Connect with us

Tech

Outlines showers your home with recyclable options

Published

on

The sign of a true entrepreneur is someone who can look around and go “wait a minute, there must be a better way.” That approach worked well for Outlines‘ founders, who are tackling the unsexy but pretty serious recycling issue of shower curtain liners. The company just closed a $1 million pre-seed lead by Social Impact Capital to make sure that the giant water-splash-stopping sheets of plastic that are present in most of the 128 million households in the U.S. get sustainably recycled, rather than putting them in landfills.

“I moved to New York from London about six years ago. Like all New Yorkers I moved into like an old apartment that required me to have like a shower liner — one of those plastic shower curtains. Coming from Europe, like I was very used to a door or a plexiglass screen on the shower, or a separate shower unit. I was caught in this constant dilemma; I would pick up my shower liner, three or four months would go by it would get slimy and gross,” Outlines co-founder Luke Barkley Young explains. “I was in this really awkward position where I’d want to get a new one, but I had this plastic-guilt of throwing it away. I was used to being able to recycle everything, and I just hated this constant pain point.”

Long story short, Young and his co-founder Megan Murphy set out to solve the problem in a rather elegant way. The pair developed a shower curtain system where the top of the curtain, the weights and the shower curtain hooks are made from sturdy, long-lasting materials, and the shower liner itself is made from easy-to-recycle plastic. The company developed a business model where it can take the shower liner in return and recycle it responsibly, as it ships out replacement shower liners on a regular rotation.

The company started as a project called “Drip,” where the duo found 2,500 early adopter customers who, in addition to being early paying customers, gave a lot of feedback about their needs as consumers. After a while, the company decided that there was almost certainly a sustainable market there, and spun up the Outlines company to explore that direction further.

Of course, a single-product company rarely makes a great investment opportunity, so I pressed the founding team on what might happen next in their product portfolio.

Outlines’ shower curtain liner is full of clever details, including ensuring that all parts of the liner itself are recyclable, moving the weights and the metal clips to the parts of the curtain that are not designed to be refreshed. Image Credits: Outlines

“We haven’t decided fully on what our second product will be. What we are interested in is bringing to market links to a much larger audience. We have a couple of ideas. Things like loofahs, potty scrubbers, dish scrubbers, these things that just by the sheer nature of what they do, are possible products for us. Nobody wants to clean their dishes with the same dish scrubber forever,” explained Young. “So we are working to really understand our customer base, to determine what we should release next. We definitely hope to do that in the first half of 2022.”

On the one hand, the cynic in me is wondering “wait, we are giving VC funding to shower curtains, now?” but on the other hand, if 10% of households in the U.S. replace their shower curtain liners once every other year, that’s still 6 million sheets of plastic that need to be dealt with every year, somehow. Ensuring that it’s recycled responsibly doesn’t seem so bad. Still, I found myself wondering if a washable shower liner wouldn’t make more sense than shipping recyclable sheets of plastic around.

“First of all, shipping in general — especially in the United States — is becoming less carbon-intensive. So if you look at all the major couriers, they are adding more electric vehicles to their fleet. So carbon cost of shipping things back and forth is reducing, which is far superior to constantly shipping new stuff from the Far East where typically these plastic products are made. Also, when you do recycle in the U.S., there’s a lot more legislation and regulation around how recycling can happen versus overseas. The other point on this is when we throw items away they go to landfills. As they decompose, they actually release methane, which is a far more heavy greenhouse gas than CO2 from shipping back and forward,” Young argues. He further explains that washable solutions aren’t really an option: “Reusable, washable plastics would be a dream, but there are two problems with that. First of all, a lot of plastic-based materials that are waterproof, like polyester, when you put them in your washing machine, the friction of that actually really releases millions of microplastics. Municipal water systems just cannot get them out of the water supply. And then if you were to use a natural fiber, they’re covered in what’s called a Durable Water Repellent (DWR). Over time, because of the heat of a shower, it actually corrodes off. When that happens, your shower liner doesn’t work. So for this use case, plastic is by far the best material to use.”

The company today announced it raised its $1 million round, and I wondered what’s possible now that wasn’t possible before they closed the round.

“We just closed the round of $1 million before our launch, which was very exciting. We’ve done a ton of development up until this point, both in the product and the design of the product, the website and the entire online experience. But we’re really excited about investing in our digital tools. The first part is a part of responsible replenishment, it’s all about serving you a plan that is highly personalized to your needs. Obviously what we’re trying to do with that isn’t ensure that we’re not sending you more than you need, but you’re also receiving enough so that you’re not standing next to mold every single morning,” explains Murphy. “We are investing in that piece to make sure that we are as smart as possible, and that we’re creating something that’s genuinely valuable to you as a customer. We are also really excited about further product development. As Luke said, we are already beginning work on the second product, but this is a big category with lots of space for innovation. So we are investing in future product development, to make sure that we’re rolling out new products at a relatively quick pace.”

You can learn more about Outlines at LivingOutlines.com.

Source: Tech

Tech

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

Published

on

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

Continue Reading

Tech

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

Published

on

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.

Source: Tech

Continue Reading

Tech

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

Published

on

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

Continue Reading

Trending