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Steve Case and Clara Sieg on how the COVID-19 crisis differs from the dot-com bust

Steve Case and Clara Sieg of Revolution recently spoke on TechCrunch’s new series, Extra Crunch Live. Throughout the hour-long chat, we touched on numerous subjects, including how diverse founders can take advantage during this downturn and how remote work may lead to growth outside Silicon Valley. The pair have a unique vantage point, with Steve Case, co-founder and former CEO of AOL turned VC, and Clara Sieg, a Stanford-educated VC heading up Revolution’s Silicon Valley office.

Together, Case and Sieg laid out how the current crisis is different from the dot-com bust of the late nineties. Because of the differences, their outlook is bullish on the tech sector’s ability to pull through.

And for everyone who couldn’t join us live, the full video replay is embedded below. (You can get access here if you need it.)

Case said that during the run-up to the dot-com bust, it was a different environment.

“When we got started at AOL, which was back in 1985, the Internet didn’t exist yet,” Case said. “I think 3% of people were online or online an hour a week. And it took us a decade to get going. By the year 2000, which is sort of the peak of AOL’s success, we had about half of all the U.S. internet traffic, and the market value soared. That’s when suddenly, when any company with a dot-com name was getting funded. Many were going public without even having much in the way of revenues. That’s not we’re dealing with now.”

Venture partner Sieg agreed, pointing to the number of funds currently available in the venture capital asset class. Unlike twenty years ago when valuations were based on unsubstantiated future growth, the current crisis happened during a period of steady expansion. Because of this, funds and startups are in a better position to make it to the other side of this pandemic, she said.

Sieg pointed to one of Revolution Venture’s portfolio companies, Mint House, which aims to build a better temporary housing experience for business travelers. The company raised $15 million in May 2019, and according to Sieg, it focused on being capital-efficient from the start instead of chasing growth for its own sake. She said the company went from almost 90% occupancy to zero overnight and yet now, after a slight pivot, it’s back to a 60-65% occupancy rate by moving quickly to providing housing to healthcare workers.

The company’s strong balance sheet gave it room to pivot, she said.

And yet there are challenges. Sieg pointed out that for the first time in Revolution’s history, the firm’s funds are investing without meeting founder teams in person. It’s a longer process than the old way, she said, though noted that it levels the playing field for founders outside of the traditional circle. Investors have more time on their hands now, so she encourages founders to be persistent and keep reaching out for virtual meetings.

“I think it is important to take advantage of this time where you have people sitting around with more availability on their calendars and more willingness to engage,” Sieg said. “The nice thing about removing some of the in-person components is there’s a stronger focus on market opportunity, product and company, and the real metrics that [founders] can show. Removing some of that person-to-person noise and just focusing on the business means that a lot of these biases are going to be overcome.”

The pair said they believe some companies will have a strong tailwind coming out of this crisis. Case and Sieg pointed to trends that are rapidly accelerating: e-commerce, telehealth and direct-to-consumer companies. In this new environment, Case said location will matter more than ever. While he points out there are many smart people in Silicon Valley, there’s a reason why, for example, Monsanto is in St. Louis. “Some of the smartest people around healthtech are in Minneapolis where UnitedHealth is, or Rochester, Minnesota where Mayo is, or with MD Anderson in Texas or in Ohio with Cleveland Clinic or Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.”

“There are also specific categories that resonate now more than ever,” Sieg said. “We’re investors in a company called Bright Cellars that ships wine to your house. Obviously, people are staying at home, and they’re drinking a lot more. And [Bright Cellars] has been positively impacted by [stay-at-home orders] from a revenue perspective. There’s a company like Bloomscape, which is in Detroit, Michigan, and they’ve had their challenges with keeping their supply chain up and running, but they managed to do so. People are finding a lot of comfort in gardening and taking care of plants because it is something that can be done at home and feel like you’re engaged with something that’s alive, and you see the progression when you’re stuck at home.”

Steve Case is looking at founders who are managing today, but also imagining for the future. One example is Clear, he said, which fast-tracked the development of a flight pass for healthcare workers. And now, when people start flying again, the company will return to its strong core business while having additional momentum around this new business that provides passes to hospitals and arenas. This wouldn’t have happened if it was not for this crisis, Case said.

“I think [the COVID-19 crisis] is one of those shake-the-snowglobe moments where things are being reassessed,” Case said, “and one of the areas I think it’s going to accelerate is what I’ve called the ‘third wave of the internet.’”

Case explained he wrote about this new phase a few years ago in his book, aptly titled “The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future.” According to Case’s thesis, the first wave was when AOL and other providers were introducing and onboarding users to the Internet. The second wave was when apps and software could be created using existing infrastructure. And now, according to this thought, the internet is meeting the real world with new solutions. The current crisis is accelerating the development of telehealth, smart cities, and industries in regulated sectors.

“Perseverance is going to matter more,” Case said. “The tough problems don’t lend themselves to overnight successes. It’s going to be a slog, and kind of like AOL of a 10-year in the making overnight success.”

The dot-com bust upended a lot of startups, and the COVID-19 crisis will do the same though with different results.

“The third wave of the Internet is when the Internet meets the real world, Steve Case said. “It’s things like health care, food, smart cities, and many other areas that haven’t changed much in the first and second waves that are going to change a lot in the third wave. We believe it’s going to be a different playbook.”


GDC 2020 has been canceled

Well, after what I’m sure was a hectic few days for the folks planning the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, the team announced today that they have officially decided to cancel the event happening this March, saying in a blog post that they hoped they would be able to reschedule an event for “later in the summer.”

In recent days, nearly all of the event’s top corporate sponsors announced that they would not be sending employees to the event due to concerns surrounding coronavirus. Microsoft, Unity, Epic, Amazon, Facebook and Sony had all bowed out of the event. GDC’s statement did not reference the virus.

The company behind GDC detailed that they will be refunding conference and expo attendees in full, though a blog post details that the group hopes to host a GDC event later in the summer, noting, “We will be working with our partners to finalize the details and will share more information about our plans in the coming weeks.”

GDC is just the latest tech conference to be shuttered in the wake of worldwide concern surrounding the outbreak of coronavirus. Yesterday, Facebook announced it would be canceling the in-person component of its F8 conference and we have already seen the cancellation of GSMA‘s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Waymo’s Anca Dragan and Ike Robotics CTO Jur van den Berg are coming to TC Sessions: Robotics+AI

The road to “solving” self-driving cars is riddled with challenges, from perception and decision making to figuring out the interaction between humans and robots.

Today we’re announcing that joining us at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI on March 3 at UC Berkeley are two experts who play important roles in the development and deployment of autonomous vehicle technology: Anca Dragan and Jur van den Berg.

Dragan is an assistant professor in UC Berkeley’s electrical engineering and computer sciences department, as well as a senior research scientist and consultant for Waymo, the former Google self-driving project that is now a business under Alphabet. She runs the InterACT Lab at UC Berkeley, which focuses on algorithms for human-robot interaction. Dragan also helped found, and serves on, the steering committee for the Berkeley AI Research Lab, and is co-PI of the Center for Human-Compatible AI.

Last year, Dragan was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Van den Berg is the co-founder and CTO of Ike Robotics, a self-driving truck startup that last year raised $52 million in a Series A funding round led by Bain Capital  Ventures. Van den Berg has been part of the most important, secretive and even controversial companies in the autonomous vehicle technology industry. He was a senior researcher and developer in Apple’s special projects group, before jumping to self-driving trucks startup Otto. He became a senior autonomy engineer at Uber after the ride-hailing company acquired Otto .

All of this led to Ike, which was founded in 2018 with Nancy Sun and Alden Woodrow, who were also veterans of Apple, Google and Uber Advanced Technologies Group’s self-driving truck program.

TC Sessions: Robotics+AI returns to Berkeley on March 3. Make sure to grab your early-bird tickets today for $275 before prices go up by $100. Students, grab your tickets for just $50 here.

Startups, book a demo table right here and get in front of 1,000+ of Robotics/AI’s best and brightest — each table comes with four attendee tickets.

Fintech investors and founders to judge Startup Battlefield Africa

TechCrunch will soon be returning to Africa to hold its Startup Battlefield competition dedicated to the African continent.

The event, in Lagos, Nigeria, on December 11, will showcase the launch of 15 of the hottest startups in Africa onstage for the first time. We’ll also be joined by some of the leading investment firms in the region. The event is now sold out, but keep your eyes on TechCrunch for video of all the panels and the Battlefield competition.

Here are just some of the investors and founders who will be judging the startups competing for US$25,000.


Olugbenga Agboola, Flutterwave

Olugbenga Agboola is the CEO of Flutterwave, a payments technology company headquartered in San Francisco with operations and offices across Africa and Europe. Prior to co-founding Flutterwave, Olugbenga contributed to the development of fintech solutions at several tech companies and financial institutions such as PayPal and Standard Bank, among others. He is a serial entrepreneur with two successful exits under his belt. He is a software engineer with a Master’s Degree in Information Technology Security and Behavioral Engineering, as well as an MBA.

Barbara Iyayi, Element

Barbara Iyayi is the chief growth officer and managing director of Africa for Element, which deploys AI-powered mobile biometrics software to develop digital platforms globally. Barbara was part of the founding team of Atlas Mara, a London stock exchange-listed company, co-founded by Bob Diamond, ex-CEO of Barclays Bank, which was the first-ever entity to raise more than $1 billion to invest in, operate and manage financial institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. As the Regional Lead for M&A and Investments, she led investments into banks and developed the banking platform’s entry into seven countries in Africa. Notably, she led the acquisition and first-ever merger of two banks in Rwanda, to be the leading innovative retail bank — Banque Populaire du Rwanda — and led a $250 million equity investment in Union Bank of Nigeria.

Aaron Fu, MEST Africa

Aaron is an early-stage investor, entrepreneur and strategic advisor to both startups as they scale and corporates as they transform to gain agility for disruptive innovation. Over the last five years he has specifically focused on innovation in Africa, working with global brands and entrepreneurs across diverse industries, from financial services to health to mobile to agriculture.

As managing director at MEST, he is dedicated to training, investing in and incubating the next generation of global software entrepreneurs in Africa. He manages a portfolio of 30-plus startups spanning fintech, media, e-commerce and agritech. 

Sam Gichuru, Nailab

Sam Gichuru is founder and CEO of Nailab, one of Kenya’ s leading business incubators. His contribution in establishing the startup business ecosystem in Kenya, through Nailab, has been significant, and as a result was invited as a key speaker during the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, held in Nairobi and officiated by then U.S. President Barack Obama.

Sam has been instrumental in propagating the development of a strong and vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem, and it’s through this engagement that he was most recently selected by Jack Ma to lead, through Nailab, the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative, a $10 million Initiative that seeks to discover, spotlight and support 10 African entrepreneurs every year for the next 10 years.

Olufunbi Falayi, Savannah Fund


Olufunbi Falayi  is a partner at Passion Incubator, an early-stage technology incubator and accelerator that invests in early-stage startups. He co-led investment in 12 startups, including Riby, BeatDrone, AdsDirect, TradeBuza and Waracake. Olufunbi also a principal at Savannah Fund, driving investment in West Africa.

Come to TechCrunch’s party and SXSW panels

 TechCrunch invites you to our annual Crunch By Crunch Fest party in Austin, Texas. RSVP to come meet our writers while enjoying free drinks and musical performances by live electronic pop wizards Autograf, digital RnB drummer Mobley, angelic songwriter MIEARS, and yacht dance DJs Glassio. It’s going down from noon to 4pm, Sunday March 11th. We’re teaming up with Splash to take over… Read More

Early-bird ticket pricing for Disrupt Berlin ends tonight

 This is it, folks. At midnight tonight, Berlin local time, the countdown clock for early-bird tickets to Disrupt Berlin runs out. And when that countdown ends, so does your chance to save 30 percent on admission to Europe’s best tech conference and startup competition. Read More

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Only two days left to buy early-bird tickets to Disrupt Berlin

 What could Disrupt Berlin — Europe’s premier event for entrepreneurs, investors, hackers and tech fans — possibly have in common with Eddie Murphy’s 1982 police action/comedy, 48 Hrs? Well, that’s exactly how much time you have left to score early-bird tickets and save big money. Miss the November 3 deadline and you’ll miss out on serious savings. Now… Read More

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Early-bird ticket pricing for Disrupt Berlin flies away in four days

 Calling all budget-minded entrepreneurs and startup fans — it’s time to place buying Disrupt Berlin tickets at the top of your priority list. Our value-priced early-bird promotion disappears soon. Early-bird tickets, which provide general admission conference passes for both days, cost €833. But once those birds fly the coop, the price increases to €1190. Read More

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Announcing the startups featured in Startup Alley pavilions at Disrupt Berlin

 We invited innovative early-stage startups to apply for a free exhibit table in Startup Alley at Disrupt Berlin (4-5 December) and — wow — the response blew us away. The selection process gets harder every time, and that’s just the way we like it. And now (cue drumroll), the suspense is over. The following outstanding startups captured our interest and imagination to… Read More

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Exhibit for free in Startup Alley at Disrupt Berlin 2017 — applications close Friday

 Startup Alley at Disrupt Berlin 2017 is the premier exhibit hall for international cutting-edge tech startups. If you aspire to show your stuff alongside hundreds of other early-stage companies, you absolutely can — we’ll even tell you how you can do it for free. But you must act quickly, because you have only until October 13 to submit your application. Read More

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Only 24 hours left to apply for Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin

 A lot can happen in 24 hours — just ask Jack Bauer. If you haven’t submitted your application to Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin yet, it’s time to channel your inner-hero and complete the mission. The deadline is a mere 24 hours away. Read More

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Startup Battlefield applications for Disrupt Berlin close this Monday

 Ach du lieber, menschen! The application deadline for your chance to compete in the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin is this Monday, September 25 at 5 p.m. PT. It’s time to cancel your weekend plans, stop procrastinating, hunker down and get it done. Read More

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Calling all international startups: sign up for a country pavilion at Disrupt Berlin

 Before you know it, thousands of startup fans will travel to Disrupt Berlin. The event attracts the best and brightest entrepreneurs, investors and influencers. We’re looking for international early-stage startups to apply for a country pavilion in Startup Alley — the heartbeat of every Disrupt event. Read More

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Only one week left to apply for Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin

 Seven days, 168 hours or 10,080 minutes; you can crunch the numbers any way you like, but you still have only one week left to apply for the Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin 2017. We get it; you’re busy building something great. But you seriously don’t want to miss out on Startup Battlefield — it’s one of the best ways to introduce that greatness to the rest of… Read More

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Gear up for Disrupt Berlin’s Startup Battlefield and apply today

 One dozen days. That’s how much time you have left to apply for the Startup Battlefield at Disrupt Berlin 2017. If you want to introduce your early-stage company to the world, there’s no better place to do so than from the Startup Battlefield main stage. It’s the premier launching pad for startups, as Battlefield alumni — like Mint, Dropbox, Yammer and Tripit —… Read More

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Final 2-for-1 Disrupt Berlin ticket release happening Wednesday 9/6

 Alright, European TechCrunch fans, time to listen up — we’ll soon be releasing our final batch of Disrupt Berlin 2017 tickets at the deeply discounted rate of two for the price of one. Yes, you read that right. If you act now, you can score not one but two whole Disrupt tickets for the price of one. That’s half off tickets to an event best described as the hottest startup… Read More

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Security researchers: EFF's got your back at this summer's technical conferences

Are you a security researcher planning to present at Black Hat, Defcon, B-Sides or any of this summer’s security events? Are you worried a big corporation or the government might attack you for revealing true facts about the defects in the security systems we entrust with our safety, privacy and health?
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Liverpool, I'll see you tonight on the Walkaway tour! (then Birmingham, Hay-on-Wye, San Francisco…) (!)

Thanks to everyone who came out for last night’s final London event on the UK Walkaway tour, at Pages of Hackney with Olivia Sudjic; today I’m heading to Waterstones Liverpool One for an event with Dr Chris Pak, followed by a stop tomorrow at Waterstones in Birmingham and then wrapping up in the UK with an event with Adam Rutherford at the Hay Festival.
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London! I'll be at Pages of Hackney tonight with Olivia Sudjic! (then Liverpool, Birmingham, Hay…) (!)

Last night’s sold-out Walkaway tour event with Laurie Penny at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road was spectacular (and not just because they had some really good whisky behind the bar), and the action continues today with a conversation with Olivia Sudjic tonight at Pages of Hackney, where we’ll be discussing her novel Sympathy as well as Walkaway.
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Lucas VonCranach and Ijad Madisch to speak at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin

 Disrupt Berlin 2017 is coming up in December, and even though that is a ways off, we are already building out our content. We’re also here to remind you to sign up for our next 2-for-1 ticket release on our website here. We’ll send you an email with more details on how you can obtain these limited supply tickets. By signing up now, you can use this extra ticket to bring a… Read More

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TechCrunch is hosting our first event in Shenzhen this June!

 Four years after we made our TechCrunch China events a twice-annual affair in Beijing and Shanghai, we are very proud to announce that we will host the event in Shenzhen, known as ‘The Silicon Valley For Hardware,’ for the very first time this coming June!! This is hugely exciting for us and our China partner Technode. We’ve done one-day events in the city in the past, but… Read More

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SXSW threatens to narc musicians out to immigration authorities if they play unauthorized gigs

Evan Greer writes, “SXSW is one of the most popular music festivals in the US. It was just revealed that they are actively threatening bands from outside the US with “immediate deportation’ and immigration investigations if they perform at ‘unofficial’ events during the festival. At a time when immigrants are under attack, this policy is all the more chilling. Sign the petition to tell them to drop this practice.” SXSW has had this policy for years, apparently, but it still sucks.
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Sign up to volunteer at Disrupt NY

Disrupt London volunteers If you’re looking to roll up your sleeves to help put on the best startup show in the Big Apple, you should definitely sign up to be a TechCrunch Work Exchange Volunteer at Disrupt NY 2017. TechCrunch is thrilled to announce that we are now accepting applications to the Work Exchange at this year’s show in New York City, and we hope you’ll consider joining us.… Read More

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Sign up to volunteer at Disrupt NY

Disrupt London volunteers If you’re looking to roll up your sleeves to help put on the best startup show in the Big Apple, you should definitely sign up to be a TechCrunch Work Exchange Volunteer at Disrupt NY 2017. TechCrunch is thrilled to announce that we are now accepting applications to the Work Exchange at this year’s show in New York City, and we hope you’ll consider joining us.… Read More

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New Yorkers! Come see Edward Snowden and me onstage at the NYPL on the Walkaway tour!

I’m touring 20 US cities (plus dates in Canada and the UK!) with my forthcoming novel Walkaway; the full tour hasn’t been announced yet, but I’m delighted to reveal that the NYC stop on May 3 will be at the New York Public Library, where my interlocutor will be the whistleblower Edward Snowden. Tickets are $10-25! (Reminder: there are also signed first-edition hardcovers available for pre-order in the USA and UK).

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Announcing the Startup Battlefield Scholarship Fund for Disrupt NY 2017

techcrunch disrupt cup battlefield After the success of the Startup Battlefield Scholarship Fund at Disrupt SF and Disrupt London, we are pleased to announce that we will once again be offering scholarships to Startup Battlefield companies at Disrupt NY 2017, taking place May 15-17. Startup Battlefield is TechCrunch Disrupt’s startup competition that takes place three times a year. Applications to participate in… Read More

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Buy tickets to the Crunchies using our Facebook Messenger bot

10th-crunchies-statue-9-6 Here’s a fast and easy way to buy tickets to the 10th Annual Crunchies Awards in San Francisco: TechCrunch’s Messenger bot. Type the word “crunchies” into our Messenger bot or click here to purchase tickets with just a few clicks. After purchasing the ticket, the bot will also send a scannable QR code. Everything is done within Messenger. Take a look at how it works.… Read More

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TechCrunch Disrupt returns to Berlin in December

Panoramic view of Berlin at sunset. Four years ago TechCrunch Disrupt went to Europe for the first time, welcoming the continent’s startups, entrepreneurs and investors at our show in Berlin. We later moved to London for a three-year stint, which has proved to be fantastic. But with the continental startup scene growing like a weed, it’s time to get back into the thick of it. There is renewed excitement in the… Read More

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SF in SF: see Kim Stanley Robinson & Cecelia Holland live in San Francisco this Saturday

The next installment in the extraordinary lecture/reading series features Hugo-winning environmentalist author Kim Stanley Robinson and prolific historical novelist Cecelia Holland: $10 donation at the door, no one turned away for lack of funds. (Images: AllyUnion, CC-BY-SA; Other Change of Hobbit)

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