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Updated: 3 hours 12 min ago

There’s no ‘hacker house’ geared toward undergraduate women, so they created one of their own

13 hours 26 min ago

Hacker houses are making a comeback for entrepreneurs as remote work drags on. While founders are adapting to quarantine in style, a group of college women in their 20s aren’t waiting until they are done with undergraduate to plunge into the lifestyle themselves.

Started by college juniors Coco Sack and Kendall Titus, Womxn Ignite is a house for female and non-binary college undergraduates studying computer science. The idea was born out of Sack and Titus’s exhaustion with remote school at Yale and Stanford respectively. After too many boring Zoom lectures, they took gap semesters and searched for a productive way to spend their time off.

“There are a lot of [programs] that target younger women to get them into coding in high school, and there’s a lot of syndicates and founder groups for women late into their careers,” Titus said. “But there was nothing for anyone in the age range of 20 to 25 where you’re trying to find your way, raise your voice, and hold your ground.”

Startup founders set up hacker homes to recreate Silicon Valley synergy

So, they started their own program. The duo rented out a wedding resort space in California and searched for other women who would experiment the lifestyle and take a gap year. As over 40% of students consider a gap year, the demand became apparent very fast: over 500 people applied for a spot in the house, and just 20 were chosen.

Womxn Ignite is organized as a live-in incubator. Participants are sorted into teams based on their interest areas, and are then pushed to solve a certain problem.

To do so, teams go through a variety of mentor sessions. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, Womxn Ignite sets up mentorship sessions from a revolving-base of female entrepreneurs. There are also guest speaker talks sprinkled throughout the week for high-profile entrepreneurs, including Melinda Gates and bumble’s Whitney Wolfe Herde.

At the end of each week, a team gives a presentation on their progress around problem statements, solution, customer validation, and product development.

Titus says that the goal is not for everyone to come out with a company, but instead to leave with more people in your network and ideas on how to approach starting your business. One participant is writing a TV show about being a Black woman in tech; another is creating a company meant to make programs like Womxn Ignite easier to launch at scale.

In between those sessions is largely spent on team-based collaboration and networking. There are themed-dinners and “platonic date nights” where participants are paired up and encouraged to explore the area or do an activity together to get to know one another. On weekends, women are invited to talk about their niche obsessions, whether it’s the ethical concerns of facial recognition or materials at the nanoscale.

Titus and Sack say that they charge no more than $5,000 for entrance into the program, but over half of participants are on scholarships given by unnamed investors.

Diversity of a cohort matters when trying to create a community that will systemically empower women of all backgrounds. Racial diversity of Womxn Ignite ranges from majority white, but is closely met by Black and LatinX, followed by Middle Easter and Asian Indian. The participants came from all top-tier schools, including Stanford, Yale, Georgetown, Columbia, Harvard, Dartmouth and MIT.

A team photo

The community of women, many of whom plan to return to school, aren’t focused on classic accelerator tropes like Demo Days or first checks simply because of the stage of life they are in. Instead, the program ends with an optional-ask: will each participant dedicate 1% of their annual income for the next 5 years into a syndicate fund? So far, most have signed yes, the co-founders said, even though the majority will return to school in some capacity.

The fund will be used to invest in other female founders, and grow as Womxn Ignite members grow in their careers, too.

“That number will hopefully grow,” Titus said. “We’ll have pooled what we can collectively think about how we want to spend and invest to help elevate other female founders like ourselves.”

Clara Schwab, a participant in Womxn Ignite, said that the contract will help women get more involved in venture capital, a male-dominated field, earlier in their careers.

“And I don’t know any other environment or situation in which myself and 19 other really talented and smart and ambitious women who are all interested in tech, we come together and like, discuss such a thing,” she said.

The co-founders plan to host another cohort in February, and then focus on building out a digital community for the participants.

Categories: Business News

Bigblue wants to automate e-commerce fulfillment in Europe

2020, November 27 - 1:54am

Meet Bigblue, a French startup that just raised a $3.6 million seed round (€3 million) to build an end-to-end fulfillment solution in Europe. If you sell products on your own website and across multiple marketplaces, you can use Bigblue to handle everything that happens after a transaction.

Bigblue doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it partners with existing logistics companies so that you only have to manage one relationship with Bigblue. It means that Bigblue works with several fulfillment centers to store your products as well as multiple shipping carriers.

Essentially, Bigblue lets you improve the experience for your customers. When you start using Bigblue, you send your products to a fulfillment center and you integrate Bigblue with your online stores. The startup has integrations with Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, Wix Store, Prestashop, Fastmag and Amazon’s marketplace.

When a client orders a product from you, it is packed and shipped directly from the fulfillment center to your customers. Bigblue customers pay a flat fee per order and don’t have to deal with anything. Some packages might be delivered through DHL, others might be sent out using Chronopost, etc. It is completely transparent as Bigblue chooses the right carrier for you.

The startup also gives you more visibility into your shipping process. Retailers get an overview of their operations and can see the inventory from Bigblue’s interface. Clients receive branded delivery emails.

While it’s hard to build a good logistics network if you’re a small e-commerce company, Bigblue lets you compete more directly with Amazon big e-commerce websites. You can level up the customer experience without putting together an in-house logistics team.

Samaipata is leading today’s funding round. Bpifrance is contributing to the round. Plug and Play, Clément Benoit, Thibaud Elziere and Olivier Bonnet are also investing.

With the new influx of funding, the startup plans to hire 50 people and improve its product. You can expect more integrations with e-commerce platforms, ERPs and marketplaces. Bigblue is also going to build out its own shipment tracking pages and email personalization toolkit. The company will also improve product returns and delivery ETAs.

Categories: Business News

Equity Dive: Edtech’s 2020 wakeup call

2020, November 26 - 11:00pm

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast (now on Twitter!), where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week, we’re doing a first-ever for the show and taking a deep dive into one specific sector: Edtech.

Natasha Mascarenhas has covered education technology since Stanford first closed down classes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In the wake of the historic shuttering of much of the United States’ traditional institutions of education, the sector has formed new unicorns, attracted record-breaking venture capital totals, and most of all, enjoyed time in a long-overdue spotlight.

For this Equity Dive, we zero into one part of that conversation: Edtech’s impact on higher education. We brought together Udacity co-founder and Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun, Eschaton founder and college drop-out Ian Dilick, and Cowboy Ventures investor Jomayra Herrera to answer our biggest questions.

Here’s what we got into:

  • How the state of remote school is leading to gap years among students
  • A framework for how to think of higher education’s main three products (including which is most defensible over time)
  • What learnings we can take from this COVID-19 experiment on remote schooling to apply to the future
  • Why ed-tech is flocking to the notion of life-long learning
  • And the reality of who self-paced learning serves — and who it leaves out

And much, much more. If you celebrate, thank you for spending part of your Thanksgiving with the Equity crew. We’re so thankful to have this platform and audience, and it means a ton that y’all tune in each week.

Finally, if you liked this format and want to see more, feel free to tweet us your thoughts or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. Talk soon!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Categories: Business News

Enterprise investor Jason Green on SPAC hopefuls versus startups bound for traditional IPOs

2020, November 26 - 6:29am

Jason Green has a pretty solid reputation as venture capitalists go. The enterprise-focused firm he co-founded 17 years ago, Emergence Capital, has backed Saleforce, Box and Zoom, among many other companies, and even while every firm is now investing in software-as-a-service startups, his remains a go-to for many top founders selling business products and services.

To learn more about the trends impacting Green’s slice of the investing universe, we talked with him late last week about everything from SPACs to valuations to how the firm differentiates itself from the many rivals with which it’s now competing. Below are some outtakes edited lightly for length.

TC: What do you make of the assessment that SPACs are for companies that aren’t generating enough revenue to go public the traditional route?

JG: Well, yeah, it’ll be really interesting. This has been quite a year for SPACs, right? I can’t remember the number, but it’s been something like $50 billion of capital raised this year in SPACs, and all of those have to put that money to work within the next 12 to 18 months or they give it back. So there’s this incredible pent-up demand to find opportunities for those SPACs to convert into companies. And the companies that are at the top of the charts, the ones that are the high-growth and profitable companies, will probably do a traditional IPO, I would imagine.

Almost everything you need to know about SPACs

So [SPAC candidates are] going to be companies that are growing fast enough to be attractive as a potential public company but not top of the charts. So I do think [sponsors are] going to target companies that are probably either growing slightly slower than the top-quartile public companies but slightly profitable, or companies that are growing faster but still burning a lot of cash and might actually scare all the traditional IPO investors.

TC: Are you having conversations with CEOs about whether or not they should pursue this avenue?

JG: We just started having those conversations now. There are several companies in the portfolio that will probably be public companies in the next year or two, so it’s definitely an alternative to consider. I would say there’s nothing impending I see in the portfolio. With most entrepreneurs, there’s a little bit of this dream of going public the traditional way, where SPACs tend to be a little bit less exciting from that perspective. So for a company that maybe is thinking about another private round before going public, it’s like a private-plus round. I would say it’s a tweener, so the companies that are considering it are probably ones that are not quite ready to go public yet.

TC: A lot of the SPAC fundraising has seemed like a reaction to uncertainty around when the public window might close. With the election behind us, do you think there’s less uncertainty?

JG: I don’t think risk and uncertainty has decreased since the election. There’s still uncertainty right now politically. The pandemic has reemerged in a significant way, even though we have some really good announcements recently regarding vaccines or potential vaccines. So there’s just a lot of potential directions things could head in.

It’s an environment generally where the public markets tend to gravitate more toward higher-quality opportunities, so fewer companies but higher quality,  and that’s where I think SPACs could play a role. I’d say first half of next year, I could easily see SPACs being the more likely go-to-market for a public company, then the latter half of next year, once the vaccines have kicked in and people feel like we’re returning to somewhat normal, I could see the traditional IPO coming back.

TC: When we sat down in person about a year ago, you said Emergence looks at maybe 1,000 deals a year, does deep due diligence on 25 and funds just a handful or so of these startups every year. How has that changed in 2020?

JG: I would say that over the last five years, we’ve made almost a total transition. Now we’re very much a data-driven, thesis-driven outbound firm, where we’re reaching out to entrepreneurs soon after they’ve started their companies or gotten seed financing. The last three investments that we made were all relationships that [date back] a year to 18 months before we started engaging in the actual financing process with them. I think that’s what’s required to build a relationship and the conviction, because financings are happening so fast.

I think we’re going to actually do more investments this year than we maybe have ever done in the history of the firm, which is amazing to me [considering] COVID. I think we’ve really honed our ability to build this pipeline and have conviction, and then in this market environment, Zoom is actually helping expand the landscape that we’re willing to invest in. We’re probably seeing 50% to 100% more companies and trying to whittle them down over time and really focus on the 20 to 25 that we want to dig deep on as a team.

TC: For founders trying to understand your thinking, what’s interesting to you right now?

JG: We tend to focus on three major themes at any one time as a firm, and one we’ve termed ‘coaching networks.’ This is this intersection between AI and machine learning and human interaction. Companies like [the sales engagement platform] SalesLoft or [the knowledge management system] Guru or Drishti [which sells video analytics for manual factory assembly lines] fall into this category.

The second [theme] is going deep into more specific industry verticals. Veeva was the best example of this early on with with healthcare and life sciences, but we now have one called p44 in the transportation space that’s doing incredibly well. Doximity is in the healthcare space and going deep like a LinkedIn for physicians, with some remote health capabilities. And then [lending company] Blend, which is in the financial services area. These companies are taking cloud software and just going deep into the most important problems of their industries.

Zoom’s earliest investors are betting millions on a better Zoom for schools

The third theme [centers around] remote work. Zoom, which has obviously has been [among our] best investments is almost a platform, just like Salesforce became a platform after many years. We just funded a company called ClassEDU, which is a Zoom-specific offering for the education market. Snowflake is becoming a platform. So another opportunity is is not just trying to come up with another collaboration tool, but really going deep into a specific use case or vertical.

TC: What’s a company you’ve missed in recent years and were any lessons learned?

JG: We have our hall of shame. [Laughs.] I do think it’s dangerous to assume that things would have turned out the same if if we had been investors in the company. I believe the kinds of investors you put around the table make a difference in terms of the outcome of your company, so I try to not beat myself up too much on the missed opportunities because maybe they found a better fit or a better investor for them to be successful.

But Rob Bernshteyn of Coupa is one where I knew Rob from SuccessFactors [where he was a product marketing VP], and I just always respected and liked him. And we were always chasing it on valuation. And I think I think we probably turned it down at an $80 million or $100 million valuation [and it’s valued at] $20 billion today. That can keep you up at night.

Sometimes, in the moment, there are some risks and concerns about the business and there are other people who are willing to be more aggressive and so you lose out on some of those opportunities. The beautiful thing about our business is that it’s not a zero-sum game.

Categories: Business News

Remote-controlled delivery carts are now working for the local Los Angeles grocer

2020, November 26 - 4:51am

Robots are no longer the high-tech tools reserved for university labs, e-commerce giants and buzzy Silicon Valley startups. The local grocer now has access too.

Tortoise, the one-year-old Silicon Valley startup known for its remote repositioning electric scooters, has taken its tech and adapted it to delivery carts. The company recently partnered with online grocery platform Self Point to provide neighborhood stores and specialty brand shops with electric carts that — with help from remote teleoperators — deliver goods to local consumers.

The companies have launched the product offering in Los Angeles with three customers. Each customer, which includes Kosher Express, has two to three carts that can be used to make deliveries up to three-mile radius from the store. Unlike the network models used by some autonomous sidewalk delivery companies, grocery stores lease the delivery carts and are responsible for the storage, charging and packing it up with goods that their customers have ordered.

The initial Self Point -Tortoise launch is small. But it has the makings of expanding far beyond Los Angeles. More importantly for Tortoise, it’s a validation of the company’s larger vision to make remote repositioning a horizontal business with numerous applications.

Tortoise started by equipping electric scooters with cameras, electronics and firmware that allow teleoperators in distant locales drive the micromobility devices to a rider or deliver it back to its proper parking spot. Now, it has taken that same hardware and software and used it to build its own delivery cart.

Tortoise co-founder and president Dmitry Shevelenko has said the company’s remote repositioning kit can be used for security and cleaning bots as well as electric wheelchairs and other accessibility devices. He’s even fielded inquiries from farmers interested in using remote repositioning scooters to monitor crops.

“From a practical point of view we’re not trying to not be everywhere overnight, but there’s really no technological constraint for us,” Shevelenko said in a recent interview.

The emergence of COVID-19, and its affects on consumer behavior, prompted Tortoise to home in on delivery carts as its second act.

“We kind of quickly realized that we’re living in a once-in-a-generation change in consumer behavior where now everything is online and people are expecting it to be delivered same day,” Shevelenko said. Tortoise was able to go from the first renderings in May to a delivery cart launch by the fourth quarter because of its ability to repurpose its hardware, software and workforce.

The company still remains bullish on its initial application in micromobility. Earlier this year, Tortoise, GoX and and tech incubator Curiosity Labs launched a six-month pilot in Peachtree Corners, Georgia that allows riders to use an app to hail a scooter. The scooters are outfitted with Tortoise’s tech. Once riders hail the scooter, a Tortoise employee hundreds of miles away remote controls the scooter to the user. After riders complete trips, the scooters drive themselves back to a safe parking spot. From here, GoX employees charge and sanitize the scooters and then mark them with a sticker that indicates they have been properly cleaned.

While partnership with Self Point is Tortoise’s next big project, Shevelenko was quick to note that the company is only focused on one slice of the on-demand delivery pie.

“Low speeds and hot foods don’t work too well,” he said. Startups such as Kiwibot and Starship have smaller robots that focus on that market, Shevelenko added. Tortoise’s delivery carts were designed specifically to hold large amounts of groceries, alcohol and other goods.

“We saw kind of a big opening in grocery,” he said, adding that relying on remote operators and its kit is a low-cost combination that can be used today while automated technology continues to develop. “We’re doing for last-mile delivery what globalized call centers did for customer support.”

Categories: Business News

Insurtech’s big year gets bigger as Metromile looks to go public

2020, November 26 - 3:01am

In the wake of insurtech unicorn Root’s IPO, it felt safe to say that the big transactions for the insurance technology startup space were done for the year.

After all, 2020 had been a big one for the broad category, with insurtech marketplaces raising lots, rental insurance startup Lemonade going public, Root itself debuting even more recently on the back of its automotive insurance business, a big round to help Hippo keep building its homeowners company and more.

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

But yesterday brought with it even more news: Metromile, a startup competing in the auto insurance market, is going public via a blank-check company (SPAC), and Hippo raised a huge, unpriced round.

So let’s talk about why Metromile might be plying the public markets, and why Hippo may have have decided to pick up more cash. Hint: The reasons are related.

A market hungry for growth

The Lemonade IPO was a key moment for neoinsurance startups, a key part of the broader insurtech space. When the rental insurance provider went public, it helped set the tone for public exit valuations for companies of its type: fast-growing insurance companies with slick consumer brands, improving economics, a tech twist and stiff losses.

For the Roots and Metromiles and Hippos, it was an important moment.

So, when Lemonade raised its IPO range, and then traded sharply higher after its debut, it boded well for its private comps. Not that rental insurance and auto insurance or homeowners insurance are the same thing. They very most decidedly are not, but Lemonade’s IPO demonstrated that private investors were correct to bet generally on the collection of startups, because when they reached IPO-scale, they had something that public investors wanted.

Categories: Business News

Slack’s stock climbs on possible Salesforce acquisition

2020, November 26 - 2:07am

News that Salesforce is interested in buying Slack, the popular workplace chat company, sent shares of the smaller firm sharply higher today.

Slack shares are up just under 25% at the moment, according to Yahoo Finance data. Slack is worth $36.95 per share as of the time of writing, valuing it at around $20.8 billion. The well-known former unicorn has been worth as little as $15.10 per share inside the last year and worth as much as $40.07.

Inversely, shares of Salesforce are trading lower on the news, falling around 3.5% as of the time of writing. Investors in the San Francisco-based SaaS pioneer were either unimpressed at the combination idea, or perhaps worried about the price that would be required to bring the 2019 IPO into their fold.

Why Salesforce, a massive software company with a strong position in the CRM market, and aspirations of becoming an even larger platform player, would want to buy Slack is not immediately clear though there are possible benefits. This includes the possibility of cross-selling the two companies products’ into each others customer bases, possibly unlocking growth for both parties. Slack has wide marketshare inside of fast-growing startups, for example, while Salesforce’s products roost inside a host of megacorps.

Slack’s earnings detail how COVID-19 is both a help and a hindrance to cloud growth

TechCrunch reached out to Salesforce, Slack and Slack’s CEO for comment on the deal’s possibility. We’ll update this post with whatever we get.

While Salesforce bought Quip for $750 million in 2016, which gave it a kind of document sharing and collaboration, Salesforce Chatter has been the only social tool in the company’s arsenal. Buying Slack would give the CRM giant solid enterprise chat footing and likely a lot of synergy among customers and tooling.

But Slack has always been more than a mere chat client. It enables companies to embed workflows, and this would fit well in the Salesforce family of products, which spans sales, service, marketing and more. It would allow companies to work both inside and outside the Salesforce ecosystem, building smooth and integrated workflows. While it can theoretically do that now, if the two were combined, you can be sure the integrations would be much tighter.

What’s more, Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research says it would give Salesforce a sticky revenue source, something they are constantly searching for to keep their revenue engine rumbling along. “Slack could be a good candidate to strengthen its platform, but more importantly account for more usage and ‘stickiness’ of Salesforce products — as collaboration not only matters for CRM, but also for the vendor’s growing work.com platform,” Mueller said.  He added that it would be a way to stick it to former-friend-turned-foe Microsoft.

That’s because Slack has come under withering fire from Microsoft in recent quarters, as the Redmond-based software giant poured resources into its competing Teams service. Teams challenges Slack’s chat tooling and Zoom’s video features and has seen huge customer growth in recent quarters.

Finding Slack a corporate home amongst the larger tech players could ensure that Microsoft doesn’t grind it under the bulk of its enterprise software sales leviathan. And Salesforce, a sometimes Microsoft ally, would not mind adding the faster-growing Slack to its own expanding software income.

The question at this juncture comes down to price. Slack investors won’t want to sell for less than a good premium on the pre-pop per-share price, which now feels rather dated.

Someone could scoop up Slack before it IPOs

Categories: Business News

Join us for a live Q&A with Sapphire’s Jai Das on Tuesday at 2 pm EST/11 am PST

2020, November 26 - 12:15am

Sure, we’re heading into a holiday weekend here in America, but that doesn’t mean that the good ship TechCrunch is going to slow down. We’re diving right back in next week with another installment in season two of Extra Crunch Live, our regular interview series with startup founders, venture capitalists and other leaders from the technology community.

This series is for Extra Crunch members, so if you haven’t signed up you can hop on that train right here.

Next week I’m virtually sitting down with Jai Das, a well-known managing director at Sapphire Ventures.

Das has invested in companies like MuleSoft (sold for $6.5 billion), Alteryx (now public), Square (also public), Sumo Logic (yep, public) while at Sapphire, having previously worked corporate venture jobs at Intel Capital and Agilent Ventures. (Sapphire was itself originally SAP’s corporate venture capital arm, but it split off from its parent in 2011, rebranded and kept on raising funds.)

Here are notes from the last episode of Extra Crunch Live with Bessemer’s Byron Deeter.

It’s going to be fun as there’s so much to talk about. I’m still bubbling up my question list, so to avoid giving the Sapphire PR team too much pre-discussion ammo let’s just say that corporate venture capital’s place in the 2020 boom is an interesting topic for both founders and investors alike.

And I’ll want to press Das on the current market for software startups, where we are in the historical arc of SaaS multiples, the importance of API-led tech upstarts, where founders might look to build the next great enterprise startup and if there are any new platforms bubbling up that could be a foundation for future founders to later leverage.

As this is an Extra Crunch Live, I’ll also work in a few questions from the audience (that means you, make sure your Extra Crunch subscription is live), to augment my own clipboard of notes.

This is going to be a good one. I’ll see you next Tuesday for the show.

Details

Below are links to add the event to your calendar and to save the Zoom link. We’ll share the YouTube link shortly before the discussion:

Categories: Business News

Cast.ai nabs $7.7M seed to remove barriers between public clouds

2020, November 25 - 11:53pm

When you launch an application in the public cloud, you usually put everything on one provider, but what if you could choose the components based on cost and technology and have your database one place and your storage another?

That’s what Cast.ai says that it can provide, and today it announced a healthy $7.7 million seed round from TA Ventures, DNX, Florida Funders and other unnamed angels to keep building on that idea. The round closed in June.

Company CEO and co-founder Yuri Frayman says that they started the company with the idea that developers should be able to get the best of each of the public clouds without being locked in. They do this by creating Kubernetes clusters that are able to span multiple clouds.

“Cast does not require you to do anything except for launching your application. You don’t need to know  […] what cloud you are using [at any given time]. You don’t need to know anything except to identify the application, identify which [public] cloud providers you would like to use, the percentage of each [cloud provider’s] use and launch the application,” Frayman explained.

This means that you could use Amazon’s RDS database and Google’s ML engine, and the solution decides how to make that work based on your requirements and price. You set the policies when you are ready to launch and Cast will take care of distributing it for you in the location and providers that you desire, or that makes most sense for your application.

Startups are helping cloud infrastructure customers avoid vendor lock-in

The company takes advantage of cloud-native technologies, containerization and Kubernetes to break the proprietary barriers that exist between clouds, says company co-founder Laurent Gil. “We break these barriers of cloud providers so that an application does not need to sit in one place anymore. It can sit in several [providers] at the same time. And this is great for the Kubernetes application because they’re kind of designed with this [flexibility] in mind,” Gil said.

Developers use the policy engine to decide how much they want to control this process. They can simply set location and let Cast optimize the application across clouds automatically, or they can select at a granular level exactly the resources they want to use on which cloud. Regardless of how they do it, Cast will continually monitor the installation and optimize based on cost to give them the cheapest options available for their configuration.

The company currently has 25 employees with four new hires in the pipeline, and plans to double to 50 by the end of 2021. As they grow, the company is trying keep diversity and inclusion front and center in its hiring approach; they currently have women in charge of HR, marketing and sales at the company.

“We have very robust processes on the continuous education inside of our organization on diversity training. And a lot of us came from organizations where this was very visible and we took a lot of those processes [and lessons] and brought them here,” Frayman said.

Frayman has been involved with multiple startups, including Cujo.ai, a consumer firewall startup that participated in TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield in New York in 2016.

Cujo is a firewall for the connected smart home network

Categories: Business News

Tiger Global invests in India’s Unacademy at $2 billion valuation

2020, November 25 - 9:49pm

Unacademy, an online learning platform in India, has added two more marquee investors to its cap table. The Bangalore-based startup, which focuses on K-12 online education, said on Wednesday it has raised new funds from Tiger Global Management and Dragoneer Investment Group.

The funding round, which is between $75 million to $100 million in size (according to a person familiar with the matter; Unacademy has not disclosed the figure), valued the four-and-a-half-year-old startup at $2 billion, up from about $500 million in February this year when Facebook joined its list of backers, and $1.45 billion in September, when SoftBank led the round.

“Our mission from Day One has been to democratise education and make it more affordable and accessible. We have consistently built the most iconic products that deliver high quality education to everyone. Today, I’m delighted to welcome Tiger Global and Dragoneer as our partners in the journey. They are both marquee global investors with a history of partnering with innovative companies that are making an impact on people’s lives,” said Gaurav Munjal, co-founder and chief executive of Unacademy, in a statement.

Unacademy helps students prepare for competitive exams to get into college, as well as those who are pursuing graduate-level courses. On its app, students watch live classes from educators and later engage in sessions to review topics in more detail. In recent months, the startup has held several online interviews of high-profile individuals, such as Indian politician Shashi Tharoor, on a range of topics, which has expanded its appeal beyond its student base.

Facebook backs Indian education startup Unacademy

The platform has amassed over 47,000 educators, who teach students in 5,000 cities in India in more than 14 languages. Over 150,000 live classes are conducted on the platform each month and the collective watch time across platforms is more than 2 billion minutes per month, the startup said.

“The opportunity to improve lives through online education is enormous because of its sheer accessibility. The Unacademy team has innovated rapidly to build a leading platform that is taking education to the farthest corners of India. We are very excited to partner with Unacademy and look forward to seeing it scale further,” said Scott Shleifer, partner at Tiger Global, in a statement.

Spend on education in India is among the highest globally (Source: A report from analysts at Goldman Sachs to clients earlier this year)

Scores of education startups in India have reported skyrocketing growth in recent months as schools remain shut across the country amid the coronavirus pandemic. Even as most Indians tend not to pay for online services — just ask Google and Facebook, both of which count India as their biggest market by users but make little in the country — the education category is an outlier. Indian families continue to spend heavily on their children’s education in hopes of paving the way for a better future.

India’s online learning platform Unacademy raises $150 million at $1.45 billion valuation

Categories: Business News

Coinbase disables margin trading following guidance from Commodity Futures Trading Commission

2020, November 25 - 6:37pm

Just a few months after launching margin trading on Coinbase Pro, the company is disabling the feature. Margin trading lets you trade on leverage. But it works both ways — margin trading lets you multiply your gains and your losses.

Starting on November 25, 2pm PT, users won’t be able to place new margin trades. Existing margin positions will expire over the coming days and weeks. Once those positions expire, margin trading will be disabled for good.

The company is following guidance from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Interestingly, the CFTC was well aware of the company’s plans to launch margin trading.

Coinbase says it has regular conversations with the CFTC and gives them a heads up about upcoming products and services. The same thing happened with margin trading.

Margin trading hasn’t been available on Coinbase’s main website. It has been limited to some Coinbase Pro users with a cap on the number of users who can access the feature.

And yet, Coinbase wouldn’t have launched margin trading if the company could have anticipated a change of course on the regulatory front. More than 100,000 users signed up to the wait list, indicating some interest from Coinbase’s user base.

But the company has no choice but to end margin trading as it tries to be as compliant as possible with current regulation. Let’s see if other exchanges that operate in the U.S. will follow suit.

Coinbase launches margin trading for some users

Categories: Business News

WeGift, the ‘incentive marketing’ platform, collects $8M in new funding

2020, November 25 - 6:00pm

WeGift, the London-based startup that has built an “incentive marketing” platform that lets businesses easily issue e-gift cards and other digital rewards to customers, has raised $8 million in new funding.

Dubbed a Series A extension, the round is led by AlbionVC. Existing investors including Stride.vc, SAP.iO fund and Unilever Ventures also followed on. Following the fundraise, Ed Lascelles, general partner at AlbionVC, is joining the WeGift board.

WeGift says it will use the additional capital to continue building out its “real-time infrastructure” for digital rewards and incentives. This will include investment in building its supply chain through direct integrations with brands, and product development “that serves corporate marketing teams looking to acquire, activate and retain customers at scale”.

Founded in 2016 by Aron Alexander, WeGift wants to digitise the $700 billion rewards and incentives industry, which is largely still powered by legacy systems built for physical gift cards.

“Currently payments are a one way street,” WeGift’s Alexander told TechCrunch in June. “Payments technology is built to enable businesses to take money from consumers but it doesn’t let businesses send money to consumers.

“We’ve created a new category of digital non-cash rewards to power customer acquisition, retention and loyalty globally: the ‘Twilio for e-gift cards’”.

To do this, WeGift offers a “cloud-based, open API” platform that allows businesses to automate sending digital incentives. This is combined with analytics, making it easier to track ROI on incentive marketing campaigns.

WeGift, the digital rewards platform, raises £4M Series A

Since we last covered the startup, WeGift has grown its network to more than 700 brand partners (such as Nike and Uber), across 30 markets and 20 currencies. It claims “hundreds of clients,” such as Vodafone, Samsung, Vouchercodes, Perkbox and Sodexo, among others.

“We’ve become a favourite of the telecom and energy industry with companies like Vodafone, Utilita, LookAfterMyBills and E.ON using our platform,” Alexander tells me.

WeGift is disclosing 317% in annual revenue growth, but isn’t providing actual revenue numbers. Notably, the company has also opened a New York office.

Categories: Business News

As e-bikes boom, FuroSystems raises its first venture funding round ahead of a new model launch

2020, November 25 - 6:00pm

With COVID-19 making commuters switch to bikes, and cities wanting cleaner air, the e-bike revolution is only just getting started. Further evidence of this is the news that today British e-bike manufacturer FuroSystems has closed its first institutional venture funding round of £750,000 with participation by TSP Ventures and European impact investment bank ClearlySo, as well as a number of angel investors.

Not unlike the “new wave” of startup e-bike makers such as VanMoof and Cowboy, London-based FuroSystems is also bringing an interesting take on the e-bike concept. Key to its appeal is that its bikes are very light and can therefore be pedaled like normal bikes when not using the electric motor. Furthermore, their pricing is also highly competitive compared to conventional bikes.

Unlike many e-bike makers, it also has a folding e-bike, the Furo X, whose carbon-fiber frame makes it one of the lightest e-bikes in the world, weighing just 15 kg. The high-density removable lithium-ion battery has a range of 55 km. FuroSystems also makes a point of using industry-standard parts such as Shimano gears and hydraulic disk brakes, which makes it competitive with others such as Gocycle and Brompton.

These factors are helping to make them a hit amongst commuters.

As a result the company, which also makes electric scooters, says it has seen demand surge since the coronavirus lockdown, with year-on-year sales up fivefold. Unusually, the company says it has been profitable since it started, but this latest funding will be used to invest in R&D to create its next line of products.

CEO and co-founder Eliott Wertheimer said in a statement: “We’re currently experiencing a once-in-a-century shift in transport, thanks to increasing awareness of the impact we are having on our environment along with a renewed desire to make healthier personal choices. Electric bikes and electric scooters are crucial to solving the mobility issues we see today, of congestion and pollution.”

Wertheimer added that part of the bike manufacturing is likely to be brought to Portugal in order to fulfill demand.

TSP Ventures CEO Chris Smith, commented: “The e-bike market has exploded in recent years with sales set to reach €10 billion by 2025 and FuroSystems is at the intersection of this burgeoning industry.”

The startup has also designed and manufactured the Fuze, a high-end e-scooter with over 800W of available peak power; double front and rear suspension; dual mechanical disc brakes; remote key lock and alarm system; reinforced inflatable pneumatic 10” wheels. The power and top speed is able to be adjusted to comply with local regulations.

Former SoundCloud founders launch e-bike subscription service, backed by BlueYard

Upcoming will be the Aventa, an e-bike with aerospace-grade alloys; a boost system; hydraulic disk brakes; nine gears; high-performance clutch; integrated 504Wh battery; and the weight below 17 kg. Prices for the Aventa will start at £1,399 and it will be available to pre-order from FuroSystems.com at the end of the month.

Founders Albert Nassar and Eliott Wertheimer met whilst studying mechanical and aerospace engineering, respectively, at the University of Bristol. Nassar went on to work with the autonomous drone inspection team at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, which later spun-out as Perceptual Robotics, whilst Wertheimer developed small nuclear batteries for tiny satellites in partnership with the European Space Agency and different U.K. universities. The pair reunited at Imperial College’s Business School in 2015, and created FuroSystems in 2017.

Categories: Business News

New venture firm The-Wolfpack takes a fresh approach to D2C startups

2020, November 25 - 9:00am

The-Wolfpack’s co-founders, Toh Jin Wei, Tan Kok Chin and Simon Nichols (Image Credit: The-Wolfpack)

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the consumer, leisure and media companies hard, but a new venture firm called The-Wolfpack is still very upbeat on those sectors. Based in Singapore, the firm was founded by former managing directors at GroupM, one of the world’s largest advertising and media companies, and plans to work very closely with each of its portfolio companies. Its name was chosen because they believe “entrepreneurs thrive best in a wolfpack.”

The-Wolfpack’s debut fund, called the Wolfpack Pioneer VCC, is already fully subscribed at $5 million USD, and will focus on direct-to-consumer companies, with plans to invest in eight to 10 startups. The firm is already looking to raise a second fund, with a target of $20 million SGD (about $14.9 million USD) and above, and will set up another office in Thailand, with plans to expand into Indonesia as well.

The-Wolfpack was founded by Toh Jin Wei and Simon Nichols, who met while working at GroupM, and Tan Kok Chin, a former director at Sunray Woodcraft Construction who has worked on projects with Marina Bay Sands, Raffles Hotel and the Singapore Tourism’s offices.

In addition to providing financial capital, The-Wolfpack wants to build ecosystems around its portfolio companies by connecting them with IP owners, digital marketing experts, content producers and designers who can help create offline experiences. It also plans to invest in startups based on opportunities for them to collaborate or cross-sell with one another.

Toh told TechCrunch that formal planning on The-Wolfpack began at the end of 2019, but he and Nichols started thinking of launching their own business five years ago while working together at GroupM.

“Our perspective on what the industry needed was similar — strategic investors who truly knew how to get behind D2C founders,” Toh said.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact has hurt spending in The-Wolfpack’s three key sectors (consumer, leisure and media). But it also presents opportunities for innovation as consumer habits shift, Nichols said.

For example, even though consumer spending has dropped, people are still “drawn towards brands that build towards higher-quality engagements,” he said. “There is a real business advantage for D2C brands who’ve recognized this shift and know how to act on it.”

The-Wolfpack hasn’t disclosed its investments yet since deals are still being finalized, but some of the brands its debut fund are interested in include one launched by an Australian makeup artist who wants to scale to Southeast Asia, and an online gaming company whose ecosystem includes original content, gaming teams and studios. The-Wolfpack plans to help them set up a physical studio to create an offline experience, too.

“Typically brands have talked at customers, but it’s become a two-way conversation, and startups who get D2C right have a real potential for exponential growth that’s worth investing in,” said Toh.

How D2C brands are holding up during the pandemic

Categories: Business News

Working to understand C3.ai’s growth story

2020, November 25 - 5:44am

The end-of-year IPO wave continues, this time with C3.ai moving closer to its own formal debut by updating its S-1 filing with third-quarter data.

The new data provides the market with a much better look into how the unicorn AI company’s business has progressed during the COVID-19 era, and should help public investors price the company’s equity as it looks to float.

TechCrunch previously explored C3.ai’s performance through the its July 31 quarter. Today we received information about its subsequent fiscal period, the quarter ending October 31.

We noted during our initial dig into C3.ai’s numbers that while the AI startup has had strong historical revenue growth — from $92 million to $157 million in the fiscal years ending April 31, 2019 and 2020 — in more recent quarters, its pace of expansion has slowed.

This brings us to the October 31, 2020, period. Let’s explore what changed for C3.ai and what did not.

C3.ai’s growth story

In the October 31, 2019, quarter C3.ai generated $38.9 million in total revenue, counting both its subscription (high gross-margin) and services (low gross-margin) incomes. That figure grew to $41.3 million in the January 31, 2020, quarter.

Categories: Business News

Pay-per-mile auto insurer Metromile is heading to public markets via SPAC

2020, November 25 - 5:14am

Metromile, the pay-per-mile auto insurer that earlier this year laid off a third of its staff due to economic uncertainties caused by COVID-19, is taking the SPAC path to the public markets.

The company, which was founded in 2011 and is led by CEO Dan Preston, said it has reached a merger agreement with special purpose acquisition company INSU Acquisition Corp. II, with an equity valuation of $1.3 billion.

Metromile said it was able to raise $160 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE, in an investment round led by Chamath Palihapitiya’s firm Social Capital. Existing investors Hudson Structured Capital Management and Mark Cuban, as well as new backers Miller Value and Clearbridge participated. Metromile will have about $294 million of cash at closing.

The company plans to use those proceeds to reduce existing debt and accelerate growth, specifically to hire employees to support its consumer insurance and enterprise businesses, and grow beyond its eight-state geographic footprint to a goal of 21 states by the end of next year and nationwide coverage by the end of 2022.

Metromile is credited for disrupting some of the inefficiencies of the auto insurance business model, notably how consumers are charged. Instead of a standard flat fee, Metromile charges customers based on their mileage, which it is able to measure via a device plugged into the vehicle. Some two-thirds of U.S. drivers are considered low-mileage, according to Metromile. By charging per mile, Metromile says its customers save 47% on average compared to their previous insurer.

The company developed a mobile app, which besides allowing users to file claims, offers other features such as alerting the driver of possible parking violations due to street sweeping activity. Now, with three billion miles of driver data, the company is able to make predictive models that help lower customer costs and improve their overall experience.

The company also built out an enterprise division in 2019 that offers a cloud-based software as a service to large legacy insurers. Metromile licenses components of its platform, including claims automation and fraud detection tools.

The COVID-19 pandemic created initial headwinds for Metromile, which had been one of the fastest-growing startups in the Bay Area. Metromile ended up laying off about 100 people as it aimed to pare back its workforce. The company said at the time that its business was affected by pandemic-related stay-at-home orders, which caused its customers to drive less. The pandemic also prompted U.S. drivers to shop around for insurance and look for deals that supported their shift to lower mileage.

Investor Cuban said in the company’s SPAC announcement sees an upside for the business.

“During these times of financial hardship, unemployment and work from home, Metromile provides an important insurance alternative,” Cuban said. “The option to pay for insurance by the mile is a game changer and why I’m incredibly excited about Metromile’s future!”

Social Capital’s Palihapitiya is equally bullish on the company, tweeting Tuesday “Buffett had Geico. I pick @Metromile.”

Metromile has hired back staff and returned employees that it placed on furlough this spring. Today, the company has more than 230 employees and doesn’t expect any reductions in the workforce in the future. Instead, the company told TechCrunch it plans to hire additional staff on the expectation that both its consumer and enterprise businesses will grow “considerably” in the next few years.

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021. The combined company will be named Metromile Inc., and is expected to remain listed on NASDAQ under the new ticker symbol “MLE.”

Categories: Business News

Discord is close to closing a round that would value the company at up to $7B

2020, November 25 - 4:24am

Discord, the communications service that’s become the 21st century’s answer to MUD rooms, is close to closing a new round of financing that would value the company at up to $7 billion, according to sources with knowledge of the round.

The new funding comes just months after a $100 million investment that gave the company a $3.5 billion valuation. Discord’s doubling in corporate value comes as the persistent, inept, American response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to accelerate the adoption and growth of businesses creating virtual social networking opportunities.

Those opportunities are apparent in Discord’s explosive growth. Monthly active users have almost doubled to 120 million this year and the company has seen 800,000 downloads a day thanks, in part, to the wildly popular game Among Us (which received a ringing endorsement from the popular congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez).

AOC’s Among Us stream topped 435,000 concurrent viewers

Discord built its initial growth on the back of the gaming industry and the rise of multiplayer, multiplatform games that supplanted earlier social networks as the online town square for a generation of young gamers (whose numbers globally now spiral north of several billion).

But, as the company’s founders noted when they announced their last round of financing, the Discord use case has extended far beyond the gaming community.

“It turns out that, for a lot of you, it wasn’t just about video games anymore,” wrote co-founders Jason Citron and Stanislav Vishnevskiy in a July blog post announcing the latest financing.

The two men frame their company as “a place designed to hang out and talk in the comfort of your own communities and friends.” Discord, they say, is “a place to have genuine conversations and spend quality time with people, whether catching up, learning something or sharing ideas.”

If that sounds familiar to some of the internet’s earliest users, that’s because it is. Back in the dawn of the world wide web, multiuser dungeons (MUDs) provided ways for practitioners of any number of subcultures to find each other online and chat about whatever tickled their collective fancy.

As the web evolved, so did the number of places and spaces for these conversations to happen. Now there are multivariate ways for users to find each other within the web, but Discord seems to have risen above most of the rest.

As analyst John Koetsier noted in Forbes back in 2019, there were already 250 million Discord users sending 315 million messages a day. Those are the company’s pre-pandemic numbers — and they’re impressive by any standards.

As with any platform that has become popular on the web, Discord isn’t without its underbelly. Three years ago, the company tried to boot a number of its most racist users, but their ability to use the platform to disseminate hate speech has stubbornly persisted.

Until mid-2019, white nationalists were comfortable enough using the service to warrant a shoutout from Daily Stormer founder, Andrew Anglin, who urged his fellow travelers to stop using the service.

“Discord is always on and always present among these groups on the far-right,” Joan Donovan, the lead researcher on media manipulation at the Data & Society Research Institute, told Slate in 2018. “It’s the place where they do most of the organizing of doxing and harassment campaigns.”

To date, Discord has raised $379.3 million, according to Crunchbase, from an investor group that includes Greylock, Index Ventures, Spark Capital, Tencent and Benchmark.

In addition to the cash it raised earlier this year, Discord emphasized a new user experience and added video functionality so that users could communicate more readily (and so the company could compete with Zoom). There are templates available to help users create servers, and the company has increased its voice and video capacity by 200%.

As part of this new focus on product, Discord has launched what it calls a “Safety Center” that clearly defines the company’s rules and regulations and what actions users can take to monitor and manage their use of service for hate speech and abuse.

“We will continue to take decisive action against white supremacists, racists and others who seek to use Discord for evil,” the founders wrote in June.

As we reported at the time, Index Ventures co-founder Danny Rimer, who led the investor group that backed Discord’s latest $100 million cash infusion, was an advocate for the company’s expanded vision for itself.

“I believe Discord is the future of platforms because it demonstrates how a responsibly curated site can provide a safe space for people with shared interests,” Rimer wrote in a statement. “Rather than throwing raw content at you, like Facebook, it provides a shared experience for you and your friends. We’ll come to appreciate that Discord does for social conversation what Slack has done for professional conversation.”

Apparently, investors are doubling down on that assessment.

 

Categories: Business News

Dija, a new delivery startup from former Deliveroo employees, is closing in on a $20M round led by Blossom

2020, November 25 - 3:59am

Dija, a new U.K.-based startup founded by senior former Deliveroo employees, is closing in on $20 million in funding, TechCrunch has learned.

According to multiple sources, the round, which has yet to close, is being led by Blossom Capital, the early-stage venture capital firm founded by ex-Index and LocalGlobe VC Ophelia Brown. It’s not clear who else is in the running, although I understand it was highly contested and the startup had offers from several top-tier funds. Blossom Capital and Dija declined to comment.

Playing in the convenience store and delivery space, yet to launch Dija is founded by Alberto Menolascina and Yusuf Saban, who both spent a number of years at Deliveroo in senior positions.

Menolascina was previously director of Corporate Strategy and Development at the takeout delivery behemoth and held several positions before that. He also co-founded Everli (formerly Supermercato24), the Instacart-styled grocery delivery company in Italy, and also worked at Just Eat.

Saban is the former chief of staff to CEO at Deliveroo and also worked at investment bank Morgan Stanley.

In other words, both are seasoned operators in food logistics, from startups to scale-ups. Both Menolascina and Saban were also instrumental in Deliveroo’s Series D, E and F funding rounds.

Meanwhile, few details are public about Dija, except that it will offer convenience and fresh food delivery using a “dark” convenience store mode, seeing it build out hyper local fulfilment centers in urban high population areas for super quick delivery. It’s likely akin to Accel and SoftBank-backed goPuff in the U.S. or perhaps startup Weezy in the U.K.

That said, the model is yet to be proven everywhere it’s been tried and will likely be a capital intensive race in which Dija is off to a good start. And, of course, with everybody making the shift to online groceries while in a pandemic, as ever, timing is everything.

Delivery startup goPuff raises $380M at a $3.9B valuation

Categories: Business News

Marie Ekeland launches 2050, a new fund with radically ambitious, long-term goals

2020, November 25 - 3:05am

Marie Ekeland has unveiled her next act — and it’s a new fund called 2050. But it’s not your average French VC fund, as it’s going to be an evergreen fund focused on building a better world. It sounds ambitious, but Ekeland isn’t just daydreaming — she has a detailed action plan.

If you’re not familiar with Marie Ekeland, she used to be an investor at French VC firm Elaia. She invested in adtech firm Criteo, which later became a public company in the U.S. She is also one of the founding members of France Digitale, the main startup lobby in France.

More recently, she co-founded Daphni, her own VC firm. While she’s no longer involved with Daphni’s day-to-day activities, she still follows her own investments in Daphni’s first fund. Her investments include Shine, Swile, Holberton School and Lifen.

Société Générale is acquiring freelancer challenger bank Shine

With 2050, Ekeland is going back to the drawing board with a different vision when it comes to investment thesis, fund structure and the firm’s own values.

“Investment is self-fulfilling,” Ekeland told me. “When you invest in this company instead of that one, you’re shaping the future of society.”

During our lengthy discussion, it became quite clear that Ekeland both suffers from tech fatigue and also still believes she can have a positive impact through her investments.

Let’s start with the investment thesis. 2050 wants to focus on five fundamental areas — the future of food, better healthcare, improving education, shaping a sustainable lifestyle and fostering trust in the media and financial institutions.

As the name suggests, 2050 has a lot of time to think about these issues. The firm is willing to invest over the long haul. But if an entrepreneur wants to sell their company, that’s OK too. The idea is that there shouldn’t be any time frame pressure.

With traditional VC firms, limited partners invest in a fund and expect returns 10 years later. That’s why most VC funds have to sell their positions within eight to 10 years. It could lead to some pressure to go public, get acquired or find other investors to buy back previous investors.

So how do you remove short-term financial pressure from investment firms? 2050 is a fonds de pérennité, which works a bit like a trust fund, a mission-driven fund.

As an evergreen fund, investors in 2050 can invest whenever they want. Regularly, 2050 will open up liquidity distribution windows. It means that existing investors will be able to sell their positions in 2050. New investors will purchase those positions.

“What we’re doing is quite innovative, so we’re learning by doing,” Ekeland said. 2050 is still expecting regulatory approvals from France’s financial regulator AMF. In the meantime, 2050 has already participated in Withings’ latest funding round. Along with Ekeland, Anne-Lise Bance, Aicha Ben Dhia, Charly Berthet, Meyha Camara and Aude Duprat have already joined the team.

2050 also plans to dedicate 10% of investments in the fund and 50% of the team’s carried interest for digital commons. Arguably, this is the most interesting part of 2050. It proves that the team is committed to its vision beyond blog posts.

Withings raises $60 million to bridge the gap between consumer tech and healthcare providers

For instance, 2050 will contribute to Université Paris Dauphine’s class on the ecological challenges of the 21st century. The idea is to share that class as broadly as possible under an open license.

Some key concepts will be turned into actionable items for entrepreneurs. If you browse the business book section of your local bookshop, chances are you’ll see a ton of books about building a startup, growing as fast as possible and not paying attention to structural damage.

By investing in (often underfunded) knowledge, 2050 could share a different kind of actionable items with its portfolio companies and the tech ecosystem at large. Other investments in common could include infrastructure investments that help everyone, or mutualized research.

Tech isn’t just about building companies. Public institutions, individuals and nonprofit organizations also have a say in the tech ecosystem. And I’m glad to see that 2050 understands that tech investment isn’t just about financing private companies. It’s such an important shift and I hope other investors will follow suit.

Categories: Business News

Learn how to access funding for your startup at TC Sessions: Space 2020

2020, November 25 - 2:42am

Building tech startups takes cash — and lots of it. But when you’re talking space startups, you’re talking galactic-level money. Costs blast right through Earth’s exosphere and become, literally, astronomical. If space is your jam, you’re going to need financial help, and you’ll learn where and how to access it at TC Sessions Space 2020 (December 16-17).

Set your transporter coordinates for our Fast Money breakout sessions. You’ll hear presentations from leading space accelerators and funding programs. You’ll learn how to access grant money and — wait for it — you can schedule individual appointments with representatives from each program.

PSA: Don’t have a pass yet? We’re offering a BOGO deal. Buy one Late Registration ticket for $175 and get one free. You and a colleague pay just $87.50 each — that’s less than the early-bird price. Buy your passes before this deal ends on Sunday, November 29, at 11:59 p.m. PST.

Attend these Fast Money breakout sessions and then use CrunchMatch to schedule private meetings with program reps:

  • Fast Money — Space Force Innovation Ecosystem: The USSF wants to partner with innovative non-traditional companies as we look to build out the space architecture of the future. Come learn how to join us. Major Ryan Pennington, Deputy, Space Force Ventures, SMC Space Ventures.
  • Fast Money — The Space Force Accelerators: Learn how the Hyperspace Challenge, Catalyst Space Accelerator and other government accelerators can connect you to the U.S. Space Force. Gabe Mounce, Director, Space Force Accelerators, Air Force Research Laboratory.
  • Fast Money — Working with the Army to Operationalize Science for Transformational Overmatch: Learn about DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory and the xTech Program of prize competitions that accelerate innovative solutions that can help solve Army challenges. Peter Khooshabeh, Regional Lead, DEVCOM, ARL West.
  • Fast Money — Advancing Space Technology with NASA SBIR: Learn about the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs powered by NASA. Jenn Gustetic, Early Stage Innovations and Partnerships Program Director, NASA HQ Space Technology Mission Directorate.
  • Fast Money — NAVWAR SBIR/STTR Primer: The SBIR/STTR is a robust program designed to help small businesses address government needs while promoting commercialization. This session is dedicated to providing a primer on the program with tips on getting involved and getting engaged with the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR). Shadi Azoum, Small Business Innovation Research & Rapid Innovation Fund Program Manager, Naval Information Warfare Systems Command.
  • Fast Money — Introduction to In-Q-Tel’s investing activities in the commercial space sector: In-Q-Tel is a strategic investment firm that works with the national security community of the United States. For 20 years, In-Q-Tel has served one mission: to deliver the most sophisticated strategic technical knowledge and capabilities to the U.S. government and its allies through its unique investment model. Over the past decade, In-Q-Tel has been one of the most active investors in the commercial space sector, with a broad investment thesis that touches many aspects of the sector. This session will provide an overview of In-Q-Tel as a whole, as well as a discussion of the firm’s activities in the commercial space sector. Tom Gillespie, Managing Partner and Investment lead for In-Q-Tel’s Field Technologies Practice.
  • Fast Money – Enabling a dual-use business model with Defense Innovation Unit (DIU)

Explore all the TC Sessions: Space presentations in the event agenda and start planning your schedule now. And don’t sweat any conflicts — with VOD, you can catch anything you miss at your convenience.

Learn how to find and access the funding to fuel your space startup. Don’t miss the Fast Money breakouts at TC Sessions: Space 2020. And get your buy-one-get-one-free ticket before our week-long Black Friday sale ends Sunday, November 29, at 11:59 p.m. PST.

Is your company interested in sponsoring TC Sessions: Space 2020? Click here to talk with us about available opportunities.

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