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LinkedIn is launching interactive, Clubhouse-style audio events this month in beta; a video version will come this spring

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LinkedIn is launching interactive, Clubhouse-style audio events this month in beta; a video version will come this spring

LinkedIn, now with more than 800 million people listing their professional profiles to build out their careers, is taking its next steps to get them to spend more time on the platform. The company is rolling out a new events platform, where it will be listing, hosting and marketing interactive, virtual live events. It is starting out first with an audio-only product that it will be launching this month in beta, followed by a video version that it will launch in the spring, initially targeting Creators that use LinkedIn as organizers and hosts.

With virtual events finding a lot of traction in the last couple of years of pandemic life, the plan for now is for LinkedIn’s new events product to be an all-virtual offering, and to open up the format to be shaped by those running the events themselves.

“Our philosophy is to put the organizers in control,” said product manager Jake Poses in an interview. “We want to make it easier to host virtual round tables, fireside chats, and more. Some may want the event to be more formal, or less formal. Some might want to communicate with their audience, to open up to the floor. We’re giving professionals interactivity and support.”

If the audio event feature it is launching this month sounds familiar, it is: this is the Clubhouse rival that we first reported LinkedIn was working on back in March 2021. LinkedIn has over the last year been experimenting with other features that it might add to this events service, such as a paid, ticketed option that it started testing in September last year — although for now, Poses confirmed that interactive events are being launched as a free service, with no plans for ticketing at this point.

(LinkedIn should probably not wait too long to introduce ticketing… I asked, and a Clubhouse spokesperson confirmed to me, that the startup is, as “part of [its] creator-first mantra”, Clubhouse is “exploring multiple options to allow creators to further monetize their work which includes ticketed events,” but with no timeframe specified. She also confirmed that video is not on the roadmap for now: “The company remains focused on social audio experiences, and is continuing to explore how new audio-centric features can enhance that experience for the community,” she added.)

A mock-up of how the audio event will look is here:

When it launches later this month, the new events platform will include tools to run interactive content end-to-end, with no need to use any other third-party software: hosts will be able to record and run the event straight from LinkedIn, and it will feature tools for online attendees and hosts to speak to each other in live conversations and to moderate discussions; and for attendees to communicate to each other both during and after events take place. LinkedIn will also, naturally, list events and help get the word out about them across its platform.

As for who will be hosting these events, the platform initially will be targeting individuals who are already using LinkedIn to connect with wider audiences — its own stable of Creators, as you might get on other social platforms like TikTok, except these are building content aimed at career development, professional topics and other LinkedIn-centric areas of expertise.

LinkedIn has been working on cultivating a wider and more active Creator community in the last several months. To this end, it even launched a $25 million fund and incubator last autumn, and Poses said that there are now 1.5 million Creators using LinkedIn Live, the broadcast product. Creating and hosting events is a natural fit to extend that strategy.

Poses added that over time LinkedIn also hopes to get businesses and bigger organizations to build events on LinkedIn. With the bigger organizations, however, often come bigger budgets, more infrastructure aimed at higher production values, and potentially ticketing and other services. He said the idea will be that those who need or want to will be able to integrate third-party apps and software into the production mix. (Indeed, he also confirmed that for now the whole stack has been built at LinkedIn itself — rather than leaning on any video or other software from Microsoft, which owns LinkedIn.)

A mock-up of how the video feature might appear in the feed is here:

LinkedIn’s interest in doing more in events goes back some way, starting with an Events hub that it first debuted in 2019, before the days of the pandemic and with a focus on in-person get-togethers. Some months into the COVID-19 pandemic, LinkedIn formalized some of the ways that it was being used in more virtual events scenarios with the launch of online polls and broadcast-style video events aimed at virtual engagement.

Those have been doing well for the company. Poses noted that annual virtual event creation has grown by 150% over the last year, and it has seen a 231% increase in LinkedIn Live virtual event attendees in the same period. The topics covered have included AI innovationsopening keynotes, financial planning, live home installationsmentorshipcybersecurity, and award ceremonies. (These also point to how LinkedIn longer term may well have more than just individual creators running these events.)

LinkedIn has also been using its size and financial muscle to invest in and acquire other interesting companies working in the events space. Last June, LinkedIn disclosed that it was investing in virtual events juggernaut Hopin — which was valued at $7.75 billion in its most recent funding round in August 2021. Last August, it also acquired a startup called Jumprope, which let creators make and share how-to and other mentoring videos. (In fact that is how Poses came to join the company and lead product covering creators, events and video.)

All of this is not only the next logical step for LinkedIn in its own content strategy, but it also definitely feels like a sign of the times, given how, two years into the pandemic, many of us are still working from home, and Covid-19 remains a threat to many.

Still, you can’t help but wonder how and if LinkedIn will be impacted by the fatigue that has set in for a lot of us around virtual videoconferencing and frankly virtual everything, and if LinkedIn could adjust if it turns out that one more virtual events option, is one too many.

Poses’ answer to this is both to defend virtual events as a must-have for more democratization, but that some event creators might also choose to take a hybrid approach.

Virtual and hybrid may be “the future”, Poses said, but interactive events are setting out to fix something completely different.

“As long as I could remember, I have gone to talks and meetups. These are the mainstays of how professionals communicate and learn things,” he said. “But they require money, time to travel, courage to go into a room and speak, and space to run an event. Our belief is that moving from in person to virtual is actually democratizing and opening up access to many more people.”

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

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

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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