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Toast’s Aman Narang and BVP’s Kent Bennett on how customer obsession is everything

By Jordan Crook

Toast has raised more than $900 billion and is reportedly valued at over $5 billion. But back in 2011, no one knew this startup would see such meteoric success. It had a few things going for it, of course — founder Aman Narang hailed from Endeca, where he was a software engineer and product lead with a reputation for being able to ship a lot of software quickly.

But the ambitions behind Toast were big, and complicated, and enough to give pause to any investor. Kent Bennett was one such VC, and while he had conviction in the founding team, he wasn’t convinced that they could tackle such a big problem.

Toast is a restaurant POS system that acts as a sort of operating system for an establishment, managing everything from online orders, deliveries and marketing to payroll and team management as well as the actual point of sale. Being able to do all that requires building a number of complex products, such as payments.

Early on, Bennett had told Narang not to build a restaurant POS. To him, it was too complicated and nuanced, which is why the systems from the ’90s were still deeply entrenched 20 years later. However, he did offer space in the Bessemer office for the Toast team to work on their product.

“I caught up with Aman and he told me that they did this interesting thing after hearing that a lot of their customers were frustrated by payments platforms, which are separate from the POS,” said Bennett. “Aman said they built their own payments platform. Once again, I was like, ‘You did what? You’re not allowed to build payments.’ But he told me that they built it and it improves their products, and that, by the way, they make a margin on it.”

Bennett said that when they added up the margins from the payments and the POS, it was impactful.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Bennett. “This is a really good business.”

From there, it became his obsession. And though it took a few more quarters to close the deal, they eventually got there. Bessemer led the company’s Series B financing in 2016.

We spoke to Bennett and Narang recently on an episode of Extra Crunch Live to explore the story of how they came together for the deal, what makes the difference for both founders and investors when fundraising, and the biggest lessons they’ve learned so far. The episode also featured the Extra Crunch Live Pitch-off, where audience members pitched their products to Bennett and Narang and received live feedback.

Extra Crunch Live is open to everyone each Wednesday at 3pm ET/noon PT, but only Extra Crunch members are able to stream these sessions afterwards and watch previous shows on-demand in our episode library.

Despite the complexity of the Toast system, or maybe because of it, Narang says the fundamentals are the most important part of communicating the business, especially when fundraising.

Apple to introduce A/B testing and in-app events to the App Store

By Sarah Perez

Apple today announced a number of coming changes and improvements to the App Store that will help developers better target their apps to users, get their apps discovered by more people and even highlight what sort of events are taking place inside their apps to entice new users to download the app and encourage existing users to return.

The company said its App Store today sees 600 million weekly users across 175 countries, and has paid out more than $230 billion to developers since the App Store launched, highlighting the business opportunity for app developers.

However, as the App Store has grown, it’s become harder for app developers to market their apps to new users or get their apps found. The new features aim to address that.

Image Credits: Apple

One change involves the app’s product page. Starting this year, app developers will be able to create multiple custom product pages to showcase different features of their app for different users. For instance, they’ll be able to try out things like different screenshots, videos, and even different app icons to A/B test what users like the most.

They’ll also be able to advertise the dynamic things that are taking place inside their apps on an ongoing basis. Apple explained that apps and games are constantly rolling out new content and limited time events like film premieres on streaming services, events like Pokémon GO fests, or Nike fitness challenges. But these events were often only discoverable by those who already had the app installed and then opted in to push notifications.

Image Credits: Apple

Apple will now allow developers to better advertise these events, with the launch of in-app events “front and center on the App Store.” The events can be showcased on the app’s product page. Users can learn more about the events, sign up to be notified or quickly join the event, if it’s happening now. They can also discover events with personalized recommendations and through App Store search.

App Store editors will curate the best events and the new App Store widget will feature upcoming events right on users’ home screens, too.

Apple says the feature will be open to all developers, including those who already run events and those who are just getting started.

read more about Apple's WWDC 2021 on TechCrunch

macOS 12 Monterey upgrades Continuity with Universal Control

By Amanda Silberling

During the WWDC conference today, Apple unveiled the new macOS 12 Monterey. A major feature in the macOS update is Universal Control, which builds upon the Continuity features first introduced in OS X Yosemite. For years it’s been possible to open a news article on your iPhone and keep reading it on your MacBook, or to copy and paste a link from your iPad to your iMac. But Universal Control takes these features further.

With Universal Control, you can use a single mouse and keyboard to navigate across multiple Apple devices at once. This functionality works across more than two devices — in the demo video, the feature is used to seamlessly move across an iPad, MacBook and iMac. Users can drag and drop files across multiple devices at once, making it possible, for example, to use a multi-screen setup while editing video on Final Cut Pro.

What’s possible in Universal Control isn’t necessarily new — this has been made possible before through third-party apps. Plus, in 2019, Apple debuted Sidecar, which allowed users to connect their iPad as a second monitor for their MacBook or iMac. But, Universal Control improves upon Sidecar — and maybe renders it obsolete — by allowing users to link any Apple devices together, even if it’s not an iPad. Though this update may not be groundbreaking, it’s a useful upgrade to existing features.

read more about Apple's WWDC 2021 on TechCrunch

Free month of Extra Crunch included with TC Sessions: Mobility tickets

By Travis Bernard

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 is coming up soon, and we’ve decided to sweeten the deal for what’s included with your event pass. Buy your ticket now and you’ll get a free month of access to Extra Crunch, our membership program focused on startups, founders and investors with more than 100 exclusive articles published per month.

Extra Crunch unlocks access to our weekly investor surveys, private market analysis and in-depth interviews with experts on fundraising, growth, monetization and other core startup topics. Get feedback on your pitch deck through Extra Crunch Live, and stay informed with our members-only Extra Crunch newsletter. Other benefits include an improved TechCrunch.com experience and savings on software services from AWS, Crunchbase and more.

Learn more about Extra Crunch benefits here, and buy your TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 tickets here.  

What is TC Sessions: Mobility 2021? 

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 is where the transportation community gathers online for interactive discussions that break through the hype to understand the current state of the mobility revolution and reveal the future of transportation. The event will take place June 9, and we’d love to have you join. View the event agenda here, and purchase tickets here

Once you buy your TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 pass, you will be emailed a link and unique code you can use to claim the free month of Extra Crunch during the event.

Already bought your TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 ticket?

Existing ticket holders as well as any new purchasers will be emailed information during the event on how to claim the free month of Extra Crunch membership. 

Already an Extra Crunch member?

We’re happy to extend a free month of access to existing users. Please contact extracrunch@techcrunch.com, and mention that you are an existing Extra Crunch member who bought a ticket to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021.

Apple Maps upgrade brings more detailed maps, transit features, AR view and more

By Sarah Perez

Among many updates coming to iOS 15, Apple Maps will receive a number of upgrades that will bring more detailed maps, improvements for transit riders, AR experiences and other changes to the platform. The improvements build on the new map Apple began rolling out two years ago, which had focused on offering richer details, and — in response to user feedback and complaints — more accurate navigation.

Since then, Apple Maps has steadily improved.

The new map experience has since launched in the U.S., U.K., Ireland and Canada and will now make its way to Spain and Portugal, starting today. It will then arrive in Italy and Australia later this year, Apple announced during its keynote address during its Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday.

maps driving

Image Credits: Apple

In addition, Apple said iOS 15 Maps will include new details for commercial districts, marinas, buildings and more. Plus, Apple has added things like elevation, new road colors and labels, as well as hundreds of custom designed landmarks — for example, for places like the Golden Gate Bridge.

Apple also built a new nighttime mode for Maps with a “moonlit glow,” it said.

For drivers, Apple added new road details to the map, so it can help drivers as they move throughout a city to better see and understand important things like turn lanes, medians, bus and taxi lanes and other things. The changes are competitive with some of the updates Google has been making to its own Google Maps platform, which brought street-level details in select cities. These allowed people — including those navigating on foot, in a wheelchair, on a bike or on a scooter, for example — to better see things like sidewalks and intersections.

Apple is now catching up, saying it, too, will show features like crosswalks and bike lanes.

It will also render things like overlapping complex interchanges in 3D space, making it easier to see upcoming traffic conditions or what lane to take. These features will come to CarPlay later in the year.

Image Credits: Apple

For transit riders, meanwhile, Maps has made improvements to help users find nearby stations.

Users can now pin their favorite lines to the top, and even keep track on their Apple Watch so they don’t have to pull out their phone. The updated Maps app will automatically follow your transit route and notify you when it’s time to disembark, making the app more competitive to third-party apps often favored by transit takers, like Citymapper, for instance.

maps train stop

Image Credits: Apple

When you exit your station, you can also now hold up your iPhone to scan the buildings in the area and Maps will generate an accurate position, offering direction in augmented reality. This is similar to the Live View AR directions Google announced last year.

This feature is launching in select cities in 2021 with more to come in the year ahead, Apple said.

Image Credits: Apple

 

read more about Apple's WWDC 2021 on TechCrunch

Apple announces FaceTime updates

By Amanda Silberling

Over a year into a global pandemic, Apple announced some major updates to its FaceTime app at WWDC 2021, which will be available in iOS 15.

Notably, Android users will now be able to join in on FaceTime calls, posing some competition to apps like Zoom and Google Meet, which have boomed during lockdown. This FaceTime makeover will also include links to join calls, which can be sent via Calendar invites in advance of your meeting. These links work across platforms, whether you’re on the web, an Android phone or your iPhone.

Apple is also adding updates that make the experience of video chatting on FaceTime more closely resemble real life conversations.

“When talking in person, our brains process hundreds of social auditory and visual cues. When talking on a video call, many of those signals can get lost, leaving us feeling drained. So this year, we’ve set out to make FaceTime calls feel more natural, comfortable, and lifelike,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering.

Through a spatial audio feature, FaceTime calls will sound like you’re sitting in the same room with your friends — that means if someone is on the left side of your screen, their audio will come through the left side of your speaker. This functionality might not translate well to smaller devices like an iPhone, but could be interesting on devices like an iMac. The person speaking will have a white ring appear around their video while they’re talking, and users will be able to select a grid view to see the other people on the call, which seems quite similar to Zoom.

Next, Apple announced voice isolation, which will improve the speaker’s audio quality when calling from a noisy area. The demo video that was shown during the WWDC announcement featured a child walking into the video frame with a leaf blower. In TechCrunch’s liveblog, Darrell Etherington pointed out that the video seemed heavily edited.

Finally, a feature called SharePlay will come to FaceTime, which makes it easier for friends to watch streaming videos together. SharePlay allows for group listening, watching and screen sharing, and Apple shared partners for SharePlay, including Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, NBA, Twitch, TikTok, MasterClass, ESPN+, Paramount+ and PlutoTV. The SharePlay API will be available so that all video app makers can access it and integrate their own apps.

read more about Apple's WWDC 2021 on TechCrunch

Apple introduces SharePlay for co-watching, streaming and screen sharing over FaceTime

By Sarah Perez

As part of its FaceTime update in iOS 15, Apple introduced a new set of features designed for shared experiences — like co-watching TV shows or TikTok videos, listening to music together, screen sharing and more — while on a FaceTime call. The feature, called SharePlay, enables real-time connections with family and friends while you’re hanging out on FaceTime, Apple explained, by integrating access to apps from within the call itself.

Image Credits: Apple

Apple demonstrated the new feature during its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote, showing how friends could press play in Apple Music to listen together, as the music streams to everyone on the call. Shared playback controls also let anyone on the call play, pause or jump to the next track.

The company also showed off watching video from its Apple TV+ streaming service, where the video was synced in real time between call participants. This was a popular trend during the pandemic, as people looked to virtually watch movies and TV with family and friends, prompting services like Hulu and Amazon Prime Video to add native co-watching features.

But Apple’s SharePlay goes much further than streaming music and video from just Apple’s own services.

The company announced a set of launch partners for SharePlay, including Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, NBA, Twitch, TikTok, MasterClass, ESPN+, Paramount+ and Pluto TV. It’s also making an API available to developers so they can integrate their own apps with SharePlay.

Image Credits: Apple

Users can screen share via SharePlay, too, so you can do things like browse Zillow listings together or show off a mobile gameplay, Apple suggested.

“Screen sharing is also a simple and super effective way to help someone out and answer questions right in the moment, and it works across Apple devices,” noted Apple SVP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi.

The feature will roll out with iOS 15.

read more about Apple's WWDC 2021 on TechCrunch

Apple refines iOS 15 notifications with Focus, Summary features

By Brian Heater

As part of the update to iOS 15, Apple will allow iPhone users to better customize how they want to be notified about incoming calls, texts or updates from apps based on their current status. With the new Focus feature instead of just silencing calls and notifications through Do Not Disturb, you’ll be able to set different types of notification preferences based on your status — like whether you’re driving, working, sleeping or through the use of custom categories of your own choosing.

The system also uses on-board AI to help determine what your status is at a given time. For example, the phone might suggest you turn off notifications when you’re arriving at the gym.

With the new Focus feature, you can customize how you want to be notified and when. For example, you could choose to only be notified by co-workers or by apps like Mail, Calendar or Slack. You can even dedicate a page on your home screen to match your focus and organize your apps and widgets in a way that reduces temptations by making only your work apps visible. When you use Focus, it will sync to all your other Apple devices, too, Apple notes.

Notifications have a new look too, with contact photos for people and larger icons for apps, making them easier to identify.

In 2019, Tim Cook admitted that he himself had silenced many notifications, famously saying that “Apple never wanted to maximize user time. We’ve never been about that.” But we disputed that was the case, saying Apple could have designed a system that delivered notifications on a schedule, not in real time.

Apparently, Apple has now has: it’s called Notification Summary, which bundles and prioritizes incoming notifications, based on things like time of day. You can schedule this summary to be delivered at any time you choose, like in the morning or evening, for example.

Apple says it uses device intelligence based on how you use your apps to arrange this summary, making it easier to quickly catch up. The most important notifications appear above the less important notifications in the summary.

Image Credits: Apple

In another change, Do Not Disturb has been integrated directly into iMessage, so other users will know when you don’t want to be bothered by incoming notes.

Now, when you’re using Do Not Disturb, your status is automatically displayed in iMessage. When you reach out to someone who’s indicated they don’t want to be disturbed, you’ll be reminded in that moment. And for truly urgent messages, there’s still a way to get through, Apple noted.

The system can also be set up to send you a briefing as a big chunk during a time of day, making the lock screen notification a more interactive experience than in previous iOS versions.

These features, which involve better personalizing the phone to the user, somewhat recall the smart launchers that had been popular on Android devices many years ago, like Aviate or EverythingMe, among others, which customized your device based on what you were doing, the time of day and other factors. These apps never took off on iOS because Apple doesn’t allow third-party apps to deeply integrate with its mobile operating system or reconfigure the device’s home screen, and the trend fizzled out.

But Apple more recently has been customizing its iPhone to better reflect user preferences, including with the introduction of widgets and Siri Suggestions, which can even be a widget of suggested apps on the home screen.

read more about Apple's WWDC 2021 on TechCrunch

Apple unveils iOS 15 with new features for FaceTime and better notifications

By Romain Dillet

During the virtual keynote of WWDC, Apple shared the first details about iOS 15, the next major version of iOS that is going to be released later this year. There are four pillars with this year’s release: staying connected, focusing without distraction, using intelligence and exploring the world.

“For many of us, our iPhones have become indispensable,” SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said. “Our new release is iOS 15. It’s packed with features that make the iOS experience adapt to and complement the way you use iPhone, whether it’s staying connected with those who matter to you most, finding the space to focus without distraction, using intelligence to discover the information you need or exploring the world around you.”

FaceTime gets a bunch of new features

Apple is adding spatial audio to FaceTime. Now the voices are spread out depending on the position of your friends on the screen. For instance, if someone appears on the left, it’ll sound like they’re on the left in your ears. In other FaceTime news, iOS now detects background noise and tries to suppress it so that you can hear your friends and family members more easily. That’s an optional feature, which means that you can disable it in case you’re showing a concert during a FaceTime call for instance.

Another FaceTime feature is “Portrait mode”. Behind this term, Apple means that it can automatically blur the background, like in “Portrait mode” photos. In case you want to use FaceTime for work conferences, you can now generate a FaceTime link and add it to a calendar invite. FaceTime will also work in a web browser, which means that people without an Apple device can join a FaceTime call. All of these features make FaceTime more competitive with other video call services, such as Zoom and Google Meet.

WWDC 2021 - Facetime Link

FaceTime is a big focus as Apple is also introducing SharePlay. With this feature, you can listen together to a music album. Press play in Apple Music and the music will start for everyone on the call. The queue is shared with everyone else, which means anyone can add songs, skip to the next track, etc.

SharePlay also lets you watch movies and TV shows together. Someone on the call starts a video and it starts on your friend’s phone or tablet. It is also compatible with AirPlay, picture-in-picture and everything you’d expect from videos on iOS.

This isn’t just compatible with videos in the Apple TV app. Apple said there will be an API to make videos compatible with SharePlay. Partners include Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, Twitch, TikTok and more. Here’s a screenshot of the initial partners:

Now let’s switch to Messages. The app is getting better integration with other Apple apps like News, Photos and Music. Items shared via Messages show up in those apps. In other words, Messages (and iMessage) is acting as the social layer on top of Apple’s apps.

A new notification summary

Apple is going to use on-device intelligence to create summaries of your notifications. Instead of being sorted by apps and by date, it is sorted by priority. For instance, notifications from friends will be closer to the top.

When you silence notifications, your iMessage contacts will see that you have activated “Do not disturb”. It works a bit like “Do not disturb” in Slack. But there are new settings. Apple calls this Focus mode. You can choose apps and people you want notifications from and change your focus depending on what you’re doing.

For instance, if you’re at work, you can silence personal apps and personal calls and messages. If it’s the weekend, you can silence your work emails. Your settings sync across your iCloud account if you have multiple Apple devices. And it’ll even affect your home screen by showing and hiding apps and widgets.

New smart features

Apple is going to scan your photos for text. Called Live Text, this feature lets you highlight, copy and paste text in photos. It could be a nice accessibility feature as well. And, iOS is going to leverage that info for Spotlight. You can search from text in your photos directly in Spotlight. These features are handled on-device directly.

With iOS 15, memories are getting an upgrade. “These new memories are built on the fly. They are interactive and alive,” said Chelsea Burnette, senior manager, Photos Engineering. Memories are those interactive movies that you can watch in the Photos app. Now, you can tap with your finger to pause the movie. While music still plays in the background, your photo montage resumes when you lift your finger.

You can now search for a specific song to pair with a memory. It’s going to be interesting to see in detail what’s new for the Photos app.

Wallet, Weather and Maps

After a recap of all the features of Apple Wallet, the company announced that you’ll be able to scan your ID and store it in Wallet. It’ll be available in participating states so it’s going to be a slow rollout. When a government service wants some info from your ID, you can choose to share some data with this service directly on your iPhone.

When it comes to the Weather app, it has been updated to include many of the features that were available in Dark Sky, a popular weather app that has been acquired by Apple. Expect a new design and more data.

WWDC 2021 - weather app

As for Apple Maps, the new mapping data has been rolled out in several countries and Apple is still rolling it out in Europe. Apple has added a ton of new details to some areas, such as San Francisco. You can see bus and taxi lanes, crosswalks, bike lanes, etc. On highways, you see complex interchanges in 3D. All of this is also coming to Car Play later this year.

With transit, users can pin their favorite lines and view info on their Apple Watch. When you’re in a subway or bus, you can see your location in real time. It sounds a bit like Citymapper’s itinerary feature. You can also get directions in augmented reality by holding your phone in front of you.

AirPods software update

Apple is also announcing a bunch of new features for users who have AirPods. There’s a new conversation mode that makes it a smart hearing aid to boost conversation volume. You’ll also get more notifications if you’ve activated the “Announce notifications” setting. You can tweak that setting to limit it to certain apps and change depending on your focus mode.

You can also find your AirPods with the Find My app with audio notifications even when they’re in the case. Spatial audio is coming to the Apple TV and Macs with an M1 chip. As announced a few weeks ago, spatial audio for Apple Music is launching right now.

As you can see, iOS 15 is packed with new features. Apple is releasing a developer beta with an initial release today. The public beta phase will start in July. You can expect beta updates throughout the summer and a final release this fall.

read more about Apple's WWDC 2021 on TechCrunch

How to Watch Today's Apple WWDC Keynote

By Michael Calore
The annual event starts at 10 am Pacific with news about software updates coming to iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Here's how to tune in.

Apple's WWDC 2021 Starts Monday. Here's What to Expect

By Lauren Goode
The annual developer conference is where the next versions of iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and other software enhancements are unveiled.

What to expect from WWDC 2021

By Brian Heater

All things considered, Apple put together a pretty slick all-virtual WWDC last year. Where other companies like Microsoft and Google have opted for a more live (or live-style) experience, the company was parading its execs through a series of smooth drone shots and slick transitions. And with the first year under its belt, it will be fun to see how the company outdoes itself.

As far as news goes, the WWDC keynote kickoff is always packed — and this year is no different. In fact, there’s a good chance that we could see even more. In addition to the standard developer-focused updates to iOS/iPadOS, watchOS, macOS, tvOS and the like, we could well see some new hardware dropping at the event.

As ever, we’ll be breaking the news live, and this time out, we’re bringing back the liveblog. So, you know, lots of different ways to follow along live. The event kicks off at 10AM PT/1PM ET on Monday, June 7.

Speaking of, you can also check out the YouTube livestream here:

As usual, iOS is the tentpole attraction here — if nothing else, because Apple sells more iPhones than anything else. That was certainly the case last year, when the company’s latest 5G devices provided much needed relief in an otherwise flagging mobile market.

At least right off the bat, iOS 15 doesn’t look like as radical an update as the latest version of Android. But a lot can happen between today and Monday morning. The top line issue (at least for now) seems to be updates to notifications. According to reports, the new version of the mobile operating system will offer customizable notifications based on status — meaning things like sleeping, working and driving.

The operating system is also believed to be getting a whole slew of new accessibility features.

Apple 2021 iPad Pro overview

Image Credits: Apple

Perhaps even bigger news is a long-awaited update to iPadOS 15. The dated software was a sticking point in our latest iPad Pro review, and it seems the company is finally making some key strides to further distance its tablet operating system from the mobile one. For most intents and purposes, the current execution is effectively a scaled-up version of iOS for the tablet.

Not a ton of details yet, but the home screen is reportedly set to get some major updates, including widgets. One imagines the company will be pushing to make better use of all that added real estate. It should also be getting some of the new iOS updates, including those new notifications and a big overhaul for iMessage.

a new iPhone 12 package on top of a MacBook Pro package.

YOKOHAMA, KANAGAWA, JAPAN – 2020/10/31: In this photo illustration a new iPhone 12 package on top of a MacBook Pro package. (Photo Illustration by Stanislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

After the big overhaul that was Big Sur, we’re expecting smaller waves from macOS 12. The big news here may be hardware. Rumors surround an update to Apple’s blazing-fast M1 chip. The M1X (as it’s currently being called) could well arrive alongside brand new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, which would finally put a little sunlight between the high and low end of Apple’s laptop line.

Apple Watch Series 5

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Also, watchOS seems due for a big update, even if information is pretty scant so far. New health features are always a sure bet — especially now that Apple is competing with the newly combined Google and Fitbit (not to mention that recently announced assist from Samsung).

Then there’s homeOS, the most intriguing mystery of the bunch. Job listings have pointed to the mysterious operating system — that could have just been a typo (later changed to “HomePod” in the listing).

Image Credits: Apple

This being a rumor roundup, we’ll point the compelling possibility that it might be something larger — perhaps a more unifying home operating system designed to work with existing and forthcoming Apple home products. Perhaps something that integrates a bit more closely with tvOS. A longstanding rumor centers around a new Apple TV device, but so far we’ve not seen a lot of confirmation on that front.

Other rumors involve a new Mac Mini (though we just saw a refresh late last year). Rumors around Beats Studio Buds are enticing as well. After all, when LeBron is seen sporting your unannounced hardware, people are going to talk. Traditionally, however, Apple has opted to let the Beats team do its own announcements, saving these big events for its own self-branded audio products like AirPods.

read more about Apple's WWDC 2021 on TechCrunch

Five excellent reasons to attend TC Early Stage 2021: Marketing & Fundraising

By Alexandra Ames

There’s no crying in baseball, and there are certainly no shortcuts in building a successful startup. But, thanks to TC Early Stage 2021: Marketing and Fundraising on July 8-9, you don’t have to reinvent the freakin’ wheel.

This two-day bootcamp offers early-stage founders (pre-seed through Series A) access to the startup ecosystem’s leading experts and top investors. They’ll host a series of interactive Q&A sessions focused on essential topics, like pitch development, fundraising, brand building, growth marketing and more. Take a peek at the agenda.

Here are just some of the many reasons to carve time out of your hectic schedule and attend this all-virtual event.

1. Because your contemporaries say so

“Early Stage 2020 was a great opportunity to hear seasoned startup founders talking about their experiences and how they dealt with many of the same challenges I faced then and am going through now. It’s like a mini masterclass in entrepreneurship.” — Ashley Barrington, founder, MarketPearl.

“Sequoia Capital’s session, ‘Start with Your Customer,’ looked at the benefits of storytelling and creating customer personas. I took the idea to my team and we’ve implemented storytelling to help onboard new customers. That one session alone has transformed my business.” — Chloe Leaaetoa, founder, Socicraft.

2. Connect with community and opportunity

Founding a startup can be a frustrating and sometimes lonely affair. It helps to bounce ideas off other early founders who know exactly what you’re going through. You never know where those communal connections might lead, and a fat Rolodex is always good for business.

Make ad hoc connections in our virtual platform’s chat feature. Want a more strategic tool? CrunchMatch, our AI-powered networking platform, simplifies finding and scheduling 1:1 meetings with the people who align with your business goals.

3. Bust out the breakout sessions

You’ll learn a ton about growing your business at interactive Q&A sessions like these:

Iterating More Effectively with Feedback: A great product alone is not enough. To be successful, early-stage companies need to optimize all phases of the customer journey. This session will include tactics, best practices and case studies on how to use customer feedback to understand customer needs, craft more compelling messaging and improve all phases of the customer experience.

Growth Hacking, Product Fit and Pricing: Superhuman’s Rahul Vohra shares strategies for early-stage founders on topics like hacking your way to product-market fit, driving user sign-ups without breaking the bank on paid ads and identifying your product’s price point.

How to Determine Your Earned Media Strategy: Learn how to build an effective earned media strategy for your startup, building on Rebecca Reeve Henderson’s deep expertise developing effective communications programs for some of the top business software companies in the world. Earned media, aka the kind of exposure you get from a TechCrunch article, is a key element of any startup’s marketing strategy, but it’s also one of the trickiest things to get right. Rebecca has worked with companies ranging from Slack, to Shopify, to Zapier, to Canva and many more, helping craft effective earned media strategies in one of the most difficult areas of all: B2B SaaS.

And even more….

4. Pitch at TC Early Stage

Day two is all about the pitch-off. Ten early-stage startups will take the virtual stage and deliver their best five-minute pitch to a global audience of investors, TC editors, press and event attendees. A five-minute Q&A with the judges follows that pitch. Want a shot? Get moving because you need to apply here by June 7!

5. You can still save $100 (if you act fast)

TC Early Stage 2021: Marketing & Fundraising kicks off on July 8-9 and for all you early birds, you can save a cool Benjamin when you register before next Friday, June 11 at 11:59 p.m. (PT). So what are you waiting for? Register today!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Early Stage 2021 – Marketing & Fundraising? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Lyft’s Revamped Bike-Share Ebike Is Sleek—and Beefy

By Julian Chokkattu
It’s got a better motor, a bigger battery, and a flashy paint job. Riders in San Francisco will soon be able to take the public beta for a spin.

See what’s new from Wejo, CMC, iMerit, Plus, oVice & Michigan at TechCrunch’s mobility event

By Alexandra Ames

We’re in the final run-up to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 on June 9, and the great stuff just keeps on coming. We’ve stacked the one-day agenda with plenty of programming to keep you engaged, informed and on track to build a stronger business. You’ll always find amazing speakers — some of the most innovative minds out there — on the main stage and in breakout sessions.

Dramatic pause for a pro tip: Don’t have a pass yet? Buy one here now for $125, before prices go up at the door.

“I enjoyed the big marquee speakers from companies like Uber, but it was the individual presentations where you really started to get into the meat of the conversation and see how these mobile partnerships come to life.” — Karin Maake, senior director of communications at FlashParking.

We have another exciting bit of news. We’re hosting pitch session for early-stage startup founders who exhibit in the expo at TC Sessions: Mobility. Each startup gets 1 minute to pitch to attendees in a breakout session. Remember, this conference has a global reach — talk about visibility! Want to pitch? Buy an Early Stage Startup Exhibitor Package as we only have 2 packages left.

Alrighty then…let’s look at some of the breakout & main stage sessions waiting for you at TC Sessions: Mobility 20201.

Innovating Future Mobility for Global Scale

Wednesday, June 9, 10:00 am -10:50 am PDT

Learn how the CMC’s model of bringing their Clients’ new technologies to market is new and innovative, going beyond a typical demonstration or pilot program, to the point of product launch and sustaining market viability. Hear from an expert panel about how the CMC’s programming is unique, innovative, and game-changing.

  • Neal Best, Director of Client Services, California Mobility Center (CMC)
  • Bill Brandt, Business Development Advisor, Zeus Electric Chassis
  • Mark Rawson, Chief Operating Officer, California Mobility Center (CMC)
  • Scott Ungerer, Founder and Managing Director, EnerTech Capital

Public-Private Partnerships: Advancing the Future of Mobility and Electrification

Wednesday, June 9, 10:45 am -11:05 am PDT

The future of mobility starts with the next generation of transportation solutions. Attendees will hear from some of the most innovative names on opportunities that await when public and private entities team up to revolutionize the way we think about technology. Trevor Pawl, Michigan’s Chief Mobility Officer, will be joined by Nina Grooms Lee, Chief Product Officer of May Mobility.

  • Nina Grooms Lee, Chief Product Officer, May Mobility
  • Trevor Pawl, Chief Mobility Officer, State of Michigan

Delivering Supervised Autonomous Trucks Globally

Wednesday, June 9, 12:40pm – 1:00pm PDT

Plus is applying autonomous driving technology to launch supervised autonomous trucks today in order to dramatically improve safety, efficiency and driver comfort, while addressing critical challenges in long-haul trucking — driver shortage and high turnover, rising fuel costs, and reaching sustainability goals. Mass production of our supervised autonomous driving solution, PlusDrive, starts this summer. In the next few years, tens of thousands of heavy trucks powered by PlusDrive will be on the road. Plus’s COO and Co-Founder Shawn Kerrigan will introduce PlusDrive and our progress of deploying this driver-in solution globally. He will also share our learnings from working together with world-leading OEMs and fleet partners to develop and deploy autonomous trucks at scale.

  • Shawn Kerrigan, COO and Co-Founder, Plus

How Edge Cases and Data Will Enable Autonomous Transportation in Cities Across the U.S.

Wednesday, June 9, 11:00 am – 11:50am

Data will play a vital role in solving the critical edge cases required to gain city approval and deploy autonomous transportation at scale. Pilot projects are underway across the U.S. and cities such as Las Vegas are leading the way for progressive policies, testing and adoption. But, how do these projects involving a limited number of vehicles gain city approval, expand to larger geographic areas, include more use cases and service more people? Join our expert panel discussion as we examine the progress, challenges and road ahead in harnessing data to enable multiple modes of autonomous transportation in major cities across the U.S.

  • Chris Barker, Founder & CEO, CBC
  • Radha Basu, Founder & CEO, iMerit
  • Michael Sherwood, CIO, City of Las Vegas

Making Mobility Data Accessible to Governmental Agencies to Meet New Transportation Demands

Wednesday, June 9, 1:45pm – 2:05pm

Wejo provides accurate and unbiased unique journey data, curated from millions of connected cars, to help local, state, province and federal government agencies visualize traffic and congestion conditions. Unlock a deeper understanding of mobility trends, to make better decisions, support policy development and solve problems more effectively for your towns and cities.

  • Brett Scott, VP of Partnerships

Will Remote Work Push Japan’s Rural Mobility Forward?

Wednesday, June 9, 1:45pm – 2:05pm

With remote work becoming the new normal and the mass movement from the city to the Japanese countryside, the trend of private car ownership is growing day by day. During this session, we’ll be hearing from Sae Hyung Jung, serial entrepreneur, founder and CEO of oVice. oVice is an agile communication tool that facilitates hybrid remote and virtual meetups. Most notably, a hope that can trigger a sudden expansion in the Japanese mobility and vehicle infrastructure.

  • Sae Hyung Jung, Founder & CEO, oVice

Calling all Yinzers, TechCrunch is (virtually) headed to Pittsburgh!

By Matt Burns

We’ve had a blast meeting new folks in different cities this year and we’re keeping the train rolling. We learned quite a bit about what’s happening now in Miami and got up to speed on what’s been happening in the great city of Detroit

Up next? Pittsburgh. Register for free the event here.

That’s right, on June 29th, the TechCrunch City Spotlight is heading to The Iron City. The River City. Blitzburgh (for you Steelers fans). The Pitt. 

A perfect blend of history and modern technology makes for an amazing venue. So far we’ve heard about the medical advancements, robots and self-driving cars. But we know there’s more! (Your unofficial mayor is there on the ground dropping us hints.)

Did you know the Kleiner Perkins origin story centers around Pittsburgh? And speaking of Steelers, have you been keeping tabs on former safety Will Allen’s turn as a VC? Speaking of big hits, Duolingo is on fire. Our own Natasha Mascarenhas recently wrote a four-part EC-1 on the company that has grown to 500 million registered learners.

These are all things that we’ve been digging into as we prepare for next month.

We’re going to have some special guests and interesting panels, and we’re of course going to share the stage with the best and brightest in the city. 

That’s where you come in!

If you’re building something awesome and you’re based in Mark Cuban’s old stomping grounds, we want to hear from you. We’ll be doing a pitch feedback session like the ones you’ve been watching on Extra Crunch Live. So drop us a note here and maybe you’ll be one of the companies to show everyone why Pittsburgh is hot.

Register now and hit us up with tips and unknown facts about your city. (Heads up, we already know about John Fetterman’s Sheetz fandom.)

See you soon!

Win $100,000: Apply to Startup Battlefield at TC Disrupt 2021

By Neesha A. Tambe

You’ve been hard at work building your game-changing startup. Diligent in its care and feeding so that, one day soon, it will grow into the mighty unicorn you envision. If you fit that description, we want you to apply to compete in the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 on September 21-23.

Any early-stage startup founder with an MVP — regardless of your category or geographic location — is eligible to apply. But here’s the thing. The window for tossing your hat into the ring is shrinking rapidly. Don’t wait — apply to compete in Startup Battlefield before the window slams shut on May 27 at 11:59 p.m. (PT).

Let’s run down the list of many benefits that come from competing in the world’s most famous startup launching pad.

Perfect pitch: All competing startups get weeks of free training with the TC Startup Battlefield training squad. You’ll hone your presentations skills, polish your business model and pitch with cool, calm confidence come game day.

Global exposure: An all-virtual Startup Battlefield means that thousands upon thousands of startup influencers, icons, tech media, potential investors, customers, collaborators and developers around the world will tune in to watch this always-epic event. All competitors — win or lose — bask in, and benefit from, this global, equal-opportunity spotlight.

Plenty of perks: Battlefield gladiators are TC Disrupt VIPs. You’ll enjoy lots of complimentary bennies, including exhibition space in virtual Startup Alley, event passes, tickets to future TC events, a private reception with members of the Startup Battlefield alumni community, access to the CrunchMatch networking platform and a free subscription to Extra Crunch.

Mucho moola: One startup will rise above the rest to claim the Disrupt Cup, the title of Startup Battlefield Champion and the $100,000 of equity-free prize money. Ka-ching.

Of course, you’ll make your pitch to, and then answer questions from, panels of expert judges. Who are these mystical beings you need to impress? So far, we’ve announced two, with plenty more to come. We’re thrilled to have both Alexa von Tobel, co-founder and managing partner of Inspired Capital, and Terri Burns, a partner at GV (formerly known as Google Ventures) on board.

Remember those influencers and potential investors we mentioned earlier? We’re talking about folks like Rachael Wilcox, a creative producer at Volvo Cars. Rachel told us that she goes to TechCrunch events to “find new and interesting companies, make new business connections and look for startups with investment potential.” She also shared her thoughts about Startup Battlefield.

“The Startup Battlefield translated easily to the virtual format. You could see the excitement, enthusiasm and possibility of the young founders, and I loved that. You could also ask questions through the chat feature, and you don’t always have time for questions at a live event.”

Your unicorn dreams might be on an early-stage startup budget, but this is a huge opportunity for you to gain global exposure and have a good shot at winning $100,000. Apply to compete in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 on September 21-23. Don’t wait — we stop accepting applications on May 27 at 11:59 p.m. (PT).

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

Google IO 2021: How to Watch It, and What to Expect

By Michael Calore
The company’s annual tech conference kicks off Tuesday morning.

Discuss the future of connected fitness with Mirror’s Brynn Putnam at Disrupt 2021

By Brian Heater

The global pandemic made some industries and utterly decimated others. The world of connected fitness falls firmly into the former. Along with top names like Peloton, Mirror had a banner year, including, most notably, sportwear company Lululemon’s acquisition of the brand for $500 million in June.

It’s an impressive number for the five-year-old company, which came out of stealth at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2018. Three years later, CEO Brynn Putnam will return to the Disrupt stage on September 21-23 to chart how the company grew from a small-scale startup to one of the leading names in a home fitness industry that saw a massive surge over the past year and a half.

A former ballerina and founder of New York fitness chain Refine Method, Putnam’s career has been a fascinating one — up to and including her time at Mirror. We’ll discuss how the company embraced a boom in connected fitness, why the time was right for acquisition and what the landscape for the industry will look like going forward.

Stay at home orders have had a profound impact on the way we get fit, leading many frequent gym goers to embrace high-tech, at-home methods. Is this the beginning of a sea change for the way the world works out? Or will a return to normal lead buyers to dust off their gym memberships? Find out at TC Disrupt his September and grab your tickets for under $99 for a limited time!

Power up your networking with CrunchMatch at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021

By Alexandra Ames

When thousands of mobility mavens from around the world gather at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 on June 9, you’re going to need an efficient, organized way to tap all that opportunity. Meeting folks is easy. Meeting the people who align with your goals and can help move your business forward — that’s even better. We’ve got just the tool to help you do that.

But first, a not-so-subtle reminder from the home office. Buy your pass to TC Sessions: Mobility 2021.

Now then, about that networking tool. We’re talking about CrunchMatch, our AI-powered networking platform. Simply register for Mobility 2021, answer a few quick questions about your business preferences, and within minutes you’re automatically registered for CrunchMatch. Keep your eyes peeled for an email telling you how and when to access the platform.

CrunchMatch goes to work searching for suitable matches based on the info you provided. The algorithm it uses makes fast, precise recommendations, and it gets smarter the more you use it.

So, who’s on your dream networking list — investors, founders, engineers, R&D teams, manufacturers, supply-chain experts? CrunchMatch helps you connect and schedule private 1:1 video meetings. Pitch those investors, demo products to potential clients, interview prospective employees. It’s a targeted, fast and efficient way to boost your brand and build your business.

“The networking at TC Sessions: Mobility is terrific. Our company’s building momentum in the U.S. market, and the opportunity to meet and talk with all the players is very important. The CrunchMatch platform made it easy to connect and schedule meetings.” — Melika Jahangiri, vice president at Wunder Mobility.

And if you’re wondering whether anything concrete comes out of networking at TC Sessions: Mobility, here’s how Karin Maake, senior director of communications at FlashParking, described her experience.

“TC Sessions: Mobility isn’t just an educational opportunity, it’s a real networking opportunity. Everyone was passionate and open to creating pilot programs or other partnerships. That was the most exciting part. And now — thanks to a conference connection — we’re talking with Goodyear’s Innovation Lab.”

Check out our roster of speaker and the event agenda and start strategizing about which mobility experts you want to include on your networking wish-list.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 takes place on June 9. This day-long conference will be packed to the gills with attendees from around the globe. Buy your pass today, and power up your networking with CrunchMatch.

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

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