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TechCrunch+ roundup: VC advice for CEOs, 2022 e-commerce trends, OpenSea’s valuation

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Data privacy is top of mind for online sellers, and for good reason: Regulators in China, Europe and North America are taking an interest, and iOS 14.5 allowed many consumers to disable data tracking, with negative consequences for companies that relied on Facebook’s granular ad targeting.

Bearing those factors and others in mind, Ben Parr, president and co-founder of e-commerce marketing platform Octane.ai, shared his e-commerce predictions for 2022:

  • Personalization and zero-party data become critical.
  • E-commerce embraces web3 and NFTs, but what will that look like?
  • Live shopping goes mainstream.
  • Slow but gradual improvement to the supply chain.

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If you manage an e-commerce startup’s brand, this is a helpful overview; Parr even weighs in on whether startups need to begin putting NFTs on their virtual shelves this year.

“I’m also eager to see brands utilize tokens for loyalty and rewards, a topic I’ve heard people discuss but not yet embrace.”

My prediction: We’ll be running many articles in 2022 with tactics for zero-party data collection. Google temporarily postponed its plan to deprecate third-party cookies until the latter half of 2023, which means the ad tech landscape is going to undergo tectonic shifts.

We have more expert-written posts with 2022 predictions in the pipeline, so stay tuned!

Thanks very much for reading,

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch+
@yourprotagonist

Making sense of OpenSea at a $13B valuation

NFT marketplace OpenSea’s valuation has skyrocketed, but at $13.3 billion, its revenue multiple isn’t very high when compared with other software companies, writes Alex Wilhelm in The Exchange.

“It appears that the new OpenSea valuation is cheap compared to recent fundamentals, but a little expensive when we consider how much its market booms and busts.”

After talking to marketing leaders for a year, here’s my advice for CEOs

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

This is a fantastic time to launch a startup, but if you’re trying to grow one — well, winter is coming.

We’ve already noted the impacts of new data regulations and consumers’ growing desire for more privacy, but here’s another log to toss on the bad news fire: As a percentage of company revenue, marketing budgets plummeted from 11% in 2020 to 6.4% last year.

“This is the lowest proportion allocated to marketing in the history of Gartner’s Annual CMO Spend Survey,” the research company reported.

Rebecca Lynn, co-founder and general partner at Canvas Ventures, has had dozens of conversations with early-stage founders in recent months.

In a TechCrunch+ guest post, she covers the “downward pressure on the efficiency of marketing dollars” and shares several strategies that are producing results — as well as some “crazy” ideas “that seemed ridiculous at the time.”

Mark Cuban-backed fintech Dave’s public offering puts SPACs to the test

As a startup with relatively good financial performance, consumer financial service startup Dave could have bided its time for an initial public offering. Instead, it chose the SPAC route.

While the decision brought benefits, the fact that a cohort of less-than-stellar SPAC listings debuted at the same time brought some troubles as well, said CEO and co-founder Jason Wilk.

“If I could have done it all over again, I guess it would have been the same price discovery and guaranteed capital without the name SPAC associated with it, just because it’s been unfair.”

5 growth marketing predictions for 2022

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

Our latest guest column with predictions for the coming year doesn’t just prognosticate: Growth expert Jonathan Martinez shares several tactics early-stage companies can use to capitalize on these trends.

Among other topics, Martinez shared methods for incrementally testing ads, his ideas about video ads and influencer marketing, and a few thoughts about Facebook and iOS 14 privacy changes.

“I believe we’ll start seeing heavy investments by Facebook and other social media platforms to keep users on their platforms, where they will still have access to first-party data,” writes Martinez.

Where will our data go when cookies disappear?

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

Digital advertising has changed a lot in the past year, and it’s bound to change further when Google blocks third-party cookies from Chrome next year.

For publishers, it means advertising dollars should be spent wisely on strategies that maximize ad monetization without relying on old methods, writes James Avery, founder and CEO of Kevel.

In a deep dive of the changing ad world, Avery explains how publishers will have to prioritize first-party data to gather user insights, the importance of walled garden ad solutions, and why unified IDs are unsustainable in the long term.

Israel’s cybersecurity startups post another record year in 2021

Image Credits: Filograph/Getty Images

Israel’s cybersecurity startups raised a stunning $8.84 billion last year, more than triple the amount raised in 2020 ($2.75 billion), according to YL Ventures’ State of the Cyber Nation 2021 report.

“Cybersecurity in Israel has become a polarized market that accepts only two types of startups: potential unicorns and actual unicorns,” writes Yonit Wiseman, associate at YL Ventures.

VCs and founders are max bullish as public markets flash warning signs

Image Credits: VectorInspiration / Getty Images

Public software stocks have lost a fair bit of value so far this year, but startup valuations continue to climb higher, seemingly unaffected by the markets’ declining opinion, writes Alex Wilhelm.

“Startups had best hope that private investors are right to index heavily on nascent growth rates over other traditional private-market metrics.

If not, everyone is going to be left holding some part of the bag when later rounds don’t consummate at higher prices.”

Source: Tech

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Baidu’s electric car brand Jidu closes $400M Series A round

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Once an industry with long development cycles, the automotive space is being upended by China’s tech giants. One can hardly keep up with all the new electric vehicle brands that come out of the country nowadays. Jidu, an electric carmaking company founded by Baidu and its Chinese auto partner Geely only a year ago, said Wednesday it has banked nearly $400 million in a Series A funding round.

The new injection, bankrolled by Baidu and Geely, which owns Volvo, is a boost to the $300 million initiation capital that Jidu closed last March. The proceeds will speed up Jidu’s R&D and mass production process and allow it to showcase its first concept “robocar” — which it classifies as an automotive robot rather than a car — at the Beijing auto show in April. The mass-produced version of the robocar will launch in 2023.

Jidu’s chief executive Xia Yiping previously headed the connected car unit of Fiat Chrysler in the APAC region and co-founded Mobike, the Chinese bike-sharing pioneer acquired by Meituan in 2018.

The rate at which Jidu has moved forward is remarkable but could easily attract skeptics who question its tech’s viability. The speedy cycle, the carmaker explained, is thanks to its strategy of using a simulated prototype car to develop its smart cockpit and autonomous driving systems, rather than testing individual hardware parts in a mass-produced vehicle.

The carmaker said in as short as nine months, it has “tested and proven” the safety and reliability of its Level 4 (autonomous driving without human interaction in most circumstances) capabilities for urban and highway roads.

The EV startup is also putting a big emphasis on branding and fan community, something its competitor Nio is known for. In December, it started recruiting car lovers to join its “Jidu Union” to geek out about cars at online and offline events.

Moving forward, Jidu will be hiring and training talent specializing in autonomous driving, smart cockpits, smart manufacturing and other related technologies.

Source: Tech

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Resilience raises $45 million for its cancer care startup

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French startup Resilience announced yesterday that it has raised a $45 million (€40 million) Series A round led by Cathay Innovation. The startup wants to improve the treatment journey when you’re diagnosed with cancer so that you live a healthier and longer life.

In addition to Cathay Innovation, existing investor Singular is also participating. Other funds are joining the round, such as Exor Seeds, Picus Capital and Seaya Ventures. Finally some healthcare investors are rounding up the round — Fondation Santé Service, MACSF, Ramsay Santé and Vivalto Ventures.

I already profiled Resilience in March 2021 so I encourage you to read my previous article to learn more about the company. Co-founded by two serial entrepreneurs, Céline Lazorthes and Jonathan Benhamou, the company wants to help both patients and caregivers when it comes to cancer care.

On the patient side, Resilience helps you measure, understand and deal with the effects and side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Users can track various data points in the app and find content and information about their illness.

But Resilience isn’t just an app that you use at home. It is also a software-as-a-service solution for hospitals so that they can better personalize their treatments. Resilience has been founded in partnership with Gustave Roussy, one of the leading cancer research institutes in the world.

Practitioners will be able to take advantage of all the data that patients have gathered from the app. This way, cancer treatment facilities understand the patient better and can adapt their care more quickly. Resilience has acquired Betterise to gain a head start when it comes to data-driven cancer care.

The long-term vision is even more ambitious than that. If you talk with a caregiver working for a cancer treatment facility, they’ll tell you they never have enough time.

And it’s even more difficult to keep track of new treatments that are becoming more and more specialized. Resilience doesn’t want to replace doctors. But it wants to help them overcome blindspots.

The result should be better care for patients, as well as more support through the Resilience app. Cancer care is a long and painful process, so anything that can improve this process is a good thing.

Source: Tech

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PQShield raises $20M for its quantum-ready, future-proof cryptographic security solutions

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Quantum computing promises to unlock a new wave of processing power for the most complex calculations, but that could prove to be just as harmful as it is helpful: security specialists warn that malicious hackers will be able to use quantum machines to break through today’s standards in cryptography and encryption. Today, a startup called PQShield that is working on “future-proof” cryptographic products — software and hardware solutions that not only keep data secure today, but also secure in anticipation of a computationally more sophisticated tomorrow — is announcing some funding as it finds some significant traction for its approach.

The startup, spun out of the research labs at Oxford, has raised $20 million, a Series A that it will be using to continue its research and, in conjunction with partners and customers, product development. The startup is already staffed with an impressive number of PhDs and other researchers across the UK (its base remains in Oxford), the U.S., France and the Netherlands, but it will also be using the funds to recruit more talent to the team.

Addition, the investment firm founded by Lee Fixel, is leading this round with Oxford Science Enterprises (formerly known as OSI) and Crane also participating. The latter two are previous backers from PQShield’s $7 million seed round in 2020.

If machine learning is shaping up to be one of the more popular (and perhaps most obvious) applications for quantum computing, security is perhaps that theme’s most ominous leitmotif.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. identified the risks of using quantum computing for malicious security intent some eight years ago and has been receiving research submissions globally in search of coming up with some standards to counteract that threat. (PQShield is one of the contributors.) Based on signals from other government bodies like the Department of Homeland Security — coupled with a memo from the White House just earlier this month mandating that the government’s intelligence and defense services make the switch to “quantum-resistant” algorithms in 180 days — it looks like the standards process will be completed this year, getting the wheels in motion for companies that are building solutions to address all this.

“One memo can change everything,” PQShield’s CEO and founder Ali El Kaafarani said in an interview.

PQShield (the PQ stands for “post-quantum”) has been working with governments, OEMs and others that are part of the customer base for this technology — adopting it to secure their systems, or building components that will be going into products that will secure their data, or in some cases, both. Its customers includes both private and public organizations impacted by the threat. Bosch is one OEM name that it has disclosed, and El Kaafarani said more will be revealed when PQShield announces its first commercially available solutions. (Other sectors it’s working with include automotive OEM, industrial IoT, and technology consulting, it says.)

PQShield’s solutions, meanwhile, are currently coming in three formats. There is a system on a chip that is designed to sit on hardware like smartcards or processors. It also is making software by way of a cryptographic SDK that can be integrated into mobile and server apps and technologies used to process data or run security operations. And thirdly, in a new addition since it raised its seed round, it’s making a toolkit aimed at communications companies designed specifically to secure messaging services. This latter is perhaps the one that might most immediately touch the consumer market, which has been fertile ground for malicious hackers, and has increasingly become a focus for regulators and ordinary people concerned about how and where their data gets used.

All of these, El Kaafarani said, are designed to work together, or separately as needed by a would-be customer, with the key being that what it is building now can be used today, as well as in a quantum computing future.

The idea of a “quantum threat” might sound remote to most people, considering that we’re still some years away from quantum computing becoming a commercial, scalable industry, but the reality is that malicious hackers have been collecting data that will help them “solve” current cryptographic keys using those machines for years at this point. Some of this data has been publicly shown off, and much has not. All of this has been leading, El Kaafarani noted, to an “inflection point where people are now ready to think about the next phase of public key infrastructure,” which he summed up in layman’s terms as the difference between “math that is still easy to solve, and math that will still be very difficult to solve, even on a quantum computer,” due to particular combinations of math problems and aspects of complexity theory.

Quantum computing, even at its still largely nascent stage, has been fueling a lot of startup and big-tech activity. Atom Computing (which designs quantum computing systems) and Terra Quantum (building quantum-computing-as-a-service, given the likely high cost of these machines) each raised $60 million earlier this month. Intel, IBM and Amazon are among those that have making significant investments in quantum servers and processors for years now. There are others also working specifically on quantum security.

In that context, PQShield groundbreaking role in helping develop standards, and its existing network of customers and partners, spells a clear opportunity and promise for investors:

“Thanks to an industry-leading team, decades of combined experience and a best-in-class product offering, PQShield has quickly emerged as a front runner and true authority in post-quantum cryptography for hardware and software, a field with enormous market potential,” said Fixel in a statement. “PQShield is already helping to define the future of information security, and we are excited to support their ongoing growth.”

Source: Tech

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