, #oda, #operating-systems, #primary-venture-partners, #red-sea-ventures, #san-francisco, #seattle, #silicon-valley-bank, #spotify, #startup-company, #superfly, #tc, #techcrunch, #ticketfly, #united-states, #virtual-concert

Cybereason raises $275M at Series F, adds Steven Mnuchin to board

Cybereason, a US-Israeli late-stage cybersecurity startup that provides extended detection and response (XDR) services, has secured $275 million in Series F funding. 

The investment was led by Liberty Strategic Capital, a venture capital fund recently founded by Steven Mnuchin, who served as U.S. Treasury Secretary under the Trump administration. As part of the deal, Mnuchin will join Cybereason’s board of directors, along with Liberty advisor Gen. Joseph Dunford, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Trump until his retirement in 2019.

Lior Div, CEO and co-founder of Cybereason, tells TechCrunch that the startup’s decision to work with Liberty Strategy Capital came down to the firm’s “massive network” and the “understanding of the financial and government markets that Mnuchin and Gen. Joseph Dunford bring to our team.”

“For example, the executive order on cybersecurity put out by the Biden Administration recommends that endpoint detection and response solutions be deployed on all endpoints,” Dior added. “This accelerates the importance of solutions like ours in the public market, and Liberty Strategic Capital has the relationships to help accelerate our go-to-market strategy in the federal sector.”

This round, which will be used to fuel “hypergrowth driven by strong market demand,” follows $389 million in prior funding from SoftBank, CRV, Spark Capital, and Lockheed Martin. The company didn’t state at what valuation it raised the funds, but it is estimated to be in the region of $3 billion.

Cybereason’s recent growth, which saw it end 2020 at over $120 million in annual recurring revenue, has been largely driven by its AI-powered platform. Unlike traditional alert-centric models, Cybereason’s Defense Platform is operation-centric, which means it exposes and remediates entire malicious operations. The service details the full attack story from root cause to impacted users and devices, which the company claims significantly reduces the time taken to investigate and recover from an enterprise-wide cyber attack. 

The company, whose competitors include the likes of BlackBerry-owned Cylance and CrowdStrike, also this week expanded its channel presence with the launch of its so-called Defenders League, a global program that enables channel partners to use its technology and services to help their customers prevent and recover from cyberattacks. Cybereason claims its technology has helped protect customers from the likes of the recent SolarWinds supply-chain attack and other high-profile ransomware attacks launched by DarkSide, REvil, and Conti groups. 

Today’s $275 million funding round is likely to be Cybereason’s last before it goes public. Div previously said in August 2019 the company planned to IPO within two years, though he wouldn’t be pressed on whether the company is gearing up to go public when asked by TechCrunch. However, the company did compare its latest investment to SentinelOne‘s November 2020 Series F round, which was secured just months before it filed for a $100 million IPO.

#artificial-intelligence, #biden-administration, #companies, #computing, #crowdstrike, #crv, #cybereason, #cylance, #donald-trump, #executive, #funding, #lockheed-martin, #neuberger-berman, #president, #security, #softbank, #softbank-group, #solarwinds, #spark-capital, #steve-mnuchin, #techcrunch, #united-states

Exhibit your startup at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is hardly new, but this sector — pretty much the default business model for B2B and B2C startups — just keeps growing along with a rapidly expanding ecosystem. TC Sessions: SaaS 2021, a day-long focused look at the current state and future generations of SaaS, takes place on October 27, and it’s designed to help startup founders, investors and developers keep tabs on this increasingly sophisticated industry.

It also provides a huge opportunity for startups to demo their SaaS tech and talent to the industry’s top movers, shakers and unicorn makers. We have a limited number of Startup Exhibitor Packages available, and procrastination is not your friend. Jump on this offer and secure your virtual demo booth right now.

The $299 Startup Exhibitor Package includes your virtual booth space, four passes and full access to the event, breakout sessions, lead generation capabilities, networking, videos on-demand and a free, one-month membership to Extra Crunch.

Here’s another great reason to exhibit. You might connect with and impress the SaaS equivalent of Rachael Wilcox. Wilcox, a creative producer at Volvo Cars, attended TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 (along with both Disrupt and Early Stage that same year). Here’s why:

“I go to TechCrunch events to find new and interesting companies, make new business connections and look for startups with investment potential. It’s an opportunity to expand my knowledge and inform my work.”

As for the conference programming, we’re busy building out our agenda. But like every TechCrunch event ever created, you can count on hearing from the leading experts, icons, founders and investors.

Speaking of investors, we can share that Sarah Guo, Kobile Fuller and Casey Aylward will join us to talk about what they look for in SaaS startups. We’ll announce other exciting speakers in the weeks to come, so watch this space.

Yes, you’ll be busy exhibiting and networking, but you’ll also have time to take in some of the presentations. Come ready to engage because these presentations will be highly interactive. That’s just one of the benefits of a virtual event — more time to get those burning questions asked and answered.

So, bottom line: Exhibiting at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 on October 27 is your chance to place your innovative, ground-breaking SaaS startup in front of a very targeted, very influential audience. Buy your Startup Exhibitor Package now and get ready to impress for success.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 – Marketing & Fundraising? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#articles, #as-a-service, #b2c, #business-models, #casey-aylward, #sarah-guo, #software, #software-as-a-service, #startup-company, #tc, #tc-sessions-saas-2021, #techcrunch, #volvo, #volvo-cars

Nas Academy raises $11 million to help creators build their own MasterClass-like courses

Investors are buying into a creator-led future, and Nas Academy wants to turn that creator influence into a broad network of “virtual universities.”

The Singapore startup is building out a platform for creators to monetize their knowledge, giving them the tools to create their own classes and academies that fans can attend online. The platform is founded and led by Nuseir Yassin, a video blogger and influencer whose Nas Daily social media accounts boast tens of millions of followers across platforms.

Nas Academy has closed an $11 million Series A led by Lightspeed Venture Partners with additional backing from Balaji Srinivasan, Emilie Choi, TechAviv Founder Partners, 500 Startups and Metapurse, among others.

The platform can help creators build on-demand class portfolios or live courses, while the marketplace allows users to navigate and shop around for courses that appeal to them. Yassin hopes the platform can bring some predictability to consumers who are interested in signing up for online courses, but are wary of scams and half-baked offerings. “This market needs to have some trusted brands and quality assurances,” he says.

At the moment, a good chunk of the courses skew towards the business of online influence, with classes on video editing, content marketing and entrepreneurship. It’s also a pretty wide range of price points with costs for courses live on the platform now ranging from $29 to $499. Users can also pay for a bundle of courses, and Yassin says the platform has plans for a subscription offering down the road.

Nas Academy will monetize by taking a cut of these revenues, which may vary a bit, especially right now as the platform is invite-only for creators. As the platform opens up further, Yassin wants it to be a way for creators to find new audiences too. Course operators will have access to emails of their audience and be able to reach out to them directly outside the platform if they so desire.

Investors have been increasingly signing on to back startups building products in the creator economy vertical, especially in the past year. Creator platform Patreon recently raised at a $4 billion valuation. Yassin sees a massive opportunity in not only facilitating closer relationships between creators and fans but serving as an on-ramp for aspiring creators coming to their platform to learn.

“We think there are another 100,000 creators who will never get asked to make a Masterclass,” Yassin tells TechCrunch. “Internet skills are low in supply and high in demand.”

#articles, #balaji-srinivasan, #economy, #emilie-choi, #finance, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #online-courses, #patreon, #singapore, #social-media, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch

Arctic Wolf secures $150M at Series F, tripling its valuation

Arctic Wolf, a managed cybersecurity company that offers “security operations-as-a-concierge” service, has raised $150 million at Series F.

This round was led by Viking Global Investors, Owl Rock, and other existing investors, and lands less than a year after the company’s last round of investment when it became the first managed detection and response (MDR) companies to secure a valuation of over $1 billion. This latest round brings its total amount of funding raised to date to just shy of $500 million, and sees the company’s valuation soar from $1.3 billion to $4.3 billion.

“This is a recognition on our part, and our investors’ part, of the challenge that our industry is facing,” Arctic Wolf CEO Brian NeSmith told TechCrunch.

As a result of this challenging cybersecurity landscape, fueled by pandemic turbulence and a mass shift to remote working, Arctic Wolf has seen impressive growth over the last 12 months. The company, which provides round-the-clock security monitoring for small and mid-sized organizations through its cloud security operations platform, saw its revenues double on rapid platform adoption growth, with nearly 60% of its 3,000 customers using at least three of its security operations solutions. This, the company claims, makes it fastest-growing company at scale in the fastest-growing area of the cybersecurity market.

The company’s headcount has also increased dramatically: the company onboard approximately 400 employees over the past 12 months and plans to add 500 new roles in the coming year. 

The newly-raised funds will be used to keep its momentum going, NeSmith said, and to step up its mergers and acquisitions strategy. Arctic Wolf has made three acquisitions since it was founded 2012 — including cybersecurity vulnerability assessment startup RootSecure in 2018 — and it’s planning to increase this number significantly over the next 12 months.

“We’ve got letters of intent for a couple more, and I expect that over the next year we’ll probably do between 5 and 10 acquisitions,” said NeSmith.

With Series F funding under its belt, Arctic Wolf is now starting to think about its exit strategy. NeSmith tells TechCrunch that while the company is weighing up its options, an IPO is likely the next logical move for the company. 

“I think ultimately the exit is IPO. That’s the most likely outcome,” he says. “Frankly, from some of the companies I’ve seen IPO over the last 3-6 months, we could be a public company today. We’re a little more measured, so we want to realize that not being public is an end point, you’re just changing the way you run the company.”

Read more:

#ceo, #computing, #funding, #information-technology, #security, #techcrunch, #viking-global-investors

Evernote quietly disappeared from an anti-surveillance lobbying group’s website

In 2013, eight tech companies were accused of funneling their users’ data to the U.S. National Security Agency under the so-called PRISM program, according to highly classified government documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Six months later, the tech companies formed a coalition under the name Reform Government Surveillance, which as the name would suggest was to lobby lawmakers for reforms to government surveillance laws.

The idea was simple enough: to call on lawmakers to limit surveillance to targeted threats rather than conduct a dragnet collection of Americans’ private data, provide greater oversight and allow companies to be more transparent about the kinds of secret orders for user data that they receive.

Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo and AOL (to later become Verizon Media, which owns TechCrunch — for now) were the founding members of Reform Government Surveillance, or RGS, and over the years added Amazon, Dropbox, Evernote, Snap and Zoom as members.

But then sometime in June 2019, Evernote quietly disappeared from the RGS website without warning. What’s even more strange is that nobody noticed for two years, not even Evernote.

“We hadn’t realized our logo had been removed from the Reform Government Surveillance website,” said an Evernote spokesperson, when reached for comment by TechCrunch. “We are still members.”

Evernote joined the coalition in October 2014, a year and a half after PRISM first came to public light, even though the company was never named in the leaked Snowden documents. Still, Evernote was a powerful ally to have onboard, and showed RGS that its support for reforming government surveillance laws was gaining traction outside of the companies named in the leaked NSA files. Evernote cites its membership of RGS in its most recent transparency report and that it supports efforts to “reform practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information” — which makes its disappearance from the RGS website all the more bizarre.

TechCrunch also asked the other companies in the RGS coalition if they knew why Evernote was removed and all either didn’t respond, wouldn’t comment or had no idea. A spokesperson for one of the RGS companies said they weren’t all that surprised since companies “drop in and out of trade associations.”

The website of the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, which features Amazon, Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Snap, Twitter, Verizon Media and Zoom, but not Evernote, which is also a member. Image Credits: TechCrunch

While that may be true — companies often sign on to lobbying efforts that ultimately help their businesses; government surveillance is one of those rare thorny issues that got some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley rallying behind the cause. After all, few tech companies have openly and actively advocated for an increase in government surveillance of their users, since it’s the users themselves who are asking for more privacy baked into the services they use.

In the end, the reason for Evernote’s removal seems remarkably benign.

“Evernote has been a longtime member — but they were less active over the last couple of years, so we removed them from the website,” said an email from Monument Advocacy, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm that represents RGS. “Your inquiry has helped to prompt new conversations between our organizations and we’re looking forward to working together more in the future.”

Monument has been involved with RGS since near the beginning after it was hired by the RGS coalition of companies to lobby for changes to surveillance laws in Congress. Monument has spent $2.2 million in lobbying to date since it began work with RGS in 2014, according to OpenSecrets, specifically on lobbying lawmakers to push for changes to bills under congressional consideration, such as changes to the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, albeit with mixed success. RGS supported the USA Freedom Act, a bill designed to curtail some of the NSA’s collection under the Patriot Act, but was unsuccessful in its opposition to the reauthorization of Section 702 of FISA, the powers that allow the NSA to collect intelligence on foreigners living outside the United States, which was reauthorized for six years in 2018.

RGS has been largely quiet for the past year — issuing just one statement on the importance of transatlantic data flows, the most recent hot-button issue to concern tech companies, fearing that anything other than the legal status quo could see vast swaths of their users in Europe cut off from their services.

“RGS companies are committed to protecting the privacy of those who use our services, and to safeguard personal data,” said the statement, which included the logos of Amazon, Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Snap, Twitter, Verizon Media and Zoom, but not Evernote.

In a coalition that’s only as strong as its members, the decision to remove Evernote from the website while it’s still a member hardly sends a resounding message of collective corporate unity — which these days isn’t something Big Tech can find much of.

#amazon, #apple, #articles, #cloud-storage, #computing, #congress, #edward-snowden, #europe, #evernote, #facebook, #government, #linkedin, #mass-surveillance, #microsoft, #national-security-agency, #prism, #security, #software, #spokesperson, #techcrunch, #transparency-report, #twitter, #united-states, #usa-freedom-act, #verizon, #washington-d-c, #yahoo

Hear top VCs Albert Wegner, Jenny Rooke, and Shilpi Kumar talk green bets at the Extreme Tech Challenge finals

This year, TechCrunch is proudly hosting the Extreme Tech Challenge Global Finals on July 22. The event is among the world’s largest purpose-driven startup competitions that are aiming to solve global challenges based on the United Nations’ 17 sustainability goals.

If you want to catch an array of innovative startups across a range of categories, all of them showcasing what they’re building, you won’t want to miss our must-see pitch-off competition.

You can also catch feature panels hosted by TechCrunch editors, including one of the most highly anticipated discussions of the event, a talk on “going green” with guest speakers Shilpi Kumar, Jenny Rooke, and Albert Wenger, all of whom are actively investing in climate startups that are targeting big opportunities

Shilpi Kumar is a partner with Urban Us, an investment platform focused on urban tech and climate solutions. She previously led go-to-market and early sales efforts at Filament, a startup focused on deploying secure wireless networks for connected physical assets. As an investor, Shilpi has also focused on hardware, mobility, energy, IoT, and robotics, having worked previously for VTF Capital, First Round Capital, and Village Global.

Jenny Rooke is the founder and managing director of Genoa Ventures, but Rooke has been deploying capital into innovative life sciences opportunities for years, including at Fidelity Biosciences and later the Gates Foundation, where she helped managed more than $250 million in funding, funneling some of that capital into genetic engineering, diagnostics, and synthetic biology startups. Rooke began independently investing under the brand 5 Prime Ventures, ultimately establishing among the largest life sciences syndicates on AngelList before launching Genoa.

Last but not least, Albert Wenger, has been a managing partner at Union Square Ventures for more than 13 years. Before joining USV, Albert was the president of del.icio.us through the company’s sale to Yahoo and an angel investor, including writing early checks to Etsy and Tumblr. He previously founded or co-founded several companies, including a management consulting firm and an early hosted data analytics company. Among his investments today is goTenna, a company trying to advance universal access to connectivity by building a scalable mobile mesh network.

Sustainability is the key to our planet’s future and our survival, but it’s also going to be incredibly lucrative and a major piece of our world economy. Hear from these seasoned investors about how VCs and startups alike are thinking about Greentech and how that will evolve in the coming years.

Join us on July 22 to find out how the most innovative startups are working to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. And best of all, tickets are free — book yours today!

#albert-wenger, #angel-investor, #angellist, #energy, #etsy, #fidelity-biosciences, #filament, #finance, #first-round-capital, #gates-foundation, #genetic-engineering, #gotenna, #investment, #managing-partner, #money, #president, #prime-ventures, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #tumblr, #union-square-ventures, #united-nations, #village-global, #yahoo

Robinhood files to go public after squeaking to profitability in 2020

This afternoon Robinhood, the popular investing app for consumers filed to go public. The company intends to list on the NASDAQ under the symbol “HOOD.”

That Robinhood released an S-1 filing today is not a surprise. The company privately filed to go public back in March, leaving the startup-watching world waiting for the eventual filing drop. Robinhood’s public offering document includes a placeholder $100 million raise figure, though that will change the closer we get to its debut.

The company is pursuing a public listing after a period of rapid growth. Robinhood saw its revenues soar from $277.5 million in 2019 to $985.8 million in 2020.

The company’s first-quarter numbers are even more impressive. During the first three months of 2021, Robinhood generated revenues of $522.2 million, up around four times from its Q1 2020 result of $127.6 million. TechCrunch expected Robinhood to post a strong first quarter based on previous filings relating to its payment-for-order-flow (PFOF) business.

Notably, Robinhood was profitable in 2020, generating net income of around $7.4 million during the one-year period. However, the company’s most recent period includes an epic $1.49 billion cost relating to “change[s] in fair value of convertible notes and warrant liability,” leading the company to post an astronomical net loss of $1.44 billion in the first quarter of the year. That compares with a net loss of $107 million for 2019.

For the three-month period ended March 31, Robinhood posted $463.8 million in operating expenses, inclusive of “brokerage and transaction” costs. The company’s business then, apart from its fair-value changes, had a good start to the year in profitability terms.

That Robinhood closed the first quarter of 2021 on a more than $2 billion annual run rate is notable; the firm has quickly scaled to mammoth size on the back of rising consumer interest in investing in both stocks and cryptocurrencies.

Robinhood has proved to be a lightning rod for oversight, fines, mass usage and culture in the last year. And it raised billions this year after running into operational issues regarding trading of certain stocks that retail investors found particularly appealing.

Turning to investor results, DST Global, Index Ventures, New Enterprise Associates and Ribbit capital are listed as shareholders with more than 5% of the company apiece, though certain information in the S-1 filing is yet to be included, including share counts for most of those groups. DST’s 58,102,765 Class A shares, however, are listed.

Robinhood has three classes of shares, including Class A shares with one vote, Class B shares with 10, and Class C shares with none.

TechCrunch is parsing the S-1 and will have more in a following piece. 

 

#california, #fundings-exits, #ipo, #new-enterprise-associates, #ribbit-capital, #robinhood, #short-selling, #startups, #techcrunch

German identity verifier IDnow acquires France’s ARIADNEXT for $59 million, hits M&A road

IDnow, a German-based identity verification startup is acquiring ARIADNEXT, a French equivalent, specializing in remote identity verification and digital identity creation. A price was not released by either party but TechCrunch understands from sources that the deal was approximately $59 million / €50 million. Sources say IDnow is looking to do similar acquisitions.

IDnow says the combined entity will be able to provide a comprehensive identity verification platform, ranging from AI-driven to human-assisted technology and from online to point-of-sale verification options. IDnow offers its services into the UK, French and German, Spain, Poland, Romania, and other international markets, and says it expects to increase revenue 3x in 2021 versus 2019.

The startup also says the pandemic has meant usage of its products has gone up 200% more compared to last year as companies switch to digital processes.

Andreas Bodczek, CEO of IDnow said in a statement: “This combination with ARIADNEXT is an important step towards our vision of building the pan-European leader for identity verification-as-a-service solutions. With ARIADNEXT, in addition to our recent acquisition of identity Trust Management AG, IDnow can provide our customers with an even broader suite of products through a single platform with a seamless user experience.”

Guillaume Despagne, President of ARIADNEXT, said: “We are looking forward to joining a team of IDnow’s caliber, combining our experience and skills to work towards our shared vision of providing a pan-European secure and future-proof solution to customers.

IDnow will retain ARIADNEXT’s locations in Rennes, Paris, Madrid, Bucharest, Iasi, and Warsaw, as well as its over 125 employees. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals.

The acquisition means IDNow is now on a par with the other large player in Europe, OnFido. TechCrunch understands the company has done €50m+ revenue this year expect to over-perform its €100m revenue target for 2023.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #business, #ceo, #economy, #europe, #german, #idnow, #madrid, #onfido, #paris, #poland, #president, #romania, #spain, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #united-kingdom, #verification, #warsaw

Psychedelic VR meditation startup Tripp raises $11 million Series A

As an increasing number of startups sell investors on mobile apps that help consumers prioritize well-being and mindfulness, other startups are looking for a more immersive take that allow users to fully disconnect from the world around them.

Tripp has been building immersive relaxation exercises that seek to blend some of the experiences users may find in guided meditation apps with more free-form experiences that allow users to unplug from their day and explore their thoughts inside a virtual reality headset while watching fractal shapes, glowing trees and planets whir past them.

As the name implies, there have been some efforts by the startup to create visuals and audio experiences that mimic the feelings people may have during a psychedelic trip — though doing so sans hallucinogens.

“Many people that will never feel comfortable taking a psychedelic, this is a low friction alternative that can deliver some of that experience in a more benign way,” CEO Nanea Reeves tells TechCrunch. “The idea is to take mindfulness structures and video game mechanics together to see if we can actually hack the way that you feel.”

The startup tells TechCrunch they’ve closed a $11 Million in funding led by Vine Ventures and Mayfield with participation from Integrated, among others. Tripp has raised some $15 million in total funding to date.

Image via Tripp

VR startups have largely struggled to earn investor fervor in recent years as major tech platforms have sunsetted their virtual reality efforts one-by-one leaving Facebook and Sony as the sole benefactors of a space that they are still struggling to monetize at times. While plenty of VR startups are continuing to see engagement, many investors which backed companies in the space five years ago have turned their attention to gaming and computer vision startups with more broad applications.

Reeves says that the pandemic has helped consumers dial into the importance of mindfulness and mental health awareness, something that has also pushed investors to get bolder in what projects in the space that they’re backing.

Tripp has apps on both the Oculus and PlayStation VR stores and subscription experiences that can be accessed for a $4.99 per month subscription.

The company provides a variety of guided experiences, but users can also use the company’s “Tripp composer” to build their own visual flows. Beyond customization, one of Tripp’s major sells is giving consumers deeper, quicker meditative experiences, claiming that users can get alleviate stress with sessions as short as 8 minutes inside their headset. The startup is also exploring the platform’s use in enterprise in-office wellness solutions. Tripp is currently in the midst of clinical trials to study the software platform’s effectiveness as a therapeutic device.

The company says that users have gone through over 2 million sessions inside the app so far.

#articles, #augmented-reality, #ceo, #components, #composer, #display-technology, #facebook, #major, #mayfield, #mixed-reality, #oculus, #playstation-vr, #software-platform, #sony, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #technology, #virtual-reality, #virtual-reality-headset

Accept.inc secures $90M in debt and equity to scale its digital mortgage lending platform

A lot of startups were built to help people make all-cash offers on homes with the purpose of gaining an edge against other buyers, especially in ultra-competitive markets. 

Accepti.inc is a Denver-based company that is attempting to create a new category in real estate technology. To help scale its digital mortgage lending platform, the company announced today that it has secured $90 million in debt and equity – with $78 million in debt and $12 million in equity. Signal Fire led the equity portion of its financing, which also included participation from existing seed investors Y Combinator and DN Capital.

Accept.inc describes itself as an iLender, or a “technology-enabled lender” that gives people a way to submit all-cash offers on a home upon qualifying for a mortgage.

Using its platform, a buyer gets qualified first and then can start looking for homes that fall at or under the amount he or she is approved for. They can purchase a more expensive home, but any amount above what they are approved for would have to come out of pocket. Historically, most buyers don’t know that they will have to pay out of pocket until they’ve made an offer on a specific home and an appraisal comes under the amount of the price they are paying for a home. In those cases, the buyer has to cough up the difference out of pocket. With Accept.inc., its execs tout, buyers know upfront how much they are approved for and can spend on a new home “so there are no surprises later.”

SignalFire Founding Partner and CTO Ilya Kirnos describes Accept.inc as “the first and only iLender.”

He points out that since it is a lender, Accept.inc doesn’t make its money by charging buyers fees like some others in the all-cash offer space.

“Unlike ‘iBuyers’ or ‘alternative iBuyers,’ Accept.inc fronts the cash to buy a house and then makes money off mortgage origination and title, meaning sellers, homebuyers and their agents pay no additional cost for the service,” he told TechCrunch.

IBuyers instead buy homes from sellers who signed up online, make a profit by often fixing up and selling those homes and then helping people purchase a different home with all cash. They also make money by charging transaction fees. A slew of companies operate in the space including established players such as Opendoor and Zillow and newer players such as Homelight.

Image credit: Accept.inc. Left to right: Co-founders Adam Pollack, Nick Friedman and Ian Perrex.

Since its 2016 inception, Accept.inc says it has helped thousands of buyers, agents and sellers close on “hundreds of millions of dollars” in homes. The company saw ”14x” growth in 2020 and from June 2020 to June 2021, it achieved “10x” growth in terms of the size of its team and number of transactions and revenue, according to CEO and co-founder Adam Pollack. Accept.inc wants to use its new capital to build on that momentum and meet demand.

Pollack and Nick Friedman met while in college and started building Accept.inc with the goal of “turning every offer into a cash offer.” The pair essentially “failed for two years,” half-jokes Pollack.

“We basically became an encyclopedia of 1,000 ways the idea of helping people make all-cash offers wouldn’t work,” he said.

The team went through Y Combinator in the winter of 2019 and that’s when they created the iLender concept. In the iLender model, the company uses its cash to buy a house for buyers. Once the loan with Accept.inc is ready to close, the company sells back the house to the buyer “at no additional cost or fees.”

“Basically what we learned through those two years is that you have to vertically integrate all of your core competencies, and you can’t rely on third parties to own or manage your special sauce for you,” Pollack told TechCrunch. “We also realized that if you’re going to build a cash offer for anyone who could afford a mortgage, you’ve got to make it a full bona fide cash offer that closes in three days as opposed to a better version of what existed. And you have to own that, and take the risk that comes with it and be comfortable with that.”

The benefits of their model, the pair say, is that buyers get to be cash buyers, sellers can close in as little as 32 hours, and agents “get a guaranteed commission check.” 

“Our mission is that everyone should have an equal chance at homeownership,” Friedman said. “We not only want to level the playing field, we want to create a new standard.”

Buyers using Accept.inc win 6-7 times more frequently, the company claims. With its new capital, It also plans to double its team of 90 and enter new markets outside of its home base of Denver.

SignalFire Partner Chris Scoggins believes that Accept.inc is different from other lenders in that its focus is on “winning the home, not just servicing the loan, with a business model that’s 10x more capital-efficient than other players in the market.

The team is driven…to level the playing field for homebuyers who today lose out against all-cash offers from home-flippers and wealthy individuals,” he added. “We see an enormous opportunity for Accept.inc to become the backbone of the future of mortgage lending.”

 

#colorado, #cto, #denver, #dn-capital, #economy, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #ilya-kirnos, #loans, #money, #real-estate, #real-estate-technology, #recent-funding, #signalfire, #startup, #startups, #tc, #techcrunch, #venture-capital, #y-combinator

Drata raises $25M Series A to expand its security compliance platform

Security compliance is precisely three things: incredibly boring, time consuming, and entirely necessary to run a business in the modern age. Compliance isn’t going away, but startups like Drata are making it slightly easier to bear.

Drata helps companies get their SOC 2 compliance quicker by using automation. SOC 2 is a certification used to show that a company can store customer data in the cloud securely, but the process is notoriously complex and can take months to complete — and you have to do it all over again every year. That’s particularly burdensome for startups and smaller firms.

Drata says it can get companies SOC 2-compliant faster and keep them in compliance for longer by integrating with popular business tools and cloud services to get a better picture of a company’s security posture.

Now with a new round of $25 million at Series A in the bank, Drata said it’s expanding its compliance platform to also include ISO 27001, another core security standard used all over the world to help companies protect their systems and safeguard data.

The round landed six months after its $3.2 million seed round in January, and was led by GGV Capital, with participation from Silicon Valley CISO Investors, Okta Ventures, Cowboy Ventures, Leaders Fund, and SV Angel.

Drata CEO and co-founder Adam Markowitz told TechCrunch that the company is growing on average 100% month-over-month since it launched out of stealth and is serving hundreds of customers, including three-person startups to publicly traded companies.

The startup joins several other companies in the compliance space. Secureframe raised $18 million at Series A in March to offer SOC 2 and ISO 27001 certifications. Strike Graph raised a $3.9 million seed round last year to help companies automate security audits and get FedRamp certification needed to provide technology to the federal government. And, Startup Battlefield participant Osano in 2019 raised $5.4 million at Series A to build out its risk and compliance platform.

Related funding news:

#adam-markowitz, #bank, #boston, #cloud-services, #computing, #cowboy-ventures, #federal-government, #finance, #ggv-capital, #gv, #investment, #leaders-fund, #okta-ventures, #security, #startup-company, #techcrunch

Mitiga raises $25M Series A to help organizations respond to cyberattacks

Israeli cloud security startup Mitiga has raised $25 million in a Series A round of funding as it moves to “completely change” the traditional incident response market.

Mitiga, unlike other companies in the cybersecurity space, isn’t looking to prevent cyberattacks, which the startup claims are inevitable no matter how much protection is in place. Rather, it’s looking to help organizations manage their incident response, particularly as they transition to hybrid and multi-cloud environments. 

The early-stage startup, which raised $7 million in seed funding in July last year, says its incident readiness and response tech stack accelerates post-incident bounce back from days down to hours. Its subscription-based offering automatically detects when a network is breached and quickly investigates, collects case data, and translates it into remediation steps for all relevant divisions within an organization so they can quickly and efficiently respond. Mitiga also documents each event, allowing organizations to fix the cause in order to prevent future attacks.

Mitiga’s Series A was led by ClearSky Security, Atlantic Bridge, and DNX, and the startup tells TechCrunch that it will use the funds to “continue to disrupt how incident readiness and response is delivered,” as well as “significantly” increasing its cybersecurity, engineering, sales, and marketing staff.

The company added that the funding comes amid a “changing mindset” for enterprise organizations when it comes to incident readiness and response. The pandemic has accelerated cloud adoption, and it’s predicted that spending on cloud services will surpass $332 billion this year alone. This acceleration, naturally, has provided a lucrative target for hackers, with cyberattacks on cloud services increasing 630% in the first four months of 2020, according to McAfee. 

“The cloud represents new challenges for incident readiness and response and we’re bringing the industry’s first incident response solution in the cloud, for the cloud,” said Tal Mozes, co-founder and CEO of Mitiga. 

“This funding will allow us to further our engagements with heads of enterprise security who are looking to recover from an incident in real-time, attract even more of the most innovative cybersecurity minds in the industry, and expand our partner network. I couldn’t be more excited about what Mitiga is going to do for cloud-first organizations who understand the importance of cybersecurity readiness and response.”

Mitiga was founded in 2019 by Mozes, Ariel Parnes and Ofer Maor, and the team of 42 currently works in Tel Aviv with offices in London and New York. It has customers in multiple sectors, including financial service institutions, banks, e-commerce, law enforcement and government agencies, and Mitiga also provides emergency response to active network security incidents such as ransomware and data breaches for non-subscription customers.

Recent funding:

#artificial-intelligence, #atlantic-bridge, #claroty, #cloud-services, #computer-security, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #data-security, #e-commerce, #funding, #law-enforcement, #london, #malware, #new-york, #security, #series-a, #techcrunch, #tel-aviv

Industrial cybersecurity startup Claroty raises $140M in pre-IPO funding round

Claroty, an industrial cybersecurity company that helps customers protect and manage their Internet of Things (IoT) and operational technology (OT) assets, has raised $140 million in its latest, and potentially last round of funding. 

With the new round of Series D funding, co-led by Bessemer Venture and 40 North, the company has now amassed a total of $235 million. Additional strategic investors include LG and I Squared Capital’s ISQ Global InfraTech Fund, with all previous investors — Team8, Rockwell Automation, Siemens, and Schneider Electric — also participating. 

Founded in 2015, the late-stage startup focuses on the industrial side of cybersecurity. Its customers include General Motors, Coca-Cola EuroPacific Partners, and Pfizer, with Claroty helping the pharmaceutical firm to secure its COVID-19 vaccine supply chain. Claroty tells TechCrunch it has seen “significant” customer growth over the past 18 months, largely fueled by the pandemic, with 110% year-over-year net new logo growth and 100% customer retention. 

It will use the newly raised funds to meet this rapidly accelerating global demand for The Claroty Platform, an end-to-end solution that provides visibility into industrial networks and combines secure remote access with continuous monitoring for threats and vulnerabilities. 

“Our mission is to drive visibility, continuity, and resiliency in the industrial economy by delivering the most comprehensive solutions that secure all connected devices within the four walls of an industrial site, including all operational technology (OT), Internet of Things (IoT), and industrial IoT (IIoT) assets,” said Claroty CEO Yaniv Vardi.

To meet this growing demand, the startup is planning to expand into new regions and verticals, including transportation government-owned industries, as well as increase its global headcount. The company, which is based in New York, currently has around 240 employees. 

Claroty hasn’t yet made any acquisitions, though CEO Yaniv Vardi tells TechCrunch that this could be part of the startup’s roadmap going forward.

“We’re waiting for the right opportunity at the right time, but it’s definitely part of the plan as part of the financial runway we just secured,” he said, adding that this latest funding round will likely be the company’s last before it explores a potential IPO.

“We are thinking that this is a pre-IPO funding round,” he said. “The end goal here is to be the market leader for industrial cybersecurity. One of the mascots can be going public with an IPO, but there are different options too, such as SPAC.”

The funding round comes amid a sharp increase in cyber targeting organizations that underpin the world’s critical infrastructure and supply chains. According to a recent survey carried out by Claroty, the majority (53%) of US industrial enterprises have seen an increase in cybersecurity threats since the start of 2020. The survey of 1,110 IT and OT security professionals also found that over half believed their organization is now more of a target for cybercriminals, with 67% having seen cybercriminals use new tactics amid the pandemic. 

“The number of attacks, and impact of these attacks, is increasing significantly, especially in verticals like food, automotive, and critical infrastructure. Vardi said. “That creates a lot of risk assessments public companies had to do, and these risks needed to be addressed with a security solution on the industrial side.”

#articles, #ceo, #coca-cola, #computer-security, #computing, #data-security, #food, #funding, #general-motors, #industrial-automation, #industrial-internet-of-things, #internet-of-things, #lg, #new-york, #operational-technology, #pfizer, #pharmaceutical, #siemens, #startup-company, #startups, #team8, #techcrunch, #technology, #united-states

Adtech ‘data breach’ GDPR complaint is headed to court in EU

New York-based IAB Tech Labs, a standards body for the digital advertising industry, is being taken to court in Germany by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) in a piece of privacy litigation that’s targeted at the high speed online ad auction process known as real-time bidding (RTB).

While that may sound pretty obscure the case essentially loops in the entire ‘data industrial complex’ of adtech players, large and small, which make money by profiling Internet users and selling access to their attention — from giants like Google and Facebook to other household names (the ICCL’s PR also name-checks Amazon, AT&T, Twitter and Verizon, the latter being the parent company of TechCrunch — presumably because all participate in online ad auctions that can use RTB); as well as the smaller (typically non-household name) adtech entities and data brokers which also also involved in handling people’s data to run high velocity background auctions that target behavioral ads at web users.

The driving force behind the lawsuit is Dr Johnny Ryan, a former adtech insider turned whistleblower who’s now a senior fellow a the ICCL — and who has dubbed RTB the biggest data breach of all time.

He points to the IAB Tech Lab’s audience taxonomy documents which provide codes for what can be extremely sensitive information that’s being gathered about Internet users, based on their browsing activity, such as political affiliation, medical conditions, household income, or even whether they may be a parent to a special needs child.

The lawsuit contends that other industry documents vis-a-vis the ad auction system confirm there are no technical measures to limit what companies can do with people’s data, nor who they might pass it on to.

The lack of security inherent to the RTB process also means other entities not directly involved in the adtech bidding chain could potentially intercept people’s information — when it should, on the contrary, be being protected from unauthorized access, per EU law…

Ryan and others have been filing formal complaints against RTB security issue for years, arguing the system breaches a core principle of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — which requires that personal data be “processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security… including protection against unauthorised or unlawful processing and against accidental loss” — and which, they contend, simply isn’t possible given how RTB functions.

The problem is that Europe’s data protection agencies have failed to act. Which is why Ryan, via the ICCL, has decided to take the more direct route of filing a lawsuit.

“There aren’t many DPAs around the union that haven’t received evidence of what I think is the biggest data breach of all time but it started with the UK and Ireland — neither of which took, I think it’s fair to say, any action. They both said they were doing things but nothing has changed,” he tells TechCrunch, explaining why he’s decided to take the step of litigating.

“I want to take the most efficient route to protection people’s rights around data,” he adds.

Per Ryan, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) has still not sent a statement of issues relating to the RTB complaint he lodged with them back in 2018 — so years later. In May 2019 the DPC did announce it was opening a formal investigation into Google’s adtech, following the RTB complaints, but the case remains open and unresolved. (We’ve contacted the DPC with questions about its progress on the investigation and will update with any response.)

Since the GDPR came into application in Europe in May 2018 there has been growth in privacy lawsuits  — including class action style suits — so litigation funders may be spying an opportunity to cash in on the growing enforcement gap left by resource-strapped and, well, risk-averse data protection regulators.

A similar complaint about RTB lodged with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) also led to a lawsuit being filed last year — albeit in that case it was against the watchdog itself for failing to take any action. (The ICO’s last missive to the adtech industry told it to — uhhhh — expect audits.)

“The GDPR was supposed to create a situation where the average person does not need to wear a tin-foil hat, they do not need to be paranoid or take action to become well informed. Instead, supervisory authorities protect them. And these supervisory authorities — paid for by the tax payer — have very strong powers. They can gain admission to any documents and any premises. It’s not about fines I don’t think, just. They can tell the biggest most powerful companies in the world to stop doing what they’re doing with our data. That’s the ultimate power,” says Ryan. “So GDPR sets up these guardians — these potentially very empowered guardians — but they’ve not used those powers… That’s why we’re acting.”

“I do wish that I’d litigated years ago,” he adds. “There’s lots of reasons why I didn’t do that — I do wish, though, that this litigation was unnecessary because supervisory authorities protected me and you. But they didn’t. So now, as Irish politics like to say in the middle of a crisis, we are where we are. But this is — hopefully — several nails in the coffin [of RTB’s use of personal data].”

The lawsuit has been filed in Germany as Ryan says they’ve been able to establish that IAB Tech Labs — which is NY-based and has no official establishment in Europe — has representation (a consultancy it hired) that’s based in the country. Hence they believe there is a clear route to litigate the case at the Landgerichte, Hamburg.

While Ryan has been indefatigably sounding the alarm about RTB for years he’s prepared to clock up more mileage going direct through the courts to see the natter through.

And to keep hammering home his message to the adtech industry that it must clean up its act and that recent attempts to maintain the privacy-hostile status quo — by trying to rebrand and repackage the same old data shuffle under shiny new claims of ‘privacy’ and ‘responsibility’ — simply won’t wash. So the message is really: Reform or die.

“This may very well end up at the ECJ [European Court of Justice]. And that would take a few years but long before this ends up at the ECJ I think it’ll be clear to the industry now that it’s time to reform,” he adds.

IAB Tech Labs has been contacted for comment on the ICCL’s lawsuit.

Ryan is by no means the only person sounding the alarm over adtech. Last year the European Parliament called for tighter controls on behavioral ads to be baked into reforms of the region’s digital rules — calling for regulation to favor less intrusive, contextual forms of advertising which do not rely on mass surveillance of Internet users.

While even Google has said it wants to depreciate support for tracking cookies in favor of a new stack of technology proposals that it dubs ‘Privacy Sandbox’ (although its proposed alternative — targeting groups of Internet users based on interests derived from tracking their browsing habits — has been criticized as potentially amplifying problems of predatory and exploitative ad targeting, so may not represent a truly clean break with the rights-hostile adtech status quo).

The IAB is also facing another major privacy law challenge in Europe — where complaints against a widely used framework it designed for websites to obtain Internet users’ consent to being tracked for ads online led to scrutiny by Belgium’s data protection agency.

Last year its investigatory division found that the IAB Europe’s Transparency and Consent Framework (TCF) fails to meet the required standards of data protection under the GDPR.

The case went in front of the litigation chamber last week. A verdict — and any enforcement action by the Belgian DPA over the IAB Europe’s TCF — remains pending.

#adtech, #advertising-tech, #amazon, #articles, #att, #computing, #data-protection, #europe, #european-court-of-justice, #european-union, #facebook, #general-data-protection-regulation, #germany, #hamburg, #information-commissioners-office, #ireland, #johnny-ryan, #new-york, #online-advertising, #privacy, #real-time-bidding, #techcrunch, #terms-of-service, #twitter, #united-kingdom, #verizon, #world-wide-web

Amid controversy, Dispo confirms Series A funding, high-profile advisors, and investors

It’s only been nine months since Dispo rebranded from David’s Disposables. But the vintage-inspired photo sharing app has experienced a whiplash of ups and downs, mostly due to the brand’s original namesake, YouTuber David Dobrik.

Like Clubhouse, Dispo was one of this year’s most hyped up new social apps, requiring an invite from an existing member to join. On March 9, when the company said “goodbye waitlist” and opened the app up to any iOS user, Dispo looked poised to be a worthy competitor to photo-sharing behemoths like Instagram. But, just one week later, Business Insider reported on sexual assault allegations regarding a member of Vlog Squad, a YouTube prank ensemble headed by Dispo co-founder David Dobrik. Dobrik had posted a now-deleted vlog about the night of the alleged assault, joking, “we’re all going to jail” at the end of the video.

It was only after venture capital firm Spark Capital decided to “sever all ties” with Dispo that Dobrik stepped down from the company board. In a statement made to TechCrunch at the time, Dispo said, “Dispo’s team, product, and most importantly — our community — stand for building a diverse, inclusive and empowering world.”

Dispo capitalizes on Gen Z and young millennial nostalgia for a time before digital photography, when we couldn’t take thirty selfies before choosing which one to post. On Dispo, when you take a photo, you have to wait until 9 AM the following day for the image to “develop,” and only then can you view and share it.

In both February and March of this year, the app hit the top ten of the Photo & Video category in the U.S. App Store. Despite the backlash against Dobrik, which resulted in the app’s product page being bombarded with negative comments, the app still hit the top ten in Germany, Japan, and Brazil, according to their press release. Dispo reportedly has not yet expended any international marketing resources.

Now, early investors in Dispo like Spark Capital, Seven Seven Six, and Unshackled have committed to donate any potential profits from their investment in the app to organizations working with survivors of sexual assault. Though Axios reported the app’s $20M Series A funding news in February, Dispo put out a press release this morning confirming the financing event. Though Seven Seven Six and Unshackled Ventures intend to donate profits from the app, they remain listed as investors, while Spark Capital is not. Other notable names involved in the project include high-profile photographers like Annie Leibovitz and Raven B. Varona, who has worked with artists like Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Actresses Cara Delevingne and Sofía Vergara, as well as NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala, are also involved with the app as investors or advisors.

Dobrik’s role in the company was largely as a marketer – CEO Daniel Liss co-founded the app with Dobrik and has been leading the team since the beginning. After Dobrik’s departure, the Dispo team – which remains under twenty members strong – took a break from communications and product updates on the app. It’s expected that after today’s funding confirmation, the app will continue to roll out updates.

Dispo is quick to shift focus to the work of their team, which they call “some of the most talented, diverse leaders in consumer tech.” With the capital from this funding round, they hope to hire more staff to become more competitive with major social media apps with expansive teams, like Instagram and TikTok, and to experiment with machine learning. They will also likely have some serious marketing to do, now that their attempt at influencer marketing has failed massively.

Now more than ever, Dispo is promoting the app as a mental health benefit, hoping to shift the tide away from manufactured perfectionism toward more authentic social media experiences.

“A new era of start ups must emerge to end the scourge of big tech’s destruction of our political fabric and willful ignorance of its impact on body dysmorphia and mental health,” CEO Daniel Liss writes in a Substack post titled Dispo 2.0. “Imagine a world where Dispo is the social network of choice for every teen and college student in the world. How different a world would that be?”

But, for an app that propelled to success off the fame of a YouTuber with a history of less than savory behavior, that messaging might fall flat.

According to Sensor Tower, the highest Dispo has ever ranked in the Photo & Video category on the U.S. App Store was in January 2020, when it was still called David’s Disposables. The app ranked No. 1 in that category from January 7 to January 9, and on January 8, it reached No. 1 among all free iPhone apps.

#advisors, #andre-iguodala, #annie-leibovitz, #app-store, #apps, #brazil, #ceo, #co-founder, #computing, #david-dobrik, #digital-photography, #dispo, #freeware, #germany, #instagram, #internet-culture, #japan, #kevin-durant, #mobile-applications, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #social-media, #software, #spark-capital, #techcrunch, #united-states, #unshackled-ventures, #venture-capital, #world-wide-web