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How one founder turned her extensive retail experience into an entirely new kind of shopping

By Darrell Etherington

The Yes founder and CEO Julie Bornstein helped some of the world’s biggest and best-loved brands develop industry-leading e-commerce operations, and also served as COO at Stitch Fix, arguable one of the top success stories of digital-first fashion. The Yes is her first foray into entrepreneurship, however, and we got the chance to talk to Julie all about her experience as a founder.

On this week’s episode of Found, our weekly interview podcast, we hear from Julie all about how she identified the gap The Yes was created to address, and how she changed some of the longtime fundamentals about how fashion brands sell their wares and work with customer sales channels. Julie also tells us about why The Yes knew it needed a larger-than-average seed to accomplish its goals, and how she went out and got it.

We loved our time chatting with Julie, and we hope you love yours listening to the episode. And of course, we’d love if you can subscribe to Found in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, on Google Podcasts or in your podcast app of choice. Please leave us a review and let us know what you think, or send us direct feedback either on Twitter or via email at found@techcrunch.com, or leave us a voicemail at (510) 936-1618. And please join us again next week for our next featured founder.

Romeo and Juliet Needs More Zombies

By Geek's Guide to the Galaxy
Scott Edelman's "A Plague on Both Your Houses" is a tale of the undead written in iambic pentameter.

Equity Monday: Zoom buys Five9 as Robinhood sets IPO price range

By Alex Wilhelm

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

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

It was a big damn morning, so we had to cut some stuff. Here’s what we got into:

  • Stocks and cryptos are off this morning, as inflation and COVID-19 concerns rise.
  • Zoom is buying Five9. The deal is not super expensive, nor is it cheap. But given the huge percentage of Zoom’s market cap that it represents, it’s a serious wager from the video conferencing startup.
  • Carlyle is buying LiveU for around $400 million. TechCrunch broke this news. The deal shows that private equity is interested in startups that aren’t unicorns.
  • Robinhood dropped a new SEC filing this morning! That means we have a price range and valuation target to play with. More from TechCrunch on the matter shortly.
  • From India: A huge round for Lenskart, and a big Series A for GlobalBees.
  • And we covered this round from Nigeria. A smaller transaction, but one that could prove to be quite neat, we reckon.

Ok! Chat Wednesday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

Are Humans the Meanest Species in the Universe?

By Geek's Guide to the Galaxy
Melinda Snodgrass' novel The High Ground examines human cruelty in an alien first-contact scenario.

Robert Sheckley Was the Master of Dark, Funny Sci-Fi

By Geek's Guide to the Galaxy
The Dimension of Miracles author paved the way for Philip K. Dick and Harlan Ellison.

Equity Monday: Cybersecurity startups see deluge of capital as Microsoft looks to buy RiskIQ

By Alex Wilhelm

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

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

It was a busy weekend for everyone, regardless of whether you were watching the technology, what Branson was up to or the footie. I won’t take sides on the match, but I will say that it was gripping unto the very end and a great example of sport. Now, the news:

And don’t forget that earnings season is just around the corner. It’s a pretty important cycle. Why? Because startup valuations are hot, and could take a hit if earnings come up short. And the IPO market is pretty freaking active; poor earnings from major tech companies could crimp exit prices for mature startups.

OK! Talk to you on Wednesday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

The Best Sci-Fi Comedy Is Existential

By Geek's Guide to the Galaxy
Though you might expect Tom Gerencer’s stories to be light-hearted, they contain a dark streak of angst.

Register to watch a livestream recording of the Equity podcast!

By Alex Wilhelm

Throughout its four or so years of life, the Equity podcast crew has had the good fortune to record a few live shows. We sat on the small stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, for example, with Garry Tan one year, and Charles Hudson another. We’ve also ventured to other venues and events with varying levels of success.

But it’s 2021 and there are no IRL events coming up, so we’re bringing back the live show, but on Hopin. That means that no matter where you are, you can swing by, talk a little shit with us, troll Danny in the comments, and generally have a good time as we try to remember how to be charismatic.

And you will be able to see the show recorded before Chris and Grace cut out all the awkward mistakes, ums, pauses, and other shenanigans that you miss in the finished versions that we send out.

It’s free, of course, so click here to register.  If it goes well, we’ll probably get to do more. So, please do swing by if you are free. We’d love to see you.

More details:

  • June 24 at 2:00PM PT
  • Get your ticket HERE

Chat soon! — The Equity Team

Equity Monday: China hates crypto, and the Vision Fund’s vision lives on

By Alex Wilhelm

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

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

Our live show is this week! And we’re very excited about it! Details here, and you can register here. It’s free, of course, so swing by and hang with us.

Back on theme, we had a lot to get through this morning, so inside the show you can find the following and more:

  • The Chinese cryptocurrency clampdown is a big damn deal: With lots of the nation’s mining capacity heading offline, there’s a scramble to relocate rigs and generally figure out what a crypto market sans China might look like.
  • In the wake of the news, the value of cryptocurrencies fell. As did shares of Coinbase this morning in pre-market trading.
  • Facebook’s Clubhouse rival is out. The American social giant follows Spotify into the live-audio market. You have to give it to modern software companies, who thought that they could be both leading tech shops and Kinko’s clones at the same time?
  • Revolut is unprofitable as hell but increasingly less so. That could be good news for fintech as a whole.
  • Amber Group raised $100 million; Forto raised $240 million.

See you this Thursday at the live show!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

WaitWhat raises $12M to double down on what comes after podcasts

By Ingrid Lunden

As podcasting continues to gain ground among mainstream consumers as a digital media platform alongside music, video, and the printed word, a startup that made a name for itself through building content for the medium has closed a round of funding to help it explore what comes next.

WaitWhat, co-founded by two of the people who helped conceive of and build the TED digital media empire, has closed a round of $12 million, led by Raga Partners, with Laurene Powell Jobs’ firm Emerson Collective, Lupa Systems, Capital One Ventures, Maywic Select Investments, GingerBread Capital, Burda Principal Investments, Cue Ball Capital and Reid Hoffman also participating.

WaitWhat says it plans to use the money to continue producing content in formats that have already proven very successful for it so far — to date, it has seen 70 million downloads of its work, which includes the podcasts “Masters of Scale” from Reid Hoffman, “Meditative Story,” “Spark & Fire” and “Should this Exist?” — as well as invest in its tech and R&D and efforts to break new ground for new kinds of formats.

The company may be best known for its podcast production, but it describes itself as a “media invention company,” and co-founders June Cohen and Deron Triff want to double down on the invention part of that description, going past podcasting to explore other ways of interacting with users.

“We’re working on an innovative content format for physical well-being that lives inside of workouts, but will come at the experience through storytelling,” the pair said in an email (which we had to move to after our phone conversation, while they were on the road in a car, broke up. Maybe in-car calls need to be disrupted soon, too). “After physical well-being, we see intergenerational experiences (parent/child) as another interesting white space that plays into habit and human potential, and are in the early stages of developing a television series to explore this arena.”

An existing iteration on the podcast theme — a entrepreneur training course that it has developed in connection with its Masters of Scale podcast, has been downloaded 10,000 times in its first 8 weeks on the market. And Meditative Story, which focuses on mindfulness, is being downloaded 750,000 times each month. In this they have focused on an important aspect of any digital service: “As with the podcast format, it’s all about habit,” they said.

But it is more than that: At a time when podcasting may still be somewhat nascent as a business model, while at the same time at the risk of starting to be too formulaic, the company’s catching attention for exploring ways to address both of those issues.

Its solution, in part, may be based on creative ways of presenting content to users, but also keeping a focus on strong material to use in those channels.

“Our aim is to build the most valuable independent portfolio of premium IP — one that’s designed around essential human needs and built with a contrarian strategy to scale,” the pair said in the email. “We see an outsized opportunity for alternative content that lives at the intersection of daily habit and fulfilling human potential. Our success is linked to how we build content ecosystems where habit and human potential come together.”

There is potentially a lot of money in making compelling podcasting content, of course, but for now a good chunk of that is coming in the form of M&A, specifically from companies like Spotify looking to buy much bigger audiences that it can coalesce around its own advertising and paid subscription efforts, or by buying into new tech for creating and organizing this kind of content.

WaitWhat presents an interesting variation on that theme, by building a startup around the idea of innovating within and beyond the podcast medium, which could catch the eye again of the same players who are watching and snapping up content companies today.

Something interesting in how Cohen and Triff have approached fundraising is that they say they have done it in part to “secure diversity” at the startup. In part this is about hiring people from a mix of backgrounds but also about how it approaches management and how it endorses those with whom it works.

“We see our fundraising rounds as a tool for securing diversity,” they noted. “We know that’s not a typical viewpoint. But we have found ways to use our fundraising rounds to leap us forward on diversity — in a few different ways.”

They note that in the seed round, they raised half of the funds from investors who identify as women. “We did this by raising from women first. Most people thought we were crazy. (‘Just take the money where you find it!’ was the advice we got.) But it’s what we believed in, and it’s what we did,” they said.

Then in the Series A (we covered it here), “our lead investors had diverse funds, but they weren’t women-led. So we created a carve-out to create balance. And raised additional funds from women-led funds to balance us out.”

In this latest Series B, “we shifted our focus from total dollars to representation on the board,” they said. “We actually wrote into our term sheet that WaitWhat will always maintain gender balance on the board. In this round, we shifted to a five-person board, so what that means is that we won’t have less than two people who identify as women — or less than two people who identify as men. Our investors haven’t seen a company request this before — but they welcomed it, and shared that they wished more companies would ask.”

Far from annoying the men in the room, it seems to have gotten them even more on board with the idea of purpose existing alongside business interests.

“Drawing on our background of investing in companies that have demonstrated the ability to build loyalty and community around high-quality content and experiences, we are big believers in WaitWhat’s approach to deliver durable and adaptive content, helping people become the best versions of themselves,” said Atul Joshi, founder and managing partner of Raga Partners, who led the investment for the firm. 

Some Practical Advice for Living With a Writer

By Geek's Guide to the Galaxy
It's not always easy, but fantasy author Jane Lindskold's book Wanderings on Writing provides some honest tips.

Why Do People Love UFOs So Much?

By Geek's Guide to the Galaxy
Sci-fi author F. Brett Cox loves stories with mysterious spacecraft but is a firm skeptic when it comes to actual alien visitors.

Equity Monday: Jeff’s going to space, and everyone wants a piece of Flipkart

By Alex Wilhelm

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

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

It’s WWDC week, so expect a deluge of Apple news to overtake your Twitter feed here and there over the next few days. But there’s a lot more going on, so let’s dig in:

And that’s your start to the week. More to come from your friends here on Wednesday, and Friday. Chat soon!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

Love, Death & Robots Is Growing Up

By Geek's Guide to the Galaxy
The Netflix series can still feel like a boy's club, but the second season eclipses the first.

Equity listeners, do you like prizes? Take our super-fun survey!!!

By Natasha Mascarenhas

Hello Equity podcast family, we’re back with another survey.

This is our second go-round with collecting your feedback, notes and vibes.

The first survey we conducted back in the early days of 2020 was super useful in helping us better tune the show. Since then, Equity has grown in frequency and we’ve expanded our production team. So, it’s a perfect time to collect your opinions. You can find the survey here.

If you have listened to the show a few times, or if you listen every week, or if you’ve heard a few hundred episodes, we want to hear from you.

And we’re going to offer some sort of neat reward to a lucky participant. Think things like TechCrunch socks. Or a romantic dinner for you and your partner that Danny cooks. Or Alex may call the person of your choosing to tell them that they have very poor gross margins.

The gist is that we are hungry for your feedback and are willing to pay for the 37 to 94 seconds it will take you to fill out our little Google Form.

We appreciate you, and the time you spend with us. (But really, take the darn survey!)

— The Equity Team

Amazon is now open to getting sued

By Alex Wilhelm

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

Despite it being a short week, as always, it was a busy busy time. Our regular Friday producer Grace was under the weather today, so Chris stepped in to help out.

And as noted at the top of the episode, we’re running a survey. The survey is here, dear Equity family. Please fill it out so that we can keep making the show better.

That aside, here’s what Danny and Natasha and Alex got into:

That’s all we got! If you have heard Equity before, take the survey. Thank you!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Maybe Future Generations Will Be Just Fine

By Geek's Guide to the Galaxy
In his new book, legal scholar Cass R. Sunstein argues that there may be reasons to not worry about the hereafter.

3 views on the future of meetings

By Natasha Mascarenhas

More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, early-stage startups across the world are re-inventing how we work. But founders aren’t flocking to build just another SaaS tool or Airtable copycat — they’re trying to disrupt the only thing possibly more annoying than e-mail: the work meeting.

On an episode of this week’s podcast, Equity hosts Alex Wilhelm, Danny Crichton and Natasha Mascarenhas discussed a flurry of funding rounds related to the future of work.

Rewatch, which makes meetings asynchronous, raised $20 million from Andreessen Horowitz, AnyClip got $47 million in a round led by JVP for video search and analytics technology, Interactio, a remote interpretation platform, landed $30 million from Eight Roads Ventures and Silicon Valley-based Storm Ventures, and Spot Meetings got Kleiner Perkins on board in a $5 million seed.

We connected the dots between these funding rounds to sketch out three perspectives on the future of workplace meetings. Part of our reasoning was the uptick of investment as mentioned above, and the other is that our calendars are full of them. We all agree that the traditional meeting is broken, so below you’ll find each of our arguments on where they go next and what we’d like to see.

  • Alex Wilhelm: Faster information throughput, please
  • Natasha Mascarenhas: Meetings should be ongoing, not in calendar invites
  • Danny Crichton: Redesign meetings for flow

Alex Wilhelm: Faster information throughput, please

I’ve worked for companies that were in love with meetings, and for companies where meetings were more infrequent. I prefer the latter by a wide margin. I’ve also worked in offices full-time, half-time and fully remote. I immensely prefer the final option.

Why? Work meetings are often a waste of time. Mostly you don’t need to align, most folks taking part are superfluous and as accidental team-building exercises they are incredibly expensive in terms of human-hours.

I am not into wasting time. The more remote I’ve been and the less time I’ve spent in less-formal meetings — the usual chit-chat that pollutes productive work time, making the days longer and less useful — the more I’ve managed to get done.

But I’ve been the lucky one, frankly. Most folks were still trapped in offices up until the pandemic shook up the world of work, finally giving more companies a shot at a whole-cloth rebuild of how they toil.

The good news is that CEOs are taking note. Chatting with Sprout Social CEO Justyn Howard this week, he explained how we have a unique, new chance to not live near where we work in 2021, but to instead bring work to where we live. He’s also an introvert, which meant that as a pair we’ve found a number of positives in some of the changes to how tech and media companies operate. Perhaps we’re a little biased.

A number of startups are rushing to fill the gap between the new expectations that Howard noted and our old digital and IRL realities.

Tandem.chat might be one such company. The former Y Combinator launch-day darling has spent its post-halo period building. Its CEO sent me a manifesto of sorts the other day, discussing how his company approaches the future of work meetings. Tandem is building for a world where communication needs to be both real-time and internal; it leaves asynchronous internal communication to Slack, real-time external communications to Zoom and asynchronous external chats to email. I agree, I think.

The SPAC trash ticker is counting down

By Natasha Mascarenhas

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

This week had the whole crew aboard to record: Grace and Chris making us sound good, Danny to provide levity, Natasha to actually recall facts and Alex to divert us from staying on topic. It’s teamwork, people — and our transitions are proof of it.

And it’s good that we had everyone around the virtual table, as there was quite a lot to get through:

  • The team felt all kinds of ways about the Amazon-MGM deal. Some of us are more positive than the rest, but what gists out from the transaction is that for Amazon, the purchase price is modest and the company is famously playing a supposedly long-game. Let’s see how James Bond fits into it. Alex receives four points for not bringing up F1 thanks to the Bond-Aston Martin connection.
  • Turning to the SPAC game, we chatted through the recent Lordstown Motors earnings results, and what we can parse from them regarding blank-check companies, promises and reality.
  • After launching last June with just $2 million, Collab Capital has closed its debut fund at its target goal: $50 million. The Black-led firm invests exclusively in Black-led startups, and got checks from Apple, PayPal, and Mailchimp to name a few. We talk about this feat, and note a few other Black-led venture capital firms making waves in the industry lately.
  • We Resolved our transition puns and eventually spoke about the Affirm spin-out, which raised $60 million in a funding round for BNPL for businesses. There’s bigger questions there around the accessibility and point of BNPL, and if its really re-inventing the wheel or just repackaging it with simpler UX.
  • Next up, we got into a can of worms about the future of meetings thanks to Rewatch, which raised a $20 million Series A this week led by Andreessen Horowitz. The startup helps other startups create internal, private Youtubes to archive their meetings and any video-based comms. We could only spend a second on this, so if you want our longer thoughts in the form of text, check out our 3 views on the topic on Extra Crunch! (Discount Code: Equity)
  • From there we had Interactio and Fireflies.ai, two more startups that are tackling the complexities of meetings in the COVID-19 era, and whatever comes next. Both recently raised new funding, and Alex brought up Kudo to add one more upstart to the mix.
  • Noom, a weight loss platform, bulked up with $540 million in funding after nearly doubling its revenue from 2019 to 2020. The pandemic has made many people gain weight, but we chew into why Noom’s moment might be right now after a decade in the works.

Thanks for hanging out this week, Equity is back on Tuesday with our usual weekly kickoff, thanks to the American holiday on Monday. Chat then, unless you want to follow us on Twitter and get a first-look at all of Chris’ meme work. 

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Cataclysms are a growth industry

By Natasha Mascarenhas

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

For this week’s deep dive, Alex and Natasha dug into Danny’s latest mega-project: A long, fascinating and deeply reported series into the world of disaster tech. It’s all about the market, startups and their backers, so it was perfect fare for our Wednesday episode, in which we dive deep into a single topic.

Part 1: The most disastrous sales cycle in the world

Part 2: Data was the new oil, until the oil caught fire

Part 3: When the Earth is gone, at least the internet will still be working

Part 4: The human-focused startups of the hellfire

We were super curious why Danny had picked disaster tech to niche into, as we hadn’t heard that much about it, frankly. But past the fact that it’s a world where sales cycles can last as long as House Congressional tenures, there was quite a lot to get into:

The series was fun to mine through, and expect Danny’s byline to be all over the topic in the coming weeks. Talk soon, unless — actually especially, if — all of hell breaks loose!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

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