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Gift Guide: 6 entrepreneurs tell us what they really want this year



Gift Guide: 6 entrepreneurs tell us what they really want this year

Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide! Need help with gift ideas? We’ve got lots of them. Looking for our other guides? Find them here!

2021 was largely defined by the great resignation, in which tens of millions of people left their jobs in pursuit of other opportunities. A sliver of those folks made their next career move into a personal one: betting on themselves by going solo. As a result, we have seen the rise of solopreneurs, either as a business owner, investor, or even a journalist choosing to start their own publication, traditional newsroom be damned!

Betting on yourself is an ambitious yet lonely process, so I surveyed a handful of solopreneurs to see what their gift wish lists look like this holiday season. We set no restrictions, so we weren’t sure what to expect — but what we got was a fun, thoughtful, and eclectic list of ideas; some focusing on productivity, others on comfort, and others on self-care. If there’s a running thread between them, it’s this: if you’re setting out to do things yourself, take care of yourself.

Casey Newton, founder of Platformer

Dell UltraSharp 34 Curved USB-C Hub Monitor

Image Credits: Dell

As the appeal of remote work goes from a question mark to a definitive statement, everyone is re-thinking their monitor game. Newton, who publishes a daily guide for understanding the social networks built by behemoths and challenged by startups, is eyeing a curved monitor. Why constantly switch from window to window when you can have one mega panoramic view of everything?

Price: $935 from Dell

Lolita Taub, GP of stealthy venture capital firm

Dame products

Image Credits: Dame

If you listen to podcasts, you probably know of Dame, a sexual wellbeing company (with great marketing). The company sells vibrators for couples and individuals, as well as aloe-based lube and toy cleaners. Taub pointed out the Pom, one of the more popular vibrators and includes a three-year warranty. Full disclosure: the entrepreneur is an investor in the company.

The KOHLER Stillness bathub

Image Credits: KOHLER

A key to avoiding burnout, as my friends like to remind me, is to indulge in relaxation so you can show up for yourself and your team with fresh energy. That’s the vibe of this stillness bathtub, which sounds as zen as I imagine it feels. The bathtub combines water, steam, lighting, and aroma to promote “the luxury of pause.” Sign me up, especially after a year like 2021.

Price: Not yet available for sale, but consumers can sign up to be notified when open for purchase.

Mac Conwell, founder of Rarebreed Ventures

Aviron rower

Image Credits: Aviron

“What is better than a rower that works almost as a game system?” said Conwell. Well, I don’t have a witty retort to that, but am definitely interested in rowing away from Zombies, and, as the VC says, mixing competition with low-impact workouts.

Price: Ranges from $2,199 to $2,499 from Aviron


Image Credits: GoodMylk

Foamy lattes and plant-based milk may not seem like they go together too well, but GoodMylk is aiming to change that. Conwell is an investor in what he claims is the “healthiest alternative milk on the market.” Shipped concentrated, GoodMylk helps people who like the taste of homemade hemp, almond and oat milk recreate the product without the hassle of a cheese cloth. Put differently, the founder Brooke Rewa discovered a proprietary flash-blast freezing technique that helps you make alternative milk, fast.

Price: $68 for a six-pack on Goodmylk

Ankur Nagpal, founder of Vibe Capital

Oura Ring

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Other than the Apple Watch, Oura rings may be the most popular wearable among techies. Users receive three daily scores, one to measure how well they slept last night, one that tracks fitness activity, and finally one that tells you your readiness to take on the day. All three matter when it comes to balancing the demands of work, live and the growing overlap between the two, so if you’re into numbers and tracking the Oura ring could be for you. It also offers at-home sizing so don’t worry about losing it when you’re washing the dishes. Or do, because I still would find a way.

Price: Starts at $299 from Oura Ring

Proof cocktail syrup

Image Credits: Proof

Proof sells old-fashioned, small-batch cocktail syrup in flavors such as pecan, citrus sour and maple bacon. While I’m not entirely sure about the last one, the syrups sound like a festive way to liven up your own bar cart or at least subtweet at your friends lack-thereof.

Price: $33 from Proof

Shila Nieves Burney, founder of Zane Venture Fund

A trip to an island for 6 months to work

Aerial view of Cousine island showing beach and villas. Cousine island. Seychelles.(Property released)

“There is something about being near water that is extremely soothing and motivating for me,” Burney said. “I am originally from Florida and live in Atlanta where there are no beaches so I yearn to be near water as often as possible for self-care, and for rejuvenation.” As people go to work from home to work from anywhere, I totally resonate with this type of wishlist item; it’s harder to get Prime Delivery on it, but it seems like island time would fulfill us all in ways that a frother will not. The investor also added that she wants a spa subscription, which… might be a bit easier to gift.

Price: Please check with your local travel agent, as this could range depending on how much you plan to indulge.

Regular girlfriend meetups

Let’s trade some meetings for meetups that have nothing to do with our day jobs as we enter 2022. “As a solo GP, I still yearn for the company of girlfriends to just BE, no agenda,” Burney said. She makes a good point, considering that those are the easiest plans to not prioritize sometimes simply because you know your OGs will always be there for you. Well, here’s a healthy reminder that your friends may be loyal, but they also need attention.

Price: Priceless.

Source: Tech


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



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’



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.


  • 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

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

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Source: Tech

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



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 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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