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Max Q: Get in loser, we’re smashing a spacecraft into an asteroid



Hello and welcome back to Max Q! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving-slash-holiday weekend. It’s more than a little mind-boggling that we’re reaching the end of 2021, but that only means one thing: TC Sessions: Space is almost here! You can still join us for the two-day event; more details are below.

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‘Armageddon Now’: NASA launches mission to test asteroid deflection

NASA is planning on crashing a spacecraft into a small asteroid to test whether this will meaningfully change its trajectory, in case Earth ever faces threat from a nearby space rock that wants to smashy-smash.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission took off Wednesday early morning to much fanfare, and it’s not difficult to understand why: This is the first time humans have ever attempted to change the path of an asteroid! Thankfully, the target asteroid is very, very far away and poses no danger to us — so far away that it’ll take the spacecraft around 10 months to even reach it, let alone execute its mission.

Right before the spacecraft reaches its target — the smaller of two asteroids that are traveling in a binary system — it’ll have to very precisely execute a number of burns and thruster firings to ensure it actually collides with the smaller space rock. The impact should change the orbital speed of the asteroid by less than 1%, but that should be enough to alter its orbital period by several minutes.

“Planetary Defense has been working on the problem for, really, decades,” explained Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “It’s time to start getting together this toolset — it’s getting important for all our stakeholders. It’s really been in the last five years or so that the program has increased its support. And the target has been around for at least five years before that — people were talking about how this is really perfect, we can view its success from the ground, there’s no need for a second investigation.”

Watch an animation of the mission below, courtesy of NASA:

Post-launch debriefs with Astra’s Chris Kemp and Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck

Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck and Astra’s Chris Kemp each gave separate post-launch debriefs to reporters this week, where they shared more details about what’s next for their respective space companies.

First, Astra: The company recently experienced a major win when it successfully launched a rocket to orbit for the first time. Astra, which went public via a SPAC merger this summer, delivered a payload for the U.S. Space Force as part of the department’s Space Test Program.

According to Kemp, the company is now ready to commence commercial operations using its small launch vehicle (Rocket 3.3) and begin flight testing a larger rocket variation (Rocket 4.0) next year.

“This is really hard and all it takes is one thing to go wrong,” he said.

Now let’s turn to Rocket Lab, which scored its own win last week when it successfully recovered a rocket booster for the third time. The next step in its recovery program: catching the booster in mid-air using a helicopter.

This has always been the ultimate aim of Rocket Lab’s reusability program, and the company has spent a lot of time preparing for this mission, which should take place sometime in the first half of next year, Beck said.

Eventually, around half of Electron launches will be reusable versus expendable, he added. This is different than the company’s plans for its forthcoming Neutron rocket, which is designed to be reusable each time it flies.

“I’m so thankful for all the reusability work that we’re doing on Electron today because there’s just so many lessons to learn that you can’t learn in a wind tunnel, you can’t learn in analysis, you just have to go and fly,” Beck said. “Electron has been a spectacular piece for us to learn so much about reentry, so much about controlling that reentry and managing those thermal loads, because reusability is not a structural problem to solve. It’s a thermal problem to solve and a control problem. And Electron has really enabled us to hone that.”

Rocket Lab’s next recovery vehicle, complete with an additional thermal protection system. Image Credits: Rocket Lab (opens in a new window)

Other news from TC and around the web

Blue Origin will be conducting its next crewed spaceflight mission on December 9. The manifest includes Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan; Alan Shepard’s daughter Laura Shepard Churchley; Voyager Space CEO Dylan Taylor; Dick Holdings managing member Evan Dick; and father and child pair Lane Bess and Cameron Bess.

Pangea Aerospace, a Barcelona-based company working on an orbital launch vehicle, has successfully tested a small version of an “aerospike” engine. Aerospike engines are a type of rocket engine believed to be more efficient, but they have faced a number of design and fabrication challenges preventing their uptake.

SpaceX is undergoing a leadership shakeup, so anonymous sources tell CNBC. Apparently Will Heltsley, VP of propulsion, and Lee Rosen, VP of mission and launch operations, have left the company after multi-year tenures.

Voyager Space Holdings is snapping up yet another space company. This time it’s Space Micro, a manufacturer of orbital communications and digital subsystems for satellites. This marks Voyager’s sixth acquisition since its founding in October 2019, as the company seeks to become a full-service space firm offering everything from robotics to launch support to communications tech.

The early agenda for TC Sessions: Space is here

Last year we held our first dedicated space event, and it went so well that we decided to host it again in 2021. This year, it’s happening December 14 and 15, and it’s once again going to be an entirely virtual conference, so people from all over the world will be able to join — and you can, too.

Check out a sneak peek of the early agenda by clicking here. Suffice to say, you won’t want to miss it.

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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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