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Yesterday — February 19th 2020Your RSS feeds

Equity Shot: What’s going on with Tesla’s stock price?

By Alex Wilhelm

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is the first Equity Shot in what feels like a long time, so, let me explain. Most of the time Equity comes out on Friday. It’s a mix of news and chat and venture happenings. It’s fun! But sometimes, a topic comes up that demands more immediate attention. That’s what happened today as we stared at Tesla’s share price wondering what in the hell was going on.

Sure, Tesla isn’t a private company (yet, at least), but as the company made it into the first-ever episode of Equity, how can we resist a dive into what is going on today?

Shares of the electric car company are surging — again — today, pushing ever-closer to the $1,000 per-share mark. So, Danny, myself and Chris on the turntables got together to riff and chat about what is going on.

For those of you who want some links, here you go:

Today was all about fun. The main, more serious (kinda) show is back Friday. Stay cool!

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

Want podcasts to remain independent? Support independent podcasts

By Brian Heater

Full disclosure one: I’ve hosted a lot of independent podcasts, with varying degrees of success.

Full disclosure two: This story is being hosted on a site owned by a corporate media giant. There’s even some chance that, by the time it’s published, the decision will be made to host it behind a paywall. The fact is, I’ve worked for a lot of big media companies throughout my professional career. It’s honestly the one way I’ve been able to make a consistent living as a professional writer living in New York City.

Independence is precisely what drew me to podcasting in the first place. Years of scraping together a living in editorial, I’d felt far removed from what drew me to writing and interviewing. Struggling in the industry involves a lot of writing things for other people, and those things you do write that you genuinely care about are, at best, heavily edited and often truncated (I’m old enough to remember when column space was still a thing).

I became nostalgic for my college days (as one days) as manager of KZSC, Santa Cruz’s legendary public radio station. I would spend hours hosting shows on weekends and come in late at night to spin records after our daily broadcasting obligations were done.

Toward the end of my time at the station (and college, generally), a fellow host and I were offered the opportunity to intern at a local radio station. A music director gave us a tour of an office space that housed several local stations, segmented into what looked like conference rooms, where hosts would spend a few hours prerecording spots for the week. A conversation around how the station determined its playlists left me with a similar sense of existential dread.

The situation was enough to end my career in radio before it started. Between publishing and radio, I guess I’ve always had a bit of a thing for dying mediums. But this was a bridge too far. I have a very vivid memory of standing in the station’s parking lot and remarking to my friend, “I guess that’s it for our careers in radio.” He nodded and we were on our way.

But podcasting felt hopeful. Like blogging before it, it presented a rare opportunity to embrace a medium in its relative infancy. That brief, hopeful period before the corporate interests utterly decimated the landscape as they inevitably do. I reached out to friend and former KZSC colleague, Jesse Thorn, who’d built his own mini-podcasting empire in the years since college.

I visit his home in Los Angeles, a room of which he’d turned into a podcasting studio (it has since moved to an official Maximum Fun office overlooking MacArthur Park near downtown Los Angeles). He’d also assisted in helping set up a veteran comedian named Marc Maron flirt with the world of podcasting — not sure if that guy’s show ever got off the ground.

My own ambitions — at least from a technological standpoint — were more grounded. When I started my most recent podcast, RiYL, five-plus years ago, I was working as a freelancer. I needed something mobile that I could could take to interview subjects wherever they were. The equipment has been refined somewhat, over the years, but the gear still fits into a laptop sleeve for maximum portability. Spoiler alert: Next week’s interview with New Pornographers frontman Carl Newman was quite literally recorded in a bathroom.

That broad spectrum of experience levels was precisely what made podcasting so appealing to so many. It felt like the promise of the internet fulfilled. You knew it would be hard — some combination of talent and timing and luck — but you could convince yourself that, if the stars aligned correctly, your shoestring show could make it to the top of the charts.

The unfiltered nature of it all was also immensely appealing to someone who grew up obsessed with self-produced punk and self-published zines. Those were always the names I wanted to get on my show and record for posterity. And every interview could be as long or as short as was warranted. Every medium inherits some parameters from its predecessors, but it truly breaks away when it grows beyond that. For that reason, I made a point producing a show made up exclusively of five-minute episodes and another that routinely passed the hour-long mark.

The medium is the message, and all that good stuff.

Late last year, I wrote a piece for TechCrunch titled “2019: the year podcasting broke.” It was, as I explained, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek homage to the documentary “1991: The Year Punk Broke,” which chronicled the mainstreaming of a once explicitly pop-cultural phenomenon. The early ’90s notions of co-opting punk seems fairly quaint in hindsight.

Similarly, 2019 feels like the tip of the spear for corporate investment in podcasting. Spotify’s planned spending of between $400 million and $500 million is jaw-dropping, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to other mediums. Corporations are going to go big on podcasting, easily one of the most intimate mediums with one of the most highly engaged audiences. Listening to a bunch of strangers talk about history or music or sports for an hour-plus gets into your brain in ways it’s hard to explain.

With corporate involvement in podcasting come things like exclusives — company-produced programs that only exist on specific paid services (yes, I’m fully aware that I’m writing this on a site that recently launched a premium content tier, but we all need to monetize in the way we see fit). But the truth is the same with podcasters as it is with creatives in virtually ever medium: The people making the thing generally want as many people to engage with it as possible.

But the lure of a living wage is a powerful one. And making a living doing what you love almost invariably involves compromise at some level. I, for one, know that I’m incredibly lucky to have survived for as long as I have as a professional writer, living in one of the world’s most expensive cities. And yes, it’s a career that has included plenty of compromises — some I feel better about than others.

I also have plenty of friends who haven’t been so lucky — artists, writers, cartoonists and musicians who make wonderful art that I love that they simply can’t survive on. Welcome to capitalism, friends. It’s a real mixed bag.

The answer is the same as ever, though. If you like a thing, support it. And thankfully, doing as such is easier than ever. Whether it’s a network with a public radio-style fund drive like Maximum Fun or a Patreon-backed program like The Best Show. Support could mean buying a boxed mattress using their special coupon code at checkout or, for those fellow artists, just rating and reviewing or telling a friend.

I do believe the spike in podcast popularity will be good for its myriad providers in many ways. The rising tide and all of that good stuff. But I do worry that many of its most unique independent voices will get bulldozed as big companies rush to construct skyscrapers. It’s our job as listeners, fans and podcasters to make sure those voices aren’t drowned out.

Spotify mimics Apple’s design with new podcast show page updates

By Sarah Perez

Spotify’s ongoing investments in the podcast-streaming side of its business helped boost podcast listening on its service by 200% last year. But today, only 16% of Spotify’s monthly listeners are engaging with podcats — a number the company today hopes to nudge higher by redesigning the podcast side of its streaming app. The new layout now makes it easier to view information about podcasts and improves discovery of new shows.

In particular, Spotify has given podcast show trailers a more prominent position in its app.

Show trailers help podcasts find new listeners by offering a concise introduction to the podcast and its creators. A good trailer hooks listeners on the show’s concept by selling its strengths, or even by offering a snippet of content that makes listeners hungry to hear more.

In the updated version of Spotify’s app, these trailers are labeled “trailer” and are highlighted at the top of the episode list, separated from the content as Apple does in its own podcasts app.

The belief here is that listeners need an easier way to check out the different podcasts out there, without having to commit to full episodes. That’s more important than ever as Spotify’s podcast library expands. The app’s catalog now has over 700,000 podcasts across all sorts of topics — a figure that’s growing quickly. In January, Spotify was at the Consumer Electronics Show touting its “over 500,000” podcasts. By the time of this month’s earnings, it was using the higher number.

Also to aid in discovery, Spotify is adding descriptive show categories underneath the show’s description. These will be simple labels, like “true crime,” “personal stories,” “travel,” “relationships,” and more. This change is also focused on catching up with market leader Apple Podcasts, which already categorizes its podcasts in a similar way.

The other major change is to the landing page for podcast shows in Spotify, which are getting a revamp to be more readable at a glance.

The updated layout has moved the descriptions up to the top of the page, so you don’t have to swipe on a show to read about it. Before, Spotify would display the podcast’s thumbnail image at the top, and you’d swipe left to view the description. Now, the layout looks more like — yes, you guessed it — Apple Podcasts.

The combined changes do make Spotify’s app more usable for podcast listening and discovery — especially for people who are used to Apple Podcasts’ design and layout, but are now making the jump to Spotify. However, Spotify’s real advantage in podcasts isn’t just how it can mimic Apple’s better design, but how it’s catering to creators, investing in originals and exclusives, personalizing its recommendations, and now, its ads.

Spotify says the redesign is rolling out to its mobile app, starting today.

Equity Monday: Oyo’s losses, global growth concerns, and four early-stage rounds

By Alex Wilhelm

Good morning friends, and welcome back to TechCrunch’s Equity Monday, a short-form audio hit to kickstart your week. Regular Equity episodes still drop Friday morning, so if you’ve listened to the show over the years don’t worry — we’re not changing the main show.

Here’s last week’s episode with Danny Crichton and Bessemer’s Elliott Robinson which I really enjoyed. And, we just posted the video from that taping, in case you wanted to see what a podcast looks like IRL. Spoiler: It’s mostly a bunch of microphones and cables and nerds.

Turning to the news, global growth concerns stemming from the coronavirus outbreak are starting to come true, with Singapore changing its own forecasts. Singapore now expects either slower growth, or negative expansion in 2020. That’s bad news. And, Japan’s economy was on the ropes even before the virus really slowed things down. Expect more of this to keep happening.

Also this weekend there was yet another tech-media dustup. If you missed it, you didn’t miss much.

The week ahead looks pretty tame. No major earnings reports or IPOs are on our horizon, though Dropbox, Wix and Zscaler will report. If you are a SaaS person, that’s for you.

We then talked about Dovetail, Copper, Seez, and Bosta — bringing the morning venture update together with a theme, a first I think for Equity Monday.

All that and we wrapped with Oyo’s most recently disclosed financial performance. Surprise, it contained a lot of growth and quickly expanding losses.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Original Content podcast: ‘Mythic Quest’ is a likable comedy with a single standout episode

By Anthony Ha

There’s plenty to like about “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet,” a new series on Apple TV+ — its sympathetic-but-critical portrayal of the video game industry, its goofy-but-likable characters and a couple of big surprises that come at the end of the season.

But what really stood out to us — as we discuss on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast — was a single episode, “A Dark Quiet Death.”

Without getting into spoilers, it’s probably safe to reveal that the episode mostly stands apart from the rest of the season, telling a self-contained story about two characters (played by Jake Johnson and Cristin Milioti) who, after they create a quirky horror video game that turns into a surprise hit, discover that success isn’t all its cracked up to be.

Where the rest of “Mythic Quest” is a broad comedy (with the aforementioned likable characters and surprising plot), “A Dark Quiet Death” is more of a drama that quietly — but agonizingly — portrays the tensions between commerce and art. And if we have a criticism, it’s that the episode’s achievement can make the rest of the show feel a little silly in comparison.

We also discuss Anthony’s interview with the creators of the show and how “Mythic Quest” might have been shaped by the involvement of video game company Ubisoft. And before we begin the review, we react to this year’s Oscars.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:

0:00 Intro
0:27 Oscars discussion
17:54 “Mythic Quest” review
50:31 “Mythic Quest” spoiler discussion

Cults Are Scarier Without Magic

By Geek's Guide to the Galaxy
Evil groups, like the one in the movie 'Midsommar,' are more horrifying when they demonstrate the situations people will put themselves in.

The Spectacle of Samsung’s Launch Event

By WIRED Staff
This week, Samsung hosted an event to show off Galaxy S20 phones, "Space Zoom" cameras and a new fold-y Flip. How seriously should we take these extravaganzas?

Big meditation money, new VC funds, and how do you value Airbnb?

By Alex Wilhelm

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

After having a good time with NEA’s Rick Yang last week, we thought we’d bring on another venture capitalist. So this week Danny and I had Elliott Robinson from Bessemer swing over for the show. As it turned out, he was about as correct as guest as possible as not only did the topics of the week line up with where he invests, he’s also friends with some of the folks that we discussed on the show.

So what did we talk about? A whole host of things including two rounds:

Then we turned to two new funds, including Battery’s battery of new capital vehicles that add up to $2 billion. In this part of the discussion we also touched on capital velocity, and why some firms are writing the same number of checks, but still need more capital. On the other end of the capital spectrum, Equal Ventures put together its first fund, and we riffed on the health of the micro-fund ecosystem.

The news run continued, with our trio touching on Airbnb’s recent financial results, and our wonderment about how to price the firm, the closure of Brandless (RIP), and the issues at SoftBank.

All that and we had to leave Lyft’s fascinating earnings and Uber’s profit promises alone as we ran a bit long with just that set of topics. A good week, and we’re back Monday morning!

How to advertise a podcast in 2020

By Walter Thompson
Julian Shapiro Contributor
Julian Shapiro is the founder of BellCurve.com, a growth marketing team that trains startups in advanced growth, helps you hire senior growth marketers and finds you vetted growth agencies. He also writes at Julian.com.

We’ve aggregated many of the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this growth report.

This is how you stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Our community consists of 1,000 startup founders and VPs of growth from later-stage companies. We have 400 YC founders, plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo and Ritual.

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars, Slack group or marketing training program.

Without further ado, on to our community’s advice.

Make good ads popular, then re-release them

Equity Monday: Cherre raises $16M, Lyft’s critical earnings and WeWork’s profit hopes

By Alex Wilhelm

Good morning friends, and welcome back to TechCrunch’s Equity Monday, a short-form audio hit to kickstart your week. Regular Equity episodes still drop Friday morning, so if you’ve listened to the show over the years, don’t worry — we’re not changing it in the slightest. (Here’s last week’s episode, which included our first guest in a bit, NEA’s Rick Yang.)

We kicked off this morning with the latest economic news relating to the coronavirus outbreak in China, namely that a host of Chinese firms are looking for loans. Inside the group of companies seeking capital that Reuters reported are names that we know, like Didi and Meituan Dianping. At first it appeared that the coronavirus’ impact would be a bump in growth; now it appears to be a bit more serious.

It’s not just big companies that are impacted, mind. Small and private firms with supply chains in China are impacted as well, not to mention the country’s entire domestic startup scene.

Looking ahead, there are three key earnings reports on the horizon: Lyft, Alibaba and Shopify. Each matters for a different reason. Alibaba will provide a window into China, Shopify a look at how investors are valuing momentum plays and Lyft a health report for the on-demand world.

After Uber’s surprising results and ensuing adjusted profit promise (Q4 2020, not calendar 2021), Lyft is under fresh pressure to match the covenant. If it doesn’t change its profit forecasts, it could be punished. And that could shift the waters for smaller, private on-demand companies like DoorDash and Postmates, along with other mobility firms like Lime and Bird. On-demand companies have raised billions, so Lyft has more than its own investors riding shotgun for its Q4 2019 report.

There are no impending IPOs this week, but there were two rounds that we found interesting:

Finally, WeWork wants you to know that it is turning around. If that is the case is not clear, but its folks are back on CNBC to both beat back an activist attempt to push for change and talk up its own book. How close you think WeWork will end 2020 in the black is probably the next question to ask.

That’s it from us. Stay cool, and we will be back Friday morning with yet another guest from the venture capital world.

Equity drops every Monday and Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify and all the casts.

UK’s Tiney raises $6.5M to source, train and connect childminders to improve early years care

By Ingrid Lunden

A shortage of good teachers and carers is an acute problem in the world of education. Getting smart people into the profession is hard when the pay is not great and the stresses coming from above and below are very real and very persistent.

And it turns out that challenge is compounded in the early years, before children even enter school: the pay for nursery teachers and childminders (individuals who take charge usually of up to six children depending on age, who apply for and get licenses from the educational authority to operating childminder schemes in the country) is even less than that for K-12 teachers, a fact not helped by the lack of a cohesive institutional system to bring in and bring up talent in an area that has a wide array of permutations (nursery, nanny, family, etc.).

Now, a startup out of London is announcing some funding to tackle that very large early years challenge with a two-sided marketplace of sorts. Tiney, which sources people interested in being childminders, trains them to run childcare services out of their homes and then helps childcare-seeking parents discover them, all while running the admin underpinning that ecosystem, has raised £5 million ($6.5 million) to scale its idea in earnest.

The funding is being led by Index Ventures with LocalGlobe (founded by former Index partners Saul and Robin Klein) and JamJar Investments (the investment firm linked to the founders of Innocent Drinks) also participating. Hannah Seal, a principal from Index Ventures, is joining the board with this round.

The startup is the brainchild of Brett Wigdortz, a London-based, American-bred ex-McKinsey consultant who has already started and grown two celebrated non-profit organisations to tackle teacher shortage problems in K-12 public education.

In the UK, he started Teach First, which recruits recent university grads take jobs as teachers in state schools — with a particular focus on disadvantaged school catchments — as their first foray into the job market. (It is now the single biggest employer out of Oxford and Cambridge.) Buoyed by that growth, he then took the idea international with Teach for All, co-founded with Wendy Kopp, who had built a similar teachers corps in the U.S. called Teach For America.

As with Teach for All, Wigdortz, who is the CEO, has a co-founder for his latest effort: Edd Read (CTO), who previously had been a founder of Graze, the healthy snack company that sold to Unilever last year, is Tiney’s other founder, which makes JamJar’s investment an interesting one. Healthy-but-fun foods are essentially focused on products to improve the well-being of families and kids. In a sense, so is Tiney.

The problem as Wigdortz sees it is one of quality and quantity.

On the quality side, there has been, relatively speaking, more focus on children once they enter school — a focus he himself cultivated with his previous organisations — with a lot of neglect of the years preceding that time. But when you look closer, you can chart a good part of children’s outcomes starting before they ever entered school. One part of the problem is that early-years care is not often thought of as early-years education, and in keeping with that, the people providing that care are often thought of as babysitters rather than educators, with little in the way of providing ongoing training and support for best practices around fun activities that help with child development.

“The big gap was that kids weren’t getting good preschool educations,” he said in an interview. “We were finding that a lot of kids in year one [kindergarten age in the US] weren’t verbal and just weren’t ready for school. In some cases, parents are working all the time or really struggling.” And on the part of the providers, “they weren’t treated as professionals,” he continued. “They just didn’t get good professional development or support. Realising how broken it was is what got me interested in the sector.”

On the quantity side, the numbers speak for themselves. In 2000, there were 100,000 registered childminders in the UK. Today there are only 40,000.

What caused that massive drop? Apart from having less interest in a field that isn’t respected much and has a lot of stress associated with it, there is the problem of simply proactively recruiting people and making childminders easy to find.

While each local authority (how a lot of social services are administered in the UK) provides directories to parents of childminders in a given region, the system is not ideal for sourcing much information beyond names, contact details and addresses — making it a daunting task to find someone to entrust with your child.

On the part of the childminders themselves, a process does exist today that sits within the public system. You get a paediatric first aid certificate; you complete a short training course approved by your local authority; you join the Ofsted Early Years Register and get a criminal record check for anyone over 16 living with you; you get a home inspection and you get insurance. Childminders subsequently keep journals on each child to communicate progress on early-years targets both to parents and the authorities.

But Wigdortz notes that while that looks like a simple enough list, it’s actually a long and bureaucratic process and any recruitment of new people is virtually nonexistent because of all the cutbacks local authorities have faced.

Going the usual route is also not ideal in terms of providing any kind of continuous training or monitoring of the childminders once they have completed the final step. Tiney is taking a tech approach to solving what is essentially an analogue challenge.

It is trying to “streamline the process,” in his words, while at the same time create a platform for more enriched training — which involves both in-person and online coursework — before people get started as childminders. And subsequent to that, it provides more continuous development, and a way of tracking progress online that is easily monitored by the parent compared to a hand-written journal.

When childminders are ready to work, they get listed on Tiney’s site, are booked through there, and Tiney handles all of the messaging and invoicing between childminders and parents after. While all of the training, onboarding, development and ongoing support are free, Tiney makes a 10 percent commission on every job and contract booked through its platform. It’s a formula that is currently attracting more people than it has room to handle: only about 20 percent of applicants to Tiney’s program get accepted to complete the training, Wigdortz said.

The system is not just about bringing in more people into the childminding profession, but about making the whole concept and opportunity more open to more people. The average age today of a Tiney minder is early thirties, with about half of the population classified as “BAME” with a good dose of immigrants, but also white professionals, he said. “We have bankers who are taking career breaks when they have kids, and some have worked in nurseries before and now want to do something more independent,” he said.

Wigdortz came at this problem from the perspective of being able to source more talent and get it into the early-years caregiving and education pipeline. But the reason why it, and other programs like it — which include the likes of nanny service Koru Kids (also coincidentally started by a McKinsey alum) and Wonderschool in the U.S. Like Tiney also focuses on the ‘home-based childminder’ running small ad hoc nurseries format — are needed and will hopefully succeed is because they are filling a critical gap with parents and guardians.

On that side, three of the issues that Tiney is helping to address are discovery, trust and affordability.

When you are a working parent, securing good childcare can be one of the more stressful aspects of raising your kids when they are young. Choosing from many options (nursery? nanny? au pair? family? quit job and hang with kid yourself because the options are too expensive or scary?), and then finding people who you trust will understand and nurture your kids, is not easy. And throwing money at the challenge doesn’t necessarily help, and if money is an issue, that comes with its own set of problems.

In the UK, the childminder option is one that cuts across those famous British class lines, I’ve found. Those with financial means might opt for it to give their kids a more social experience than a one-per-family nanny or au pair but without the more institutional feeling and class numbers of a full-on nursery. Those with less means will consider childminders because they might be on par with the price of a nursery (and will be coverable by the same vouchers they might use if they’re on income support) but, again, provide more of a home-based environment that will feel more comfortable to a child under the age of 5, or for pre-secondary school aged kids in the after-school hours.

Tiney is currently adding around 25 new childminders per month, Wigdortz said, which is small but growing. The idea is that with this funding, it will be able to onboard more and grow faster.

“After improving primary and secondary education for millions of children through Teach First, Brett is now tackling some of the biggest challenges parents, children and the society face in the very early years,” said Seal at Index Ventures. “For parents of young children, sorting out childcare is often a struggle with limited often-costly and inadequate options. For educators, there is not always an easy path to a career in early years education, which has led to rapidly declining numbers of childminders across the UK. We’re excited to partner with Brett to address this growing crisis and create a system that puts more focus on children during the most critical years of development.”

Original Content podcast: Netflix’s Taylor Swift documentary feels like a guarded self-portrait

By Anthony Ha

“Miss Americana,” a new Netflix documentary about Taylor Swift, is worth watching — if you go in with the right expectations.

At least, that’s according to two out of three hosts of the Original Content podcast. Darrell was the holdout; he didn’t hate the movie or think it was poorly made, but he’s much more skeptical about celebrity culture in general and argues that everyone would be better off ignoring celebrities altogether.

Your other hosts don’t go quite that far. Instead, we admit to a guarded admiration for Swift and her music, and we enjoyed “Miss Americana” as a window into Swift’s world. Not a completely transparent window — despite being directed by Lana Wilson, the film feels like it was guided by Swift’s perspective, focusing on her chosen themes of tabloid persecution and political awakening — but a revealing one nevertheless.

What comes across clearly is the utter insanity of the musician’s life, lived under intense (and often unfair) media scrutiny.

The film also demonstrates the extraordinary talent, ambition and luck that Swift must have needed to get where she is. And it boasts a few glimpses into her songwriting and recording process, and into what appears to have been an agonizing decision to endorse Democrat Phil Bredesen’s ultimately unsuccessful run for one of Tennessee’s Senate seats in 2018.

In addition to reviewing the film, we also discuss Netflix’s decision to make auto-play previews optional.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:

0:00 Intro
0:28 Netflix auto-play discussion
5:02 “Miss Americana” review

Why is One Medical worth more than Casper?

By Alex Wilhelm

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week was something fun. First, we were back as a group in the San Francisco studio, which is always fun. Even better, we had NEA’s Rick Yang on hand to chat with Danny and Alex about the week. Yang, as old-school Equity listeners will recall, was on the show back in 2017. (Equity turns three soon, which is somewhat amazing.)

All that aside, let’s talk about what we talked about. As always, we kicked off with three rounds:

After that we chugged through a mountain of news. First up, the confirmation of a story that we mentioned on the show before, namely the existence of a new venture fund (angel pool, perhaps) from the CEO of email startup Superhuman Rahul Vora and Eventjoy founder Todd Goldberg. The $7 million vehicle is going to cut pre-seed sized checks ($75,000 to $200,000), which should make it a popular pit stop for pre-revenue companies.

What next? Well, Casper of course. The company’s IPO pricing and debut was this week, something that we’ve had something to say about. That, and the latest from One Medical’s strong post-IPO performance, and the news that Asana has filed privately to go public in a direct listing.

That last item was of particular interest, as the company hasn’t raised as much cash as other companies that we’ve seen direct list, the Spotifys and Slacks of the world. So has it raised capital that we haven’t heard about, or has it simply not spent the capital it has raised? If it had spent the money, then wouldn’t it want to raise some like with a traditional IPO? Mysteries! Riddles that will be solved when we get to see the damn filing.

Oh, and Spotify continues to pour money into podcasting. Which everyone ’round the table thought was pretty smart.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

YC-backed Goodcover launches into the fast-moving insurtech space

By Jordan Crook

As the insuretech space fills up, a new entrant is joining the fight.

Y Combinator -backed Goodcover is launching today to take on the likes of big insurance, as well as insurance startups like Lemonade, Jetty, Hippo and Zebra.

The company offers renters insurance in California. The twist? Goodcover returns unclaimed premiums to policy holders at the end of the year.

Here’s how it works. Goodcover operates as a managing general agent, which means they write the policy, set the pricing and build their own risk assessment model, but partner with insurance carriers to hold the back-end capital and write on their book. This differs from Lemonade, which is its own insurance carrier, but is similar to Hippo and many other new insurtech startups.

The first priority of the company, according to co-founder and CEO Chris Lotz, is to use technology to bring down the cost of insurance in the first place. That means eliminating paperwork, sales agents and expensive acquisition tactics used by big insurance. Statista reports that GEICO, Progressive and State Farm alone spent upwards of $3 billion on advertising in 2018.

But tech is also used to rethink the insurance model. Here’s what the company said in its launch blog post:

Old models say the number one indicator you’ll make a claim is having a prior claim, and charge you accordingly, even when you were not at fault. Models designed with the Member in mind determine whether a claim is likely to reoccur, or whether mitigation has actually reduced risk and warrants a lower price. Good technology empowers us to build this new data into our models, keeping prices as low as possible for as many people as possible.

Lotz says that USAA was actually a part of the inspiration for Goodcover. Lotz worked at AIG for eight years before starting the company, inspired by the USAA’s member-first mentality. Lotz looked to model Goodcover after USAA, the insurance co-operative for military service members and their families, which has no outside agents, pays a dividend and uses technology to both keep costs down and offer quality policy coverage.

Goodcover takes a 20% cut up front. The other 80% goes to Goodcover’s partners: KnightBrook Insurance (primary carrier), Transatlantic Reinsurance (reinsurance), North American Risk Services (claims services) and Milliman (actuarial services).

The majority of that 80% goes toward indemnity, or paying out claims, with some going toward loss adjustment expenses (paying the human that goes and checks out or works on the claim), carrier fees and reinsurance premiums. These portions of the revenue are where partners like KnightBrook and Transatlantic Reinsurance make their money.

Whatever is left over is passed on to the policy holders. Lotz says that that number is expected to range from 5% to 10%. However, in a case where reinsurance premiums are applied (if, for example, a major earthquake were to destroy multiple Goodcover-insured apartment buildings), there may not be extra cash left over. In that case, Goodcover will take on the extra cost, eliminating the dividend to policy holders but also not costing them any extra.

“This isn’t about charging everyone and then giving 50% back,” said Lotz. “It’s a guarantee that we’re not overcharging you in the first place.” The company claims that it saves renters 45% on their renters insurance.

Goodcover has raised a total of $2 million in funding from Fuel Capital, YC, Liquid 2, Box Group, several angels and Transatlantic Reinsurance, one of their insurance partners.

The company has plans to continue expanding, though insurance is regulated at the state level, which could make that a more tedious process. Lotz explained that starting in California was very purposeful, as regulatory approval is relatively difficult to secure in such a consumer protection-heavy state. The company is also interested in introducing home owners insurance.

Insurance is a crowded market, with startups racing to rethink the model, employ tech to advance the product and update the value proposition for a millennial audience that may be new to insurance. But in an industry that hasn’t changed much in over a century, and which has lost the trust of the consumer, it makes sense that startups are scrambling to stake their claim.

Original Content podcast: Netflix’s ‘Cheer’ provides a gripping, painful look at competitive cheerleading

By Anthony Ha

“Cheer,” a new documentary series on Netflix, may be singlehandedly changing the way many people think about cheerleading.

The show follows the competitive cheerleading team at Navarro College in Texas as they prepare to compete once more in the national championships, and it quickly becomes clear that this is a physically demanding sport, requiring extraordinary strength and coordination — and resulting in serious injuries when things go wrong.

Those injuries have spurred a broader conversation about whether or not coach Monica Aldama, along with the organizations and institutions that behind competitive cheerleading, are doing enough to protect the cheerleaders. We had very different opinions on the issue, and on Aldama herself, leading to an extended debate on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast.

One thing that we all agreed on, however, is that the documentary offers an illuminating look at a world that most of us only knew through the teen comedy “Bring It On.” It’s filled with compelling characters — not just Aldama, but also many of the students on her team, with the show taking the time to sketch out their often difficult or even tragic childhoods.

Before our review of “Cheer,” we also discuss a report that Netflix laid off part of its marketing team as part of a broader shift in promotional strategy.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:

0:00 Intro
0:43 Netflix marketing news
8:27 “Cheer” spoiler-free review
43:27 “Cheer” spoiler discussion

How to blow through capital at an incredible rate

By Alex Wilhelm

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

It was yet another jam-packed week full of big news, IPO happenings and venture activity. As always, we’ve done our best to deliver the gist on what’s been going on. We had Alex Wilhelm and Danny Crichton on hand to handle it all, which went medium-good. In other Equity news, we’re back with guests over the next few weeks, so if you miss us having a venture capitalist along for the ride, fear not, their return is just around the corner.

Up top this week was Jon Shieber’s report that Kleiner Perkins has rapidly deployed its most recent fund, a $600 million vehicle. While the news felt surprising, digging back through our archives we were reminded that the firm had indicated it might put its capital to work quickly. Still, as Danny pointed out, it’s rare that venture capitalists have to go out raising from LPs on an annual basis.

After that, we turned to some funding rounds that held our attention, including the Free Agency round that is working to bring talent management to the technology industry similar to the sports and entertainment worlds.

The concept makes some sense, as compensation packages for top talent in the industry can extend into the seven-figures (Free Agency takes a 5-10% cut of an employee’s income using the increasingly popular income-share agreements). Also, this round felt a bit like a reminder that the labor market is tight at the moment.

We then moved on to Josh Constine’s story about “Ring for enterprise” startup Verkada, which raised a massive $80 million round at a $1.6 billion valuation. That’s eye-popping, since the extremely small dilution implied with those numbers (5%) is very rare in the venture world.

After that we turned to a few rounds that Alex has had his eye on, namely the somewhat-recent Insurify round, the pretty-recent Gabi round and the most-recent Policygenius. All told, they sum to $150 million, which made us ask the question, why are venture capitalists so into insurance marketplace startups?

Finally, we touched on the latest from the intra-SoftBank delivery war between DoorDash and Uber Eats, including who is impacted, and what it means for future consolidation in the on-demand world. Or more precisely, why hasn’t there been more?

Finally, don’t forget that IPO season is upon us. Are you caught up?

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Gadget Lab Podcast: Byte Video Sharing, and Motorola’s Razr Reboot

By WIRED Staff
On this week’s show we talk about Vine's rebirth as Byte and the new Razr reboot, which now comes with (of course) a folding screen.

Gadget Lab Podcast: Oral Hygiene Tech and Espresso Science

By WIRED Staff
On this week’s episode: hacking oral hygiene with AI, and hacking espresso with science.

Why Front’s Series C matters, the latest on Lambda and The Athletic makes media look good

By Alex Wilhelm

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week Danny and Alex are back with more than ever to get through. 2020 has come out of the gate fast when it comes to news, so much so that we had to leave out of the show way more than we wanted. Things like the newest members of the $100 million ARR club, One Medical’s proposed IPO pricing, the Clubhouse funding round and Placer.ai’s latest investment.

But we did manage to chat through a host of news, including:

All that and we had fun. One more thing: Don’t fret, we’re going to bring guests back in just a few weeks. So if you’ve missed hearing from Folks Who Actively Invest, fear not, the VCs will be back.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Apple TV+ show ‘Little America’ to get a companion podcast, exec producer says

By Sarah Perez

A recent report from Bloomberg claimed Apple was considering making original podcasts related to its Apple TV+ streaming service shows. Now we have further confirmation that these companion podcasts are indeed in the works. In an interview with Forbes, an executive producer of the Apple TV+ anthology series “Little America,” Lee Eisenberg, talks about the benefits of working with Apple — noting, by the way, that the show will have a podcast as well as a playlist featuring music from the series.

Neither of these has yet to launch, but are in line with what Bloomberg claimed Apple has been planning.

The audio programs — basically Apple’s own original podcasts — would help to market some of Apple TV+’s more high-profile shows. “Little America” was mentioned in Bloomberg’s report as one possibility, given the rave reviews it received from critics. Golden Globe nominee “The Morning Show,” which also won Jennifer Aniston a best actress award at the Screen Actor Guild Awards, was another.

Eisenberg, speaking to Forbes, confirmed the plans to cross-promote the new show across Apple’s platform.

“Apple is such a worldwide and multi-faceted brand,” he said. “We’re doing a podcast to delve more into the stories and the music on the show. There’ll also be a playlist for every episode. We’re putting out a book too. Apple has an infrastructure that just felt like it would be able to touch all of the different pieces that we wanted,” he added.

The comment was meant to highlight one of the benefits of working with a company like Apple, in a piece that laid out how different Apple’s approach is from rival networks and streaming services. For example, Apple was passionate about “Little America,” which focuses on the immigrant experience in America, even when traditional networks had passed with concerns over subject matter and lack of star power. In fact, Apple sold itself and its streaming service to “Little America’s” producers and creators, not the other way around.

It’s unclear when the “Little America” podcast or episode playlists will go live or to what extent Apple will be involved when they do. Apple has not responded to requests for comment on the matter.

Such a move would represent a big jump by Apple into the world of original podcasts, if and when it comes to pass. Today, the company’s selection of Apple-produced podcasts are limited to things like Apple keynotes, special events and quarterly earnings calls — not really what you think of as original audio programming.

Apple is alone among the top streaming services in terms of not having some sort of original audio programming play. Spotify has heavily invested in podcasts, and now has hundreds of originals and exclusives available to its users. It also acquired several podcast networks and podcast startups, including GimletParcast and Anchor. It’s now said to be in discussions with The Ringer. 

Pandora is leveraging the assets of new parent SiriusXM to turn its talk shows into podcasts and develop a new podcast-and-audio format, called Pandora Stories.

Meanwhile, Amazon Music — now close to Apple in user numberswraps in a premium collection of Audible podcasts with its Prime membership. That means Amazon Prime subscribers get both free music as well as exclusives audio shows from Audible.

Even a smaller player, Stitcher, offers its own network of originals.

It seems original audio programming is something that’s now becoming table-stakes in the streaming music wars. Apple’s entry may be belated, but it will at least be differentiated as its podcasts will promote its shows and vice versa, instead of only being connected to music.

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