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Daily Crunch: Payments company Checkout.com reaches $40B valuation after $1B Series D

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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for January 12, 2022! Today we have to talk about things both serious and less serious. So we’re going to look at global venture capital results for 2021, and Wordle. A delayed IPO, and the fact that a panda-themed startup is now a unicorn. You get the idea. Let’s go! – Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • 2021 was a venture capital year par excellence: Data indicate that 2021 was easily the biggest year of all time for venture capital and related private-market investing. TechCrunch dug into the major figures for the world, select geographies, and both the fintech and cybersecurity markets. Yes, you know that last year was a bit bonkers on the capital front. But we doubt you know just how bonkers.
  • Checkout.com raises $1B at a $40B valuation: Today’s mega-round of choice is one of the largest and most expensive in valuation terms that we can recall. And given that Checkout.com was worth $15 billion a year ago, the company has posted one of the fastest gains in paper value that we can recall. The lesson here is that the payments space is hot and not entirely owned by Stripe.
  • Justworks delays its IPO, which bodes poorly for unicorn exits: While venture capitalists were busy putting more money to work last year than ever before — and 2022 is kicking off in a similar manner, as the Checkout.com news shows — an IPO just got put on hold. Why? Justworks cited market conditions. For unicorns hoping to find an exit this year, the Justworks news is sub-good.

Startups/VC

What is a startup? It’s a question that TechCrunch has poked at from time to time (and that I have also wrangled with across the internet). But sometimes we care about tech products that are not startups. Wordle, the popular word game, is perhaps an example of the concept. As it is more website than company, its huge audience gains – TechCrunch has the key interview with the Wordle founder here – are not showering Wordle’s creator with all the benefits of its success. Owen Williams argues for our pages that the service is “being punished by app stores for choosing the open web.”

If you have yet to Wordle, are you even in tech?

Moving along, Public has appointed new indie board members after seeing its funded account tally soar 700% last year. The Robinhood competitor decided to eschew payment for order flow last year, a key revenue driver for its well-known rival. TechCrunch is curious what’s ahead for the company on the revenue side of things now that Public has reached material user scale.

And before we get into the day’s digest of funding events, Dorm Room Fund is raising a new, larger fund according to the keen eyes of our own Natasha Mascarenhas, and Headspace has acquired an AI-powered mental health startup.

Now, the rounds:

  • DeepScribe raises $30M for medically focused transcription: Doctors have to be medical providers and paperwork machines if they want to leave work on time. DeepScribe is betting that applying a little tech to the matter will help. The startup provides “ambient voice AI technology that summarizes natural patient-physician conversations,” TechCrunch writes. Neat!
  • Helping governments build digital IDs is big business: That appears to be the lesson from Merit’s new round. The startup just raised $50 million – bringing its capital base to $80 million in total – to help governments get past plastic cards and into the digital realm. Of course we have privacy worries about the concept, but at the same time, the fact that if someone steals my Social Security card it could be big trouble is some 1800s nonsense.
  • SeekOut lands $115M to help companies hire from a broader candidate pool: Gone are the days when you could hire a team of all white dudes and not get a few questions about your biases. So even the least-enlightened companies want to do better. SeekOut may be of assistance. The startup, TechCrunch writes, “aims to help enterprises hire from a more diverse talent pool.” And Tiger Global just doubled down on the startup with another big check. One to watch.
  • Pluang raises more capital to help Indonesians invest: Using fintech services to help make investing more accessible to the less wealthy has been the goal of a number of startups. Pluang is one such company, offering its users an array of possible assets that they can buy into for small amounts. And it just landed $55 million in a round led by Accel. (The notable fact here is that Robinhood’s share price erosion post-IPO is not halting investments into private companies that could be considered comps.)
  • What do you call a behorned panda? Turns out the answer to that question is BigPanda, a startup that just raised $190 million at a $1.2 billion valuation. Based on a read of the company’s materials, it uses AI to parse information coming from IT systems, and also helps automate rote tasks.

We have even more rounds on TechCrunch for your enjoyment, including $40 million for Ecommerce Brands, $115 million for TravelPerk, and $15.6 million for Superchat. If you want to know how these deals are being vetted, the Equity team has you covered.

Blockchain gaming survey: 7 investors discuss regulation, opportunities and NFT hype

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

Game distribution platform Steam banned blockchain-based games in October 2021: Any titles that incorporate NFTs or cryptocurrency were summarily booted from the service.

Meanwhile, within Axie Infinity, an NFT-based online game, new players are paying hundreds of dollars to acquire mythical pets and love potions.

Blockchain gaming is making inroads with some consumers, but given the lack of regulatory guidance and the speculative nature of many crypto holdings, what do investors think?

To find out, we surveyed seven investors who are active in the space:

Anton Backman, principal, and Kenrick Drijkoningen, general partner, Play Ventures
Banafsheh Fathieh, head of investments, Americas, Prosus Ventures
Josh Chapman, managing partner, Konvoy Ventures
Eddie Thai, general partner, 500 Startups and general partner, Ascend Vietnam Ventures
Beryl Li, co-founder, Yield Guild Games
Rajul Garg, founder and managing partner, Leo Capital

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Apple patches iOS in wake of HomeKit flaw: Updated iOS builds for iPhone and iPad will “patch the so-called ‘doorLock’ flaw, which was disclosed earlier this month by security researcher Trevor Spiniolas,” TechCrunch reports.
  • PC shipments soar: If you bought a new PC last year, you were far from the only person to do so. TechCrunch has the latest on 2021’s PC shipment figures, and if you own Apple or Microsoft stock, the news is Not Bad.

TechCrunch Experts

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We’re reaching out to startup founders to tell us who they turn to when they want the most up-to-date growth marketing practices. Fill out the survey here.

Read one of the testimonials we’ve received below!

Marketer: The Black Eye Project

Recommended by: Andrew Hagen, formerly with Cycliq

Testimonial: “We were based in Perth, Australia, and they were in Sheffield but they had an edge to them that no other agency seemed to display. Even though they were 12,000 kms away from us, they delivered and some! They took our rudimentary brand into something professional that could stand aside the top-tier competitors in our space then wrapped all of our collateral around the brand into a cohesive marketing package. They moved our goal posts!”

Source: Tech

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Dashworks is a search engine for your company’s sprawling internal knowledge

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As a company grows, the amount of important information employees need to keep track of inevitably grows right along with it. And, as your tech stack gets more complicated, that information ends up split up across more places — buried in Slack threads, tucked into Jira tickets, pushed as files on Dropbox, etc.

Dashworks is a startup aiming to be the go-to place for all of that internal knowledge. Part landing page and part search engine, it hooks into dozens of different enterprise services and gives you one hub to find what you need.

On the landing page front, Dashworks is built to be your work laptop’s homepage. It’s got support for broadcasting company wide announcements, building out FAQs, and sharing bookmarks for the things you often need and can never find — your handbooks, your OKRs, your org charts, etc.

More impressive, though, is its cross-tool search. With backgrounds in natural language processing at companies like Facebook and Cresta, co-founders Prasad Kawthekar and Praty Sharma are building a tool that allow you to ask Dashworks questions and have them answered from the knowledge it’s gathered across all of those aforementioned Slack threads, or Jira tickets, or Dropbox files. It’ll give you a search results page of relevant files across the services you’ve hooked in — but if it thinks it knows the answer to your question, it’ll just bubble that answer right to the top of the page, Google Snippets style.

Image Credits: Dashworks

Right now Dashworks can hook into over 30 different popular services, including Airtable, Asana, Confluence, Dropbox, Gmail, Google Drive, Intercom, Jira, Notion, Slack, Salesforce, Trello, and a whole bunch more — with more on the way, prioritized by demand.

Giving another company access to all of those services and the knowledge within might be unsettling — something the Dashworks team seems quite aware of. Kawthekar tells me that their product is SOC-2 certified, that all respective data is wiped from their servers if you choose to disconnect a service, and that, for teams that are equipped to host the tool themselves, they offer a fully on-prem version.

This week Dashworks is announcing that it raised a $4M round led by Point72 ventures, backed by South Park Commons, Combine Fund, Garuda Ventures, GOAT Capital, Unpopular Ventures, and Starling Ventures. Also backing the round is a number of angels, including Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear and Gusto co-founders Josh Reeves and Tomer London. The company was also a part of Y Combinator’s W20 class.

Image Credits: Dashworks

Source: Tech

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Daily Crunch: Google will offer G Suite legacy edition users a ‘no-cost option’

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To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PST, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for January 28, 2022! It’s nearly blizzard o’clock where I am, so please enjoy the following newsletter as my final missive before hunkering down. In happier and better news, TechCrunch Early Stage is coming up in just a few months and not only am I hype about it, I’ll hopefully be there IRL. See you soon! – Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Google invests up to $1B in Airtel: With a $700 million investment and $300 million in “multi-year commercial agreements” with Airtel, and Indian telco, Google has made its second major bet on Indian infra. Recall that Google also put money into Jio, another Indian telco. The deal underscores the importance of the country in the future of technology revenues.
  • What’s ahead for Europe: On the heels of news that European startups had an outsized 2021 when it came to fundraising, TechCrunch explored what’s ahead for the continent. Some expect a slowdown from peak activity, while others anticipate further acceleration. Regardless of which perspective you favor, European venture investment is expected to remain elevated for some time to come.
  • Zapp raises $200M: And speaking of European startups, Zapp, the U.K.-based quick-convenience delivery startup, just raised a massive Series B. The company previously raised $100 million, meaning that this round was big in absolute and comparative terms. As we see some consolidation in the fast-delivery space, this deal caught our eye.

Startups/VC

  • Are charter cities the future for African tech growth? TechCrunch’s Tage Kene-Okafor has a great piece up on the site noting that “African cities have the fastest global urban growth rate,” which is leading to overcrowding. Some folks think that “charter cities offer a solution.” Special economic zones of all types have been tried before – will they offer African tech a faster route forward?
  • Personalized learning is hot: Our in-house edtech expert Natasah Mascarenhas has a great piece out today on personalized learning startups – Learnfully, Wayfinder, Empowerly, and others – that are taking the lessons of remote schooling to heart and working to make products that work better for our kids. It’s an encouraging, fascinating story.
  • Rise wants to remake team calendaring: There is no shortage of apps in the market to help individuals and teams work together. But we might not need as many as we have. That’s why Rise is making me think. The team calendaring app just raised a few million, and could replace a few tools that myself and friends use. I wonder if the solution to the Tool Overload of 2022 is tools that do less, intentionally.
  • Canvas wants non-tech folks to be able to squeeze answers from data: Developers are in short supply, so no-code tools that allow folks who don’t sling code to do their own building are blowing up. Similarly, a general dearth of data science talent in the market is creating space for tools like Canvas, which “is going all in with a spreadsheet-like interface for non-technical teams to access the information they need without bothering data teams,” TechCrunch reports.
  • Zigbang buys Samsung IoT business: The IoT promises of yesteryear are coming true, and not. Samsara recently went public on the back of its IoT business. That was a win for the category. That Zigbang, a South Korean proptech startup, is buying Samsung’s IoT unit feels slightly less bullish.
  • Series F-tw? Once upon a time I would have mocked a Series F as indication that the company in question had failed to go public. But that was then. Today Series Fs are not that rare. Indian B2B marketplace Moglix just raised one, which doubled its valuation to $2.6 billion. Tiger co-led the $250 million round.

And if you are looking down the barrel of a blizzard, TechCrunch’s Equity podcast has your downtime covered. Enjoy!

European, North American edtech startups see funding triple in 2021

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

Pre-pandemic, VCs were notoriously reluctant to invest in education-related companies. Today, edtech startups are seeing higher average deal sizes, more seed and pre-seed funding from non-VC investors, and an influx of generalists.

According to Rhys Spence, head of research at Brighteye Ventures, funding for edtech startups based in Europe and North America trebled over the last year.

“Exciting companies are spawning across geographies and verticals, and even generalist investors are building conviction that the sector is capable of producing the same kind of outsized returns generated in fintech, healthtech and other sectors,” writes Spence.

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Northern Light Venture Capital’s He Huang says the Chinese robotics market is overheated: Per the investor, robotics in China is “riddled with speculation and overvalued companies,” calling the situation a bubble. It’s worth noting that China’s central government is working to retool where its tech investment dollars flow.
  • Robinhood goes down, back up: This morning, in the wake of the company’s lackluster earnings report, TechCrunch dug through why Robinhood’s stock sold off in after-hours, pre-market, and early trading sessions yesterday and today. And then Robinhood turned around and gained ample ground during the rest of the day. It’s a weird market moment, but good news for the U.S. fintech all the same.
  • Google to allow legacy G Suite users to move to free accounts: After angering techies still using the “G Suite legacy free edition” by announcing that it was ending the program and requiring payment, the search giant has decided to ”offer more options to existing users,” TechCrunch reports. Somewhere inside of Google, a business decision just met the market and was flipped on its head. Makes you wonder who is calling the shots over there, and if they previously worked for McKinsey.

TechCrunch Experts

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TechCrunch wants you to recommend growth marketers who have expertise in SEO, social, content writing and more! If you’re a growth marketer, pass this survey along to your clients; we’d like to hear about why they loved working with you.

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3 experiments for early-stage founders seeking product-market fit

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At Human Ventures, we have a fund for pre-seed and seed-stage investments, a venture studio and an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program.

Through this work, we’ve discovered a lot about how different founders fulfill their journey of customer discovery and product-market fit. One of the largest challenges for pre-seed and seed stage founders is determining where to start: There are a million things to do. What should you do at each stage?

We interviewed three founders from our portfolio, all of whom ran discovery experiments to find their product-market fit at different stages of their company’s development.

Here’s what they had to share:

Pre-MVP/customer discovery phase: Tiny Organics

Tiny Organics is a plant-based baby and toddler food company on a mission to shape childrens’ palates so they’ll choose and love vegetables from their earliest days. The company raised $11 million in their Series A in 2021 and is growing at over 500% annually.

Founders Sofia Laurell and Betsy Fore joined our venture studio as EIRs and went through a six-week discovery sprint. As Sofia explains, they knew they wanted to build something to make parents’ lives easier and threw a lot of initial ideas at the wall from the Finnish baby box 2.0 (Sofia is Finnish) to an easier way to create Instagrammable baby pictures.

They went through multiple exercises to test the viability of new parents’ most pressing and urgent needs:

  • Conduct a “Start with Why” exercise
  • Define the “Jobs to be Done”
  • Create a lean canvas for each (viable) concept
  • Define the user journeys
  • Conduct user surveys using platforms like pollfish.com and 1Q (instant survey tool)
  • Identify and define their customer personas
  • Conduct customer interviews and synthesize them
  • Construct concept prototypes

They also met prospective customers, conducting a focus group of 10-15 moms. When the founders asked them to text them what they were feeding their children along with pictures for a week, they realized the lack of healthy finger foods in the market, thus sparking the idea for Tiny Organics.

Source: Tech

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