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iOS 15 includes features to improve Google applications use

ios15, google, apple


Apple recently rolled out its latest operating system, iOS 15, and it will have new and improved features for improving the use of Google applications.

The announcement was made by the technology company was made in a statement.

A Focus mode is announced in which the feature will help in getting tasks finished within a given timeframe. They will be able to receive timely notifications.

Not only the feature will be handy in getting work done, but it will also be helpful in a different manner. For example, the tool will inform drivers if the road ahead is closed or quick turns have to be made.

The latest feature named Google Home will let the users know if strangers are standing outside their homes. This will help take precautions and inform the police or authorities of any suspicious person.

The tool will serve as a reminder regarding any work or house chore that needs to get done promptly.

But the less important notifications will get transferred to the Notifications Centre. They can get accessed later.

The statement mentioned that Google Photos and YouTube Music will release even larger versions of their widgets in the future for providing easy access to music and memories on iPads.

Earlier, Spotlight was making it easy to find content from Google Drive. With the latest version, songs – which are searched – will start playing on YouTube Music.

Cartona gets $4.5M pre-Series A to connect retailers with suppliers in Egypt

Cartona

image Credit: Cartona

Year-old startup Capiter announced last week that it raised a $33 million Series A to digitize Egypt’s traditional offline retail market.

It’s looking to take a large pie in the budding e-commerce and retail play, where multiple startups are pulling their weight including Cartona, also a year-old startup out of Egypt.

Today, Cartona is announcing that it has raised a $4.5 million pre-Series A funding round to connect retailers and manufacturers via an application.

The company confirmed that Dubai-based venture capital firm Global Ventures led the round, with Pan-African firm Kepple Africa, T5 Capital and angel investors also participating.

Cairo-based Cartona, founded in August 2020, focuses on solving the supply-chain and operational challenges of players in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry by helping buyers access products from sellers on a single platform.

Buyers, in this case, are retailers, while sellers are FMCG companies, distributors and wholesalers.

The problem retailers in Egypt and most of Africa face mainly revolves around limited access to suppliers. There are also issues around transparency in market prices, which are dependent on traditional logistical capabilities.

For suppliers, the lack of data and inability to make data-backed decisions to improve margins and aid growth add up to unoptimized warehouses. 

“The trade market is completely inefficient and it’s not good for the supplier nor the manufacturers, and it’s definitely not good for retailers,” CEO Mahmoud Talaat told TechCrunch in an interview. “So we came up with the idea of Cartona, which is basically a fully light-asset model that connects manufacturers and wholesalers to retailers.”

Talaat founded the company alongside Mahmoud Abdel-Fattah. Before Cartona, Abdel-Fattah founded Speakol, a MENA-focused adtech platform serving 60 million monthly users, while Talaat was the chief commercial officer of agriculture company Lamar Egypt.

Cartona works as an asset-light marketplace. On the platform, grocery retailers can get orders from a curated network of sellers. The company says this way, it can provide visibility through real-time price comparisons and clarity on delivery times.

Also, FMCGs and suppliers can optimize their go-to-market execution through the use of data and analytics. Cartona tops it off by providing embedded finance and access to credit to retailers and suppliers.

Cartona makes money through all these processes. It takes a commission on orders made, charges suppliers for running advertising to merchants (since they compete for the latter’s attention), and provides market insights on buyer behavior, price competition and market share.

“It is time to capitalize on technology beyond warehouses and trucks. Data and technology will transform traditional retail to a digitally native one, which in return will drastically improve the supply chain efficiency,” Abdel-Fattah said about how the company sells information to retailers and suppliers.

Cartona has over 30,000 merchants on its platform. Together, they have processed more than 400,000 orders with an annualized gross merchandise value of EGP 1 billion (~$64 million). Cartona also works with more than 1,000 distributors, wholesalers and 100 FMCG companies, offering consumers more than 10,000 products, including dry, fresh and frozen food.

The company’s business and revenue model is similar to other companies in this space, but the main difference lies in whether they own assets or not.

Taking a look at the players in Egypt, for instance, MaxAB operates its warehouses and fleets; Capiter uses a hybrid model in which it rents these assets and owns inventory when dealing with high-turnover products. But Cartona solely manages an asset-light model.

The CEO tells me that he thinks this model works best for all the stakeholders involved in the retail market. He argues that not owning assets and leasing the ones on the ground shows that the company is trying to improve the operations of existing suppliers and merchants instead of displacing them.

I believe that the infrastructure already exists. We already have many warehouses, many small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, and wholesalers and distributors and companies that have a lot of assets. If you want to fix the problem, we think one should enable the people who are strategically located in small streets all over Egypt and have the infrastructure but don’t have the technology needed to optimize their warehouses and carts.”

The current margins for suppliers with warehouses are slim, and Cartona provides the technology — an inventory and ordering system — to provide efficiency in its supply chain.

The general partner at lead investor Global Ventures, Basil Moftah, said in a statement that Cartona’s technology and not owning inventory proved critical in the firm’s decision to back the company.

“The trade market is one of the most sophisticated, yet [it is] characterized by multiple critical inefficiencies across the value chain,” he said. Cartona’s asset-light approach tackles those inefficiencies by optimizing the trade process in unique ways and does so with minimal capital spent.”

Proceeds of the investment focus on improving this technology, Talaat said. In addition, Cartona is expanding its team and operations beyond two cities in Egypt — Cairo and Alexandria — to other parts.

A longer-term plan might include horizontal and vertical product expansion into pharmaceuticals, electronics and fashion.

Paralympians bring home gold medals, but we’re failing them on web accessibility

Joseph Wengier Contributor
Joseph Wengier competed in five Paralympics and won nine gold medals. He promotes the advancement of a more inclusive internet as an ambassador for accessibility technology company UserWay.

After winning my first gold medal in the 1972 Paralympics, I went out with the swim team for a celebratory dinner. I’ll never forget the paradoxical sight of my teammates — all world-class athletes — being carried in their wheelchairs up the few steps into an inaccessible restaurant. While far from a rare occurrence at the time, the stark contrast between that moment and our victory in the pool earlier that day made it stand out.

As I strapped on my braces and slowly made my way up the stairs, I reflected on the irony of the situation. As Paralympic champions, we were sources of inspiration to millions. We were breaking down stereotypes and changing perceptions about what disabled people could accomplish. Yet while we were celebrated by society, we were not accommodated by it.

Accessing many basic goods and services required herculean feats of strength and agility. Attempts at participating fully in the physical world were met with hurdles and obstacles. At that time, it was clear that for the Paralympic movement, which strived to promote disability rights through Paralympic sport, the work was not yet done. In fact, it was just beginning.

Over the subsequent four Paralympic games that I participated in, we began to see the gradual shift toward more accessible cities. The Paralympic movement played no small part in that advancement. By putting a wide range of disabled people on TV around the world, it brought the need for equal access from the shadows into the spotlight.

Joseph Wengier and his teammates at the 1980 Paralympics. Wengier is second from left. Image Credits: Joseph Wengier.

The Paralympics also demanded host cities do better, requiring meaningful and lasting improvements to the accessibility of cities’ infrastructure. Today, while there is certainly still much room for improvement, disabled people have found solutions for most problems and are able to participate in society more than ever before.

Yet with the internet taking an increasingly central part in our daily lives, we are seeing the same exclusionary practices that we experienced — and fought against — all those years ago reappearing in a new form. A recent study reviewed the world’s top 1 million websites and found accessibility issues on the homepages of more than 97% of them.

A restaurant website that lacks support for keyboard navigation or does not work properly with screen readers can prevent a person who relies on these technologies from ordering food, similar to the way that lack of wheelchair access can prevent them from entering the establishment.

Now, with COVID-19 upending our daily routines, the shift online has accelerated. More and more businesses are going digital, with their website being the only way to schedule an appointment, buy groceries or apply for a job. This makes the need for accessible websites more critical than ever. It is not a matter of a minor inconvenience or an inability to access a new technology or service. We are seeing basic day-to-day needs moving online and becoming less accessible in the process. It is this slide backward that has compelled me to speak up and share my story.

As we go online to watch the highlight clips of our favorite athletes’ performances in Tokyo, take to social media to congratulate them, or visit our favorite sports site to read the coverage of the events, let’s demand that these businesses make their websites accessible so that Paralympic champions can do the same.

A recent image of Joseph Wengier at his computer with his medals in the background. Image Credits: Joseph Wengier.



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Netflix launches free plan in Kenya to boost growth

netflix-kenya-free plan-gettyimage
Image Credits: Krisztian Bocsi / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Netflix said on Monday it is launching a free mobile plan in Kenya as the global streaming giant looks to tap the East African nation that is home to over 20 million internet users.

The free plan, which will be rolled out to all users in Kenya in the coming weeks, won’t require them to provide any payment information during the sign-up, the company said. The new plan is available to any user aged 18 or above with an Android phone, the company said. It will also not include ads.

Netflix, available in over 190 countries, has experimented with a range of plans in recent years to lure customers in developing markets. For instance, it began testing a $3 mobile-only plan in India in 2018 — before expanding it to users in several other countries.

This is also not the first time Netflix is offering its service for free — or at little to no price. The company has previously supported free trials in many markets, offered a tiny portion of its original movies and shows to non-subscribers, and has run at least one campaign in India when the service was available at no charge over the course of a weekend.

But its latest offering in Kenya is still remarkable. The company told Reuters that it is making about one quarter of its movies and television shows catalog available to users in the free plan in the East African nation.

“If you’ve never watched Netflix before — and many people in Kenya haven’t — this is a great way to experience our service,” Cathy Conk, Director of Product Innovation at Netflix, wrote in a blog post.

“And if you like what you see, it’s easy to upgrade to one of our paid plans so you can enjoy our full catalog on your TV or laptop as well.”

The company didn’t disclose how long it plans to offer this free tier in Kenya — and whether it is considering expanding this offering to other markets.

On its past earnings calls, Netflix executives have insisted that they study each market and explore ways to make their service more compelling to all. The ability to sign up without a payment information lends credibility to such claims. Many individuals in developed countries don’t have a credit or debit card, which renders services requiring such payment instruments at the sign-up inaccessible to them.

The new push to win customers comes as the company, which is also planning to add mobile games to its offering, added only 1.5 million net paying subscribers in the quarter that ended in June this year, lower than what it had forecast. Netflix, which has amassed over 209 million subscribers, as well as Amazon Prime Video and other streaming services are increasingly trying to win customers outside of the U.S. to maintain faster growth rates.

Earlier this year, Amazon introduced a free and ad-supported video streaming service within its shopping app in India to tap more customers.

Sorare raises $680 million for its fantasy sports NFT game

Sorare

image credit:Sorare

French startup Sorare has announced that it has raised a significant funding round. SoftBank's Vision Fund 2 has led a $680 million Series B round, which values the company at $4.3 billion.

Sorare has built a fantasty football (soccer) platform based on NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. Each digital card is registered as a unique token on the Ethereum blockchain. Players can buy and sell cards from other players. Transactions are all recorded on the Ethereum blockchain.

What makes Sorare unique is that it has partnered with 180 football organizations, including some of the most famous clubs in Europe, such as Real Madrid, Liverpool and Juventus. It creates a barrier to entry for other companies in the space.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to expand to new sports, open an office in the U.S., hire more people and invest in marketing campaigns. You can expect more partnership announcements with professional sports organizations in the future.

In addition to SoftBank's Vision Fund team, Atomico, Bessemer Ventures, D1 Capital, Eurazeo, IVP and Liontree are also participating in the round. Some of the startup’s existing investors are also investing once again, such as Benchmark, Accel, Headline and various business angels.

Sorare generates revenue by issuing new cards on the platform. Players can then buy those new cards and add them to their collection. They can also manage a squad of players and earn points based on real-life performances.

Over time, the value of a card can go up or down. That’s why players often buy and sell cards from other players — there are even third-party websites that help you track auctions. $150 million worth of cards have been traded on the platform since January. Sorare doesn’t take a cut on player-to-player transactions right now.

While the volume of transaction is quite big, there is still a lot of potential for user growth. There are currently 600,000 registered users and 150,000 users who are buying a card or composing a team every month. Sales have grown by 51x between the second quarter of 2020 and the second quarter of 2021.

“We saw the immense potential that blockchain and NFTs brought to unlock a new way for football clubs, footballers, and their fans to experience a deeper connection with each other. We are thrilled by the success we have seen so far, but this is just the beginning. We believe this is a huge opportunity to create the next sports entertainment giant, bringing Sorare to more football fans and organisations, and to introduce the same proven model to other sports and sports fans worldwide,” Sorare co-founder and CEO Nicolas Julia said.

Sorare’s Series B is a huge funding round, especially for a French startup. Fantasy sports games are one of the best way to expose new people to the world of NFTs. That’s probably why NBA Top Shot is also incredibly popular for NBA fans.

And those platforms have become a great on-ramp to get started in cryptocurrencies. It’s going to be interesting to see whether it becomes more regulated in the future as more people start playing on Sorare.

MIT study finds Tesla drivers become inattentive when Autopilot is activated

tesla autopilot

Image Credits: Bloomberg / Contributor under a license.

By the end of this week, potentially thousands of Tesla owners will be testing out the automaker’s newest version of its “Full Self-Driving” beta software, version 10.0.1, on public roads, even as regulators and federal officials investigate the safety of the system after a few high-profile crashes.

A new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology lends credence to the idea that the FSD system, which despite its name is not actually an autonomous system but rather an advanced driver assist system (ADAS), may not actually be that safe. Researchers studying glance data from 290 human-initiated Autopilot disengagement epochs found drivers may become inattentive when using partially automated driving systems.

“Visual behavior patterns change before and after [Autopilot] disengagement,” the study reads. “Before disengagement, drivers looked less on road and focused more on non-driving related areas compared to after the transition to manual driving. The higher proportion of off-road glances before disengagement to manual driving were not compensated by longer glances ahead.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that not everyone who has paid for the FSD software will be able to access the beta version, which promises more automated driving functions. First, Tesla will use telemetry data to capture personal driving metrics over a seven-day period in order to ensure drivers are still remaining attentive enough. The data may also be used to implement a new safety rating page that tracks the owner’s vehicle, which is linked to their insurance.

The MIT study provides evidence that drivers may not be using Tesla’s Autopilot (AP) as recommended. Because AP includes safety features like traffic-aware cruise control and autosteering, drivers become less attentive and take their hands off the wheel more. The researchers found this type of behavior may be the result of misunderstanding what the AP features can do and what its limitations are, which is reinforced when it performs well. Drivers whose tasks are automated for them may naturally become bored after attempting to sustain visual and physical alertness, which researchers say only creates further inattentiveness.

The report, titled “A model for naturalistic glance behavior around Tesla Autopilot disengagements,” has been following Tesla Model S and X owners during their daily routine for periods of a year or more throughout the greater Boston area. The vehicles were equipped with the Real-time Intelligent Driving Environment Recording data acquisition system1, which continuously collects data from the CAN bus, a GPS and three 720p video cameras. These sensors provide information like vehicle kinematics, driver interaction with the vehicle controllers, mileage, location and driver’s posture, face and the view in front of the vehicle. MIT collected nearly 500,000 miles’ worth of data. 

The point of this study is not to shame Tesla, but rather to advocate for driver attention management systems that can give drivers feedback in real time or adapt automation functionality to suit a driver’s level of attention. Currently, Autopilot uses a hands-on-wheel sensing system to monitor driver engagement, but it doesn’t monitor driver attention via eye or head-tracking.

The researchers behind the study have developed a model for glance behavior, “based on naturalistic data, that can help understand the characteristics of shifts in driver attention under automation and support the development of solutions to ensure that drivers remain sufficiently engaged in the driving tasks.” This would not only assist driver monitoring systems in addressing “atypical” glances, but it can also be used as a benchmark to study the safety effects of automation on a driver’s behavior.

Companies like Seeing Machines and Smart Eye already work with automakers like General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and reportedly Ford to bring camera-based driver monitoring systems to cars with ADAS, but also to address problems caused by drunk or impaired driving. The technology exists. The question is, will Tesla use it?

VC Mark Suster: “The bet we’re making now is on founder skills,” not customers or products

MARK SESTER

Image Credits: Mark Suster / Upfront Ventures

We recently caught up with longtime VC Mark Suster of L.A.-based Upfront Ventures, which last raised both an early-stage fund and a growth stage fund several years ago and, according to regulatory filings, is in the market right now, though Suster couldn’t discuss either owing to SEC regulations.

We did talk about a wide range of things, from his firm’s big bet on the micro mobility business Bird (which could be publicly traded soon), to his views on decentralized finance, to his fitness regime (we had to ask, as Suster has shed 60 pounds since early last year). If you’re curious to hear that conversation, you can listen here. In the meantime, what follows are outtakes of his reflections on broader industry trends, including the feverish pace of deal-making.

On changing check seed-stage sizes, and how much time VCs have to write them right now:

It used to be 10 years ago that I could write a $3 million or $4 million or $5 million [check] and that was called an A round, and that company probably had raised a few hundred thousand dollars from angels and maybe some seed funds, and I could get a lot of data on how companies were doing. I could talk to customers. I could look at customer retention. I could look at a startup’s marginal cost structure. I could talk to references of the founders. I could take my time and be thoughtful…

Fast forward a decade, and $5 million is a seed round, and now there are pre seed rounds and “day zero” companies” and seed extensions and A rounds and “A prime,” there’s B . . . I’m not actually doing anything differently than I did 10 years ago, in terms of deploying capital, getting involved with founders very early, helping you build your executive team, set your strategy, work on pricing, [figure out] which market are you in, [figure out] the sequence of how you launch products and how to raise downstream capital. But the pressure on me is, I now need to make faster decisions. I need to be involved with your company earlier. So I’m taking a little more risk in terms of not being able to look at customers. You may not even have customers.

On why his firm is averse to today’s A and B rounds and leaning more heavily into growth rounds. (It just brought aboard a former Twitter exec to lead the charge here and has meanwhile plugged more than $50 million in to several of its portfolio companies, including Bird; Rally, an investing platform for buying shares in collectibles; and Apeel Sciences, which makes edible coatings for fruit.)

I would never rule out any round. But what I will tell you is that the new a round that I maybe have an aversion to is call it $20 million to $30 million. What does that imply? It implies that you’re paying a $50 million, $60 million, $70 million valuation. It implies that to really drive fund-level returns, you have to have $5 billion, $10 billion, or $15 billion outcomes or greater.

The world is producing more of those. There are maybe 11 companies in the United States that are pure startups that are worth more than $10 billion. I get it. But if you want to be writing $20 million A rounds where you’re taking that level of risk, you have to have a $700 million to an $800 million to a $1 billion fund. And I don’t want to be in that business, not because I think it’s bad, but it’s a different business that implies different skills. . .

We want to be super early, like the earliest capital, we’ll even take a risk on you want to leave your company and we’ve known you. Let’s say we knew you at Riot Games we knew you at Snapchat, we knew you at Facebook, we knew you when you were working at Stripe or PayPal. We will back you at formation — at day zero. We want to [then] skip the expensive rounds and come in later.

On whether Upfront invests in priced rounds as well as convertible notes, wherein an investor is entitled to invest at a discount to the next round:

I think there’s a lot of misnomers that rounds themselves aren’t priced. Almost every round is priced. People just think they’re not priced. So [maybe the question is]: are we willing to do convertible notes, are we willing to do SAFE notes, are we willing to do all this stuff, and the answer is yes. Now, most convertible notes, most SAFE notes, they don’t fix a price, but they have a cap. And the cap is the price. What I always try to tell founders is, what you have is a maximum price with no minimum price. If you were willing to just raise capital and set the price, you’d have a maximum and it’s better for you. But for whatever reason, a generation of founders has been convinced that it’s better not to set a price, which really what they’re doing is setting a max, not a [minimum], and I’m not going to have that argument again. People don’t understand it. [The short version is] we will do convertible notes; we would not fund something that had no maximum price.

Regarding how Upfront competes in a world where deals are happening within shorter time windows than ever before:

If you’re looking for [a firm that will invest after one call] you’re calling the wrong firm. We don’t have as much time to know if customers love your product. You may not even have customers. But please don’t mistake that. We spend as much time as we can getting to know the founders. We might know the founders for five years before they create a company. We might be the people egging them on to quit Disney and go create a company. So we really want to know the founder. The bet that we’re making is now more on the founder skills and vision than on customer adoption of a product. That’s really what’s changed for us.

I always tell founders: if someone is willing to fund you after a 30-minute meeting, that’s a really bad trade for you. If a fund is doing 35 investments or 50 investments or even 20 investments and they get it wrong because they didn’t do due diligence, okay, well, they have 19 or 30 other investments. If you get it wrong and you chose an investor who’s not helpful, not ethical, not leaning in, not supportive, not adding value, you live with that. There’s no divorce clause.

Evil Geniuses CEO Nicole LaPointe Jameson is coming to Disrupt

Nicole LaPointe Jameson Evil geniuses

Image Credits: Evil Geniuses

As the opportunities in the gaming world continue to expand aggressively as part of post-COVID shifts to the entertainment sector, esports has found its own opportunities in reaching new audiences. While competitive gaming is still in its early stages, the stakeholders of the industry are some of gaming’s most prominent publishers and organizations, and disrupting how business gets done can be a major challenge for rising leagues and platforms.

We’re excited to have Evil Geniuses CEO Nicole LaPointe Jameson join us at TechCrunch Disrupt this week to discuss the business of competitive gaming and how esports is faring in its quest to gain an even larger audience. We’ll talk to LaPointe Jameson about the various leagues and stakeholders in the industry and where the momentum is shifting.

Evil Geniuses is a two decade-old competitive gaming brand, but over the past few years, the esports company has seen a dramatic revamp, exiting leagues and joining new ones while bulking up its roster and looking to find new opportunities in a space that has matured dramatically this decade but is still chasing after mainstream audiences. The esports organization was formerly part of Amazon as a result of the Twitch acquisition, but in 2019 was acquired by Chicago-based Peak6 Investments.

LaPointe Jameson joined Evil Geniuses as CEO back in 2019. At the time, the 25-year-old investor had scant experience running a gaming organization, but since her appointment, the esports company has looked to shake up how companies in the esports world operate. Earlier this year, the company launched its own esports analytics platform, collecting and parsing professional and amateur gameplay data and giving the industry access to more streamlined tools to analyze players and recruit.

As one of very few Black women in charge of an esports organization, LaPointe Jameson has looked to build out a more diverse organization and find a more expansive audience outside traditional niches. The league has helped pioneer signing mixed-gender teams to compete at major competitions.

“To clarify for the people in the back that didn’t catch it the first time… I don’t care where you come from. Nor your creed, gender, religion, class, past industry, or sexual orientation. If you are the best of the best, you have a home here at [Evil Geniuses],” LaPointe Jameson tweeted earlier this year.

We look forward to chatting with LaPointe Jameson, alongside a whole host of amazing speakers at Disrupt, including Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, and actor-entrepreneur Ryan Reynolds.

TrueLayer nabs $130M at a $1B+ valuation as open banking rises as a viable option to card networks

technolovy banking data
Image Credits: ipopba / Getty Images

Open banking — a disruptive technology that seeks to bypass the dominance of card networks and other traditional financial rails by letting banks open their systems directly to developers (and new services) by way of APIs — continues to gain ground in the world of financial services. As a mark of that traction, a startup playing a central role in open banking applications is announcing a big round of funding with a milestone valuation.

TrueLayer, which provides technology for developers to enable a range of open-banking-based services — these currently include payments  payouts, user account information and user verification — has raised $130 million in a funding round that values the London-based startup at over $1 billion.

Tiger Global Management is leading the round, and notably, payments juggernaut Stripe is also participating.

Open Banking is a relatively new area in the world of fintech — the UK was an early adopter in 2018, Europe then signed on, and it looks like we are now seeing more movements that the U.S. may soon also join the party — and TrueLayer is considered a pioneer in the space.

The vast majority of transactions today are still made using card rails or more antiquated banking infrastructure, but the opportunity with open banking is to build a completely new infrastructure that works more efficiently, and might come with less (or no) fees for those using it, with the perennial API promise: all by way of few lines of code.

“We had a vision that finance should be opened up, and we are actively woking to remove the frictions that exist between intermediaries,” said CEO Francesco Simoneschi, who co-founded the company with Luca Martinetti (who is now the CTO), in an interview. “We want a financial system that works for everyone, but that hasn’t been the case up to now. The opportunity emerged five years ago, when open banking came into law in the UK and then elsewhere, to go after the most impressive oligopoly: the card networks and everything that revolves around them. Now, we can easily say that open banking is becoming a viable alternative to that.”

It seems that the world of finance and commerce is slowly catching on, and so the funding is coming on the heels of some strong growth for the company.

The startup says it now has “millions” of consumers making open banking transactions enabled by TrueLayer’s technology, and some 10,000 developers are building services based on open banking standards. TrueLayer so far this year has doubled its customer base, picking up some key customers like Cazoo to enable open-banking based payments for cars; and it has processed “billions” of dollars in payments, with payment volume growing 400%, and payment up 800%.

The plan is to use the funding to invest in building out that business further — specifically to extend its payments network to more regions (and more banks getting integrated into that network), as well as to bring on more customers using open banking services for more regular, recurring transactions.

“The shift to alternative payment methods is accelerating with the global growth of online commerce, and we believe TrueLayer will play a central role in making these payment methods more accessible,” said Alex Cook, partner, Tiger Global, in a statement. “We’re excited to partner with Francesco, Luca and the TrueLayer team as they help customers increase conversion and continue to grow the network.”

Notably, Stripe is not a strategic investor in TrueLayer at the moment, just a financial one. That is to say, it has yet to integrate open banking into its own payments infrastructure.

But you can imagine how it would be interested in it as part of the bigger mix of options for its customers, and potentially also to build its own standalone financial rails that well and truly compete with those provided by the card networks (which are such a close part of what Stripe does that its earliest web design was based on the physical card, and even its name is a reference to the stripe on the back of them.

There are other providers of open banking connectivity in the market today — Plaid out of the U.S. is one notable name — but Simoneschi believes that Stripe and TrueLayer on the same page as companies.

“We share a profound belief that progress comes through the eyes of developers so it’s about delivering the tools they need to use,” he he said. “We are in a very complementary space.”

Daily Crunch: European regulators share more privacy concerns over Facebook “smart” glasses

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for September 20, 2021. It is Disrupt week, everyone, and TechCrunch is buzzing. Kicking off tomorrow morning, Disrupt is set to be a pretty butt-kicking affair. Check the agenda here, speakers here, Battlefield companies here, and if you want to see your humble servant doing his first run (last run?) at hosting, well, stick to the Extra Crunch stage. Nice tweets only, please.

See you tomorrow morning! — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Coinbase pulls plug on lending product: U.S. cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has decided to shelve its “Lend” product that would have provided yield to investors who stake their crypto assets. Why? The U.S. regulatory body involved with such products views the creation as a security and said that it would sue Coinbase if it launched the product. Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong publicly made the case that the SEC was being silly, which didn’t seem to help much. Perhaps somewhat-snarky Twitter threads are not the way to regulatory victory.
  • IPOs galore: Alrighty folks who care about public-market liquidity, we have a bevy of stories for you today. Here’s who is going to get rich from GitLab’s IPO, here is a dig into the new pricing for Toast’s IPO, and here are a few notes on Freshworks’ raised IPO price. Enjoy!
  • Europe wants Facebook to turn its lights on: Or at least more on. In the wake of Facebook’s announced Ray-Ban camera-glasses, the “lead privacy regulator in Europe has raised concerns” about the hardware. At issue is the small light indicating that they are recording. Perhaps a bigger light would be better. That or we may be in another cycle of Glasshole discourse, which I am sure we’d all rather avoid.

Startups/VC

  • You don’t have to go to space to image the Earth: That’s the lesson from Near Space Labs’ latest round of capital, a $13 million infusion. While several startups want to take lots of pictures of the Earth for commercial purposes from satellites (Albedo is one we’ve covered before), Near Space wants to use balloons that are merely, well, near space. Reaching orbit is cheaper than ever, but certainly still not cheap. Perhaps this is the way forward?
  • Fivetran raises huge round, buys smaller company: Hard enterprise reporter Ron Miller covered this $565 million investment for TechCrunch, noting that Fivetran is now worth some $5.6 billion. The company is also shelling out $700 million for HVR, what Miller describes as a “data integration competitor that had raised more than $50 million.” The latter deal is a mix of cash and stock. Fivetran helps companies move data around. Given the scale of data in the world, that’s big business.
  • Salesforce makes investment in Razorpay: As the Chinese market for startup investment retreats, India’s continues to collect checks, with the latest being an investment from Salesforce Ventures into Razorpay, a major fintech player in the Indian market that was last valued at $3 billion. This deal doesn’t appear huge in dollar terms, but that Salesforce is bridging the Pacific does in fact matter.
  • Video and photo editing is an industry: As companies like Picsart raise nine-figure rounds, it’s perhaps not a surprise to see the company behind Facetune and other editing applications raise similar-sized rounds. In this case, Facetune developer Lightricks has put together a $130 million round. The company “operates more than a dozen subscription-based photo- and video-editing apps across iOS and Android,” TechCrunch reports.
  • B2B fintech is hot: Airwallex just secured a $200 million round at a $4 billion valuation, which is notable not only for the dollars involved but also due to the fact that the company is based in Australia. The now-multiple unicorn offers embedded fintech services for other companies, as well as business banking services.
  • A marketplace for selling businesses sells part of its business: That’s the news from Flippa, a marketplace where online businesses and digital assets can be bought and sold. The company just secured an $11 million round, and as part of that released what has to be the single worst non-GAAP metric since community-adjusted EBITDA. TechCrunch writes that the company “sees over 600,000 monthly searches from investors looking to connect with business owners.” To which I say, sirs, are you so afraid of sharing real metrics that that is what you went with?
  • In related news, this newsletter is the leading internet missive that includes both “daily” and “crunch” in its heading, giving us a market-leading pace of readership activation and conversion of our newsletter-to-reads pipeline.
  • Cars24 raises $450 million in cash, debt: Indian used-car marketplace Cars24 is now worth $1.84 billion after raising $340 million in equity capital and $110 million in debt. It’s a healthy round for a company that has “sold 400,000 vehicles to date.” See? That’s an actually useful metric. Not incredibly useful; a rate of sales would be better than an absolute stat, but still!

The next healthcare revolution will have AI at its center

In an excerpt from “AI 2041: Ten Visions For Our Future,” author Kai-Fu Lee makes the case that recent advances in artificial intelligence are starting to transform healthcare.

Studies have shown that AI is as good as humans when it comes to diagnosing disease, but the pandemic has accelerated the digitization of patient records and data.

“Over the coming decades, we can expect medical diagnosis to evolve from an AI tool that provides analysis of options to an AI assistant that recommends treatments,” writes Lee.

Lee identifies several areas where AI will improve outcomes in drug discovery, complex surgeries and monitoring, but also looks at potential concerns, such as legal liabilities.

“AI healthcare is not just a market — it represents a tidal wave of transformations that will change the entire industry.”

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Maybe we’ve figured out this generation of mobile operating systems: TechCrunch’s dive into iOS 15 notes that the new mobile OS brought with it quality-of-life improvements and feature-bumps to Apple’s own apps. That’s what you have to look forward to. Or, more precisely, you will update to the new code, I reckon, and then instantly forget that you have. Such is the state of today’s mobile OSes, which, along with smartphone hardware, seem to have reached a plateau of boring excellence. It’s time for a new paradigm to shake things up.
  • Big Tech wins some awards that your parents cared about: How much stock do you put in the Emmys? Do you actually know what an Emmy is? I don’t. But it turns out that Netflix and Apple won some the other day. Good for them. It turns out that if you are among the most wealthy companies in the history of the world, you are able to buy talent and take enough shots on goal that you score some points. Or in this case, small, ugly trophies.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

Illustration montage based on education and knowledge in blue

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL (opens in a new window) / 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.

If you’re curious about how these surveys are shaping our coverage, check out this interview Anna Heim did with Ammo, “Australian growth marketing agency Ammo helps startups calibrate their efforts.”



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Study finds half of Americans get news on social media, but percentage has dropped

A new report from Pew Research finds that around a third of U.S. adults continue to get their news regularly from Facebook, though the exact percentage has slipped from 36% in 2020 to 31% in 2021. This drop reflects an overall slight decline in the number of Americans who say they get their news from any social media platform — a percentage that also fell by 5 percentage points year-over-year, going from 53% in 2020 to a little under 48%, Pew’s study found.

By definition, “regularly” here means the survey respondents said they get their news either “often” or “sometimes,” as opposed to “rarely,” “never,” or “don’t get digital news.”

The change comes at a time when tech companies have come under heavy scrutiny for allowing misinformation to spread across their platforms, Pew notes. That criticism has ramped up over the course of the pandemic, leading to vaccine hesitancy and refusal, which in turn has led to worsened health outcomes for many Americans who consumed the misleading information.

Despite these issues, the percentage of Americans who regularly get their news from various social media sites hasn’t changed too much over the past year, demonstrating how much a part of people’s daily news habits these sites have become.

Image Credits: Pew Research

In addition to the one-third of U.S. adults who regularly get their news on Facebook, 22% say they regularly get news on YouTube. Twitter and Instagram are regular news sources for 13% and 11% of Americans, respectively.

However, many of the sites have seen small declines as a regular source of news among their own users, says Pew. This is a different measurement compared with the much smaller percentage of U.S. adults who use the sites for news, as it speaks to how the sites’ own user bases may perceive them. In a way, it’s a measurement of the shifting news consumption behaviors of the often younger social media user, more specifically.

Today, 55% of Twitter users regularly get news from its platform, compared with 59% last year. Meanwhile, Reddit users’ use of the site for news dropped from 42% to 39% in 2021. YouTube fell from 32% to 30%, and Snapchat fell from 19% to 16%. Instagram is roughly the same, at 28% in 2020 to 27% in 2021.

Only one social media platform grew as a news source during this time: TikTok.

In 2020, 22% of the short-form video platform’s users said they regularly got their news there, compared with an increased 29% in 2021.

Overall, though, most of these sites have very little traction with the wider adult population in the U.S. Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans regularly get their news from Reddit (7%), TikTok (6%), LinkedIn (4%), Snapchat (4%), WhatsApp (3%) or Twitch (1%).

Image Credits: Pew Research

There are demographic differences between who uses which sites, as well.

White adults tend to turn to Facebook and Reddit for news (60% and 54%, respectively). Black and Hispanic adults make up significant proportions of the regular news consumers on Instagram (20% and 33%, respectively.) Younger adults tend to turn to Snapchat and TikTok, while the majority of news consumers on LinkedIn have four-year college degrees.

Of course, Pew’s latest survey, conducted from July 26 to Aug. 8, 2021, is based on self-reported data. That means people’s answers are based on how the users perceive their own usage of these various sites for newsgathering. This can produce different results compared with real-world measurements of how often users visited the sites to read news. Some users may underestimate their usage and others may overestimate it.

People may also not fully understand the ramifications of reading news on social media, where headlines and posts are often molded into inflammatory clickbait in order to entice engagement in the form of reactions and comments. This, in turn, may encourage strong reactions — but not necessarily from those worth listening to. In recent Pew studies, it found that social media news consumers tended to be less knowledgeable about the facts on key news topics, like elections or Covid-19. And social media consumers were more frequently exposed to fringe conspiracies (which is pretty apparent to anyone reading the comments!)

For the current study, the full sample size was 11,178 respondents, and the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 1.4 percentage points.

 



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Australian growth marketing agency Ammo helps startups calibrate their efforts

When you are the founder of a young startup, it is always very hard to gauge the right amount of effort to dedicate to marketing. Botch it and you risk looking unprofessional. Hire a traditional agency and you might be wasting time and money.

Australian growth marketing agency Ammo, in contrast, wants to make sure that its clients aren’t overinvesting nor underinvesting. Geared toward tech startups, it boasts that it has “supercharged the growth of over 200 innovative businesses,” from fintech and SaaS to hardware.

Ammo is based in Perth and an active member of Western Australia’s startup community, where it is “very highly regarded,” in the words of the survey respondent who recommended it to TechCrunch. But if that person decided to work with Ammo, they said it’s because “their results spoke.” (If you have growth marketing agencies or freelancers to recommend, please fill out our survey!)

After reading this, we reached out to Ammo’s director Cam Sinclair for insights on early-stage brand development, marketing readiness and more. Check out our interview below:

Editor’s note: The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you give us an overview of Ammo?

Cam Sinclair: Ammo is a growth marketing team based in Perth, Western Australia. We work with startups and innovative businesses to help them set and reach their growth goals.

Cam Sinclair

Cam Sinclair. Image Credits: Aline Kuba(opens in a new window)

We’ve been in this community for seven years now, and have a small, lean team from a variety of backgrounds — none of which are traditional marketing.

As a nerdy kid I loved tech and was fascinated by how business works. I always knew I wanted to find some way to help founders and innovators get their great ideas out into the world. After working in political campaigns, I realized that many of the skillsets overlapped with what startups need: moving fast, being lean, communicating well, being adaptable and staying flexible.

That inspired me to grow an “anti-agency” where startup founders could genuinely feel like they had someone on their team who understood their challenges and the risks they were taking.

How do you collaborate with startups?

Our services cater to every stage of the founder journey. When you’re starting, you’ll need a brand, strategy and the marketing infrastructure to reach early customers. As you’re growing, you’ll need ongoing marketing campaigns and automation that bolsters your funnel. As you’re maturing, you’ll need the broader reach that PR and ongoing strategic advice provides.

We like to keep engagements as flexible as possible because startups are always discovering new marketing opportunities or customer needs. Some relationships are ongoing, others are quick projects completed in a week. Our long-term relationships start with a growth strategy workshop, where we identify a north star metric so that everyone is pulling in the same direction from day one.

Our workshops help startup teams design a customer journey using the pirate metrics framework and turn that into a clear, step-by-step action plan which they can implement or outsource.


Have you worked with a talented individual or agency who helped you find and keep more users?

Respond to our survey and help other startups find top growth marketers they can work with!


There’s a survey on your site that encourages companies to check whether they are “ready for growth marketing.” What are the high-level points that make a company ready?

It’s really about having a small number of early fanatical customers — evangelists. Many people call it product-market-fit, but it’s really customer fit.

There is little point in lighting a rocket under a startup to grow and reach a wide audience without a clear, confident direction. Sure, you might get somewhere fast, but where are you going?

We’ve made the mistake of taking on clients who were too early for growth, so we know how important it is to say “no” when it’s not a good fit. We can direct all the traffic in the world to your website, but without customer fit you’ll be fighting for every sale.

Startups need to get a few things right to be primed for growth. Not every startup will be ready for what we can do for them. We’re focused on our own customer fit too.

For one-on-one work, who are your typical clients? 

Our most successful relationships are with startups who have already established customer fit and are looking to grow quickly. We work with B2B and B2C SaaS companies, as well as more traditional businesses who are looking to disrupt the way things are done in their industry.

We’ve grown startups in Australia and abroad, including neuroscience startup Humm, based in Berkeley, California. We worked with them to identify early customers and preorder channels while they were gathering initial investment, build a learning/experimenting system within the team as they grew and, more recently, provide advisory at a strategic level.

What mistakes do you help startups avoid when it comes to branding? 

After working with over 230 startups, we know what works and what doesn’t. Our clients work with us because they know we can help them avoid the pitfalls that inexperienced founders regularly fall into and make the most of the tight budgets that startups run on.

Marketing agencies are taking money that startups don’t have to build brand identities that startups don’t need. We would much prefer to see those resources invested into building their product and talking to their customers.

That said, it’s important for a landing page or slide deck to be believable to customers, investors and partners — and when startups underinvest in their branding, people are less likely to hand over their attention, email address and money.

For example, some clients often don’t even have suitable logo files or a wide enough color palette to create websites that effectively convert people into customers. If someone can’t clearly see your “sign-up” button when they land on your website because everything on your website is blue, it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is.

Can you explain why you advise startups to create a “minimum viable brand”? 

The temptation in the startup world is to use a freelancer through an online marketplace (or even worse — letting an overenthusiastic employee create a logo in PowerPoint). But this usually results in a surface-level logo design without any consideration for how it might develop over time or fit within a larger brand identity.

Other startups might work with an agency to create a brand identity, and this can lead to brand overkill — stationery kits, photography, lofty mission statements and endless meetings. None of which pre-seed startups need yet. This process wastes time and money better spent elsewhere and traps pivoting startups with an expensive brand that can’t evolve as they do.

We take branding processes used by world-class agencies and distill it down to the core parts of the brand you need right now. This leads to a minimum viable brand identity that’s built to grow and created with the expectation that it will change as your startup does. It’s inspired by lean methodology and the minimum viable product (MVP) — it’s built to challenge assumptions and catch the attention of customers without overinvesting.

What’s the process you follow to help startups develop their minimum viable brand?

Initially we help them come up with a name.

Naming is important so we generally invest time into this part to avoid changing it in the future if possible. We want to make sure it meets the basic principles of distinctiveness, brevity, appropriateness, easy spelling and pronunciation, likeability, extendibility and protectability (based on Marty Neumeier’s branding-in-business book Zag).

From there we design a logo. A good logomark (the “icon” part of the logo) is generally figurative and not literal. It should be scalable, simple and work in multiple environments including single color black or white. The logo is then complemented with brand color selections, fonts and simple imagery direction to create a basic but useful brand guide.

Most importantly, we believe your startup’s brand guidelines should be available publicly online, rather than in a PDF hidden in a folder on your Dropbox. Somewhere that you can direct your team members and partners to so you can ensure everyone can maintain brand consistency.

How does Ammo compare to having an in-house CMO?

Like a CMO, we’re strategic. But unlike a CMO, we have experience with hundreds of startups across dozens of industries — we can pull insights and lessons from unexpected places when we’re working with clients.

While we align closely with commercial goals like an in-house CMO, we also know the importance for startups to move quickly. That’s why everyone at Ammo rolls up their sleeves and gets things done for our clients.

We don’t have the mindset of taking months to develop an annual marketing strategy, we want to help our clients get in front of customers quickly, collect valuable data along the way and stay nimble to adapt when they need it.

How do you and your clients measure your impact?

At Ammo, we don’t measure time, we measure outcomes. At the start of every project we define what success looks like with the client. Every client is different, and we’re responsive to that. We check back in with ongoing clients in monthly meetings to see how we’re tracking toward the success metric we agreed on, adjusting as necessary.

All of this is measured through quantitative analytics, qualitative feedback from customers and gut instinct.

In the past we have described our role as making ourselves obsolete — that our clients would grow large enough to be able to hire their own in-house marketing team. Today we still retain many of these client relationships in different ways, by providing more strategic advice. Those long-term relationships are the greatest indication to us that we’ve had a valuable impact.



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GM to replace battery modules in recalled Chevy Bolt EVs starting next month

2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Image Credit:GM

General Motors said Monday it will replace battery modules in recalled Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV vehicles as soon as next month now that supplier LG Chem has restarted production of cells at two Michigan factories.

Replacement modules, which are made up of lithium-ion battery cells, will begin shipping to dealers as soon as mid-October, the company said. Chevy Bolt EV owners will be able to bring their vehicles to the dealership, where the old modules will be swapped out for new ones.

GM halted production of Chevy Bolt EV and EUVs in August due to a battery pack shortage related to the widespread safety recall of the two electric vehicles. The production downtime has been extended twice since then. Battery packs in EVs are comprised of modules.

The recall, which includes all Chevy Bolt EV and EUV models made since 2017, was issued after the automaker discovered two manufacturing defects in the battery cell — a torn anode tab and folded separator — that could increase the risk of fire. The fire risk prompted GM to recommend Bolt owners set the vehicle to a 90% state of charge limitation, avoid depleting the battery below 70 miles of range and charge the vehicle more frequently. GM still recommends owners park their Bolt EV and EUVs outside immediately after charging and to not leave vehicles charging indoors overnight.

LG has new manufacturing processes in place and has worked with GM to improve its quality assurance programs to provide confidence in its batteries moving forward. GM said the battery supplier will institute these new processes in other facilities that supply cells to the automaker.

Doug Parks, GM’s executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, noted in a statement that resuming battery module production is a first step. However, GM’s Chevy Bolt EV problem is not entirely solved. The company must complete the replacement process for all recalled Bolts and assuage owners that the vehicles are safe to charge and park.

GM is counting on new advanced diagnostic software package to help. The company said it will launch the software package, which will need to be installed by dealers, in the next 60 days. The diagnostic software is designed to detect specific abnormalities that might indicate a damaged battery in Bolt EVs and EUVs by monitoring the battery performance.

The software will alert customers of any anomalies, according to GM, which said customers will be able to return to a 100 percent state of charge once all diagnostic processes are complete.

GM, which aims to add 30 new EVs to its global lineup by 2030, also must secure the battery cells it needs to power these vehicles. LG is its primary and longtime partner in this endeavor. Parks said GM will “continue to work aggressively with LG to obtain additional battery supply.

Apple’s dangerous path

By Lucas Matney

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review.

Last week, we dove into the truly bizarre machinations of the NFT market. This week, we’re talking about something that’s a little bit more impactful on the current state of the web — Apple’s NeuralHash kerfuffle.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny


the big thing

In the past month, Apple did something it generally has done an exceptional job avoiding — the company made what seemed to be an entirely unforced error.

In early August — seemingly out of nowhere** — the company announced that by the end of the year they would be rolling out a technology called NeuralHash that actively scanned the libraries of all iCloud Photos users, seeking out image hashes that matched known images of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). For obvious reasons, the on-device scanning could not be opted out of.

This announcement was not coordinated with other major consumer tech giants, Apple pushed forward on the announcement alone.

Researchers and advocacy groups had almost unilaterally negative feedback for the effort, raising concerns that this could create new abuse channels for actors like governments to detect on-device information that they regarded as objectionable. As my colleague Zach noted in a recent story, “The Electronic Frontier Foundation said this week it had amassed more than 25,000 signatures from consumers. On top of that, close to 100 policy and rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, also called on Apple to abandon plans to roll out the technology.”

(The announcement also reportedly generated some controversy inside of Apple.)

The issue — of course — wasn’t that Apple was looking at find ways that prevented the proliferation of CSAM while making as few device security concessions as possible. The issue was that Apple was unilaterally making a massive choice that would affect billions of customers (while likely pushing competitors towards similar solutions), and was doing so without external public input about possible ramifications or necessary safeguards.

A long story short, over the past month researchers discovered Apple’s NeuralHash wasn’t as air tight as hoped and the company announced Friday that it was delaying the rollout “to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features.”

Having spent several years in the tech media, I will say that the only reason to release news on a Friday morning ahead of a long weekend is to ensure that the announcement is read and seen by as few people as possible, and it’s clear why they’d want that. It’s a major embarrassment for Apple, and as with any delayed rollout like this, it’s a sign that their internal teams weren’t adequately prepared and lacked the ideological diversity to gauge the scope of the issue that they were tackling. This isn’t really a dig at Apple’s team building this so much as it’s a dig on Apple trying to solve a problem like this inside the Apple Park vacuum while adhering to its annual iOS release schedule.

illustration of key over cloud icon

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch /

Apple is increasingly looking to make privacy a key selling point for the iOS ecosystem, and as a result of this productization, has pushed development of privacy-centric features towards the same secrecy its surface-level design changes command. In June, Apple announced iCloud+ and raised some eyebrows when they shared that certain new privacy-centric features would only be available to iPhone users who paid for additional subscription services.

You obviously can’t tap public opinion for every product update, but perhaps wide-ranging and trail-blazing security and privacy features should be treated a bit differently than the average product update. Apple’s lack of engagement with research and advocacy groups on NeuralHash was pretty egregious and certainly raises some questions about whether the company fully respects how the choices they make for iOS affect the broader internet.

Delaying the feature’s rollout is a good thing, but let’s all hope they take that time to reflect more broadly as well.

** Though the announcement was a surprise to many, Apple’s development of this feature wasn’t coming completely out of nowhere. Those at the top of Apple likely felt that the winds of global tech regulation might be shifting towards outright bans of some methods of encryption in some of its biggest markets.

Back in October of 2020, then United States AG Bill Barr joined representatives from the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, India and Japan in signing a letter raising major concerns about how implementations of encryption tech posed “significant challenges to public safety, including to highly vulnerable members of our societies like sexually exploited children.” The letter effectively called on tech industry companies to get creative in how they tackled this problem.


other things

Here are the TechCrunch news stories that especially caught my eye this week:

LinkedIn kills Stories
You may be shocked to hear that LinkedIn even had a Stories-like product on their platform, but if you did already know that they were testing Stories, you likely won’t be so surprised to hear that the test didn’t pan out too well. The company announced this week that they’ll be suspending the feature at the end of the month. RIP.

FAA grounds Virgin Galactic over questions about Branson flight
While all appeared to go swimmingly for Richard Branson’s trip to space last month, the FAA has some questions regarding why the flight seemed to unexpectedly veer so far off the cleared route. The FAA is preventing the company from further launches until they find out what the deal is.

Apple buys a classical music streaming service
While Spotify makes news every month or two for spending a massive amount acquiring a popular podcast, Apple seems to have eyes on a different market for Apple Music, announcing this week that they’re bringing the classical music streaming service Primephonic onto the Apple Music team.

TikTok parent company buys a VR startup
It isn’t a huge secret that ByteDance and Facebook have been trying to copy each other’s success at times, but many probably weren’t expecting TikTok’s parent company to wander into the virtual reality game. The Chinese company bought the startup Pico which makes consumer VR headsets for China and enterprise VR products for North American customers.

Twitter tests an anti-abuse ‘Safety Mode’
The same features that make Twitter an incredibly cool product for some users can also make the experience awful for others, a realization that Twitter has seemingly been very slow to make. Their latest solution is more individual user controls, which Twitter is testing out with a new “safety mode” which pairs algorithmic intelligence with new user inputs.


extra things

Some of my favorite reads from our Extra Crunch subscription service this week:

Our favorite startups from YC’s Demo Day, Part 1 
“Y Combinator kicked off its fourth-ever virtual Demo Day today, revealing the first half of its nearly 400-company batch. The presentation, YC’s biggest yet, offers a snapshot into where innovation is heading, from not-so-simple seaweed to a Clearco for creators….”

…Part 2
“…Yesterday, the TechCrunch team covered the first half of this batch, as well as the startups with one-minute pitches that stood out to us. We even podcasted about it! Today, we’re doing it all over again. Here’s our full list of all startups that presented on the record today, and below, you’ll find our votes for the best Y Combinator pitches of Day Two. The ones that, as people who sift through a few hundred pitches a day, made us go ‘oh wait, what’s this?’

All the reasons why you should launch a credit card
“… if your company somehow hasn’t yet found its way to launch a debit or credit card, we have good news: It’s easier than ever to do so and there’s actual money to be made. Just know that if you do, you’ve got plenty of competition and that actual customer usage will probably depend on how sticky your service is and how valuable the rewards are that you offer to your most active users….”


Thanks for reading, and again, if you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny

Lucas Matney

From passion to hobby to startup

By Richard Dal Porto

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by what the weekday Exchange column digs into, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

Hey team! Alex here. I am off next week. Anna, my regular co-pilot on the weekday column, will be handling next week’s newsletter. It will be beyond good. Enjoy!

A few weeks back we took a look at some startup results, with a focus on growth. Today we’re narrowing our focus to a single company from the collection of startups that wrote in: Water Cooler Trivia.

Many startups begin life as a solution to a problem. A developer finds a flaw in their workflow, codes up a solution for it and later builds that hack into a product that scales. That sort of thing.

Collin Waldoch did something different, turning a hobby of his into a business.

Coming from a family of six kids in what he called a competitive family, Waldoch hosted bar trivia during college, and later sent around weekly trivia questions at his workplace after he completed his schooling. He kept the habit up during his early career, which included a stint at Lyft.

It was during his corporate life that Waldoch realized that companies were willing to spend heavily on team activities. Like a soccer team that he joined during one job that his employer spent a few grand on, but which struggled to find enough regular players. If companies would drop that much money on a group sport that few of its denizens wanted, he thought, perhaps there was some budget he could attack with a trivia product.

So Waldoch started Water Cooler Trivia, building it as a corporate product that he and some friends scaled to around $20,000 in ARR as a side project. The founder described its level of success at the time as pretty good beer money. Helping the project bring in revenue was a super-low churn rate, something that helped Waldoch decide to quit his day job at Lyft and take his side project full time.

Today Water Cooler Trivia has reached $300,000 worth of ARR and sports a collection of workers around the globe that help it run. Companies can select difficulty levels for their weekly trivia questions and track employee scores with longitudinal leaderboards.

Part of the idea’s success in Waldoch’s view is that it is built for the end user — employees — instead of HR. Which means that it’s actually fun. Today the company has experienced some churn, but still sports net retention rates of just under 100%. That’s great for a product that doesn’t feature enterprise-SaaS level upsells.

And the service is cheap. Probably too cheap frankly. At $100 per month for 100 seats, Water Cooler could likely boost what it charges and push its revenues higher in short order. Waldoch said that his company might start raising its rates in Q4 of this year. But even without that, Water Cooler thinks that it has a huge amount of growth open to it from its core product.

I dig it. Long live software making life a bit more fun.

Drift, Xometry, Carrot

It was a busy week with infinite IPO filings and eight billion YC startups pitching, but other things did happen that we need to talk about:

I’m curious about Drift’s sale to private equity: Boston’s Drift sold the majority of its shares to Vista Equity Partners, it announced this week. I’ve been to the Drift offices, as the company once lent us a room to record a podcast in. The folks there were nice. But with the company reporting 70% ARR growth in 2020, I am dead curious why Drift didn’t just raise more capital and keep growing. The company was able to raise lots of private money in the past, including, say, a $60 million round back in 2018. Exiting the bulk of the company early feels a little weird, similar to how the Gainsight sale to PE was a bit of a head scratcher. For Boston, the exit is good news as it may help mint new angel investors. But it still feels like an exit for which we’re missing a key detail.

Xometry: This one has been in the notes folder for too long, and since I’m off next week we’re including it here. I spoke with Xometry CEO Randy Altschuler after his company reported earnings a few weeks back. Recall that Xometry went public earlier this year. Altschuler reported generally bullish views on the process of going public during the COVID-19 era, calling his company’s Zoom roadshow efficient in a manner that allowed his company to chat to more folks while also saving on travel-related exhaustion.

Xometry, continued: But past the standard post-IPO chit chat, Altschuler had a few notes that stood out in my memory. The first being that inflation can impact technology businesses. Rising costs are impacting companies like Root, who have to deal with used car prices impacting claims costs. Inflation also crops up in Xometry’s business connecting manufacturing demand with manufacturing supply. It’s a good reminder that macro market conditions really do matter in the technology world, just not in ways that we can always easily see.

Xometry, even more: Altschuler also said that he thinks that a carbon tax at some point is inevitable. This came up in our discussion of onshoring manufacturing in the United States over time. Shipping stuff is expensive today and would prove even more costly if we added in the price of carbon emissions via a tax. That could make local manufacturing more competitive, notably. Perhaps that will prove a boon to folks in favor of more industrial production in post-industrial societies. For tech companies that deal with physical-world goods, it’s something to keep in mind.

And, finally, Carrot: Another entry from the notes archive, let’s talk about Carrot. The startup raised a $75 million round a few weeks back, so I asked the company about its growth history and a few other things. Carrot sells a product to employers so that they can offer their workers fertility benefits. Given falling human fertility rates, coverage of this sort is, in my view, likely to become more popular over time.

Other factors are at work, of course, but the last 18 months have proved accelerative for Carrot’s business. Per the company, it has seen “nearly 5x overall growth” in the last six quarters. The startup expects to reach 450 customers by the end of 2021, which will add up to around one million covered folks.

Carrot declined to share a valuation differential from its Series B to its Series C. Happily PitchBook has data on the matter, so we can report that per its dataset, Carrot’s valuation rose from around $66 million (post-money) following its $21 million Series B to around $260 million after its Series C. That’s a good markup for the company’s employees and founders.

My general bullishness around rising needs for fertility support matches the company’s ethos, which it described in an email by saying that it thinks fertility and “family-forming care could and should be the fourth pillar of employee benefits and health care more broadly, much like medical or dental or vision.” A hard yes to that one.

OK, that’s all from me for a few weeks. Stay safe, get vaccinated, and let’s be kind to one another. — Alex

Daily Crunch: Fintech startup Jeeves snags $500M valuation after $57M Series B

By Richard Dal Porto

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for September 3, 2021. As noted yesterday, most of TechCrunch has the day off so today’s newsletter is a little bit different than usual.

Up top let’s chat early-stage startups. The TechCrunch team spent an age this week cataloging a host of startups from Y Combinator’s marathon demo day, with our notes covering all presentations from day one and day two. We also yanked our favorites in two batches, in case you wanted to avoid the full download and want to skip straight to the highlights.

But that’s not all. We also dug into trends from the group and hopped on Twitter Spaces to chat about what we saw. Of course, Y Combinator is a single accelerator, but given its mammoth cohort sizes we pay extra attention to the trends that its startups detail.

That behind us, let’s take a moment to highlight some great stuff from newer TechCrunch reporters:

Finally, Disrupt is coming up. So make sure that you have a ticket. As it’s a virtual event they are cheaper than they have been in years past, despite the event having perhaps its strongest content lineup ever. We’re excited!

With that, let’s head into the weekend — a long one here in the United States — and get some rest. What a week in the world at large and in our startup-focused niche. I’ll be taking all next week off, but I will leave the Daily Crunch in the very capable hands of one Greg Kumparak. — Alex

Use cohort analysis to drive smarter startup growth

Cohort analysis is a basic tool for startups that need to better understand customer behavior, but many early-stage companies let it slide.

Grouping users into “buckets” is common practice at most startups, but robust cohort analysis uncovers trends and missed opportunities that young companies can pounce on.

Don’t wait to hire a senior marketing person or a consultant to start this critical work: In a guest column, Jonathan Metrick, chief growth officer at Sagard & Portage Ventures, offers a detailed example explaining the value of this type of analysis.

If you have questions after reading this comprehensive step-by-step, please join us for a Twitter Spaces chat with Metrick on Tuesday, September 7, at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT. For details and a reminder, follow @TechCrunch on Twitter.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

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

TechCrunch wants to help startups find the right expert for their needs. To do this, we’re building a shortlist of the top growth marketers. We’ve received great recommendations for growth marketers in the startup industry since we launched our survey.

We’re excited to read more responses as they come in! Fill out the survey here.

Community

Jonathan Metrick

Image Credits: Jonathan Metrick

Join Danny Crichton and Mary Ann Azevedo Tuesday, September 7, at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT on Twitter Spaces as they talk with Jonathan Metrick about fintech and growth marketing.

Extra Crunch roundup: Cohort analysis, YC Demo Day recaps, building your supply chain

By Walter Thompson

The ongoing fintech revolution continues to level the playing field where legacy companies have historically dominated startups.

To compete with retail banks, many newcomers are offering customers credit and debit cards; developer-friendly APIs make issuance relatively easy, and tools for managing processes like KYC are available off the shelf.

To learn more about the low barriers to entry — and the inherent challenges of creating a unique card offering — reporter Ryan Lawler interviewed:

  • Michael Spelfogel, founder, Cardless
  • Anu Muralidharan, COO, Expensify
  • Peter Hazlehurst, founder and CEO, Synctera
  • Salman Syed, SVP and GM of North America, Marqeta

Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members.
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription.


We’re off on Monday, September 6 to celebrate America’s Labor Day holiday, but we’ll be back with new stories (and a very brief newsletter) on Tuesday morning.

Thanks very much for reading,

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

 

6 tips for establishing your startup’s global supply chain

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

The barrier to entry for launching hardware startups has fallen; if you can pull off a successful crowdfunding campaign, you’re likely savvy enough to find a factory overseas that can build your widgets to spec.

But global supply chains are fragile: No one expected an off-course container ship to block the Suez Canal for six days. Due to the pandemic, importers are paying almost $18,000 for shipping containers from China today that cost $3,300 a year ago.

After spending a career spinning up supply chains on three continents, Liteboxer CEO Jeff Morin authored a guide for Extra Crunch for hardware founders.

“If you’re clear-eyed about the challenges and apply some rigor and forethought to the process, the end result can be hard to match,” Morin says.

Our favorite startups from YC’s Summer 21 Demo Day, Part 1

Y Combinator’s Summer 21 Demo Day, Part 1

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Twice each year, we turn our attention to Y Combinator’s latest class of aspiring startups as they hold their public debuts.

For YC Summer 2021 Demo Day, the accelerator’s fourth virtual gathering, Natasha Mascarenhas, Alex Wilhelm, Devin Coldewey, Lucas Matney and Greg Kumparak selected 14 favorites from the first day of one of the world’s top pitch competitions.

Virtual events startups have high hopes for after the pandemic

Image Credits: Yuichiro Chino / Getty Images

Few people thought about virtual events before the pandemic struck, but this format has fulfilled a unique and important need for organizations large and small since early 2020. But what will virtual events’ value be as more of the world attempts a return to “normal”?

To find out, we caught up with top executives and investors in the sector to learn about the big trends they’re seeing — as the sequel to a survey we did in March 2020.

We surveyed:

  • Xiaoyin Qu, founder and CEO, Run The World
  • Rosie Roca, chief customer officer, Hopin
  • Hemant Mohapatra, partner, Lightspeed Venture Partners India
  • Paul Murphy, former investor in Hopin with Northzone (currently co-founder of Katch)

Tracking startup focus in the latest Y Combinator cohort

Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim wrapped up TechCrunch’s coverage of the summer cohort from Y Combinator’s Demo Day with an evaluation of how the group fared in comparison to their expectations.

They were surprised by the number of startups focusing on no-and low-code software, and pleased by the unanticipated quantity of new companies focusing on space.

“It seems only fair to note that some categories of startup activity simply met our expectations in terms of popularity,” noting delivery-focused startups including dark stores and kitchens.

Popping up less than expected? Crypto and insurtech.

Read on for the whole list of startups that caught the eye of The Exchange.

Use cohort analysis to drive smarter startup growth

Image Credits: erhui1979 / Getty Images

Cohort analysis is what it sounds like: evaluating your startup’s customers by grouping them into “cohorts” and observing their behavior over time.

In a guest column, Jonathan Metrick, the chief growth officer at Sagard & Portage Ventures, offers a detailed example explaining the value of this type of analysis.

Questions? ​​Join us for a Twitter Spaces chat with Metrick on Tuesday, September 7, at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT. For details and a reminder, follow @TechCrunch on Twitter.

Daily Crunch: 8 Indian banks launch Account Aggregator to centralize consumers’ financial data

By Richard Dal Porto

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Thursday, September 2, 2021. TechCrunch is largely off tomorrow thanks to a pan-Yahoo corporate reprieve. But don’t worry, all systems will continue to function while we recharge ahead of the next chapter of TechCrunch’s varied history of corporate ownership. — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • China is hacking U.S.-based Uyghurs: The campaign by China’s government to erase Uyghur culture and undermine the Uyghur population inside its borders doesn’t stop there. The Chinese state has been hacking Uyghurs while traveling, for example. And the FBI reports today that the Chinese Communist Party is doing the same thing inside the United States’ borders.
  • SEO is far from dead: A new $55 million funding round into startup Botify underscores how the era of search engine optimization is hardly behind us. The company said that despite seeing “more and more sections of the search results coming from first-party or paid results,” organic traffic is still growing. And everyone wants a piece of that clickstream.
  • Europe, where net neutrality lives on: Europe’s top court has dealt another blow to “zero rating,” TechCrunch reports. Zero rating is the practice by which internet providers don’t count certain content against bandwidth limits, giving certain materials — often their own — a leg up. It’s a practice frowned on by open-internet advocates, and the EU is apparently unwilling to bend on the matter.

Startups/VC

We’ll have a huge digest of our Y Combinator coverage so that you can peruse a few hundred different startups tomorrow in Daily Crunch. But we could not resist adding in a teaser. How’s this for a headline: “Fintech startup Jeeves raises $57M, goes from YC to $500M valuation in one year.” Even in 2021 that’s rapid valuation creation for an early-stage startup.

  • Yet more capital for neobanks: Challenger bank Point has put together a $46.5 million Series B, pouring more fuel into the startup’s goal of building a debit card that offers credit-card-level perks. Point’s service isn’t free, but for folks who don’t want to use revolving consumer credit accounts that often come with high interest rates, its model could be a neat way forward.
  • Shepherd raises $6.2M for construction insurance: TechCrunch is tracking a number of B2B neoinsurance companies today, including Shepherd. The startup is working to offer excess liability insurance to construction companies, building technology usage data into its underwriting models. It’s a neat idea. Procore put capital into the funding round.
  • HomeLight raises $100M: The real estate technology upstart wants to connect buyers and sellers, and also provides title and escrow services. And after its latest funding event, it’s worth $1.6 billion. HomeLight managed such a large round after projecting that its revenues will “triple to over $300 million in 2021.” So, when’s the IPO?
  • Edtech’s boom is not done: That’s our takeaway from news that General Atlantic has helped pour $60 million into Panorama Education, which has built a “a K-12 education software platform,” per TechCrunch reporting. Edtech startups got a huge boost in 2020 when schools around the world went remote. It appears that that wave has yet to crest.

All the reasons why you should launch a credit or debit card

The ongoing fintech revolution continues to level the playing field where legacy companies historically dominated startups.

To compete with retail banks, many startups are offering customers credit and debit cards; developer-friendly APIs make issuance relatively easy, and tools for managing processes like KYC are available off the shelf.

To learn more about the low barriers to entry — and the inherent challenges of creating a unique card offering — reporter Ryan Lawler interviewed:

  • Michael Spelfogel, founder, Cardless
  • Anu Muralidharan, COO, Expensify
  • Peter Hazlehurst, founder and CEO, Synctera
  • Salman Syed, SVP and GM of North America, Marqeta

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • All hail the Googlebot: Alphabet has built an exoskeleton, our own Brian Heater reports in his Actuator series. It frankly looks rad. At times it’s easy to forget that Alphabet retains a large skunkworks effort despite being best known today for its Android mobile software, ad technology and online document editing services.
  • Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flight coming soon: After sending some folks to either space, or near-space the other month, Virgin Galactic is getting ready for commercial work. Per the company, that mission could come later this month, or in early October. For the company’s shareholders, it’s good news. Scratch that! After we wrote that blurb, news broke that the next Virgin flight is off after the FAA grounded the company. More here.
  • Today in Tesla: Two things from Elon-world today. First, Tesla has been told to share Autopilot data with the United States’ traffic safety agency. And Tesla’s hyper-quick Roadster car might not come until 2023. Follow-up question: When will the Cybertruck roll out?
  • And, finally, news from India: Eight banks in the country are soon rolling out “a system called Account Aggregator to enable consumers to consolidate all their financial data in one place.” India’s banking industry has a history of banding together to create products for consumers, including the “interoperable UPI rails” that many fintech companies in the country depend on, TechCrunch reports.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

Illustration montage based on education and knowledge in blue

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

TechCrunch wants to help startups find the right expert for their needs. To do this, we’re building a shortlist of the top growth marketers. We’ve received great recommendations for growth marketers in the startup industry since we launched our survey.

We’re excited to read more responses as they come in! Fill out the survey here.

Community

Jonathan Metrick

Image Credits: Jonathan Metrick

Join Danny Crichton and Mary Ann Azevedo Tuesday, September 7, at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT on Twitter Spaces as they talk with Jonathan Metrick about fintech and growth marketing.

Daily Crunch: Researchers claim Fortress S03 home security system can be remotely disabled

By Richard Dal Porto

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for September 1, 2021. It’s a big day in TechCrunch history in that we’ve been shuffled to a new parent company. More on that in a moment. First, Disrupt attendees, you can now hit up CrunchMatch to meet other cool folks. See you there! — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Hello, Apollo! TechCrunch is no longer part of Verizon Media Group, a somewhat forgotten subsidiary of the U.S. telco. Instead, we are now part of Yahoo, which is owned, in turn, by Apollo, a large investing company that is publicly traded. Cue the parade. Jokes aside, the long-announced deal has finally been completed. We’ll have more notes on our new overlords as soon as we meet them.
  • Inside Amplitude’s IPO filing: TechCrunch’s coverage of the accelerating IPO market continued today with notes on Amplitude’s product-analytics-focused debut. For more on Toast and Freshworks’ filings, head here or here. Oh, and Warby Parker here, if D2C is your jam.
  • Sticking to the big-dollar news today, Vista Equity is buying a majority stake in Drift. Based in Boston, Drift focuses on what it calls “conversational” sales tools. The two parties were being coy to a silly level by not disclosing the price paid for Drift, other than that the majority sale of the company values the former startup at more than $1 billion. Why Drift sold to Vista instead of going public is not clear, but we do feel cheated out of its S-1 filing.

Startups/VC

As we write to you today, the TechCrunch team is busy writing thousands of words about the second day of startup pitches from Y Combinator’s Demo Day. You can read about every startup that pitched yesterday.

Now, to today’s news. First, Berlin Brands, which buys and hopes to scale brands that sell on Amazon, is now worth north of $1 billion after raising a $700 million equity-and-debt round. There is apparently infinite capital available to finance the purchase of smaller e-commerce brands.

So much so that Forum Brands also announced new capital for the activity today. Its $100 million in debt financing may sound small compared to what Berlin Brands just secured, but it’s still nine figures of dry powder.

Our favorite startups from YC’s Summer 21 Demo Day, Part 1

Twice each year, we turn our attention to Y Combinator’s latest class of aspiring startups as they hold their public debuts.

For YC Summer 2021 Demo Day, the accelerator’s fourth virtual gathering, Natasha Mascarenhas, Alex Wilhelm, Devin Coldewey, Lucas Matney and Greg Kumparak selected 14 favorites from the first day of one of the world’s top pitch competitions.

Read their analysis, then come back later today for their rundown of Day Two.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

Today’s Big Tech news is mostly focused on feature upgrades. Enjoy!

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

Illustration montage based on education and knowledge in blue

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

In case you didn’t catch it yesterday: We’re giving away one free ticket to Disrupt through the Experts survey. Check out the schedule for Disrupt, and read on to learn about the giveaway details.

  • Have you already submitted a recommendation? That’s great — we’re counting all previous survey submissions as an entry for the Disrupt ticket.
  • We’ll also enter the next 100 survey submissions into the giveaway.
  • Do you want to submit 10 recommendations to increase your chance at winning? We love the enthusiasm, but we ask that you only submit one recommendation for each marketer that you’ve worked with.
  • Don’t know what to say in your recommendation? Start with what traits they had, what they did to help your company, how their work affected your business and go from there!
  • We manually go through all entries, so please don’t copy and paste the same response multiple times.
  • Have a question about the giveaway? Send us an email at ec_editors@techcrunch.com.

Community

Jonathan Metrick

Image Credits: Jonathan Metrick

Join Danny Crichton and Mary Ann Azevedo Tuesday, September 7, at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT on Twitter Spaces as they talk with Jonathan Metrick about fintech and growth marketing.

Fire up CrunchMatch today and start networking with TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 attendees

By Alexandra Ames

You read that right, folks. CrunchMatch, our AI-powered platform that simplifies finding and connecting with the people on your must-meet list, is now open for business. TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place on September 21-23, but why wait to get your network mojo working?

Granted, networking can sometimes feel like a contact sport, especially at a global event with more than 10,000 attendees. But CrunchMatch brings measured calm and efficiency to the game — and you get a three-week head start, to boot.

Shameless marketing plug: Buy your Disrupt 2021 pass now and hop on board the opportunity express.

With CrunchMatch you can access the entire Disrupt attendee list and start searching for opportunities — no matter what kind of connection you need to drive your business forward. Find founders or investors? Check. Cultivate new customers? Check. Meet mentors, marketers and manufacturers? Check, check and check.

Based on the info you provided during registration, CrunchMatch searches for suitable candidates and sends out invitations so you can line up RSVPs in advance (you retain control over who you meet — it’s not SkyNet). Set up 1:1 video meetings, pitch investors, demo products or interview prospective employees.

Here’s how two founders describe their experience using CrunchMatch.

CrunchMatch made it easy to set up short networking sessions, and I used it to meet with founders in adjacent areas like climate or B2B SaaS. I met interesting people I wouldn’t necessarily have connected with otherwise. — Ashley Barrington, founder, MarketPearl.

The CrunchMatch networking platform is such a smart, useful tool. It lets you see who’s there, find the right people and reach out for a meeting. I scheduled five or six appointments in one day. The meetings were small, intimate and very informative. — Felicia Jackson, inventor and founder of CPRWrap.

You know who else is on the Disrupt attendee list? Media outlets. Yeah, this is a great opportunity to pitch your startup to an accredited tech journalist. They’re hunting for great stories. Why not help them tell yours?

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place on September 21-23, and the CrunchMatch networking platform is waiting for you with its AI arms wide open. Save time, increase productivity and use these next three weeks to super-charge your Disrupt experience.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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