Robotic process automation platform UiPath filed its first S-1/A this week, setting an initial price range for its shares. The numbers were impressive, if slightly disappointing because what UiPath indicated in terms of its potential IPO value was a lower valuation than it earned during its final private fundraising. It’s hard to say that a company looking to go public at a valuation north of $25 billion is a letdown, but compared to preceding levels of hype, the numbers were a bit of a shock.
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Here at The Exchange, we wondered if the somewhat slack news regarding UiPath’s potential IPO valuation was a warning to late-stage investors; the number of unicorns being minted or repriced higher feels higher than ever, and late-stage money has never been more active in the venture-backed startup world than it has been recently.
If UiPath were about to eat about $10 billion in worth to go public, it wouldn’t be the best indicator of how some of those late-stage bets will perform.
But in good news for UiPath shareholders, most everyone — ourselves included! — who discussed the company’s price range didn’t dig into the fact that the company first disclosed quarterly results to the same S-1/A filing that included its IPO valuation interval. And those numbers are very interesting, so much so that The Exchange is now generally expecting UiPath to target a higher price interval before it debuts.
That should either limit or close its private/public valuation gap, and, we imagine, lower a few investors’ blood pressure. Let’s look at the numbers.
The top-line numbers for UiPath’s 2020 are impressive. As we’ve discussed, the company grew its revenues from $336.2 million in 2019 to $607.6 million in 2020, while boosting its gross profit margin by 7 percentage points to 89% last year. That’s great!
And it improved its net margins from -155% in 2019 to just -15% in 2020. The company’s rapid growth, improving revenue quality and extreme deficit reduction were among the reasons it was a bit surprising to see its estimated public-market value come in so far underneath its final private price.
But let’s dig into the company’s quarterly results — a big thanks to the reader who sent us in this direction — to get a clearer picture of UiPath. Here’s the data:
Image Credits: UiPath filing
Coinbase’s direct listing was a massive finance, startup and cryptocurrency event that impacted a host of public and private investors, early employees, and crypto-enthusiasts. Regardless of where one sits in the broader tech and venture world, Coinbase storming north of a $100 billion valuation during its first day of trading was the biggest startup happening of the year.
The transaction’s effects will be felt for some time in the public market, but also among the startups and capital that comprise the private market.
In the buildup to Coinbase’s flotation — and we’d argue especially after it released its blockbuster Q1 2021 results — there was a general expectation that the unicorn’s direct listing would provide a halo effect for other startups in the space. Anthemis’ Ruth Foxe Blader told The Exchange, for example, that “the Coinbase listing shows this great inflection point for crypto,” with another “wave” of startup work in the space coming up.
The widely held perspective raised two questions: Will the success of Coinbase’s direct listing bolster private investment in crypto-focused startups, and will that success help other areas of financially focused startup work garner more investor attention?
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Presuming that Coinbase’s listing will positively impact its niche and others around it is not a stretch. But to make sure we weren’t misreading sentiment, and to get deeper into the why of the concept, The Exchange reached out to venture capitalists who invest in the broader fintech world to get their take. We even roped in an analyst or two to round out our panel.
The answer is not a simple yes. There are several ways to approach investing in the cryptocurrency space — from buying coins themselves, to investing in mainstream-ish institutions like legal exchanges, to the more exotic, like supporting efforts on the forefront of the decentralized blockchain world. And while it is somewhat clear that most folks expect more capital to be available for crypto projects, it’s not clear where it may end up inside the market.
After yesterday’s examination of how blazingly hot the venture capital market looked in the first quarter, we’re again trying to gauge the private market’s temperature. Let’s talk to some folks on the ground and hear what they are seeing.
Coinbase’s direct listing floated a company that is worth more than all but two major blockchains, namely Ethereum and Bitcoin. Several other chains have aggregate coin values in the 11-figure range, but a 12-digit worth is still rare among crypto assets.
The scale of Coinbase’s valuation post-listing matters, according to Chainalysis Chief Economist Phillip Gradwell. Gradwell told The Exchange that “Coinbase’s $100 billion valuation today demonstrates that venture investors can make great returns from putting money into crypto companies, not just cryptocurrencies. That proof point is good for the entire ecosystem.”
More simply, it is now eminently reasonable to invest in the companies working in the crypto space instead of merely putting capital to work hard-buying coins themselves. The other way to consider the comment is to realize that Coinbase’s share price appreciation is steep enough since its 2012 founding to rival the returns of some coins over the same time frame.
Cleo Capital‘s Sarah Kunst expanded on the point, telling The Exchange in an email that “it’s now credible to say you’re a crypto startup and plan to IPO [versus] having acquisition or ICO be the only proven exit paths in the U.S.”
Meet Feels, a new French startup that wants to change how dating apps work. According to the company, scrolling through photos and reading descriptions tend to be a boring experience. Feels want to improve profiles so that navigating the app feels more like watching TikTok videos or browsing stories.
“For the past 10 years, there’s been little innovation in the industry,” co-founder and CEO Daniel Cheaib told me. “The reason why many people uninstall dating apps is that it’s boring. Profiles all look the same and we feel like we’re browsing a catalog.”
In that case, Cheaib is thinking about Tinder, but also other dating apps that feel like Tinder but aren’t exactly Tinder, such as Bumble, Happn, etc.
Feels’ founding team has spent two years iterating on the app to find out what works and what doesn’t. Now that retention metrics are where they’re supposed to be, the company is now ready to launch more widely.
Image Credits: Feels
If you want to show interesting content to your users in a dating app, you have to rethink profiles. Arguably, this has been the most difficult part of the development phase. When you install the app, it takes around 15 minutes to create your profile.
At first, only 30% of new users finished the onboarding process. Now, around 75% of new users reach the end of the signup flow.
So what makes a profile on Feels different? In many ways, a profile looks more like a story, or TikTok posts. Users can record videos, add text and stickers, share photos, answer questions and more.
“When you’re done with the onboarding process, you have consistent profiles with people sharing content about them,” Cheaib said.
Like other dating apps, there are many options when it comes to gender identity — you’re not limited to woman or man. You can then say that you want to see all profiles or just some profiles based on various criteria.
After that, you can look at other profiles. Once again, Feels tries to change the basic interaction of dating apps. Most dating apps require you to swipe left or right, or give a thumbs up or a thumbs down. When you think about it, it’s a binary choice that requires a ton of micro decisions.
Sometimes, you don’t have any strong feelings about someone. Or maybe you just want to go to the next profile. And the fact that you have to triage profiles like this leads to a lot negativity, whether it’s conscious or subconscious — you keep rejecting people, after all.
When you’re looking at a profile on Feels, it fills up your entire screen. Videos start playing, you can see what the person likes and who they are in front of a camera. You can react on some content or you can simply move on by swiping up. There’s no heart or like button.
When the startup thought they finally were going somewhere, they raised a $1.3 million funding round (€1.1 million) from a long list of business angels, such as somebody in Atomico’s business angel program, Blaise Matuidi, Eric Besson, René Ricol, Ricardo Pereira , Yohan Benalouane, Nampalys Mendy, Jean Romain Lhomme, Julien Radic and Jean Michel Chami.
Now, Feels plans to attract new users with organic TikTok posts, some TV ads and more. The company wants to reach one million users by the end of the year with a big focus on France for now. There are 100,000 users right now.
When it comes to monetization, Feels started offering a premium subscription to unlock more features. The company is still iterating on that part.
Feels is just getting started in a crowded and competitive industry. Unlike other companies, Feels has invested heavily in its own product before working on user acquisition and paid installs. It’s an ambitious strategy but it has a lot of potential as it could lead to a truly different dating app.
It’s no surprise that the venture capital market was incredibly active in the United States during the first quarter of 2021, but precisely how strong has only recently become clear. This morning, we’re digging into the data.
According to a report from PitchBook, venture capitalists unleashed a wave of capital in the first three months of the year. So much, in fact, that funding in the United States nearly doubled compared to the same quarter of 2020.
We’ll dig into specific numbers and trends regarding aggregate venture capital results in a moment, but what stood out the most while digesting the Q1 dataset was how strong VC results appeared across different states; a solo late-stage boom the quarter was not.
Seed deal volume appeared strong and early-stage venture capital activity could reach new highs in 2021, but late-stage venture capital activity in the United States is already setting records in both deal count and invested dollars.
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We’ll parse the headline numbers and then dive into seed and super late-stage data with the help of Sarah Kunst of Cleo Capital, Jenny Lefcourt of Freestyle Capital, Iris Choi of Floodgate and Laela Sturdy of CapitalG.
With their help, we’ll contextualize the numbers and weave anecdotal observations into what the charts and graphs tell us. Especially in the case of seed data, which is famously laggy, added context is crucial. Let’s go!
According to PitchBook’s report, some 3,987 venture capital rounds were closed in the United States during Q1 2021. Those deals were worth $69 billion, a figure up nearly 93% from 2020’s first-quarter results.
In broad strokes, the United States had a crushing venture capital start to the new year, pandemic be damned. That is especially true when we consider 2020’s full-year figures. Last year, venture capitalists deployed some $166 billion into U.S.-based startups across 12,546 rounds. In contrast, if the first quarter’s pace was maintained during the rest of 2021, the United States would see around 16,000 rounds worth around $280 billion.
Of course, we cannot see the future, so those projections are merely shared to underscore how active the first quarter proved to be; we’ll have to wait for at least another quarter’s data to confidently predict full-year records for 2021.
Powering the rapid start to the venture capital year was a holistic boom: Seed deal volume is forecasted to have set a multi-year high, perhaps matching the historically strong Q2 2018 period. Early-stage venture capital during Q1 2021 was also robust, with $14.5 billion deployed across 1,170 rounds. Both numbers set a pace for fresh records in 2021.
And then there was late-stage dealmaking, which soared in the first quarter. In 2020, late-stage venture capital deals were worth $111.4 billion raised from 3,504 rounds. In the first quarter of 2021, some $51.9 billion was invested into late-stage startups across 1,291 deals.
Valuations and round sizes continued to rise across the board. If there was a better time to raise a big whack of venture capital as a U.S.-based startup, we cannot recall it. And the data seems to scream that the good times are now as good, or gooder, than ever.
Meet Sunday, a new startup that is going to attract some headlines as it has raised a $24 million seed round at a $140 million post-money valuation. That’s a lot of money for a company that started just a few months ago but that’s because Sunday wants to move quickly.
Sunday is getting noticed because it is founded by Victor Lugger, Tigrane Seydoux and Christine de Wendel — Lugger and Tigrane have been working together for several years as they’re the founders of Big Mamma. Christine de Wendel headed Zalando in France before joining ManoMano as COO.
If you’re not familiar with Big Mamma, they’ve launched a dozen Italian restaurants in France. They also manage La Felicità, the food court at Station F.
Some people love those restaurants because the food is good and it’s relatively affordable. Some people hate it because Big Mamma is also particularly well known for its long queues and the fact that you always feel like you have to eat quickly for the next group. But it’s clear that it’s been working well for the past few years.
Managing Big Mamma during a pandemic led to Sunday, a spin-off company incorporated in the U.S. The restaurant company wanted to offer a way to check the menu and pay without touching anything. Like many restaurants, they put QR codes on the tables to that customers can scan them with their phones and load a website.
But Sunday didn’t stop at the menu as it also connects directly to the cash register system. Sunday supports Oracle Micros, Brinks, Tiller, Zelty, Revo, CashPad, etc. This way, clients can also scan the QR code, check their tab and pay directly from their phone. When they’re done eating, they can pay by themselves, stand up and leave.
After trying Sunday in Big Mamma restaurants, the company saw some encouraging results. 80% of customers chose to pay using the QR code, which means that restaurants saved 15 minutes in wait time on average leading to a better table turnover rate.
And this is key to understanding Sunday. It’s easy to sell a new payment system to a restaurant if it leads to more revenue. Popular restaurants that feel like they’re always looking for empty tables could greatly benefit from Sunday.
It also opens up some new possibilities. For instance, guests can split the bill directly at the table — everyone loads up Sunday and pay. Sunday is based on QR codes right now, but the company isn’t attached to QR codes specifically. You could imagine loading your bill using RFID chips, a tablet, etc.
The vision is clear — Sunday wants to build the Fast Checkout of restaurants. The startup thinks online checkout is going to merge with offline, brick-and-mortar checkout.
Sunday customers don’t pay any monthly subscription fee or setup fee. You only pay processing fees based on usage. And those fees tend to be lower than the card machine you’re currently using.
The startup’s seed round was led by Coatue with New Wave participating. New Wave is a new European seed fund led by Pia d’Iribarne and backed by Xavier Niel. Multiple hospitality and tech investors are also participating.
The idea is to raise a lot of money, sign up a lot of restaurants and take over the market right now while there’s an opportunity during the pandemic. They have hired 40 people already and they’re signing deals with restaurants even though most of them are still closed in Europe.
Sunday isn’t a tech achievement per se — it’s an execution play. The company that can roll out this kind of checkout experience faster than the others is going to take over the market.
When restaurants are going to be open again, you may notice Sunday QR codes in France at Eataly, PNY, Paris Society, Eric Frechon, Groupe Bertrand’s restaurants (Burger King France, Hippopotamus, Groupe Flo…). Similarly, in the U.K., Sunday is partnering with JKS Group (Hoppers, Brigadiers, Gymkhana…), Corbin & King and others. Sunday is also talking with companies in the U.S. and Spain.
Overall, there are more than a thousand restaurants currently adopting Sunday.
“We follow the same model as the one we used when launching restaurants with Big Mamma. Seven years ago, we invested three times more than the others to compress fixed costs and deliver a better product,” Sunday co-founder and CEO Victor Lugger told me.
The startup already has an ambitious product roadmap. Eventually, you could imagine having your own Sunday account that remembers your past bills, tracks your allergies, saves your favorite payment method, etc. Once again, it’ll come down to execution.
Microsoft’s huge purchase of healthtech AI company Nuance led the technology news cycle this week. The $19.7 billion transaction is Microsoft’s second-largest to date, only beaten by its purchase of LinkedIn some years ago.
For the AI space, the sale is a coup. Nuance was already a public company, but to see Microsoft offer a firm premium over its public-market value demonstrates the value that AI technology can have to wealthy companies. For startups working in the AI space, the Nuance deal is good news; the value of AI revenue was repriced by the acquisition’s announcement — and for the better.
In light of the mega-deal, The Exchange dug into the AI venture capital market. What’s happening on the startup side of the coin in the artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) space?
To get a handle on the situation, we’ve compiled Q1 2021 and historical venture capital investment data via PitchBook, spoken to an active venture capitalist with a focus on AI-powered startups, and heard from a couple of startups recently featured on CB Insights’ list of leading AI upstarts for their take on the recent news.
This morning, we’ll start with a look into recent venture capital activity in the AI/ML market and its historical context. Then we’ll talk to Zetta Ventures’ Jocelyn Goldfein and a few companies in the AI space. Let’s go!
According to historical data compiled by PitchBook, venture capital investment into U.S.-based, AI-focused startups is enjoying a strong start to the year. Per the group’s provided dataset, from the start of 2021 through April 12, or the first 101 days of the year, 442 deals in the space were worth $11.65 billion.
In 2020, the same query for U.S.-based startups working in the AI and ML space — the line between ML and AI is blurrier than ever — turned up 1,601 rounds worth $27.49 billion.
Are you 100% sure that your children are brushing their teeth properly? A New York-based startup called Willo has been working for several years on a device that should transform the tooth-brushing experience for children.
Willo isn’t a new toothbrush — electric or not. It’s an oral care device that doesn’t look like a toothbrush at all. The startup has worked with dental professionals to start from scratch with oral care in mind.
The device can be quite intimidating when you don’t see it in action as it takes quite a bit of shelf space and you don’t know what you’re supposed to do. But when you see it in action, it looks easier than expected. Willo specifically targets children because they tend to struggle to reach every tooth and brush properly.
Kids are supposed to grab the handle and put the mouthpiece in their mouth. They can start brushing by pressing the button and that’s it. They don’t have to do anything else. The silicone-based mouthpiece also features soft bristles. It starts vibrating in your kid’s mouth when they press the button.
The handle is connected to a bigger home station that contains a water tank with a special rinse liquid. Kids don’t have to use toothpaste and don’t have to rinse their mouth. Everything is handled by the device.
Finally, Willo is a connected device, which means that parents can track oral care in a mobile app. You can also set up multiple users — your kids will have to swap the mouthpiece before using the device.
Image Credits: Willo
If you’re thinking about buying a device for your children, Willo costs $199. You then have to pay $13 per month to receive rinse pods as well as new mouthpieces that always fit.
While the product is going live today, the startup has already tested it with real families. These children rated the device 4.73/5 and parents gave an NPS of 70+. They’ve all kept using Willo after the testing phase.
Behind this product, there’s a team of 33 people in France and the U.S. They have filed over 50 patents over the past 7 years — 30 of them have been granted so far. The company has raised $17 million in total funding from Kleiner Perkins, Bpifrance and Matt Rogers’ fund Incite.
It’s true that the concept of a toothbrush hasn’t changed at all. Making a device that changes the way you brush your teeth is an ambitious bet. But it’s clear that the startup has made a lot of efforts to tackle this challenge. Now let’s see if they manage to convince parents.
Image Credits: Willo
French startup Biloba has raised a $1.7 million funding round (€1.4 million) a few months after launching its pediatrics app that lets you chat with a doctor whenever you have a question. In addition to raising some money, the startup also recently added in-app prescriptions.
Biloba’s concept is surprisingly simple. It’s a mobile app that lets you reach a general practitioner and a nurse whenever you have a medical question about your child. The service is available from 8 AM to 10 PM.
When you start a conversation, it looks like a messaging app. You can send and receive messages but also send photos and videos. There’s no real-time video conversation, no appointment. The company says that you usually get an answer in less than 10 minutes.
Last year, Biloba raised a €1.2 million pre-seed round. This year’s €1.4 million’s seed round is led by Aglaé Ventures and ID4. Existing investors Calm/Storm Ventures, Inventures, Acequia Capital and several business angels are also participating once again.
A text conversation will never replace a visit to the pediatrician. And there are many medical interactions and milestones after a baby is born. But you may have questions and you don’t want to wait for the next appointment.
And if it’s a relatively harmless issue that doesn’t need an in-person appointment, Biloba can now issue prescriptions. You receive the prescriptions in the app and it is accepted in all French pharmacies. The startup uses Ordoclic for that feature.
Biloba thinks people shouldn’t pay per consultation — even though people are particularly well covered by the French national healthcare system and private health insurance. Instead, the startup has opted for a subscription model.
Parents pay €12.99 per month, €24.99 for a three-month subscription or €79.99 per year. After that, you can start as many conversations as you want. Biloba subscriptions aren’t covered by the French national healthcare system.
Basically, if you can afford a subscription, Biloba can increase the frequency of interactions with doctors, which should lead to better medical advice.
Image Credits: Biloba
After a short hiatus, The Exchange is back. We’ll spend part of this week digging into the global venture capital scene’s Q1 performance, but today, we’re kicking off with a quick dive into Uber, Lyft, Deliveroo and DoorDash — and the ability of on-demand companies of various stripes to generate profit.
Uber is our lodestone today because it dropped a new SEC filing that includes some notes on its recent performance. And, most critically, a piece of guidance for investors concerning its ability to make money this year.
By “make money,” we don’t mean traditional net income on a GAAP — generally accepted accounting principles — basis. We mean Uber is providing its public investors with notes on its future adjusted profitability. Real profits are still somewhere out in the uncharted future.
So let’s parse Uber’s latest, vet its profit promise, consider its rivals and their performance, and then ask ourselves if the great ride-hailing and food-delivery booms will ever make back the money they cost to scale.
In 2019, Lyft told investors to expect positive adjusted EBITDA by the final quarter of 2021; at the time, Uber said it would generate full-year positive adjusted EBITDA. Those are slightly different (if related) promises. Later, Uber moved up its profitability promise to Q4 2020, but that was not to be.
After Uber changed up its profitability timeline, COVID-19 came. The pandemic forced the American ride-hailing company to revert to its previous adjusted profitability promises.
Uber and Lyft took huge revenue hits as their core ride-hailing businesses dried up faster than water on a Texas sidewalk after COVID-19 lockdowns took effect. In response, Uber fell back on its Uber Eats business, while Lyft had to get by without a second business line.
French startup Vybe has raised a $2.9 million funding round (€2.4 million) to build a challenger bank for teens. The company is currently testing its product with a soft launch. Users get a Mastercard payment card paired with an e-wallet.
Each Vybe account comes with its own IBAN so that users can send and receive money. If you want to open an account and you are less than 18 years old, you have to go through the KYC process (know your identity) with your parent.
As for parents, they can set up some limits on card payments or even block the card. Parents can also view transactions. The startup plans to generate revenue from interchange fees as well as partnership with brands and a reward system.
While Vybe isn’t technically live, the company has attracted 375,000 downloads. Overall, 260,000 teens have pre-ordered a card already. Thousands of cards have been delivered and the first metrics are encouraging. Early adopters tend to use their card once every two days.
Today’s fund is a round extension from existing investors. Investors include Ronan Le Moal (the former CEO of Crédit Mutuel Arkéa), Kick Club and Manoel Amorim.
Banking products for teenagers are a lucrative segment. In France, there are several companies trying to position themselves on this segment, such as Kard, PixPay and Xaalys. Most of these companies charge a subscription fee to access the service.
Other fintech companies that aren’t specifically targeting young people could also work well with teenagers. For instance, young users can open a Revolut Junior or Lydia account and receive money from their parents.
In the U.S., startups offering debit cards for children are about to reach unicorn status. As The Information’s Kate Clark reported, Greenlight, Current and Step are all raising new funding rounds with a valuation between $1 billion and $2 billion.
Image Credits: Vybe
Meet Nabla, a French startup launching a new app today focused on women’s health. On Nabla, you’ll find several services that should all contribute to helping you stay on top of your health. In short, Nabla lets you chat with practitioners, offers community content, helps you centralize all your medical data and will soon offer telemedicine appointments.
Nabla’s key feature right now is the ability to start a conversation with health professionals. You can send a message to a general practitioner, a gynecologist, a midwife, a nurse, a nutritionist, or a physiotherapist.
While text discussions are not going to replace in-person appointments altogether, they can definitely be helpful. By increasing the number of interactions with health professionals, chances are you’ll be healthier and you may even end up booking more in-person appointments.
Other French startups have been providing text conversations with practitioners. For instance, health insurance company Alan lets you message a general practitioner — but you have to be insured by Alan. Biloba also lets you chat with a doctor — but the company has been focusing on pediatrics.
Nabla has a different positioning and offers this feature for free — there’s a limit as you can only send a handful of questions per month though. If it’s a common question, you may find the answer from the community. Nabla’s doctors will curate community content as well.
Using a free product to talk about your health feels suspicious. But that’s because the startup is well-funded and plans to launch premium features.
Image Credits: Nabla
The startup has raised $20.2 million (€17 million) and is already working with a team of doctors who are ready to answer questions from the company’s first users — or patients. Investors in the company include Xavier Niel, Artemis, Rachel Delacour, Julie Pellet, Marc Simoncini and Firstminute Capital.
One of the reasons why Nabla could raise so much money before releasing its app is that the three co-founders have a track record in the tech ecosystem.
Co-founder and CEO Alexandre Lebrun previously founded VirtuOz, which was acquired by Nuance, and Wit.ai, which was acquired by Facebook. More recently, he’s worked for Facebook’s AI research team (FAIR).
Co-founder and COO Delphine Groll has been heading business development and communications for two major media groups Aufeminin and My Little Paris. And Nabla’s co-founder and CTO Martin Raison has worked with Alexandre Lebrun at both Wit.ai and Facebook.
In addition to text conversations, Nabla shows all your past interactions in a personal log. You can connect that log with other apps and services, such as Apple’s Health app, Clue and Withings. This way, you can see all your data from the same app.
As you may have guessed, the startup truly believes that machine learning can help when it comes to preventive and holistic care. By default, nothing is shared with Nabla for machine learning purposes. But users can opt in and share data to improve processes, personalization and more.
Eventually, Nabla wants to optimize the interactions with doctors as much as possible. The startup says it doesn’t want to replace doctors altogether — it wants to enhance medical interactions so that doctors can focus on the human and empathetic part.
Nabla plans to launch a telemedicine service so that you can interact with doctors in real time as well as a premium offering with more features. That’s an ambitious roadmap, and it’s going to be interesting to track Nabla over the long run to see if they stick to their original vision and find a loyal user base.
Twitter is abuzz with the news that Topps, a company perhaps best known for making collectible trading cards, is going public via a SPAC.
The reverse merger with its chosen blank-check company values the combination on an equity basis at $1.163 billion. That makes Topps some sort of unicorn. And because it has both e-commerce and digital angles, Topps is technically a
fruit tech company.
Why do we care? We care because Topps and its products are popular with the same set of folks who are very excited about creating rare digital items on particular blockchains. Yes, the baseball card company is going public in a debut that could easily be read as a way to put money into the NFT craze without actually having to buy cryptocurrencies and go speculating itself.
So let’s have a small giggle as we go through the Topps deck and then ask if the company is being valued on its actual, and modestly attractive, present-day business or on possible revenues from future NFT-related activities.
What is Topps? A mix of business units that it breaks down into four categories: Physical Sports and Entertainment (trading cards), Digital Sports and Entertainment (digital collectibles, apps and games), Gift Cards (gift cards for external brands), and Confections (candy).
In terms of scale, the company’s physical goods and confection businesses are by far its leading revenue drivers. Here’s the data:
Image Credits: Topps investor presentation
First, observe that the company’s pro forma adjusted EBITDA nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020. That’s an aggressive expansion in hyper-adjusted profitability. And note how much the company’s physical sports business grew from 2019 to 2020; a nearly 50% gain helped the company grow nicely last year.
The first quarter of 2021 was a busy season for technology exits. Coming off a hot period in the final quarter of 2020, it was no surprise that tech upstarts pursued liquidity through a variety of mechanisms as the new year began.
There were IPOs, there were direct listings, there were PE deals. Hell, we even saw enough SPACs that we lost track of a few; amid all the noise, you’ll miss the occasional note no matter how well-tuned your ear.
Each path is still open for later-stage startups to pursue exits: The IPO market was welcoming until a few minutes ago and private equity firms are stacked with cash and willing to pay higher multiples than they might in more normal times. And there are sufficient SPACs to take the entire recent Y Combinator class public.
Choosing which option is best from a buffet’s worth of possibilities is an interesting task for startup CEOs and their boards.
DigitalOcean went public via a traditional IPO, raising a slug of capital in the process. The SMB-focused public cloud company likely felt like a somewhat obvious IPO candidate when you read its results. The Exchange spoke with the company’s CEO, Yancey Spruill, about the choice.
Latch, in contrast, decided that a SPAC was its best route out the gate. The Exchange caught up with the company’s CFO, Garth Mitchell, about the transaction and why it made sense for his company.
And, finally, The Exchange spoke with AlertMedia’s founder and CEO, Brian Cruver, about his decision to sell his Texas-based company to a private equity firm.
To prevent this post from reaching an astronomic word count, we’ll give a brief overview of each deal and then summarize the company’s views about why their liquidity choice was the right one.
Kicking off with DigitalOcean, a few notes: First, the company has been pretty darn public about its growth in the last few years. We knew that it had an annualized run rate of around $200 million in 2018, $250 million in 2019 and around $300 million in the first half of 2020. It later announced that it hit that mark in May of last year.
So when DigitalOcean decided to go public, we weren’t bowled over. The company wound up pricing at $47 per share, the high end of its range. Since then, its stock has struggled somewhat, falling below $37 per share before recovering to $43.80 at the end of trading yesterday.
Enough of all that. Why did the company choose to go public via a traditional IPO? Spruill said his company looked at SPAC deals and direct listings. It selected the IPO route because it fit the company’s goals of generating a broad base of shareholders while creating a branding opportunity.
The cost of an IPO is comparable, he added, to other exit options. Spruill also praised the IPO process itself, noting that its rigorous requirements made DigitalOcean a better company.
Earlier in our chat, I asked Spruill a question that I put to every CEO on IPO day: How are you feeling? It’s a bit of a sop, but it sometimes elicits insights from executives and founders who, after weeks of discussing their companies’ inner workings, are asked a rare personal question.
Spruill said he felt incredible and that nothing could replicate an IPO as the culmination of so much work put into building a company and its team. If you add up the wins and losses over time, with more of the former than the latter, and can cross the finish line with the right metrics and market, you can earn a spot to be “grilled” by the “best investors,” he said.
Those investors put $750 million or so into his company, Spruill added. Funds that it can use to retire debt and free up more cash flow. Not a bad day, I’d say.
Meet Leeway, a French startup that is building an end-to-end software-as-a-service solution for your contracts. Leeway lets you centralize all your contracts in a single repository, go through multiple negotiation steps and trigger a DocuSign event for the signature.
The company raised a $4.2 million seed round from HenQ, Kima Ventures as well as several business angels, such as the founders of Algolia, Eventbrite, Spendesk, MeilleursAgents, Livestorm and Luko.
If you’re working for the legal department of your company, you’re probably working with multiple tools. Chances are you’re using Microsoft Word to write a contract, a cloud service to store and share the contract with your teammates and business partners, an e-signature and archival service.
Leeway is optimizing this worklfow at every step. First, you can store all your contracts on Leeway. In addition to making it easier to find a contract later down the road, you can get reminders when a contract is about to expire so that you can renew a contract.
Second, you can edit your contract from Leeway directly. For instance, a manager can review a contract and write changes in Leeway’s interface. The employee can then start a revision and save a new version of the contract.
After that, you can send the contract from the same interface. Administrators can set up approval workflows so that several people need to approve a contract before it is signed. As everything is centralized, you can get an overview of all your contracts that are currently in the pipeline.
Image Credits: Leeway
Up next, Leeway is thinking about integrating conditional clauses within the product. Usually, big companies have several versions of the same clause — very favorable, favorable, not so favorable, etc. When a client is negotiating, Leeway customers could switch the clause from very favorable to favorable for instance.
Right now, around 30 companies are using Leeway to manage their contracts. Clients include Voodoo, Evaneos, Ifop and Fitness Park. “We have a very specific customer base — the legal department of companies with 100 to 500 employees,” co-founder and CEO Antoine Fabre told me.
It doesn’t mean that smaller and bigger companies shouldn’t be using Leeway. But companies with less than 100 employees don’t necessarily have a full-fledged legal department. The sales team or the finance department could act as the legal-ish team. But Leeway still has a lot of room to grow.
Image Credits: Leeway
After a lackluster IPO pricing run, shares of Deliveroo are lower today, marking a disappointing debut for the hot delivery company.
A good question to ask at this juncture is why Deliveroo struggled with its IPO during a historically strong moment for tech flotations. The European unicorn listed on the London Stock Exchange, however, possibly placing its public offering in a different climate than recent IPO successes listed in the United States.
TechCrunch noted on Monday that there were local concerns regarding Deliveroo’s governance and treatment of workers. At the time, however, those worries merely led to a decrease in the company’s IPO valuation.
Why did Deliveroo struggle when it began to trade? Is it suffering from cultural dissonance between its high-growth model and more conservative European investors? Let’s peek at the numbers and find out.
To ground us, let’s explore how differently the public markets value Deliveroo and DoorDash. If they are valued somewhat closely, we’ll be able to dismiss the question of whether the British delivery giant is really being treated with more skepticism than its American comp.
Not that we care, really, one way or the other about any single company’s value. But we do care if listing on a European exchange — I refuse to acknowledge Brexit this morning — means that companies valuing growth over profits are going to generate more stick than praise when they list.
So, briefly, here’s the data we need to make our comparison. We’ll start with DoorDash:
And now, Deliveroo:
Meet Stockly, a French startup that keeps the inventory of various e-commerce websites in sync. When you see an out-of-stock item on an e-commerce website, chances are you leave that website and try to find the same item on another site.
If you operate an e-commerce website, Stockly lets you sell items even when they’re currently out of stock. The startup automatically finds a third-party Stockly supplier with that specific item.
The order will go through and be sent by that supplier directly. Stockly tells its partners to use neutral packaging so that the end consumer isn’t confused.
This could be particularly useful for small scale e-commerce companies that don’t have a healthy marketplace of third-party retailers. For instance, Amazon can already sell you an out-of-stock item if a supplier has listed that specific item on Amazon’s own marketplace. But that’s not the case for most e-commerce websites.
The main challenge for Stockly is that it has to sort through various catalog formats and match the different inventories of different retailers. It is focusing on clothing items at first. When an order is routed through Stockly, it selects a specific supplier based on different criteria, such as logistics, delivery time and historical data.
So far, Stockly has been working with Galeries Lafayette, Go Sport, Foot Shop and others. The startup has recently raised a $6 million (€5.1 million) funding round from Idinvest Partners, Daphni, Techstars, Checkout.com CEO Guillaume Pousaz and various business angels.
With this funding round, the company plans to expand its team to 20 people, add new clients and iterate on its product.
Substack didn’t invent the paid newsletter, but the startup’s early success with the model is enticing previous backers to more than double down on the media startup.
Last evening, Axios reported that Substack is “raising $65 million in new venture capital” at a valuation of “around $650 million.” As you’ve already guessed, Axios goes on to report that Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) will likely lead the investment.
That we’re seeing a16z pour more capital into what we could call the alt-media space is not a surprise. The investing group is ladling even more cash into its in-house media efforts and has put a small archipelago of capital into audio-based social media app Clubhouse. Its internal publishing schedule is in part an attempt to get around traditional media; the Clubhouse universe is an inverted one in which tech investors are celebrities, producers and gatekeepers. And Substack is a place where publications have bled some well-known talent, shifting the center of gravity in media.
You can detect the theme.
Regardless, Substack’s new valuation and investment are eye-catching. This morning, I want to collect all that we can regarding Substack’s historical growth so that we can chew on its new valuation from the best vantage point. Let’s go!
A little history to kick us off. Crunchbase counts Substack’s total funding to date at $17.4 million. PitchBook puts the number at $21.21 million, inclusive of debt. Both sources agree that the company’s most recent round came in July 2019. PitchBook pegs the company’s valuation at $48.65 million at that date.
Raising $17 million in cash around 20 months ago, regardless of debt, is an amount of capital that the company could easily have burned through by now. Raising more funds is therefore not a surprise.
But the size of the new round is notable, as is its constituent valuation. Series A and B rounds have been growing in size in recent years. But a $65 million Series B would stand out, even by 2021 standards. Not shockingly so, but enough that any company raising that sum at its implied level of maturity would demand our attention. That we’re all familiar with Substack only makes the sum more curious.
News that U.K.-based used car seller Cazoo intends to list in the United States via a SPAC is not surprising. After all, the SPAC boom we’ve seen in recent quarters means that there are a host of American blank-check companies in the market looking for deals — why would they stop at domestic borders?
But the Cazoo deal is not a surprise for other reasons as well. We’ve seen the value of related American company Carvana spike in recent years after its 2017 IPO, for example. And Carvana has shown the sort of gross-margin improvement that Cazoo intends to manage in the coming years, so there’s precedent for its sales model to show economic improvements over time.
But coming at the same time as a sunny investor deck detailing why the Cazoo-AJAX I deal is a good idea are a number of public-market trembles that could indicate uncertain risk tolerance among public investors. We can see this in the slack debut of several Chinese companies, as well as the downward pressure on the public offering for Deliveroo, a food-delivery platform.
Is the public market’s enthusiasm for tech listings slowing? If so, it would be bad news for companies that have announced SPAC-led debuts, firms like Latch that priced their combination during a particular market climate, one that won’t match well to a risk-off environment — if that’s where things are headed.
This morning, let’s parse the Cazoo deck briefly and then ask ourselves what the market tea leaves are telling us about investor appetite for risky shares.
After reading the Cazoo and Deliveroo news this morning, I have to ask if there’s something particularly British about companies ending in -oo. Let me know.
Regardless, the Cazoo investor deck for its SPAC deal is here. Follow along if you want. We’re starting on page 33, where the company discloses its 2020 results and forecasts the next several:
Image Credits: Cazoo
What happens to hot fintech startups that have benefited from a rise in consumer trading activity if regular folks lose interest in financial wagers?
That’s the question facing Robinhood, Coinbase and other trading platforms that have ridden an upward cycle. Each has performed well in recent quarters: Robinhood by securing huge payment-for-order-flow revenues, while Coinbase’s trading fees have proven incredibly lucrative, something we learned when it filed to go public.
According to recent reporting, the consumer trading frenzy could be slowing: Bloomberg recently noted that options trading volume is slipping, Robinhood’s app store ranking is falling, and some alternative assets are also losing steam. Other reporting from the publication notes that many SPAC shares are underwater while Google trends data indicates falling consumer trading interest, perhaps limiting the inflow of new users for equities-focused apps.
There are other indications that the red-hot speculative consumer market is cooling. Bitcoin is off around 10% in the last week after a blistering rise in recent quarters. Hot stocks like Peloton, once a darling of traders, fell more than 10% yesterday alone.
There’s a historical precedent for such declines. Coinbase’s historical revenues, to pick an example, have proved variable based on consumer interest in cryptocurrencies, with the company benefiting from rising demand and trading activity and seeing its top line decline in periods of restrained enthusiasm.
Robinhood and its fellow free-trading apps have yet to undergo a similar rise-and-fall in trading volume, I’d reckon. At least of the sort of extreme up-and-down that Coinbase endured after the 2017-2018 bitcoin boom. Our question is, what would happen to Robinhood and its cohorts if the apparent cooling in consumer trading demand continues? Let’s talk about it.
Coinbase was a famously lucrative organization during the 2017/-2018 bitcoin boom.
Indeed, we can see from the following chart from its S-1 filing that the company’s Monthly Transacting Users (MTUs) dropped sharply into 2018. The percentage decline from 2.7 million to 800,000 is just over 70%.
And in case you think we’re being rude, we have a related chart from the same SEC filing that shows trading volume falling over the same period, not merely MTUs. We’re not picking a loose proxy to merely infer that trading revenue dipped at Coinbase. We can show it:
But with the venture capital market red-lining its engines while public markets remain sympathetic to growing, unprofitable companies, there’s lots going on. So, as a follow-up to our first late-stage roundup that we published yesterday morning, here’s another.
This time we’re discussing IPO news from DigitalOcean (context), Kaltura (context), Robinhood (context), and Zymergen, and big rounds for Lattice and goPuff. That’s a lot to chew on, but I’ll be brief and to the point.
Today’s most pressing news is that DigitalOcean, a provider of cloud services to small businesses, priced its IPO at $47 per share last night. That was right at the top of its public-offering price range of $44 to $47. Before counting shares reserved for its underwriters, DigitalOcean is worth just under $5 billion.
And the company raised a gross $775.5 million in the offering, giving DigitalOcean a massive war chest to pursue its vision. As the company has proved increasingly unprofitable on a GAAP basis in recent years, the extra cash isn’t a problem: DigitalOcean plans to reduce its aggregate debt load with some of the proceeds, which will improve its profitability.
The company won’t trade for hours, so we’re done with DigitalOcean for now. File it in your mind as a win, as the company raised $50 million last year at a $1.1 billion valuation (PitchBook data). That’s a quick 5x.
Next up from the IPO treadmill is Kaltura, which released a first guess of its market value as a public company. Targeting $14 to $16 per share in its impending debut, the video software company is worth around $2 billion at the top end of its range, not counting shares reserved for its underwriting banks or other shares tied up in vested options and recruited stock units (RSUs).