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Airbnb nears IPO as Asana and Palantir land their direct listings

Editor’s note: Get this free weekly recap of TechCrunch news that any startup can use by email every Saturday morning (7 a.m. PT). Subscribe here.

The going has not always been easy but the tech IPOs keep coming. Airbnb itself is almost here, in what is likely to be the ultimate stock market listing of this dramatic year. After the pandemic triggered mass layoffs for the short-term rental marketplace, it has managed to make up all of the lost ground to pre-pandemic projections, TechCrunch and others have reported. Now, news is leaking out that it could seek to raise up to $3 billion at a $30 billion valuation.

The US presidential election in a month, Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis, and various other world events have yet to stop the tech IPO momentum.

This past Wednesday, Palantir and Asana both opted to put a limited number of shares up for sale directly instead of working with a bank to pre-sell portions to favored clients, following in the direct-listings footsteps of Spotify and Slack.

Palantir, which is continuing to get political scrutiny around its government data businesses, and Asana both finished the first few days of trading without any pop to speak of for initial public investors (although other things have been impacting markets in the same time frame). However, both companies have already turned billions of paper funding rounds into liquid money that can start going back to the employees and investors, as intended. And now, each can sail the high seas of public markets with a smaller, friendlier group of stockholders than many, many other public companies have.

We’ve been covering Palantir in great detail recently, but Asana’s entrance provides a broader lesson for the many aspiring SaaS startups out there.

Dustin Moskovitz, who has retained a huge amount of control as a cofounder/investor, told Danny Crichton for Extra Crunch that more than 40% of the task-focused work management provider’s revenue is now coming from outside of North America, with ongoing growth, high customer loyalty and big integrations with other SaaS providers. The results bode well for other SaaS companies considering direct listings, as Alex Wilhelm analyzes for EC:

Asana grew 63% in the six months ending July 31, 2020, compared to the same period of 2019, though that growth rate decelerated to around 57% when only looking at the most recent quarter and its historical analog. Good growth then, if slowing. And Asana’s gross margins were good and improving, coming in at 86% in the six months ending July 31, 2019, and 87% in the same period of 2020. But the company’s net losses were rising in gross and relative terms at the same time. In the six months ending July 31, 2020, Asana lost $76.9 million, up from $30.5 million in the same period of 2019. And, the company’s 77% net loss as a percent of revenue in the two quarters ending in July of 2020 was up from a 50% loss during the same period of the preceding year. Asana also consumed more cash this year than last year, with its operating cash burn rising from $13.1 million during the six months ending July 31, 2019 to $40.3 million in the same period of 2020.

And yet, from a reference price of $21, valuing the company at around $4 billion on a fully diluted basis, shares of Asana have risen to $25.14 at the open of trading this morning (though Asana lost several points today thanks to general market carnage). Current market trackers value the company at $3.86 billion.

Now, on to Airbnb! (And also, Datto!)

Source: Getty Images

Pandemic upsides arrive for cannabis, mental health and language learning

As the world tries to make sense of fresh Q3 data, we took a closer look at a few fresh startup trends. First, the cannabis market seems to be as strong as you’d expect. Matt Burns caught up with a range of weed-tech founders, investors and analysts, who shared almost entirely good news for the emerging sector. Here’s a highlight from Andy Lytwynec, VP, Global Vape Business at Canopy Growth, the cannabis holding company for a range of brands, including the vaporizer preferred by your self-medicated correspondent:

Lytwynec points to Storz & Bickle as a barometer of sorts in judging the impact of COVID-19. The German-based vaporizer company saw an uptick in sales, as reported in Canopy Growth’s latest quarterly report. The company reported a 71% increase during the first quarter ending on June 30. The financial report pointed to Storz & Bickel’s increased sales and distribution expansion as a primary reason for the increase. 

Just try getting a replacement for that mouthpiece you tragically broke at the start of quarantine. And don’t fall for that fake stuff on Amazon or you’ll be huffing plastic. Anyway…

Alex also checked in on mental health funding, which were already coming into their own before the pandemic. The first half of the year was the sector’s biggest yet, with a focus on remote therapy, virtual coaching and anxiety alleviation, although Q2 was down slightly from Q1. More, from Extra Crunch:

Investors are putting dollars to work in 2020 to further the growth mental health startups managed in 2018 and 2019. Per the CB Insights dataset, in Q1 and Q2 2020, these startups saw 106 rounds worth $1.08 billion. In the year-ago period, the figures were 87 rounds worth $750 million. (Unlike some subcategories of wellness startups that CB Insights detailed, mental health upstarts have enough regular VC volume to make year-over-year comparisons reasonable.)

In a different sector of tech-powered mind improvement, Duolingo is now on track to hit $180 million bookings, chief executive Luis von Ahn tells Natasha Mascarenhas for EC. While the language-learning company has seen usage surge from 30 million to 42 million monthly active users this year, it only makes money from 3% of them (those who want to pay to avoid seeing ads, get download access, and other features).

The future of transportation

From Kirsten Korosec, our resident mobility expert and host of our next event:

If you’re interested in tech, transportation and startups — of course you are — you should make our next event a priority. And it’s coming up in just a few days. TechCrunch is hosting TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 on October 6 & 7, a virtual event that will bring together the best and brightest minds working on automated vehicle technology, shared micromobility and electrification. We’ll be talking to former Tesla co-founder and CTO JB Straubel about his new venture Redwood Materials, the CEOs of EV newcomers Polestar and Lucid Motors, Formula E driver Lucas di Grassi about a new kind of racing event (hint, scooters!), early stage-investors from Trucks VC, Hemi Ventures and Maniv as well as Uber’s director of policy for cities Shin-Pei Tsay, to name a few. Plus there will be a dedicated networking time, a pitch night on October 5 and a virtual expo. There are a variety of ticket prices to meet your budget, including one for students. But I’m also here bearing gifts: Startups Weekly readers can get 50% off the full price at this link. If you’d just like to check out the startups expo portion, Startups Weekly readers can get in free with this link.

Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Top Indian app developers join global platform rebellion

Manish Singh, our lead reporter covering Indian startups, has been breaking news on the growing dissent against app platform policies. It’s getting epic:

More than 150 startups and firms in India are working to form an alliance and toying with the idea of launching an app store to cut their reliance on Google, five people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The list of entrepreneurs includes high-profile names, such as Vijay Shekhar Sharma, co-founder and chief executive of Paytm (India’s most valuable startup); Deep Kalra of travel ticketing firm MakeMyTrip; and executives from PolicyBazaar, RazorPay and ShareChat. The growing list of founders expressed deep concerns about Google’s “monopolistic” hold on India, home to one of the world’s largest startup ecosystems, and discussed what they alleged was unfair and inconsistent enforcement of Play Store’s guidelines in the country.

Their effort comes days after a small group of firms — including Epic Games, Spotify, Basecamp, Match Group and ProtonMail — forged their own coalition to pressure Apple and Google to make changes to their marketplace rules.

“Where else do these dollars go?”

Danny interviewed SF-based Index Ventures partners Nina Achadjian and Sarah Cannon about the latest trends in startup fundraising. Here’s a key part about the macro trends, that also explains why all those tech IPOs continue to happen (and do well):

TechCrunch: Given the amount of capital flowing into venture these days, have you noticed any LPs starting to pull back from the market?

Cannon: They’re not pulling back. In fact, it’s like, “Could you potentially take more allocation? And what do you think of these other seed managers?”

I think the way that I’ve got my mind around this is, where else would these dollars go? What are the alternatives for the dollars that are rushing into tech? I don’t know the latest numbers, but it was something like 40% of stock market returns are actually concentrated in Apple [and FAANG]. And then we’re seeing IPOs perform the same.

We’re in a global pandemic that could easily cause [another] recession. A lot of industries like airlines and travel have more exposure. Tech is just relatively more attractive. So if the interest rates are low, which they are, and [economists] have said that they’re going to be low for the coming decades, then you’re going to have lots of capital chasing returns.

Across the week

TechCrunch

Allbirds CEO Joey Zwillinger on the startup’s $100 million round, profitability and SPAC mania

How Twilio built its own conference platform

Working for social justice isn’t a ‘distraction’ for mission-focused companies

Apple removes two RSS feed readers from China App Store

Calling VCs in Rome and Milan: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

Extra Crunch

News apps in the US and China use algorithms to drive engagement, discovery

Which neobanks will rise or fall?

9 VCs in Madrid and Barcelona discuss the COVID-19 era and look to the future

Spain’s startup ecosystem: 9 investors on remote work, green shoots and 2020 trends

Healthcare entrepreneurs should prepare for an upcoming VC/PE bubble

#EquityPod

From Natasha:

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

This week, Alex is on a much-deserved vacation (but not from Twitter, it seems) so Danny Crichton and I chatted through the news and happenings of the week. Somehow we winded our way through the latest tech controversies, gave Chris Wallace a shout out and ended with some funding rounds. I’ll be out next week so don’t miss me too much, but expect the entire Equity team to be back full-speed in mid-October. Thanks, as always, to our producer Chris Gates for his patience and diligence.

Now, onto a sneak peek of what we got into:

  • Moderation continues to be the root of all problems. We got into the anti-semitic comments that were spewed on Clubhouse, and what that means for the future of the audio-only platform. As Danny so eloquently put it: if Clubhouse is having moderation problems even with an exclusive invite-only user base, the problem will grow.
  • We also talked about Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong’s blog post, which triggered a debate between us on whether tech companies can even choose to not be political. For the record, Black Lives Matter is not a political statement. It’s a human statement. Read this op-ed for more.
  • I wrote a piece about how a new program wants to be the Y Combinator for emerging fund managers. The whole “YC for X” model usually makes me roll my eyes, but listen to hear why I’m actually optimistic and bullish on programs like these taking off within tech.
  • Silver Lake added a $2 billion “long-term” hedge fund backed by Abu Dhabi to its tech finance toolkit. The strategy is a signal to privately backed startups, and potentially a slap in the face to SoftBank.
  • For a quick edtech note, I caught up with Duolingo’s CEO this week in one of his rare press interviews. Luis von Ahn explained the app’s surge in bookings, and there’s one key metric we pull out to noodle over.
  • Danny explained Gusto’s latest product launch with, wait for it, Gusto. In all seriousness, he brings up interesting points about the future of fintech feeling more full-suite, and free.
  • Funding round chatter continued when we unpacked Lee Fixel’s latest investment in India’s Inshorts.
  • Finally, we ended with LiquidDeath, which is not the name of a drinking game, but instead the name of a startup that has successfully attracted millions in venture capital for mountain water.

And with that, we will be back next week. Vote like your life depends on it, because it does.

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.

Is your startup the next TikTok?

Editor’s note: Get this free weekly recap of TechCrunch news that any startup can use by email every Saturday morning (7 a.m. PT). Subscribe here.

And I don’t mean building an app that gets the world addicted to short-form videos. I mean, where you build a huge company that spans the world and then get turned into a political football.

The Bytedance-owned app developer still appears headed for a shutdown in the US, after the already convoluted talks stalled out this past week. Each national government appears to require local ownership of a new entity, as Catherine Shu details, and the business partners are each claiming ownership. It’s a zero sum global game now for control of data and algorithms.

On the other side of the world, Facebook was quick to state that it would not be pulling out of the European Union this week even if it is forced to keep EU user data local, as Natasha Lomas covered. The company was clarifying a recent filing it had made that seemed to threaten otherwise — it doesn’t want to get TikTok’d.

For startups with physical supply chains, existing tensions are squeezing business activity from Chimerica out into other parts of the world, as Brian Heater wrote about the topic for Extra Crunch this week. Here’s what one founder told him:

Many [companies] are considering manufacturing in areas like Southeast Asia and India. Vietnam, in particular, has offered an appealing proposition for a labor pool, notes Ho Chi Minh City-based Sonny Vu, CEO of carbon-fiber products manufacturer Arevo and founder of deep tech VC fund Alabaster. “We’re friendly [with] the Americans and the West in general. Vietnam, they’ve got 100 million people, they can make stuff,” Vu explains. “The supply chains are getting more and more sophisticated. One of the issues has been the subpar supply chain … it’s not as deep and broad as as other places like China. That’s changing really fast and people are willing to do manufacturing. I’ve heard from my friends trying to make stuff in China, labor’s always this chronic issue.”

Danny Crichton blamed nationalistic US policies for undermining the country’s long-term commitment to leading global free trade and threatening its competitive future, in a provocative rant last weekend. There’s truth to that, but the underlying truth is that globalization worked, it just hasn’t work as well as hoped for a lot of people in the US and some other parts of the world. In addition to phenomenon like China’s industrial engine, for example, those cross-border flows of money and technology have helped nurture the startup ecosystem in Europe.

Mike Butcher, who has been covering startups for TechCrunch from London since last decade, writes about a new report from Index Ventures about this trend.

It used to be the case that in order to scale globally, European companies needed to spend big on launching in the U.S. to achieve the kind of growth they wanted. That usually meant relocating large swathes of the team to the San Francisco Bay Area, or New York. New research suggests that is no longer the case, as the U.S. has become more expensive, and as the opportunity in Europe has improved. This means European startups are committing much less of their team and resources to a U.S. launch, but still getting decent results…. Between 2008-2014, almost two-thirds (59%) of European startups expanded, or moved entirely, to the U.S. ahead of Series A funding rounds. However, between 2015-2019, this number decreased to a third (33%).

The report also highlights the economic problem of dividing up markets into political blocks. “European corporates invest three-quarters (76%) less than their U.S. counterparts on software,” Butcher adds about the report. “And this is normally on compliance rather than innovation. This means European startups are likely to continue to look to the U.S. for exits to corporates.”

The pain from failing to trade will come home sooner or later to each government, as Danny observes. But that could be longer than your current company exists. Instead, now is the time to pick the markets you can win, and plan for a world where success has a lower ceiling. And hey, if you’re lucky, your national government could pick you as its winner!

Want $100m ARR? Fix your churn

We’ve been recapping key moments from the Extra Crunch Stage at Disrupt this week, here’s a key segment from a panel Alex Wilhelm hosted about how to achieve the $100m ARR dream, featuring Egnyte CEO Vineet Jain:

After explaining that in the early stages of building a SaaS company it’s common to focus more on adding new revenue than “plugging the holes at the bottom,” [Jain] added that as a company matures and grows, more focus has to be paid to managing churn and retention. He said that dollar-based retention is a key metric in the SaaS world that startups are valued by, meaning that after securing a customer, your ability to upsell that same account over a “defined window of time” really matters.

Noting the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that bonuses at Egnyte are tied to retention, “I say, managing churn is the new revenue,” he added. “Focus on that disproportionately more than you would focus on just top-line growth” … . Egnyte, Jain added, drives to just one or two metrics (net new MRR, or gross MRR adds and churn). “Everything that we’re doing, all of us [at Egnyte] have to be measured with that number to say, ‘How are we doing as a company?’” So if your startup is post-Series A, listen to what Jain says on managing churn. After all his company reached $100 million ARR, has a few dozen million in the bank, grew 22% in Q2 and is EBITDA positive.

Summer of tech IPOs continues with Root, Corsair Gaming and of course, Palantir

While public markets have waffled on tech stocks lately, the overall momentum of unicorn IPOs has continued.

Except, Danny may have slowed things down a bit for Palantir? Here are the key headlines from the week:

As tech stocks dip, is insurtech startup Root targeting an IPO? (EC)

Chamath launches SPAC, SPAC and SPAC as he SPACs the world with SPACs

Palantir publishes 2020 revenue guidance of $1.05B, will trade starting Sept 30th

Following TechCrunch reporting, Palantir rapidly removes language allowing founders to ‘unilaterally adjust their total voting power’

In its 5th filing with the SEC, Palantir finally admits it is not a democracy

How has Corsair Gaming posted such impressive pre-IPO numbers? (EC)

Even more info about the best investors for you

We’re making another big update to The TechCrunch List of startup investors who write the first checks and lead the scary rounds, based on thousands of recommendations that we’ve been receiving from founders. Here’s more, from Danny:

Since the launch of the List, we’ve seen great engagement: tens of thousands of founders have each come back multiple times to use the List to scout out their next fundraising moves and understand the ever-changing landscape of venture investing.

We last revised The TechCrunch List at the end of July 30 with 116 new VCs based on founder recommendations, but as with all things venture capital, the investing world moves quickly. That means it’s already time to begin another update.

To make sure we have the best information, we need founders — from new founders who might have just raised their VC rounds to experienced founders adding another round to their cap tables — to submit recommendations. Thankfully, our survey is pretty short (about two minutes), and the help you can give other founders fundraising is invaluable. Please submit your recommendation soon.

Since our last update in July, we have already had 840 founders submit new recommendations, and we are now sitting at about 3,500 recommendations in total now. Every recommendation helps us identify promising and thoughtful VCs, helping founders globally cut through the noise of the industry and find the leads for their next checks.

Around TechCrunch

Extra Crunch Live: Join Index Ventures VCs Nina Achadjian and Sarah Cannon Sept 29 at 2 pm EDT/11 am PDT on the future of startup investing

TC Sessions Mobility 2020 kicks off in two weeks

Announcing the final agenda for TC Sessions: Mobility 2020

Explore the global markets of micromobility at TC Sessions: Mobility

Don’t miss the Q&A sessions at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020

Across the week

TechCrunch

Calling Helsinki VCs: Be featured in The Great TechCrunch Survey of European VC

The highest valued company in Bessemer’s annual cloud report has defied convention by staying private

Human Capital: The Black founder’s burden

Thanks to Google, app store monopoly concerns have now reached India

Free VPNs are bad for your privacy

Extra Crunch

The Peloton effect

Edtech investors are panning for gold

3 founders on why they pursued alternative startup ownership structures

How Robinhood and Chime raised $2B+ in the last year

Dear Sophie: Possible to still get through I-751 and citizenship after divorce?

Equity: Why isn’t Robinhood a verb yet?

From Alex Wilhelm:

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

This week Natasha MascarenhasDanny Crichton and your humble servant gathered to chat through a host of rounds and venture capital news for your enjoyment. As a programming note, I am off next week effectively, so look for Natasha to lead on Equity Monday and then both her and Danny to rock the Thursday show. I will miss everyone.

But onto the show itself, here’s what we got into:

Bon voyage for a week, please stay safe and don’t forget to register to vote.

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.

Startups Weekly: What countries want your startup?

Editor’s note: Get this free weekly recap of TechCrunch news that any startup can use by email every Saturday morning (7am PT). Subscribe here.

They say business needs certainty to succeed, but new tech startups are still getting funded aggressively despite the pandemic, recession, trade wars and various large disasters created by nature or humans. But before we get to the positive data, let’s spend some time reviewing the hard news — there is a lot of it to process.

TikTok is on track to get banned if it doesn’t get sold first, and leading internet company Tencent’s WeChat is on the list as well, plus Trump administration has a bigger “Clean Network” plan in the works. The TikTok headlines are the least significant part, even if they are dominating the media cycle. The video-sharing social network is just now emerging as an intriguing marketing channel, for example. And if it goes, few see any real opening in the short-form video space that market leaders aren’t already deep into. Indeed, TikTok wasn’t a startup story since the Musical.ly acquisition. It was actually part of an emerging global market battle between giant internet companies, that is being prematurely ended by political forces. We’ll never know if TikTok could have continued leveraging ByteDance’s vast resources and protected market in China to take on Facebook directly on its home turf.

Instead of quasi-monopolies trying to finish taking over the world, those with a monopoly on violence have scrambled the map. WeChat is mainly used by the Chinese diaspora in the US, including many US startups with friends, family and colleagues in China. And the Clean Network plan would potentially split the Chinese mobile ecosystem from iOS and Android globally.

Let’s not forget that Europe has also been busy regulating foreign tech companies, including from both the US and China. Now every founder has to wonder how big their TAM is going to be in a world cleaved back the leading nation-states and their various allies.

“It’s not about the chilling effect [in Hong Kong],” an American executive in China told Rita Liao this week about the view in China’s startup world. “The problem is there won’t be opportunities in the U.S., Canada, Australia or India any more. The chance of succeeding in Europe is also becoming smaller, and the risks are increasing a lot. From now on, Chinese companies going global can only look to Southeast Asia, Africa and South America.”

The silver lining, I hope, is that tech companies from everywhere are still going to be competing in regions of the world that will appreciate the interest.

Startup fundraising activity is booming and set to boom more

A fresh analysis from our friends over at Docsend reveals that startup investment activity has actually sped up this year, at least by the measure of pitchdeck activity on its document management platform used by thousands of companies in Silicon Valley and globally (which makes it a key indicator of this hard-to-see action).

Founders are sending out more links than before and VCs are racing through more decks faster, despite the gyrations of the pandemic and other shocks. Meanwhile, many startups shared that they had cut back hard in March and now have more room to wait or raise on good terms. Docsend CEO Russ Heddleston concludes that the rest of the year could actually see activity increase further as companies finish adjusting to the latest challenges and are ready to go back out to market.

All this should shape how you approach your pitchdeck, he writes separately for Extra Crunch. Additional data shows that decks should be on the short side, must include a “why now” slide that addresses the COVID-19 era, and show big growth opportunities in the financials.

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

SaaS founders could transcend VC fundraising via securitized debt

“In one decade, we went from buying licenses for software to paying monthly for services and in the process, revolutionized the hundreds of billions spent on enterprise IT,” Danny Crichton observes. “There is no reason why in another decade, SaaS founders with the metrics to prove it shouldn’t have access to less dilutive capital through significantly more sophisticated debt underwriting. That’s going to be a boon for their own returns, but a huge challenge for VC firms that have been doubling down on SaaS.”

Sure, the market is sort of providing this with various existing venture debt vehicles, and by other routes like private equity (which has acquired a taste for SaaS metrics this past decade). Danny sees a more sophisticated world evolving, as he details on Extra Crunch this week. First, he sees underwriters tying loans to recurring revenues, even to the point that your customers could be your assets that the bank takes if you go bust. The trend could then build from there:

Part two is to take all those individual loans and package them together into a security… Imagine being an investor who believes that the world is going to digitize payroll. Maybe you don’t know which of the 30 SaaS providers on the market are going to win. Rather than trying your luck at the VC lottery, you could instead buy “2018 SaaS payroll debt” securities, which would give you exposure to this market that’s safer, if without the sort of exponential upside typical of VC investments. You could imagine grouping debt by market sector, or by customer type, or by geography, or by some other characteristic.

Image Credits: Hussein Malla / AP

Help the startup scene in Beirut

Beirut is home to a vibrant startup scene but like the rest of Lebanon it is reeling from a massive explosion at its main port this week. Mike Butcher, who has helped connect TechCrunch with the city over the years, has put together a guide to local people and organizations that you can help out, along with stories from local founders about what they are overcoming. Here’s Cherif Massoud, a dental surgeon turned founder of invisible-braces startup Basma:

We are a team of 25 people and were all in our office in Beirut when it happened. Thankfully we all survived. No words can describe my anger. Five of us were badly injured with glass shattered on their bodies. The fear we lived was traumatizing. The next morning day, we went back to the office to clean all the mess, took measurements of all the broken windows and started rebuilding it. It’s a miracle we are alive. Our markets are mainly KSA and UAE, so customers were still buying our treatments online, but the team needed to recover so we decided to take a break, stop the operations for a few days and rest until next Monday.

How to build a great “revenue stack”

Every business has been scrambling to figure out online sales and marketing during the pandemic. Fortunately the Cambrian explosion of SaaS products began years ago and now there are many powerful options for revenue teams of all shapes and sizes. The problem is how to put everything together right for your company’s needs. Tim Porter and Erica La Cava of Madrona Venture Group have created a framework for how to build what they call the “revenue stack.” While most companies are already using some form of CRM, communications and agreement management software generally, each one needs to figure out four new “capabilities.” What they define as revenue enablement, sales engagement, conversational intelligence and revenue operations.

Here’s a sample from Extra Crunch, about sales engagement:

Some think of sales engagement as an intelligent e-mail cannon and analysis engine on steroids. While in reality, it is much more. Consider these examples: How can I communicate with prospects in a way that is both personalized and efficient? How do I make my outbound sales reps more productive and enable them to respond more quickly to leads? What tools can help me with account-based marketing? What happened to that email you sent out to one of your sales prospects?

Now, take these questions and multiply them by a hundred, or even a thousand: How do you personalize a multitouch nurture campaign at scale while managing and automating outreach to many different business personas across various industry segments? Uh-oh. Suddenly, it gets very complicated. What sales engagement comes down to is the critical understanding of sending the right information to the right customer, and then (and only then) being able to track which elements of that information worked (e.g., led to clicks, conversations and conversions) … and, finally, helping your reps do more of that. We see Outreach as the clear leader here, based in Seattle, with SalesLoft as the number two. Outreach in particular is investing considerably in adding additional intelligence and ML to their offering to increase automation and improve outcomes.

Around TechCrunch

Hear how working from home is changing startups and investing at Disrupt 2020

Extra Crunch Live: Join Wealthfront CEO Andy Rachleff August 11 at 1pm EDT/10am PDT about the future of investing and fintech

Register for Disrupt to take part in our content series for Digital Startup Alley exhibitors

Boston Dynamics CEO Rob Playter is coming to Disrupt 2020 to talk robotics and automation

Across the week

TechCrunch
The tale of 2 challenger bank models

Majority of tech workers expect company solidarity with Black Lives Matter

‘Made in America’ is on (government) life support, and the prognosis isn’t good

What Microsoft should demand in exchange for its ‘payment’ to the US government for TikTok

Equity Monday: Could Satya and TikTok make ByteDance investors happy enough to dance?

Extra Crunch
5 VCs on the future of Michigan’s startup ecosystem

Eight trends accelerating the age of commercial-ready quantum computing

A look inside Gmail’s product development process

The story behind Rent the Runway’s first check

After Shopify’s huge quarter, BigCommerce raises its IPO price range

#EquityPod

From Alex Wilhelm:

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

As ever, I was joined by TechCrunch managing editor Danny Crichton and our early-stage venture capital reporter Natasha Mascarenhas. We had Chris on the dials and a pile of news to get through, so we were pretty hyped heading into the show.

But before we could truly get started we had to discuss Cincinnati, and TikTok. Pleasantries and extortion out of the way, we got busy:

It was another fun week! As always we appreciate you sticking with and supporting the show!

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

Startups Weekly: The world is eating tech

Editor’s note: Get this free weekly recap of TechCrunch news that any startup can use by email every Saturday morning (7am PT). Subscribe here.

You could almost hear the internet cracking apart this week as international businesses pulled away from Hong Kong and the US considered a ban on TikTok. Software can no longer eat the entire world like it had attempted last decade. Startups across tech-focused industries face a new reality, where local markets and efforts are more protected and supported by national governments. Every company now has a smaller total addressable market, whether or not it succeeds in it.

Facebook, for example, appears to be getting an influx of creators who are worried about losing TikTok audiences, as Connie Loizos investigated this week. This might mean more users, engagement and ultimately revenue for many consumer startups, and any other companies that rely on paid marketing through Facebook’s valuable channels. But it means fewer platforms to diversify to, in case you don’t want to rely on Facebook so much for your business.

As trade wars look more and more like cold wars, it also means that Facebook itself will have a more limited audience than it once hoped to offer its own advertisers. After deciding to reject requests from Hong Kong-based Chinese law enforcement, it seems to be on the path to getting blocked in Hong Kong like it is on the mainland. But as with other tech companies, it doesn’t really have a choice — the Chinese government has pushed through legal changes in the city that allow it to arrest anyone in the world if it claims they are organizing against it. Compliance with China would bring on government intervention in the US and beyond, among other reasons why doing so is a non-starter. 

This also explains why TikTok itself already pulled out of Hong Kong, despite being owned by mainland China-based Bytedance. The company is still reeling from getting banned in India last week and this maneuver is trying to the subsidiary look more independent. Given that China’s own laws allow its government to access and control private companies, expect many to find that an empty gesture.

Startups should plan for things to get harder in general. See: the next item below.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Student visas have become the next Trump immigration target

International students will not be allowed to stay enrolled at US universities that offer only remote classes this coming academic year, the Trump administration decided this past week. As Natasha Mascarenhas and Zack Whittaker explore, many universities are attempting a hybrid approach that tries to allow some in-person teaching without creating a community health problem.

Without this type of approach, many students could lose their visas. Here’s our resident immigration law expert, Sophie Alcorn, with more details on Extra Crunch:

International students have been allowed to take online classes during the spring and summer due to the COVID-19 crisis, but that will end this fall. The new order will force many international students at schools that are only offering remote online classes to find an “immigration plan B” or depart the U.S. before the fall term to avoid being deported.

At many top universities, international students make up more than 20% of the student body. According to NAFSA, international students contributed $41 billion to the U.S. economy and supported or created 458,000 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year. Apparently, the current administration is continuing to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” when it comes to immigration.

Universities are scrambling as they struggle with this newfound untenable bind. Do they stay online only to keep their students safe and force their international students to leave their homes in this country? Or do they reopen to save their students from deportation, but put their communities’ health at risk?

For students, it means finding another school, scrambling to figure out a way to depart the States (when some home countries will not even allow them to return), or figuring out an “immigration plan B.”

Who knows how many startups will never exist because the right people didn’t happen to be at the right place at the right time together? What everyone does know is that remote-first is here to stay.

No Code goes global

A few tech trends seem unstoppable despite any geopolitics, and one seems to be the universal human goal of making enterprise software suck less. (Okay, nearly universal.) Alex Nichols and Jesse Wedler of CapitalG explain why now is the time for no code software and what the impact will bel, in a very popular article for Extra Crunch this week. Here’s their setup:

First, siloed cloud apps are sprawling out of control. As workflows span an increasing number of tools, they are arguably getting more manual. Business users have been forced to map workflows to the constraints of their software, but it should be the other way around. They need a way to combat this fragmentation with the power to build integrations, automations and applications that naturally align with their optimal workflows.

Second, architecturally, the ubiquity of cloud and APIs enable “modular” software that can be created, connected and deployed quickly at little cost composed of building blocks for specific functions (such as Stripe for payments or Plaid for data connectivity). Both third-party API services and legacy systems leveraging API gateways are dramatically simplifying connectivity. As a result, it’s easier than ever to build complex applications using pre-assembled building blocks. For example, a simple loan approval process could be built in minutes using third-party optical character recognition (a technology to convert images into structured data), connecting to credit bureaus and integrating with internal services all via APIs. This modularity of best-of-breed tools is a game changer for software productivity and a key enabler for no code.

Finally, business leaders are pushing CIOs to evolve their approach to software development to facilitate digital transformation. In prior generations, many CIOs believed that their businesses needed to develop and own the source code for all critical applications. Today, with IT teams severely understaffed and unable to keep up with business needs, CIOs are forced to find alternatives. Driven by the urgent business need and assuaged by the security and reliability of modern cloud architecture, more CIOs have begun considering no code alternatives, which allow source code to be built and hosted in proprietary platforms.

Photo: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Palantir has finally filed to go public

It’s 16 years old, worth $26 billion and widely used by private and public entities of all types around the world, but this employer of thousands is counted as a startup tech unicorn, because, well, it was one of the pioneers of growing big, raising bigger, and staying private longer. Aileen Lee even mentioned Palantir as one of the 39 examples that helped inspire the “unicorn” term back in 2013. Now the secretive and sometimes controversial data technology provider is finally going to have its big liquidity event — and is filing confidentially to IPO, which means the finances are still staying pretty secret.

Alex Wilhelm went ahead and pieced together its funding history for Extra Crunch ahead of the action, and concluded that “Palantir seems like the Platonic ideal of a unicorn. It’s older than you’d think, has a history of being hyped, its valuation has stretched far beyond the point where companies used to go public, and it appears to be only recently growing into its valuation.”

It also appears to be one of the unicorns that has seen a lot of upside lately. It has been in the headlines recently for cutting big-data deals with governments for pandemic work, on top of a long-standing relationship with the US military and other arms of the government. As with Lemonade, Accolade and a range of other IPOing tech companies that we have covered in recent weeks, it is presumably in a positive business cycle and primed to take advantage of an already receptive market.

(Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Meaningful change from BLM

In an investor survey for Extra Crunch this week, Megan Rose Dickey checked in with eight Black investors about what they are investing in, in the middle of what feels like a new focus on making the tech industry more representative of the country and the world. Here’s how Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital responded when Megan asked what meaningful change might come from the recent heightened attention on the Black Lives Matter movement.

I happen to be on the more optimistic side of things. I’m not at a hundred percent optimistic, but I’m close to that. I think that there’s an undeniable unflinching resolve right now. I think that if we were to go back to status quo, I would be incredibly surprised. I guess I would not be shocked, unfortunately, but I would be surprised. It would give me pause about the effectiveness of any of the work that we do if this moment fizzles out and doesn’t create change. I do think that there is going to be a shift. I can already feel it. I know that more people who are representative of this country are going to be writing checks, whether through being hired, or taken through the ranks, or starting their own funds, and our own funds. I think there’s more and more capital that’s going to flow to underrepresented founders. That alone, I think, will be a huge shift.

Around TechCrunch

Extra Crunch support expands into Argentina, Brazil and Mexico

Five reasons to attend TC Early Stage online

Hear from James Alonso and Adam Zagaris how to draw up your first contracts at Early Stage

Hear how to manage your enterprise infrastructure from Sam Pullara at TechCrunch Early Stage

Kerry Washington is coming to Disrupt 2020

Amazon’s Alexa heads Toni Reid and Rohit Prasad are coming to Disrupt

Ade Ajao, Maryanna Saenko, Charles Hudson, Ulili Onovakpuri and Melissa Bradley are coming to Disrupt

Minted’s Mariam Naficy will join us at TechCrunch Early Stage

Across the week

TechCrunch

14 VCs discuss COVID-19 and London’s future as a tech hub

Societal upheaval during the COVID-19 pandemic underscores need for new AI data regulations

PC shipments rebound slightly following COVID-19-fueled decline

Here’s a list of tech companies that the SBA says took PPP money

Equity Monday: Uber-Postmates is announced, three funding rounds and narrative construction

Regulatory roadblocks are holding back Colombia’s tech and transportation industries

Extra Crunch

In pandemic era, entrepreneurs turn to SPACs, crowdfunding and direct listings

Four views: Is edtech changing how we learn?

VCs are cutting checks remotely, but deal volume could be slowing

GGV’s Jeff Richards: ‘There is a level of resiliency in Silicon Valley that we did not have 10 years ago’

Logistics are key as NYC startup prepares to reopen office

#EquityPod

From Alex:

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

We wound up having more to talk about than we had time for but we packed as much as we could into 34 minutes. So, climb aboard with DannyNatasha and myself for another episode of Equity.

Before we get into topics, a reminder that if you are signing up for Extra Crunch and want to save some money, the code “equity” is your friend. Alright, let’s get into it:

Whew! Past all that we had some fun, and, hopefully, were of some use. Hugs and chat Monday!

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

Startups Weekly: Investors are keeping terms friendly — instead they say ‘no’ more often

[Editor’s note: Want to get this free weekly recap of TechCrunch news that startups can use by emailSubscribe here.] 

Multiple liquidation preferences, full-ratchet anti-dilution clauses and pay-to-play provisions are some of the words that still haunt startup founders who survived downturns in decades past. So far in this downturn, though, investors seem to be sparing the brutal terms that tend to surface when the money has all the leverage.

Why? It’s easier to let a company fail by saying no to funding* than it is to hold them along with terms that can’t possibly inspire the common stockholders — or so one can read between the lines from investors, founders and tech lawyers that Connie Loizos talked to for TechCrunch this week.

Overall, investors seem to fear hurting their long-term reputations and missing out on the next great company, same as it has been in the startup world for many years. Again, at least so far.

As lawyer Mike Sullivan, a partner and head of the corporate group in Orrick’s San Francisco office, notes, there simply aren’t enough deals being closed right now to draw any sweeping conclusions. “I haven’t seen investors try to take advantage of companies as a result of the crisis,” says Sullivan,” but I don’t have a lot of data points. I think it’s still too early to tell whether we’ll see the terms that we saw in the nuclear winter of 2001 and 2002,” after the dot-com boom ended.

Your mileage may vary, of course. One New York attorney said that the harshest terms recently were coming from growth-stage firms on the East Coast, who had always been more focused on the numbers anyway.

*Speaking of saying no, a new report out by tech law firm Fenwick & West details a sharp decline in Silicon Valley funding in March that we all knew was happening. More analysis by Alex Wilhelm over on Extra Crunch.

Aileen Lee

Early-stage focus could favor smaller investors now

Many venture firms that started out small a decade or two ago became later-stage as their portfolios grew along with booming markets. Now they have a lot of later-stage work to do. The result is that founders may have more success with raising from dedicated early-stage investors than with multi-stage founds. Here’s more on the dynamic, as described by Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures to Jordan Crook in our first (and very popular, thanks for attending everyone) live video call in a series that we’re calling Extra Crunch Live:

But I think the multi-stage firms that, say, have an early-stage fund and a growth fund, they’re in a different zone. Oftentimes, they have many portfolio companies that have really high burn rates and they have a lot of money, so they’ve got a different level of triage going on with those portfolio companies. Also, in some cases, because the market’s been so hot for the past 10 years, they’ve had a shopping list of companies that they wish they had been able to invest in, and maybe those companies may take an extra $50 million or $100 million dollars right now. So, a lot of the multi-stage firms are going to focus on getting a little more money into Stripe or Airbnb or the companies that they wish they had exposure to.

She goes on to note that many investors are now ready to start investing generally, and she’s now spending 50% of her time talking to new companies (versus almost all portfolio work just a couple of weeks ago).

The boom in spontaneous social apps

Clubhouse has been getting the most attention in some tech circles lately, but it’s part of a much larger trend that Josh Constine has been tracking for TechCrunch. The ‘spontaneous’ apps that make it easy to talk to everyone else now in quarantine could also break down existing barriers in how we communicate long into the future. Here’s how he defines the concept:

What quarantine has revealed is that when you separate everyone, spontaneity is a big thing you miss. In your office, that could be having a random watercooler chat with a co-worker or commenting aloud about something funny you found on the internet. At a party, it could be wandering up to chat with group of people because you know one of them or overhear something interesting. That’s lacking while we’re stuck home since we’ve stigmatized randomly phoning a friend, differing to asynchronous text despite its lack of urgency.

The big question is if people will stay spontaneous once thing normalize and we all can go back to our old routines. Given the long-term trends toward remote work and more private, personalized communication, I agree with Josh that we’re looking at a real part of the future.

Oh also, want to hear about Clubhouse more, still? Don’t miss Equity Monday this past week.

Image Credits: Paper Boat Creative / Getty Images

What fintech investors see in the pandemic

In our latest set of weekly investor surveys for Extra Crunch, we checked in with top fintech investors about how they are dealing with the pandemic, and separately, what trends they are focusing on long-term. Here’s Matt Harris of Bain Capital Ventures on what it takes for a fintech startup to survive (and succeed) now:

The survival of fintech startups through 2020 is less about stage and more about the two dimensions I mentioned earlier — vulnerability in terms of cash balance, burn, and durability of revenue, and direct impact of COVID-19 on their topline. Regardless of stage, startups will face both operational and fundraising challenges. Many of the companies that survive will do so out of sheer luck of their business model or fundraising timing, while others will have to actively change the way they operate in today’s world. In general, we’ve seen the most strength in B2B focused companies with recurring revenue models, particularly those focused on helping businesses automate and move analog processes online.

Around TechCrunch

Extra Crunch Live: Join Mark Cuban for a Q&A on April 30 at 11am ET/8am PT

Extra Crunch Live: Navigating the pandemic with an equitable lens

Throw us your best 60-second pitch on May 13 at Pitchers and Pitches

Introducing the Digital Startup Alley Package for Disrupt SF

Across the Week

TechCrunch

Y Combinator officially shifts its next accelerator class to fully remote format
The pandemic will force sports to reimagine the fan experience
How to make sense of the coronavirus chaos
What is contact tracing?
Can employers mandate COVID-19 testing?

Extra Crunch

An IPO? In this economy?
Dear Sophie: How can we support our immigrant colleagues during layoffs?
The changing face of employment law during a global pandemic
6 investment trends that could emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic
Will China’s coronavirus-related trends shape the future for American VCs?

#EquityPod

From Alex:

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

This week we had a choice of all sorts of news, but as we cut the show together as a group Danny pushed all the funding rounds up. So, when Alex and Natasha jumped into the show we had a bunch of good news to cover. We’re avoiding COVID-19 news, but the pandemic is just a part of the broader stories we want to tell. For the foreseeable future, coronavirus will be always be part of our interviews. But the conversation can’t start and stop there.

So what was on the docket? Three things: Accelerator news for the early-stage founders, funding rounds, of course, and some layoff news that was worth mentioning as it might trickle down beyond the unfortunate hosts. 

Listen here!

Startups Weekly: Where social startups will get funding in the future

[Editor’s note: Want to get this free weekly recap of TechCrunch news that startups can use by emailSubscribe here.] 

While consumer tech has matured as a startup category in recent years, many investors continue to be bullish on specific trends like online gaming, voice, and the unbundling of platforms in favor of focused social networks. That’s the key takeaway from a survey that Josh Constine and Arman Tabatabai did this week with 16 of the most active investors in key social product categories over on Extra Crunch. Here’s an excerpt of the responses, from Olivia Moore and Justine Moore of CRV:

  • “Unbundling of YouTube.” You can build a big company by targeting a vertical within YouTube with a product that has better features and more opportunities for creator monetization. Twitch is a great example of this! We’re also watching early-stage companies like Supergreat (in beauty) and Tingles (ASMR).

  • Voice as a social medium. Voice continues to pick up steam as a broadcast medium via podcasting, but we haven’t seen a lot in social or P2P voice yet. We think a successful platform will leverage the fact that voice content can be created and consumed while doing other things. We’re big fans of companies like TTYL and Drivetime that are making strides here!

  • Flexible digital identities. Gen Zers are online constantly but have different preferences across platforms/friend groups about how they want to “show up” digitally. The rise of “Finsta” accounts is one good example of this. Companies like Facemoji already help users create social content using a curated digital avatar — we’re excited to see what else founders build here!

  • Synchronous, shared mobile experiences. We’re bullish on apps that connect users in real time to have a shared social experience. Most apps now are “single-player,” which creates scroll fatigue. HQ Trivia was an early example more on the entertainment side, while companies like Squad help users browse the internet and watch TikTok together.

Other respondees include: Connie Chan (Andreessen Horowitz). Alexis Ohanian (Initialized Capital), Niko Bonatsos (General Catalyst), Josh Coyne (Kleiner Perkins), Wayne Hu (Signal Fire), Alexia Bonatsos (Dream Machine), Josh Elman (angel investor), Aydin Senkut (Felicis Ventures), James Currier (NFX), Pippa Lamb (Sweet Capital), Christian Dorffer (Sweet Capital), Jim Scheinman (Maven Ventures), Eva Casanova (Day One Ventures) and Dan Ciporin (Canaan).

EC subscribers please note: a second part of this survey will be running this coming week, focused specifically on social investing in the COVID-19 era.

Are VCs investing — or maintaining?

Speaking of financing, who is actually writing checks right at this moment in time?

“I’ve seen a lot of VCs talking about being open for business,” Eniac Ventures founding partner Hadley Harris proclaimed on a fundraising-trend panel this week, “and I’ve been pretty outspoken on Twitter that I think that’s largely bullshit and sends the wrong message to entrepreneurs.” Instead, as Connie Loizos covered for us on TechCrunch, he said he didn’t have time to talk to more founders because he was so busy helping existing portfolio companies.

Not every investor agrees with that viewpoint —  VC Twitter features many an anecdote about fresh companies getting funding. 

Let’s just hope that both things are true, because it is already rough out there. 

Does your startup qualify for a PPP loan? (And should you apply?)

Two debates have been raging around government support for startups. First, the big, messy new Paycheck Protection Program — designed to cover expenses for small businesses — does seem to be somewhat available to startups, based on revisions published by the Small Business Administration late last week. But things get complicated quick depending on your fundraising and cap table, as Jon Shieber covered last weekend for TechCrunch. Venture firms typically have controlling interests in a portfolio of companies that total more than 500 people, so if such a firm also has a controlling interest in your startup, you may not be eligible. Even if the VC stake is under 50%, preferred terms that came with the fundraising may your application afoul of the rules.

To help founders work through their own situations faster, startup lawyer William Carleton wrote a quick guide for Extra Crunch. Here’s where he says you need to start:

Do you have a minority investor which controls protective covenants in your charter, or which controls a board seat afforded certain veto rights on board decisions? If the answer to either fork of that question is “yes,” you almost certainly have confirmed that you will need to amend your charter and/or other governing documents before proceeding with a PPP application.

The other aspect, of course, is whether startups should be applying for this in the first place. Congress broadly intended the money to go towards small to medium sized businesses, most of whom would never be considered for venture. Shieber’s article is full of comments on that topic, if you feel like weighing in….

The commercial real estate comeuppance

If you’re like me, and you’ve started companies in the Bay Area and struggled to find office space you could afford, enjoy this bit of schadenfraude as you plot your remote-first future. Because the commercial real estate industry is facing an existential crisis after many, many years of rent-seeking upon the Silicon Valley tech economy (and everyone else).

Connie explored this exploding topic with a range of startups, investors and CRE agents in a big feature for TechCrunch this week. One analyst “expects the market to come down by ‘at least 10% and probably 20% to 30%’ from where commercial space in San Francisco has priced in several years, which is $88 per square foot, according to CBRE. Driving the expected drop is the 2 million square feet that will come onto the market in the city as soon as it’s possible — space that companies want to get off their books.”

It’s quite possible to imagine even bigger declines, given the broader hits that most any possible tenant is also taking to their budgets. Who knows, maybe this whole process will even help make the Bay Area and other wealthy metros a little more affordable again.

GettyImages 960803498

Edtech gets hot again, according to investors

After lots of money and lots of struggle over the past decade, edtech is suddenly hot again thanks to the pandemic. Natasha Mascaranhas has been covering the trend recently, and dug in this week with a big investor survey on the category for Extra Crunch.

“One investor pivoted from spending a third of their time looking at edtech companies to devoting almost all their time to the sector,” she tells me. “Another, who has been bullish for years on edtech, says its business as usual for them, but that competition may arise. An ed-tech focused fund thinks the sector has been underfunded for a while, so the moment of reckoning has begun.”

Respondents include:

Across the week:

TechCrunch

Economists haven’t thrown out the models yet (but they will)

Five CEOs on their evolution in the femtech space

Equity Monday: Hunting for green shoots amid the startup data

Extra Crunch

How SaaS startups should plan for a turbulent Q2

Fintech’s uneven new reality has helped some startups, harmed others

Fast-changing regulations give virtual care startups a chance to seize the moment

Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson on shifting a 3,000-person company to fully remote

Amid unicorn layoffs, Boston startups reflect on the future

#EquityPod

From Alex:

We started with a look at Clearbanc  and its runway extension not-a-loan program, which may help startups survive that are running low on cash. Natasha covered it for TechCrunch. Most of us know about Clearbanc’s revenue-based financing model; this is a twist. But it’s good to see companies work to adapt their products to help other startups survive.

Next we chatted about a few rounds that Danny covered, namely Sila’s $7.7 million investment to help build technology that could take on the venerable and vulnerable ACH, and Cadence’s $4 million raise to help with securitization. Even better, per Danny, they are both blockchain-using companies. And they are useful! Blockchain, while you were looking elsewhere, has done some cool stuff at last.

Sticking to our fintech theme — the show wound up being super fintech-heavy, which was an accident — we turned to SoFi’s huge $1.2 billion deal to buy Galileo, a Utah-based payments company that helps power a big piece of UK-based fintech. SoFi is going into the B2B fintech world after first attacking the B2C realm; we reckon that if it can pull the move off, other financial technology companies might follow suit.

Tidying up all the fintech stories is this round up from Natasha and Alex, working to figure out who in fintech is doing poorly, who’s hiding for now, and who is crushing it in the new economic reality.

Next we touched on layoffs generally, layoffs at ToastAngelList, and not LinkedIn — for now. Per their plans to not have plans to have layoffs. You figure that out.

And then at the end, we capped with good news from Thrive and Index. We didn’t get to Shippo, sadly. Next time!

Listen to the full thing here!

Startups Weekly: Asana numbers likely to be what the market wants

[Editor’s note: Want to get this weekly review of news that startups can use? Just subscribe here.] 

Asana may get more attention than the average SaaS company due to the Facebook pedigrees and outspoken views of its founders, but in practice it’s a low-profile, cash-efficient machine. Today, the productivity toolmaker does not need to raise cash via a traditional IPO, as we explored this week following its filing for a direct listing, even though it hasn’t raised that much money compared to other unicorns.

Alex Wilhelm dug into public numbers on Extra Crunch to make an educated guess about its pricing prospects:

Let’s presume that Asana crossed the $100 million ARR mark as 2018 came to a close. And, for the sake of discussion, that its eight quarters of revenue growth acceleration left the company with a 60% expansion rate. Then, Asana would have closed up 2019 with $160 million in ARR. (You can easily change up the numbers by tweaking when the company reached the nine-figure ARR mark and its ensuing growth rate.). …

Asana is likely worth more than its final private valuation of $1.5 billion. Presuming it can get a bog-standard 12x multiple on its ARR, the company would be worth $1.8 billion. If it can do better, or is larger than that, the value of the firm quickly rises.

Unlike Casper’s struggles, and One Medical’s somewhat surprising consumery pop, Asana is a straightforward bet for a good public performance based on traditional SaaS metrics. Stay tuned for more next week.

GettyImages 926051128

VCs are still pouring money into open source

In this week’s investor survey, Arman Tabatabai talked to 18 of the most active and successful investors in open-source and devops software about the latest trends. The money going into the sector has grown by 10% CAGR over the last five years, and nobody he talked to plans to slow down — in fact, many said the market was under-heated, or just halfway there. Why? Every company is trying to become more of a software company, developers now get to make more adoption and purchasing decisions, and there are countless software problems yet to solve.

The investors in Part 1 of the survey on Extra Crunch:

The investors in Part 2:

GettyImages 860704620

The latest startup funds are even more meta

It seems like everyone wants to invest in tech startups these days, including any large company or government body — and even tech startups. In the latest news on this long-running trend, cap table management unicorn Carta is starting its own fund to invest in companies. Given its in-house data and broad relationships in the industry, this seems like great positioning for some hot deals (as long as the clients on the platform don’t mind, of course).

Meanwhile, a couple of successful, currently active founders will also be ramping up their seed investments. Superhuman founder and CEO Rahul Vohra and Eventjoy founder Todd Goldberg are teaming up to create “The Todd & Rahul Angel Fund” which will put $7 million from an LP base of other founders and operators to work. The dollars involved may be small, but the signaling is likely to be very high.

Organized (tech) labor

Silicon Valley investors and founders have avoided unions for decades by giving employees a cut of the ownership directly. But is this arrangement changing? The rise of gig work, the questions about high valuations and future stock prices, the grind of life at many unicorn startups, and general concern about tech culture and ethics have combined to make some workers look harder at unions, as Megan Rose Dickey covered this week in an ongoing series.

Other workers, meanwhile, are striking out to form tech coops that share ownership from the start. She talked to a couple folks on this front as well, including one coop that is helping ride-share drivers to make more money.

Around the horn

Here’s why so many fintech startups are loaning to small businesses (EC)

Europe risks squandering its global advantage in deep tech innovation (TC)

What to expect when pitching European VCs (TC)

Dear Sophie: My H-1B was renewed, but I’m getting laid off (EC)

Latin America takes the global lead in VC directed to female co-founders (TC)

Why VCs are dumping money into insurance marketplaces (EC)

As a top manager leaves amid fundraising woes, SoftBank’s vision looks dimmer — and schadenfreude abounds (TC)

Why this VC thinks we’re heading for a cloud slowdown (EC)

#EquityPod

In this week’s episode, Alex and Danny sat down with Rick Yang of NEA, examined Casper and One Medical in more detail, and covered a few new funds and fundraises — including more thoughts on the Asana numbers. Check it out!

Startups Weekly: Tech layoffs spread (a bit)

Are January layoffs just a few post-WeWork jitters?

TechCrunch has found itself writing about layoffs at a few notable tech companies this week — and not just Softbank-backed ones. The focus is very much profits, as Alex Wilhelm summed up on Thursday, especially after the failed WeWork IPO and subsequent valuation and headcount decimation. We’ll be digging into the topic more soon but there does seem to be a certain consumery thread here. And perhaps some fears of negative macro trends bubbling up?

23andMe cut 16% or 100 people, citing slowing sales for DNA tests. Quora reduced an undisclosed number to focus on revenue. 

Plenty of tech investors have criticized Softbank’s approach to writing large check for large valuations, but they can’t avoid the same fears these days. So does Mozilla, which had to cut 70 people this month after struggling to build revenue products.

It still all seems sort of normal given the very high valuations and recent reconsiderations, at least so far. Layoffs may very well continue this year in a way that is necessary and even healthy in the long run.

More on TechCrunch, from Alex:

23andMe  and Mozilla are not alone, however. Playful Studios cut staff just this week, 2019 itself saw more than 300% more tech layoffs than in the preceding year and TechCrunch has covered a litany of layoffs at Vision Fund-backed companies over the past few months, including:

Scooter unicorns Lime and Bird have also reduced staff this year. The for-profit drive is firing on all cylinders in the wake of the failed WeWork IPO attempt. WeWork was an outlier in terms of how bad its financial results were, but the fear it introduced to the market appears pretty damn mainstream by this point. (Forsake hope, alle ye whoe require a Series H.)

Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

2019 venture data had soft spots, maybe

Fresh data sets are in on last year from Crunchbase, as well as PitchBook and the NVCA. Alex identified a few key takeaways: slightly lower early-stage fundings, a big global year overall, and some of the above WeWork-attributed drops already surfacing in the Q4 data over on TechCrunch.

I have to wonder what we really know right now, though. These are the best publicly-accessible funding databases out there, but many companies have stopped filing Form Ds with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in recent years, as Danny Crichton has been covering in this ongoing series. That was a main data source, especially about early-stage stealth companies.

The Crunchbase report goes over the global trend for the year, and that’s another confounding factor, actually — how trackable are startup funding dollars across borders these days? And how do you account for remote teams in that mix? And how do you account for crypto…?

If you are building a company now at any stage, the financial signs out now are not in my humble opinion ones to have any fear over. Especially relative to the other problems that are almost certainly in front of you.

There is a lot of money in VC now regardless of anything else, as the Pitchbook-NVCA report notes, and there will be for a long time.

How to handle a recession

As if on cue, we had a couple guest columnists provide articles about capital efficiency and recession-proofing your company. Shin Kim has a two-parter on TechCrunch and Extra Crunch, where he breaks down why most tech IPOs are not WeWork (in a good way) and how to pace your own fundraising regardless of anything else going on

Schwark Satyavolu, meanwhile, digs into the best practices for startups in the next recession for Extra Crunch, starting with this brutal real-life intro:

I founded my first startup, Yodlee,  in a strong economy with almost 20 competitors. Ten years and a painful recession later, we were the only game in town. Critical to our success was acquiring our largest competitor, something we never could have done in a strong economy because they never would have been willing to sell. The recession made it untenable for them to fundraise, enabling us not only to buy them, but to do so without cash in an all-equity deal.

A proclamation about board diversity

Board representation is a hot topic for companies of all sizes and none other than Goldman Sachs said this week that it would only take companies public that had at least one underrepresented board member.

CEO David Solomon said that companies that had gone public in the last four years with at least one female board member did significantly better than those without, but Megan Dickey notes for Extra Crunch that’s not quite all the way towards the goal:

But the lack of people of color on boards is perhaps a more urgent issue. Late last year, a Crunchbase study found that 60% of the most funded VC-backed startups don’t have a single woman on their board of directors. But there are even fewer black people, let alone black women, on boards. A 2018 Deloitte study found that of the Fortune 100 companies, white men held 61.4% of board seats, white women held 19.1%, men of color had 13.7% of board seats and women of color had just 5.8% of board seats.

Connie Loizos, meanwhile, writes for TechCrunch that boards themselves are not all of the way towards the goal:

Let’s be real here. Directors of public companies typically meet just four times a year to review quarterly results. It’s important and necessary, sure. But beyond ensuring that strategic objectives are being met and hopefully making useful introductions to the company, these roles are assigned more importance by industry watchers than they should. (They often pay ludicrous amounts given the work involved, too.)

Even pledging that Goldman is only going to take public companies that give back — say 1% of future profits to the NAACP, as one idea — would instantly put the bank in pole position for those founders and investors who truly want to be progressive. Goldman might miss out on a lot of business in the immediate term, we realize, but we’re guessing it’s a gamble that would pay off over time.

Around the horn

Lame LPs, founder referenceability and the future of VC signaling (TC)

Why is everyone making OKR software? (EC)

Should tech giants slam the encryption door on the government? (TC)

Where top VCs are investing in adtech and martech (EC)

US mobile app subscription revenue jumped 21% in 2019 to $4.6B across the top 100 apps (TC)

Relativity Space could change the economics of private space launches (EC)

Can a time machine offer us the meaning of life? (TC)

#EquityPod

Alex and Danny are back on Equity this week, here’s a menu before you listen to the episode here (and if you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that here).

  • Why Front’s latest investment (a $59 million Series C) is a pretty big deal. Not because of how much money it has raised — the firm has raised more in a single, preceding round — but because of who put the capital to work.

  • On the venture capital front, Danny and Alex also chewed over signaling risk in venture, and why bigger funds are writing earlier and earlier checks.

  • Also on the docket was the latest from Lambda School, which our former co-host and friend Kate Clark wrote. The gist is that regardless of how you feel about the company, your views are probably a bit too negative, or a bit too positive. (More on the company’s ilk from Extra Crunch here, and here.)

  • And three media deals, including The Athletic’s latest investment ($50 million), who might buy the company behind the hit podcast “Serial” and why Spotify might buy The Ringer. Which is about sports, it turns out.

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Startups Weekly: In a crowded field of unicorns, ClassPass becomes another unicorn

I hope you’ve all had a good week. Normally I’m behind the scenes (where I’m most comfortable), but I’ll be managing the Startups Weekly newsletter until I assign it to someone else. More on that in a few weeks. Want it in your inbox? Sign up here for this and other great newsletters we have to offer, including ones on space and transportation. For now, let’s get on with it, shall we?

A unicorn workout

Working out never did a body so good as it did for ClassPass this week. The popular startup that created a way to help people exercise more easily just became a unicorn with an influx of Series E cash. 

The latest funding, in the amount of $285 million, was led by L Catterton and Apax Digital, with participation from existing investor Temasek. It brings ClassPass’s total known raise to about $550 million.

We reported a couple of weeks ago that ClassPass, then at a $536.4 million valuation, was sniffing around for the round, which would promote it to the unicorn club.

We are motivated by the impact we’ve had on members and partners, including 100 million hours of workouts that have already been booked,” said ClassPass Founder and Chairman Payal Kadakia in a statement about the raise. “This investment is a significant milestone that will further our mission to help people stay active and spend their time meaningfully.

Photo: ClassPass

Funding real estate

A couple of real estate-ish startups got some attention this week. Los Angeles-based Luxury Presence raised $5.4 million to help it help agents round out their digital marketing arsenals.

In other real estate funding this week, Orchard, previously known as Perch, announced that it has raised $36 million. The company solves the problem that so-called “dual-trackers” face: selling their home while trying to buy one. It’s stressful and costs a lot of money.

As Jordan Crook wrote in her story on the raise: “Orchard solves this by making an offer on buyers’ old houses that is guaranteed for 90 days. Orchard co-founder Court Cunningham says that more than 85% of those homes sell at a market price before the 90-day period.”

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Image via Getty Images / Feng Yu

Lora DiCarlo’s return to CES

Brian Heater had a chat with Lora DiCarlo CEO Lora Haddock about the sex tech company’s return to CES. But the interview wasn’t conducted at a table in a crowded press room in some random hotel. It was in a truck with a big, glass trailer. It’s Vegas, obviously, so why not?

As Brian put it:

Driving down the Las Vegas Strip in a transparent box is a curious, extremely Vegas experience: puzzled tourists and confused CES attendees gawk from the sidewalks. Four of us are sitting in a makeshift living room with fuzzy white carpet: CEO Lora Haddock, Enzo Ferrari Drift DiCarlo (her fuzzy black-and-white Pomeranian), and a colleague, who holds Enzo in their lap. A four-foot-tall faux sex toy sits in a corner, swaying occasionally.

Last year, you might recall, the consumer tech show awarded Lora DiCarlo with an innovation award, but then took it back. They also banned the company from the show floor, stating it didn’t fit into a product category. Months later, they scored some funding and got an apology from the CES show runners.

Read the interview on Extra Crunch.

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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 03: Lora DiCarlo Founder & CEO Lora Haddock speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019 at Moscone Convention Center on October 03, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Around the horn

Extra Crunch

Over on Extra Crunch we published a bunch of great stuff this week, including stories about Ring and its evolving stance on security and privacy, how gig economy companies are trying to keep workers classified as independent contractors, and whether online privacy will make a comeback this year.

Here are a few more:

Head here if you aren’t a subscriber yet for a super-discounted first month.

#EquityPod

Alex Wilhelm was back on the mic this week with Danny Crichton, TechCrunch’s managing editor. Their docket included news of Lily AI’s $12.5 million Series A, Insight’s $1.1 billion acquisition of Armis Security, a round for a self-driving forklift startup called Vecna and SoftBank’s Vision Fund.

Listen to the episode here, and if you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that here.

But that’s not the only Equity news I have for you. Alex wants to help you all get started each week with Equity Mondays. In his own words:

The Equity crew will put together a short, zero-bullshit episode designed to get your week started. What news did you miss over the weekend? What recent venture rounds do you need to know about? What’s ahead in the coming week? And what’s on our minds? That’s what Equity Monday will bring you each and every morning in about seven minutes.

The good news is it’ll show up in the Equity feed you already know and love. Have a listen to the first Monday edition here.