The American food delivery unicorn now expects to debut at $90 to $95 per share, up from a previous range of $75 to $85. That’s a bump of 20% on the low end and 12% on the upper end of its IPO range.
DoorDash still anticipates 317,656,521 shares outstanding after its IPO, giving the company a new, non-diluted valuation range between $28.6 billion and $30.2 billion. On a fully-diluted basis, the company’s valuation rises to more than $35 billion.
For the on-demand giant, the upgrade is enormously positive news. Not only will its valuation stretch even further above its most recent private price — around $16 billion, set this summer — but DoorDash will also raise even more money than it previously anticipated. That war chest will be welcome when a vaccine becomes widely available and food consumption habits could shift.
DoorDash will raise as much as $3.135 billion in its IPO, according to the filing.
After mulling over the company’s updated valuation from its new SEC filing, I’ve decided that there are three things worth calling out and discussing. Let’s get into them.
It’s Friday, so to make our analysis as easy as possible I’ve broken it into discreet sections for your perusal. Let’s go!
DoorDash’s most profitable quarters that we are aware of were its two most recent. During the June 30 quarter, the company saw positive net income of $23 million off revenues of $675 million. In the September 30 quarter, on the back of even more revenue growth, DoorDash lost a modest $42 million against $879 million in top line.
Those two quarters contrast with the first quarter of 2020 when DoorDash lost a far-greater $129 million against a far-smaller revenue result of $362 million, and Q4 2019 when the figures were a $134 million loss and revenues of just $298 million.
Advancements in the tech and the cyber threat landscape are creating vast job opportunities. The global cybersecurity market is projected to reach £210 billion by 2026. But in the U.K., out of 952,000 working-age (16-64) U.K. military veterans and 15,000 service leavers a year, only 4% of them are working in tech and cyber. This is 20% lower than the non-veteran population. The cost to the U.K. economy of underemployed or unemployed veterans has been estimated at £1.5 billion over five years. This means all this talent — talent which has literally been trained to adapt to fast-moving situations like the one the world finds itself in now — is going to waste, just when the era of massive digitization of business and society is upon us.
So it’s significant that the U.K.’s RFEA, the Forces Employment charity, is launching a new partnership with TechVets, the nonprofit set up to build a bridge for veterans into cybersecurity and the technology sector.
With the RFEA’s support, TechVets will create extensive new free upskilling and job opportunities for “tech-curious” service leavers and veterans, through its offering of networking, mentoring, signposting and training services, via its new TechVets Academy.
The initiative is timely. It’s estimated that more than 173,000 U.K. military veterans are at risk due to the economic impact of COVID and the ending of the government’s furlough scheme in March 2021.
Since its launch in 2018, TechVets has grown to a community of over 6,000 members and several “chapters” around the U.K.
TechVets uses a blend of open-source resources, partner training and community support to empower those new to cyber/tech to choose the pathway that is best for them. And it’s all free to veterans and service leavers.
TechVets Programme Director James Murphy (pictured above) is an Army Veteran of 19 years. He joined the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment in 2000, before transferring to the Intelligence Corps in 2013 after sustaining life-long injuries in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
In a statement, he said: “Anyone who has held a role in the Forces comes armed with an understanding of the sensitivities of working in security. Ex-Services also possess an innate ability to learn new skills and are natural problem solvers, who can work quickly and fit into a team with ease. Ex-military personnel are also the kind of people who thrive in pressurized, or time-sensitive, situations. These soft skills are incredible assets in the security and technology industries, which can be used to fill the current skills shortage in this area.”
RFEA’s Chief Executive Officer Alistair Halliday, added: “The TechVets Programme is a fantastic new addition to RFEA’s services that will, no doubt, encourage talented veterans to consider tech and security-based roles that may have otherwise overlooked. It will also help veterans to upskill digitally to help them get into wider roles too.”
TechVets member Gareth Paterson joined the Army in 1994. He started out as a tank crewman and then transferred to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers as an instructor in 2001. He left in 2018, having completed operational tours of Northern Ireland, former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. He says his life has been changed by TechVets: “I left the Army as I was at the end of my 24-year career… I did not have a clue what career to move into, then I was introduced to offensive cybersecurity and penetration testing. I joined TechVets and it gave me my first insight into the tools and techniques of penetration testing. After that, I was hooked! The support of everyone at TechVets, and its community, has helped me to gain confidence and push harder. I was able to gain qualifications in penetration testing which improved my job prospects in the sector. By November 2018 I started working as a cybersecurity consultant.”
There are now about 50 million people with dementia globally, a number the World Health Organization expects to triple by 2050. Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia and caregivers are often overwhelmed, without enough support.
Neuroglee, a Singapore-based health tech startup, wants to help with a digital therapeutic platform created to treat patients in the early stages of the disease. Founded this year to focus on neurodegenerative diseases, Neuroglee announced today it has raised $2.3 million in pre-seed funding.
The round was led by Eisai Co., one of Japan’s largest pharmaceutical companies, and Kuldeep Singh Rajput, the founder and chief executive officer of predictive healthcare startup Biofourmis.
Neuroglee’s prescription digital therapy software for Alzheimer’s, called NG-001, is its main product. The company plans to start clinical trials next year. NG-001 is meant to complement medication and other treatments, and once it is prescribed by a clinician, patients can access its cognitive exercises and tasks through a tablet.
The software tracks patients’ progress, such as the speed of their fingers and the time it takes to complete an exercise, and delivers personalized treatment programs. It also has features to address the mental health of patients, including one that shows images that can bring up positive memories, which in turn can help alleviate depression and anxiety when used in tandem with other cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.
For caregivers and clinicians, NG-001 helps them track patient progress and their compliance with other treatments, like medications. This means that healthcare providers can work closely with patients even remotely, which is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Neuroglee founder and CEO Aniket Singh Rajput told TechCrunch that its first target markets for NG-001 are the United States and Singapore, followed by Japan. NG-001 needs to gain regulatory approval in each country, and it will start by seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance.
Once it launches, clinicians will have two ways to prescribe NG-001, through their healthcare provider platform or an electronic prescription tool. A platform called Neuroglee Connect will give clinicians, caregivers and patients access to support and features for reimbursement and coverage.
The Atlas for Cities, the 500 Startups-backed market intelligence platform connecting tech companies with state and local governments, has been acquired by the Growth Catalyst Partners-backed publishing and market intelligence company Government Executive Media Group.
The San Diego-based company will become the latest addition to a stable of publications and services that include the Route Fifty, publication for local government and the defense-oriented intelligence service, DefenseOne.
The Atlas provides peer-to-peer networks for state and local government officials to share best practices and is a marketing channel for the startups that want to sell services to those government employees. Through The Atlas, government officials can talk to each other, find case studies for best practices around tech implementations, and post questions to crowdsource ideas.
Government contractors can use the site to network with leadership and receive buyer intent data to inform their strategy in the sector, all while getting intelligence about the problems and solutions that matter to state and local jurisdictions across the nation.
“The Atlas delivers on GEMG’s promise to look for companies that complement and supplement the full suite of offerings that we provide to our partners to reach decision makers across all facets of the public sector,” said Tim Hartman, CEO of Government Executive Media Group, said in a statement.
Led by Ellory Monks and Elle Hempen, The Atlas for Cities launched in 2019 and is backed by financing from individual investors and the 500 Startups accelerator program. It now counts 21,000 government officials across 3,400 cities on its platform.
“State and local governments in the United States spend $3.7 trillion per year. That’s almost 20% of GDP,” said Elle Hempen, co-founder of The Atlas. “Our mission to increase transparency and access for local leaders has the opportunity to transform this enormous, inefficient market and enable tangible progress on the most important issues of our times.”
Studying for med school is tough. What if it was more Pixar-like?
Sketchy, a visual learning platform, takes complex material that a med student might need to memorize for an exam, and puts the information in an illustrated scene. For example, it uses a countryside kingdom to explain the coronavirus, or a salmon dinner to explain Salmonella. The goal is for a student to be able to mentally go back to the scene while taking an exam, walk through it and retrieve all of the information.
While Sketchy’s strategy might seem odd, it’s actually well-known. The “memory palace” technique matches objects to concepts for easier memorization. So far, Sketchy has more than 30,000 paid subscribers and is on track to hit $7 million in revenue this year.
To charge this growth and break into new content verticals, Sketchy is taking venture capital on for the first time in its seven-year history. Last month, the team announced that it has raised a $30 million Series A led by The Chernin Group (TCG). Today, it tacks on $2 million to that total with financing from co-investor Reach Capital. It’s a big combined investment for a company that has been bootstrapping since birth — and the deal could help us see where online education is heading.
The capital comes as Sketchy itself looks to grow past a content service for med students, and into an education platform tackling information in critical fields, from legal to nursing. With the new money, Sketchy plans to build an in-house animation studio and hire more artists and doctors, some of whom are currently consultants.
A big part of Sketchy’s magic, and effectiveness, comes from the fact that all of its founding team have experience in medicine.
The company began in 2013 when then-med students Saud Siddiqui and Andrew Berg were in desperate need of a better study solution for microbiology. To liven up their studying, Berg and Siddiqui began weaving characters into stories to try to memorize concepts — and after a few good test scores, they started creating stories for their classmates.
“Neither Sid or I were artists, so they were pretty bad,” Berg said. As demand continued, the duo put their scraggly sketches on YouTube. Eventually, Siddiqui and Berg roped in classmate Bryan Lemieux, a good artist, to tell the stories with them. Eventually Bryan brought on his twin brother, Aaron, and the founding team was born.
Fast-forward to today: Siddiqui and Berg have finished their residencies in emergency medicine, while the Lemieux brothers chose to leave medicine. All have moved full-time to the company after trying to balance both jobs. Still, the knowledge from working in the field continues to be useful.
The startup’s name has evolved: born as SketchyMedical, it has since rebranded to just Sketchy. While the team chose the name to nod toward its focus on art, the name also has negative connotations. Expect a rebrand in the future.
Despite this, the company claims that it is used by a third of med students in the United States. The majority of its revenues come from 12-month subscriptions for students looking to prep for med school exams like Step 1, and Step 2.
While B2C is a promising business model for many reasons (it’s always easier to convince a human to pay instead of a entire, red-tape-bound institution), the company has also posted promising B2B growth. So far, 20% of its revenue comes from direct contracts it has with medical schools. The founders said that they will pursue both growth methods for now, but based on the price of med school (and student debt crisis), it would be great to see them grow through school contracts so students don’t have to face the brunt of costs.
Reach Capital’s Jennifer Carolan, an investor in Sketchy, said that Sketchy’s product market fit with med students is a “strong signal that their content is worth it.” Even with competitors such as Picorie and Medcomic, she’s confident that Sketchy’s product is defensible and can expand into new verticals.
That said, unlike most edtech companies, which have enjoyed surging new user demand thanks to remote learning, Sketchy didn’t have a huge COVID-19 boom.
“We weren’t one of those people that hadn’t found product market fit and then exploded after COVID,” said Berg. “We’ve always been there and been growing.”
So the real trigger for today’s fundraise wasn’t COVID-19 momentum, but instead, a push to capitalize its sustained growth into more digital curriculum verticals.
Long-term, think of Sketchy as joining a chorus of startups, including Top Hat Jr and Newsela, that want to replace textbook publishers. In a remote world, live, moving content is more rapidly losing value, and upstarts are trying to replace them with more effective and engaging content.
“One of the challenges is just to make sure we don’t go too fast,” Siddiqui said. “We want to keep that degree of quality we’ve maintained for so many years, and do it at scale.”
Trump’s crusade against a key internet law known as Section 230 tends to pop up in unlikely places. His Twitter feed on Thanksgiving, for one. Or at times you’d think the nation would be hearing from its leader on the matter at hand: a worsening pandemic that’s killed nearly 270,000 people in the United States.
His latest threat to the law, which is widely regarded as the foundation for the modern internet, is unlikelier still. Now, Trump wants to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill that allocates military funds each year, if it doesn’t somehow “terminate” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
…..Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill when sent to the very beautiful Resolute desk. Take back America NOW. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2020
In a tweet, Trump mysteriously called the law a “serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity” and claimed that only big tech companies benefit from it, which is not true. Big tech’s lobbying group made the opposite argument in response to the president’s new threat.
“Repealing Section 230 is itself a threat to national security,” Internet Association Interim President and CEO Jon Berroya said in a statement. “The law empowers online platforms to remove harmful and dangerous content, including terrorist content and misinformation.”
Section 230, which protects internet companies from liability for the content they host, is currently at the center of a complex bipartisan reform effort — one that’s nowhere near a consensus, much less an agreement that Section 230 should be scrapped outright.
President Trump’s threat to block the NDAA stakes out a deeply unpopular position. The sweeping defense budget bill includes all kinds of funding for popular programs that benefit U.S. troops and veterans, making a veto of the bill if the terms of a totally unrelated demand aren’t met a strange gamble indeed. The fact that Trump’s latest anti-230 tactic comes during a lame duck session gives his threat even less bite.
In light of that, most of Congress has gone about business as usual so far. But close Trump ally Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) did signal his support for Trump’s position on Wednesday. “The NDAA does NOT contain any reform to Section 230 but DOES contain Elizabeth Warren’s social engineering amendment to unilaterally rename bases & war memorials w/ no public input or process,” Hawley tweeted. “I cannot support it.”
If history is any lesson, Trump isn’t afraid to make an empty threat, eventually pivoting to something else that catches his attention. But Section 230 — previously a fairly arcane piece of legislation that attracted little mainstream attention — has rankled Trump for the better part of the year, even inspiring an executive order back in May.
That executive order gets at the real reason behind Trump’s ire: He believes that social media companies, Twitter in particular, have unfairly censored him. While Twitter has continued to allow Trump to remain on its platform even as he flaunts the rules, the company now limits the reach of his most dangerous or misleading tweets — false claims about the election results, for example — and pairs them with warning labels.
Paradoxically, if Trump got his way, an outright repeal of Section 230 would open online platforms up to an insurmountable level of legal liability, either sinking social media companies outright or forcing them to severely restrict their users’ speech.
It’s possible that the president could dig his heels in, pushing the defense spending bill into President-elect Biden’s term. But it’s more likely that Trump will back off of his unusual demand, which so far has yet to attract much support or even acknowledgement from his own party. At the moment, Congress is also preoccupied with work on a second pandemic stimulus bill that would offer more financial support to the country.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who co-authored Section 230, remains unworried that a repeal could get stuffed into the multi-hundred billion dollar defense bill in the eleventh hour.
“I’d like to start for the Blazers, but it’s not going to happen either,” Wyden told TechCrunch. “It is pathetic that Trump refuses to help unemployed workers, while he spends his time tweeting unhinged election conspiracies and demanding Congress repeal the foundation of free speech online.”
Twitter said Wednesday that accounts protected with a hardware security key can now log in from their iPhone or Android device.
The social media giant rolled out support for hardware security keys in 2018, allowing users to add a physical security barrier to their accounts in place of other two-factor authentication options, like a text message or a code generated from an app.
Security keys are small enough to fit on a keyring but make certain kinds of account hacks near impossible by requiring a user to plug in the key when they log in. That means hackers on the other side of the planet can’t easily break into your account, even if they have your username and password.
But technical limitations meant that accounts protected with security keys could only log in from a computer, and not a mobile device.
Twitter solved that headache in part by switching to the WebAuthn protocol last year, which paved the way for bringing hardware security key support to more devices and browsers.
Now anyone with a security key set up on their Twitter account can use that same key to log in from their mobile device, so long as the key is supported. (A ton of security keys exist today that work across different devices, like YubiKeys and Google’s Titan key.)
Twitter — and other companies — have long recommended that high-profile accounts, like journalists, politicians, and government officials, use security keys to prevent some of the more sophisticated attacks.
Earlier this year Twitter rolled out hardware security keys to its own staff to prevent a repeat of its July cyberattack that saw hackers break into the company’s internal network and abuse an “admin” tool, which the hackers then used to hijack high-profile accounts to spread a cryptocurrency scam.
A mere two weeks remain until we kick off TC Sessions: Space (December 16 & 17), our first conference focused on the technology designed to push galactic boundaries and the people making it happen. Building successful space programs, whether private, public or hybrid combination, requires a well-trained workforce — today and for generations to come. That’s why we can’t wait for Building the Workforce of the Future, a breakout panel discussion featuring Steve Isakowitz.
Isakowitz is the president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation, a national nonprofit corporation that operates a federally funded research and development center. It addresses complex problems across the space enterprise focused on agility, innovation and objective technical leadership.
In his 30+ year career, Isakowitz has held prominent roles across the government, private, space and technology sectors, including at NASA, U.S. Department of Energy and the White House Office of Management and Budget. Prior to joining Aerospace, he was president of Virgin Galactic, where his responsibilities included the development of privately funded launch systems, advanced technologies and other new space applications.
Building the Workforce of the Future focuses on what’s required to advance the United States’ leading role in space, namely developing a workforce that’s up to the challenge. Panelists also include Dava Newman, MIT’s Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics, and Yannis C. Yortsos, Dean, USC Viterbi School of Engineering and former Zohrab Kaprielian Chair in Engineering, University of Southern California.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created opportunities to imagine new models for how and where to train the next generation of scientists and engineers. This session will explore how universities and industry can work together to integrate professional experience into the curriculum and how universities and industry can work together to build robust talent pipelines that create digitally fluent, agile workers for the future.
The panelists will weigh in on strategies to build diverse workforces — with different perspectives and experiences that drive innovation — as well as new approaches that promote continuous learning for workers throughout their careers.
The space industry requires a deep bench and a long pipeline of engineers and scientists. Tune in to Building the Workforce of the Future for the latest thinking on this vital topic. It’s one session you don’t want to miss.
Late registration tickets are still available, as are discounts for groups, students, active military/government employees and for early-stage space startup founders who want to give their startup extra visibility.
Is your company interested in sponsoring TC Sessions: Space 2020? Click here to talk with us about available opportunities.
So much for a December news slowdown.
The last few days have been so chock-a-block with news from a host of unicorns, we’ve all fallen behind. This morning, The Exchange is going into summary mode to help us better understand the full scope of recent unicorn activity.
Why unicorns? It would be fun to noodle on early-stage news — Salut raised $1.25 million this week and BuildBuddy picked up $3.15 million — but as we’re in the midst of an IPO cycle and 2021 could have even more public debuts than 2020, we have to keep current on unicorn updates.
What will we cover, then? We’ll go back to Stripe’s possible new round and new valuation. We’ll touch on DoorDash and Airbnb’s expected IPO pricing, along with what we’ve learned from C3.ai’s own S-1 filings. There’s also Gainsight to talk about and the Slack -Salesforce deal.
That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There’s also recent news from Coinbase, Tanium, Postmates, Olive, Scale AI, Sinch, Gitlab and Kustomer. Then there are rounds for HungryPanda, Flock Freight and Flexe that might make them unicorns — or something rather close. (Update: Also Bizzabo, apparently.)
You can see why it all feels a little overwhelming. But don’t worry, we can get caught up together. Let’s go!
There’s no way to make it through all of this news in a reasonable number of words without employing bullet points. Out of respect for your time, I’ll be brief. That said, each of the following news items is worth digging into further if it catches your fancy.
Sifting through the trillions of molecules out there that might have powerful medicinal effects is a daunting task, but the solution biotech has found is to work smarter, not harder. Genesis Therapeutics has a new simulation approach and cross-disciplinary team that has clearly made an impression: the company just raised a $52 million A round.
Genesis competed in the Startup Battlefield at Disrupt last year, impressing judges with its potential, and obviously others saw it as well — in particular Rock Springs Capital, which led the round.
Over the last few years many companies have been formed in the drug discovery space, powered by increased computing and simulation power that lets them determine the potential of molecules in treating certain diseases. At least that’s the theory. The reality is a bit messier, and while these companies can narrow the search, they can’t just say “here, a cure for Parkinson’s.”
Founder Evan Feinberg got into the field when an illness he inherited made traditional lab work, as an intern at a big pharma company, difficult for him. The computational side of the field, however, was more accessible and ended up absorbing him entirely.
He had dabbled in the area before and arrived at what he feels is a breakthrough in how molecules are represented digitally. Machine learning has, of course, accelerated work in many fields, biochemistry among them, but he felt that the potential of the technology had not been tapped.
“I think initially the attempts were to kind of cut and paste deep learning techniques, and represent molecules a lot like images, and classify them — like you’d say, this is a cat picture or this is not a cat picture,” he explained in an interview. “We represent the molecules more naturally: as graphs. A set of nodes or vertices, those are atoms, and things that connect them, those are bonds. But we’re representing them not just as bond or no bond, but with multiple contact types between atoms, spatial distances, more complex features.”
The resulting representation is richer and more complex, a more complete picture of a molecule than you’d get from its chemical formula or a stick diagram showing the different structures and bonds. Because in the world of biochemistry, nothing is as simple as a diagram. Every molecule exists as a complicated, shifting 3D shape or conformation where important aspects like the distance between two carbon formations or bonding sites is subject to many factors. Genesis attempts to model as many of those factors as it can.
“Step one is the representation,” he said, “but the logical next step is, how does one leverage that representation to learn a function that takes an input and outputs a number, like binding affinity or solubility, or a vector that predicts multiple properties at once?”
That’s the work they’ve focused on as a company — not just creating a better model molecule, but being able to put a theoretical molecule into simulation and say, it will do this, it won’t do this, it has this quality but not that one.
Some of this work may be done in partnerships, such as the one Genesis has struck up with Genentech, but the teams could very well find drug candidates independent of those, and for that reason the company is also establishing an internal development process.
The $52M infusion ought to do a lot to push that forward, Feinberg wrote in an email:
“These funds allow us to execute on a number of critical objectives, most importantly further pioneering AI technologies for drug development and advancing our therapeutics pipeline. We will be hiring more top notch AI researchers, software engineers, medicinal chemists and biotech talent, as well as building our own research labs.”
Other companies are doing simulations as well and barking up the same tree, but Feinberg says Genesis has at least two legs up on them, despite the competition raising hundreds of millions and existing for years.
“We’re the only company in the space that’s working at the intersection of modern deep neural network approaches and biophysical simulation — conformational change of ligands and proteins,” he said. “And we’re bringing this super technical platform to experts who have taken FDA-approved drugs to market. We’ve seen tremendous value creation just from that — the chemists inform the AI too.”
The recent breakthrough of AlphaFold, which is performing the complex task of simulation protein folding far faster than any previous system, is as exciting to Feinberg as to everyone else in the field.
“As scientists, we are incredibly excited by recent progress in protein structure prediction. It is an important basic science advance that will ultimately have important downstream benefits to the development of novel therapeutics,” he wrote. “Since our Dynamic PotentialNet technology is unique in how it leverages 3D structural information of proteins, computational protein folding — similar to recent progress in cryo-EM — is a nice complementary tailwind for the Genesis AI Platform. We applaud all efforts to make protein structure more accessible such that therapeutics can be more easily developed for patients of all conditions.”
Also participating in the funding round were T. Rowe Price Associates, Andreessen Horowitz (who led the seed round), Menlo Ventures, and Radical Ventures.
Eat Just will start offering lab-grown chicken meat in Singapore after gaining regulatory approval from the Singapore Food Agency (SFA). The cell-cultured chicken will eventually be produced under Eat Just’s new GOOD Meat brand through partnerships with local manufacturers and go on sale to restaurants before it is available to consumers.
No chickens were killed to obtain the cell line used to produce Eat Just’s cultured meat, global head of communications Andrew Noyes told TechCrunch. Instead, the process starts with cell isolation, where cells are sourced through methods that can include a biopsy from a live animal. After the cells are cultured, they are transferred into a bioreactor, fed with a proprietary mix of proteins, amino acids, minerals, sugars, salts and other nutrients and then harvested after they achieve enough density.
While there are plenty of other companies working on lab-grown meats using various techniques, Eat Just describes the Singapore government’s review and regulatory approval as a “world first.” The company said that during the approval process, it went through 20 productions runs of cell-cultured chicken in 1,200-liter bioreactors to prove the consistency of its manufacturing process. Eat Just also said no antibiotics were used and that its cultured chicken has an “extremely low and significantly cleaner microbiological content than conventional chicken.”
Noyes said the company is already working with a restaurant to add its GOOD Meat chicken to their menu, and hopes to announce a launch date soon.
In Eat Just’s announcement today, chief executive officer Josh Tetrick said, “Singapore has long been a leader in innovation of all kinds, from information technology to biologics to now leading the world in building a healthier, safer food system.”
The government is currently engaged in an initiative, called “30 by 30,” to produce 30% of the country’s food supply locally by 2030. Spearheaded by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), the initiative was prompted because Singapore currently imports over 90% of its food, which makes it vulnerable to export bans or the logistics issues highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact. As part of “30 by 30,” the SFA and Agency for Science, Technology and Research has made $144 million SGD in research funding available.
Eat Just, whose other products include a plant-based egg substitute, announced last month it is partnering with Proterra Investment Partners Asia to launch a new Asian subsidiary. The partnership includes a factory in Singapore that received support from the government’s Economic Development board.
There are several factors driving demand for cultured meat and plant-based protein in Asian markets. The first is concerns about the safety of meat from slaughterhouses that gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic also highlighted vulnerabilities in the production and supply chain that can be potentially be avoided with lab-produced meat and meat alternatives.
Theodoric Chew, co-founder and chief executive officer of mental health app Intellect
Intellect, a Singapore-based startup that wants to lower barriers to mental health care in Asia, says it has reached more than one million users just six months after launching. Google also announced today that the startup’s consumer app, also called Intellect, is one of its picks for best personal growth apps of 2020.
The company recently closed an undisclosed seed round led by Insignia Ventures Partners. Angel investors including e-commerce platform Carousell co-founder and chief executive officer Quek Siu Rui; former Sequoia partner Tim Lee; and startup consultancy xto10x’s Southeast Asia CEO J.J. Chai also participated.
In a statement, Insignia Ventures Partners principal Samir Chaibi said, “In Intellect, we see a fast-scaling platform addressing a pain that has become very obvious amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe that pairing clinically-backed protocols with an efficient mobile-first delivery is the key to break down the barriers to access for millions of patients globally.”
Co-founder and chief executive officer Theodoric Chew launched Intellect earlier this year because while there is a growing pool of mental wellness apps in the United States and Europe that have attracted more funding during the COVID-19 pandemic, the space is still very young in Asia. Intellect’s goal is encourage more people to incorporate mental health care into their daily routines by lowering barriers like high costs and social stigma.
Intellect offers two products. One is a consumer app with self-guided programs based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques that center on issues like anxiety, self-esteem or relationship issues.
The other is a mental health platform for employers to offer as a benefit and includes a recently launched telehealth service called Behavioural Health Coaching that connects users with mental health professionals. The service, which includes one-on-one video sessions and unlimited text messaging, is now a core part of Intellect’s services, Chew told TechCrunch.
Intellect’s enterprise product now reaches 10,000 employees, and its clients include tech companies, regional operations for multinational corporations and hospitals. Most are located in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and India, and range in size from 100 to more than 3,000 employees.
For many small- to mid-sized employers, Intellect is often the first mental health benefit they have offered. Larger clients may already have EAP (employee assistance programs), but Chew said those are often underutilized, with an average adoption rate of 1% to 2%. On the other hand, he said Intellect’s employee benefit program sees an average adoption rate of 30% in the first month after it is rolled out at a company.
Chew added that the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted more companies to address burnout and other mental health issues.
Intellect’s seed round will be used to expand in Asian markets and to help fund clinical research studies it is currently conducting with universities and organizations in Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Canadian electric truck and bus manufacturer The Lion Electric Company said Monday it plans to become a publicly traded company via a merger with special purpose acquisition company Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp.
The combined company, which will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, will have a valuation of $1.9 billion. The companies raised $200 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE, and hold about $320 million in cash proceeds.
The deal is the latest example of an electric automaker opting to go public via a SPAc merger in an aim to access the level of capital needed to become a high-volume vehicle manufacturer. Arrival, Canoo, Fisker, Lordstown Motors and Nikola Corp., have all announced SPAC mergers in 2020.
In Lion’s case, the combined net cash will be used to fund the company’s growth, notably the planned construction of a U.S.-based factory and to further develop its advanced battery systems. Lion is evaluating more than 10 potential brownfield plant sites in nine states, including California, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin. The company told TechCrunch it plans to to pick a site and complete its industrialization plan by the end of the year. Production at this yet-to-be named factory is expected to start in the beginning of 2023.
Lion is already producing all-electric medium and heavy-duty urban trucks and buses at a 2,500-vehicle-per-year manufacturing facility. Some 300 vehicles are on the road today and the company has plans to to deliver 650 trucks and buses in 2021. It even landed a contract with Amazon to supply the e-commerce giant with 10 electric trucks for its ‘middle mile’ operations.
Completion of the proposed transaction is expected to occur in the first quarter of 2021. Lion is expected to be listed on the NYSE under the new ticker symbol “LEV.” Lion’s CEO and founder Marc Bedard will continue in his role. The combined company will have a board of directors consisting of nine directors, including Bedard, Pierre Larochelle from Power Sustainable as Chairman, and five other existing Lion board members, as well as Ian Robertson and Chris Jarratt, who are co-founders of Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp.
This morning, DoorDash filed a new S-1 document, this time updating the market about the price it expects to command during its public offering. The food-delivery giant gave a range of $75 to $85 per share, which would revalue the company sharply higher than its final private price, set during a June Series H that valued DoorDash at $16 billion.
The company intends to sell 33 million shares, raising between $2.475 billion and $2.805 billion in the process. Notably, there are no shares set aside for its underwriting banks to buy at its IPO price.
After the public offering, DoorDash expects to have 317,656,521 shares outstanding across various classes, giving it a valuation of between $23.8 billion and $27 billion at the two extremes of its IPO range, not counting shares that have not yet vested or are set aside for future employee compensation. CNBC calculates that the company could be worth up to $30 billion on a fully-diluted basis.
What matters more than the raw dollar amounts, however, is what we can learn from them. Let’s get into the guts of the valuation range and find out if it’s bullish or if we should anticipate DoorDash to raise its range before it goes public.
The new DoorDash S-1/A filing, it doesn’t appear to contain new financial information, so we can keep our prior notes on the company’s health and performance in mind. Recall that we were generally impressed by DoorDash’s growth and its improving profitability.
Other on-demand food services are doing well: HungryPanda just raised $70 million, and on the back of Uber Eats’ growth — and optimism that its ride-hailing business will return with the market-readiness of strong COVID-19 vaccines — shares of Uber are at all-time highs.
So you can taste the optimism that DoorDash is riding as it looks to list. Given our take, you would be forgiven for presuming that DoorDash is targeting an aggressive price.
Welcome to a special Thanksgiving edition of The Exchange. Today we will be brief. But not silent, as there is much to talk about.
Up top, The Exchange noodled on the Slack-Salesforce deal here, so please catch up if you missed that while eating pie for breakfast yesterday. And, sadly, I have no idea why Palantir is seeing its value skyrocket. Normally we’d discuss it, asking ourselves what its gains could mean for the lower tiers of private SaaS companies. But as its public market movement appears to be an artificial bump in value, we’ll just wait.
Here’s what I want to talk about this fine Saturday: Bloomberg reporting that Stripe is in the market for more money, at a price that could value the company at “more than $70 billion or significantly higher, at as much as $100 billion.”
Hot damn. Stripe would become the first or second most valuable startup in the world at those prices, depending on how you count. Startup is a weird word to use for a company worth that much, but as Stripe is still clinging to the private markets like some sort of liferaft, keeps raising external funds, and is presumably more focused on growth than profitability, it retains the hallmark qualities of a tech startup, so, sure, we can call it one.
Which is odd, because Stripe is a huge concern that could be worth twelve-figures, provided that gets that $100 billion price tag. It’s hard to come up with a good reason for why it’s still private, other than the fact that it can get away with it.
Anyhoo, are those reported, possible prices bonkers? Maybe. But there is some logic to them. Recall that Square and PayPal earnings pointed to strong payments volume in recent quarters, which bodes well for Stripe’s own recent growth. Also note that 14 months ago or so, Stripe was already processing “hundreds of billions of dollars of transactions a year.”
You can do fun math at this juncture. Let’s say Stripe’s processing volume was $200 billion last September, and $400 billion today, thinking of the number as an annualized metric. Stripe charges 2.9% plus $0.30 for a transaction, so let’s call it 3% for the sake of simplicity and being conservative. That math shakes out to a run rate of $12 billion.
Now, the company’s actual numbers could be closer to $100 billion, $150 billion and $4.5 billion, right? And Stripe won’t have the same gross margins as Slack .
But you can start to see why Stripe’s new rumored prices aren’t 100% wild. You can make the multiples work if you are a believer in the company’s growth story. And helping the argument are its public comps. Square’s stock has more than tripled this year. PayPal’s value has more than doubled. Adyen’s shares have almost doubled. That’s the sort of public market pull that can really help a super-late-stage startup looking to raise new capital and secure an aggressive price.
To wrap, Stripe’s possible new valuation could make some sense. The fact that it is still a private company does not.
Hugs and let’s both go do some cardio,
Human rights NGO, Amnesty International, has written to the EU’s competition regulator calling for Google’s acquisition of wearable maker Fitbit to be blocked — unless meaningful safeguards can be baked in.
In a letter addressed to the blocs competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, Amnesty writes: “The commission must ensure that the merger does not proceed unless the two business enterprises can demonstrate that they have taken adequate account of the human rights risks and implemented strong and meaningful safeguards that prevent and mitigate these risks in the future.”
The letter urges the commission to take heed of an earlier call by a coalition of civil society groups also raising concerns about the merger for “minimum remedies” that regulators must guarantee before any approval.
In a report last year the NGO attacked the business model of Google and Facebook — arguing that the “surveillance giants” enable human rights harm “at a population scale.”
Amnesty warns now that Google is “incentivized to merge and aggregate data across its different platforms” as a consequence of that surveillance-based business model.
“Google’s business model incentivizes the company to continuously seek more data on more people across the online world and into the physical world. The merger with Fitbit is a clear example of this expansionist approach to data extraction, enabling the company to extend its data collection into the health and wearables sector,” it writes. “The sheer scale of the intrusion of Google’s business model into our private lives is an unprecedented interference with our privacy, and in fact has undermined the very essence of privacy.”
We’ve reached out to the commission and Google for a response to Amnesty’s letter. Update: A commission spokesperson confirmed it’s received the letter and said it will reply in due course.
Google’s plan to gobble Fitbit and its health tracking data has been stalled as EU regulators dig into competition concerns. Vestager elected to open an in-depth probe in August, saying she wanted to make sure the deal wouldn’t distort competition by further entrenching Google’s dominance of the online ad market.
The commission has also voiced concerns about the risk of Google locking other wearable device makers out of its Android mobile ecosystem.
However concerns over Google’s plan to gobble up Fitbit range wider than the risk of it getting more market muscle if the deal gets waved through.
Put simply, letting sensitive health data fall into the hands of an advertising giant is a privacy trash fire.
Amnesty International is just the latest rights watcher to call for the merger to be blocked. Privacy campaign groups and the EU’s own data protection advisor have been warning for months against letting the tech giant gobble up sensitive health data.
The commission’s decision to scrutinize the acquisition rather than waiving it through with a cursory look has led Google to make a number of concessions in an attempt to get it cleared — including a pledge not to use Fitbit data for ad targeting and to guarantee support for other wearables makers to operate on Android.
In its letter, Amnesty argues that the “safeguards” Google has offered are not enough.
“The company’s past practice around privacy further heighten the need for strict safeguards,” it warns, pointing to examples such as Google combining data from advertising network DoubleClick after it had acquired that business with personal data collected from its other platforms.
“The European Data Protection Board has recognized the risks of the merger, stating that the “combination and accumulation of sensitive personal data” by Google could entail a “high level of risk” to the rights to privacy and data protection,” it adds.
As well as undermining people’s privacy, Google’s use of algorithms fed with personal data to generate profiles of internet users in order to predict their behavior erodes what Amnesty describes as “the critical principle that all people should enjoy equal access to their human rights.”
“This risk is heightened when profiling is deployed in contexts that touch directly on people’s economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to health where people may suffer unequal treatment based on predictions about their health, and as such must be taken into account in the context of health and fitness data,” it suggests.
“This power of the platforms has not only exacerbated and magnified their rights impacts but has also created a situation in which it is very difficult to hold the companies to account, or for those affected to access an effective remedy,” Amnesty adds, noting that while big tech companies have faced a number of regulatory actions around the world none has so far been able to derail what it calls “the fundamental drivers of the surveillance-based business model.”
So far the commission has stood firm in taking its time to consider the issue in detail.
A series of extensions mean a decision on whether to allow the Google-Fitbit merger may not come until early 2021. Though we understand the bloc’s national competition authorities are meeting to discuss the merger at the start of December so it’s possible a decision could be issued before the end of the year.
Per EU merger law, the commission college takes the final decision — with a requirement to take “utmost account” of the opinion of the member states’ advisory committee (though it’s not legally binding).
So it’s ultimately up to Brussels to determine whether Google-Fitbit gets green lit.
In recent years, competition chief Vestager, who is also EVP for the commission’s digital strategy, has said she favors tighter regulation as a tool for ensuring businesses comply with the EU’s rules, rather than blocking market access or outright bans on certain practices.
She has also voiced opposition to breaking up tech giants, again preferring to advocate for imposing controls on how they can use data as a way to rebalance digital markets.
To date, the commission has never blocked a tech/digital merger (it has in telecoms, where it stepped in in 2016 to block Hutchison’s proposed acquisition of Telefonica UK) though it has had its fingers burnt by big tech’s misleading filings — so has its own reputation to consider above reaching for the usual rubber stamp.
Simultaneously, EU lawmakers are working on a proposal for an ex ante regulation to address competition concerns in digital markets that would put specific rules and obligations on dominant players like Google — again in areas such as data use and data access.
That plan is due to be presented early next month — so it’s another factor that may be adding to delay the commission’s Google-Fitbit decision.
The Exchange is technically off today, but we’re here anyway because there’s neat stuff in the world of startups and money to talk about. So, let’s yammer this morning about Slack’s new valuation and what the market is telling us about what the venerable SaaS company is really worth.
Recall that on Wednesday, news broke that Salesforce is considering buying Slack, a move that has potential merit and some question marks.
The merits could include bringing Slack’s startup mindshare to Salesforce and bringing Salesforce’s enterprise reach to Slack. In terms of questions, precisely how Slack fits into Salesforce’s CRM-and-platform play isn’t clear; Salesforce’s own Slack-ish competitor, Chatter, hasn’t taken control of its market in the 10-plus years since its release (here’s TechCrunch covering its launch back in 2009), making the possible home of Slack inside Salesforce slightly suspect.
Still, Slack investors cheered the concept of Salesforce paying up for their company, while investors in the latter company knocked nearly $20 off its share price, perhaps worried about the very thing that Slack’s owners were stoked to consider.
So, price. What’s Slack worth? This is a question that’s fun in both academic terms and also for understanding the current dynamics in the software M&A market — what do you have to pay to take a large chess piece off the software market’s board?
Let’s take a look at what we can learn from Slack’s pre-news price, and its current, changed valuation.
Here’s a chart of Slack’s value before and after the Salesforce news, just to give you a taste of how big an impact the reporting had:
In the wake of insurtech unicorn Root’s IPO, it felt safe to say that the big transactions for the insurance technology startup space were done for the year.
After all, 2020 had been a big one for the broad category, with insurtech marketplaces raising lots, rental insurance startup Lemonade going public, Root itself debuting even more recently on the back of its automotive insurance business, a big round to help Hippo keep building its homeowners company and more.
So let’s talk about why Metromile might be plying the public markets, and why Hippo may have have decided to pick up more cash. Hint: The reasons are related.
The Lemonade IPO was a key moment for neoinsurance startups, a key part of the broader insurtech space. When the rental insurance provider went public, it helped set the tone for public exit valuations for companies of its type: fast-growing insurance companies with slick consumer brands, improving economics, a tech twist and stiff losses.
For the Roots and Metromiles and Hippos, it was an important moment.
So, when Lemonade raised its IPO range, and then traded sharply higher after its debut, it boded well for its private comps. Not that rental insurance and auto insurance or homeowners insurance are the same thing. They very most decidedly are not, but Lemonade’s IPO demonstrated that private investors were correct to bet generally on the collection of startups, because when they reached IPO-scale, they had something that public investors wanted.
The-Wolfpack’s co-founders, Toh Jin Wei, Tan Kok Chin and Simon Nichols (Image Credit: The-Wolfpack)
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the consumer, leisure and media companies hard, but a new venture firm called The-Wolfpack is still very upbeat on those sectors. Based in Singapore, the firm was founded by former managing directors at GroupM, one of the world’s largest advertising and media companies, and plans to work very closely with each of its portfolio companies. Its name was chosen because they believe “entrepreneurs thrive best in a wolfpack.”
The-Wolfpack’s debut fund, called the Wolfpack Pioneer VCC, is already fully subscribed at $5 million USD, and will focus on direct-to-consumer companies, with plans to invest in eight to 10 startups. The firm is already looking to raise a second fund, with a target of $20 million SGD (about $14.9 million USD) and above, and will set up another office in Thailand, with plans to expand into Indonesia as well.
The-Wolfpack was founded by Toh Jin Wei and Simon Nichols, who met while working at GroupM, and Tan Kok Chin, a former director at Sunray Woodcraft Construction who has worked on projects with Marina Bay Sands, Raffles Hotel and the Singapore Tourism’s offices.
In addition to providing financial capital, The-Wolfpack wants to build ecosystems around its portfolio companies by connecting them with IP owners, digital marketing experts, content producers and designers who can help create offline experiences. It also plans to invest in startups based on opportunities for them to collaborate or cross-sell with one another.
Toh told TechCrunch that formal planning on The-Wolfpack began at the end of 2019, but he and Nichols started thinking of launching their own business five years ago while working together at GroupM.
“Our perspective on what the industry needed was similar — strategic investors who truly knew how to get behind D2C founders,” Toh said.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact has hurt spending in The-Wolfpack’s three key sectors (consumer, leisure and media). But it also presents opportunities for innovation as consumer habits shift, Nichols said.
For example, even though consumer spending has dropped, people are still “drawn towards brands that build towards higher-quality engagements,” he said. “There is a real business advantage for D2C brands who’ve recognized this shift and know how to act on it.”
The-Wolfpack hasn’t disclosed its investments yet since deals are still being finalized, but some of the brands its debut fund are interested in include one launched by an Australian makeup artist who wants to scale to Southeast Asia, and an online gaming company whose ecosystem includes original content, gaming teams and studios. The-Wolfpack plans to help them set up a physical studio to create an offline experience, too.
“Typically brands have talked at customers, but it’s become a two-way conversation, and startups who get D2C right have a real potential for exponential growth that’s worth investing in,” said Toh.