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Today — September 19th 2019Your RSS feeds

Shipper, a platform for e-commerce logistics in Indonesia, raises $5 million

By Catherine Shu

Indonesia has one of the fastest-growing e-commerce markets in the world, but the logistics industry there is still very fragmented, creating headaches for both vendors and customers. Shipper is a startup with the ambitious goal of giving online sellers access to “Amazon-level logistics.” The company has raised $5 million in seed funding from Lightspeed Ventures, Floodgate Ventures, Insignia Ventures Partners and Y Combinator (Shipper is part of the accelerator’s winter 2019 batch), which will be used for hiring and customer acquisition.

Shipper was launched in 2017 by co-founders Phil Opamuratawongse and Budi Handoko, and is now used by more than 25,000 online sellers. Indonesia’s e-commerce market is growing rapidly, but online sellers still face many logistical hurdles.

The country is large (Indonesia has more than 17,500 islands, of which 600 are inhabited) and unlike the United States, where Amazon dominates, e-commerce sellers often use multiple platforms, like Tokopedia, Shopee, Bukalapak and Lazada. Smaller vendors also sell through Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and other social media. Once an order has been placed, the challenge of making sure it gets to customers starts. There are more than 2,500 logistics providers in Indonesia, many of whom only cover a small area.

“It is really hard for any one provider to do nationwide themselves, so the big ones usually use local partners to fulfill locations where they don’t have infrastructure,” says Opamuratawongse.

The startup’s mission is to create a platform that makes the process of fulfilling and tracking orders much more efficient. In addition to a package pick-up service and fulfillment centers, Shipper also has a technology stack to help logistics providers manage shipments. It is used to predict the best shipping routes and consolidate packages headed in the same direction and also provides a multi-carrier API that allows sellers to manage orders, print shipping labels and get tracking information from multiple providers on their phones.

When it launched three years ago, Shipper began by focusing on the last-mile for smaller vendors, who Opamuratawongse says typically keep inventory in their homes and fulfill about five to 10 orders per day. Since many give customers a choice of several logistics providers, that meant they needed to visit multiple drop-off locations every morning.

Shipper offers pick-up service performed by couriers (who Opamuratawongse says are people like stay-at-home parents who want flexible, part-time work) who collect packages from several vendors in the same neighborhood and distribute them to different logistics providers, serving as micro-fulfillment hubs. Shipper signs up about 10 to 30 new couriers each week, keeping them at least 2.5 kilometers apart so they don’t compete against each other.

The company began setting up fulfillment centers to keep up with vendors whose businesses were growing and were turning to third-party warehouse services. Shipper has established 10 fulfillment centers so far across Indonesia, including Jakarta, with plans to open a new one about every two weeks until it covers all of Indonesia.

Opamuratawongse says he expects the logistics industry in Indonesia to remain fragmented for the next decade at least, and perhaps longer because of Indonesia’s size and geography. Shipper will focus on expanding in Indonesia first, with the goal of having 1,000 microhubs within the next year and 15 to 20 fulfillment centers. Then the company plans to tackle other Southeast Asian countries with rapidly-growing e-commerce markets, including Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Get your Startup Alley Exhibitor package plus bonus hotel stay

By Priya Gupta

It’s getting down to the wire for your opportunity to show off your early-stage startup in Startup Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt SF this October 2-4. There’s simply no better way to place your ideas and technology in front of influential change agents that can help you propel your business forward and set the stage for future success. Here are just four of the many reasons you should exhibit in Startup Alley.

1. Awesome exposure to the media 

Along with 10,000+ attendees, Disrupt SF will have more than 400 members of the media. We’re talking the big guns — CNBC, Bloomberg, Forbes, Financial Times — alongside TechCrunch writers, scouring the floor looking for stories about fascinating founders, emerging tech trends or maybe even a future unicorn. Scoring media coverage can work wonders for your bottom line — as Luke Heron, CEO of TestCard, learned when he exhibited in Startup Alley:

We got a fantastic writeup in Engadget, which was really valuable. Cash at the beginning of the start-up journey is difficult to come by, and an article from a credible organization can help push things in the right direction.

Last year, TestCard closed a $1.7 million funding round.

2. Beaucoup investor attention

Journalists aren’t the only influencers perusing the tech and talent on display in Startup Alley. Investors are just as eager to find up-and-coming prospects to add to their portfolios. It’s the perfect place to start conversations and develop relationships that lead to big changes. And we’ve got a plethora of investors (both traditional VCs and corporate folk) in the Valley: Sequoia, Verizon Ventures, GV, SoftBank, Naspers, AT&T, Honda Innovations and more. Here’s what David Hall, co-founder of Park & Diamond, had to say about his experience:

Exhibiting in Startup Alley was a game-changer. The chance to have discussions and potentially form relationships with investors was invaluable. It completely changed our trajectory and made it easier to raise funds and jump to the next stage.

Last year, Park & Diamond closed its first round of funding, allowing the company to relocate to New York and make its first key hires.

3. Wild Card shot at the Startup Battlefield competition

Missed out on the Startup Battlefield applications? All exhibitors in Startup Alley get a chance to win one of TWO Wild Card entries to the Startup Battlefield pitch competition. TechCrunch editors will select two standout startups as Wild Card teams that will go on the Main Stage to compete head-to-head in Startup Battlefield for $100,000 equity-free cash, the Disrupt Cup and even more glorious investor and media attention. 

4. Free hotel stay for Startup Alley companies who book now

With all of those reasons, it’s hard to top all the value you’ll get from a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package, but we’ll even sweeten the deal and throw in a complimentary 3-night stay at a SF hotel if you book by Wednesday, September 25. All of this opportunity for $1,995 sounds like it’s too good to be true, but if you act now, this can become your reality.

There you have it. What are you waiting for? Buy your Startup Alley Exhibitor Package and strut your stuff at Disrupt San Francisco 2019.

How to profit from valuable peer referrals hiding in Slack

By Arman Tabatabai
Colin Bendell Contributor
Colin is Senior Director of Analytics and Strategy for Cloudinary, the co co-author of High Performance Images, and passionate about data, web performance and user experience.

Brands are often left to act like the person who searches for their keys under the streetlight simply because that is where the light is better. However, when brand marketers focus only on engaging with the customers they can more easily see — where online activity is visible — they risk overlooking the valuable opportunities hiding in darker spaces.

One of the most valuable of those dark web spaces is in the realm of what we call “microbrowsers” — the messaging apps like Slack, WhatsApp and WeChat. We call them microbrowsers because they display miniature previews of web pages inside private message discussions. These previews, also known as ‘unfurled links’, create your brand’s first impression and play a big role in whether or not the person on the receiving end will click through to buy, or read or engage.

Google Analytics lumps all microbrowser-generated web traffic into the ‘Direct’ bucket, which we often just ignore. This means we look for customers where we know how to create campaigns easily — on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and buying Google Ad Words.

And as more people rely more heavily on messaging apps for primary communication, these link previews from microbrowsers are becoming the leading segment of your direct traffic visitors. In Cloudinary’s 2019 State of Visual Media Report, which drew on data from more than 700 customers and 200 billion transactions, we found that 77% of link sharing in Slack occurs during working hours and that the vast majority of the click-throughs are reported as ‘direct’ traffic. The rise of microbrowsers gives us an opportunity to engage and attract customers through word of mouth discussions.

The good news is that the ‘leads’ that microbrowsers send to your brand site are usually highly qualified and close to the bottom of the traditional sales pipeline funnel. When consumers arrive on your site they are often ready and eager to buy (or read, view and listen to your content).

Whether it be for sneakers, tickets to a concert, a birthday gift idea, or an article to read — a trusted peer recommendation typically happens in that fleeting moment when the appetite to buy is right now. That isn’t just valuable, it’s the holy freaking grail!

Top tips for creating links that engage

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Image via Getty Images / drogatnev

The way to get the most value from microbrowser traffic is by helping along this peer influencing that happens in the dark. By creating compelling, informative links with images, video and text information specifically for microbrowsers, you increase the likelihood that peer-to-peer recommendations in groups convert into sales and reads.

What follows are some top tips to ensure that the links unfurling within microbrowsers have the greatest impact.

First, remember the golden rule: your audience is human. When creating content for microbrowsers, design it for humans, not machines.

Lunchclub raises $4M from a16z for its AI warm intro service

By Lucas Matney

There are apps out there that help you find friends, find dates and find your distant family histories, but when it comes to “growing your professional network,” the options are shockingly bad, we’re talking LinkedIn here.

Lunchclub is a startup that’s looking to help users navigate finding new connections inside specific industries. The company has recently closed a $4 million seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz with other investments coming in from Quora’s co-founder, the Robinhood cofounders, and Flexport’s cofounders.

The app follows in the footsteps of others that aimed to be dating app-like marketplaces for growing out your professional network via 1:1 lunch and coffee meetings. Lunchclub is more focused on setting up a handful of meetings for users that have a specific goal in mind. Lunchclub is aiming to be your warm intro and connect you with other users via email that can assist you in your professional goals.

When you’re on-boarded to the service, you are asked to highlight some “objectives” that you might have and this is where the app really makes its goals clear. Options include, “raise funding,” “find a co-founder or parter,” “explore other companies,” and “brainstorm with peers.” These objectives are pretty explicit and complementary, i.e. for every “raise funding” objective, there’s an “invest” option.

There isn’t a ton being asked for on the part of the user when it comes to building up the data on their profile, Lunchclub is hoping to get most of the data that they need from the rest of the web.

“Our view is that there’s tons of data already out there,” Lunchclub CEO Vlad Novakovski told TechCrunch in an interview. “Anything that comes from the existing social networks, be in things like Twitter, be it things that are more specific to what people might be working on, like Github or Dribble or AngelList — all of those data sources are in the public domain and are fair game.”

Lunchclub’s sell is that they can learn from what matches are successful via user feedback and use that to hone further matches. Novakovski most previously was the CTO of Euclid Analytics which WeWork acquired in 2017. Previous to that, he led the machine learning team at Quora.

The web app, which currently has a lengthy-waitlist, is available for users in seven cities including the SF Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Austin, Seattle and London.

Lunchclub

Co-founders Vlad Novakovski, Scott Wu and Hayley Leibson

Out of the box influencer strategies to accelerate awareness for your startup

By Arman Tabatabai
Kamiu Lee Contributor
Kamiu Lee is CEO at Activate, an influencer marketing technology platform and agency that partners with brands and influencers to tell engaging and compelling stories across social media at scale.

For new brands, growing awareness and gaining the trust and credibility of consumers are two of the most important yet challenging marketing objectives. As an added constraint, most startups don’t have the budgetary flexibility to activate mega-influencers and celebrities that have national attention at their fingertips. However, new research from ACTIVATE found that smaller-tier, more accessible influencers are a top choice for marketers – they enable brands to tap into niche communities and offer superior engagement rates.

Surveying over 110 brand marketers, PR professionals, social media managers and agency executives, we found that 64 percent of marketers are choosing to utilize micro-influencers very often, as opposed to larger creators, mega influencers and celebrities. We also found that more than 44 percent of marketers are repurposing influencer-created content following a sponsorship, a practice that extends the ROI of an influencer campaign and can help startups attain valuable visual assets for future marketing use.

While mega-influencer content rights are often negotiated to steep rates, those of smaller tier influencers are more affordable, as the influencers themselves also benefit from the added exposure.

With this in mind, when developing an influencer campaign, it’s critical not to feel constrained to the most popular creators, and instead think out of the box and consider what factors will be most important to the audience you’re specifically trying to reach. When being thoughtful about how you’re implementing influencers, smaller creators can be just as impactful as their larger counterparts.

Let’s go through some of the most impactful emerging influencer strategies, to grow awareness, without growing debt.

Key influencer casting strategies to drive targeted impact

Video ad company Eyeview names Rob Deichert as its new CEO

By Anthony Ha

After 13 years at the helm of video advertising company Eyeview, founder Oren Harnevo is stepping down as CEO.

The company’s new chief executive is Rob Deichert, who was most recently COO at digital advertising company 33Across. The company is also announcing two other new hires — Sean Simon as senior vice president of sales and Risa Crandell as vice president of sales.

Harnevo, meanwhile, will remain on Eyeview’s board of directors.

“It’s been a long and incredible ride for the last 13 years since I co-founded Eyeview, and I feel it’s time to let a new leader help propel Eyeview to its next chapter,” he said in a statement. “2019 has been a great year for Eyeview. With strong revenue growth, and seasoned additions to our leadership team, it’s the perfect time to bring on [ad] industry veterans like Rob, Sean and Risa to accelerate our business as I depart to work on my next venture while supporting Eyeview on the board of directors.”

Deichert acknowledged that it can be challenging to step into the shoes of a company’s founder, but he said he consulted with Harnevo before taking the job.

“I was just emailing with him today,” he added. “He’s going to be a great partner going forward.”

Rob Deichert

Rob Deichert

Deichert also said he has a standard on-boarding process when he joins a new company, which involves holding 30-minute, one-on-one meetings with every single person. (In this case, that means holding nearly 100 meetings.)

And while Eyeview has been around for more than a decade, Deichert suggested that there’s still plenty of room for its “outcome-based video marketing” (its specialty is video ads that are personalized based on viewer data) to grow.

In particular, he predicted that as direct-to-consumer brands are “maxing out on Facebook,” they’ll start turning back to traditional ad channels like television. With Eyeview, they can do that without losing the measurement and customization of online video.

Stephen Curry Brings SC30 Inc. to Disrupt SF

By Megan Rose Dickey

Startup founders are hard-pressed to find the right investors — not only to fund their businesses but to help their businesses grow. These days, investors represent a variety of backgrounds and industries — traditional venture capital, Hollywood, even the NBA.

When Golden State Warriors point guard and two-time MVP Stephen Curry isn’t playing basketball, he’s working with his business partner and former college basketball teammate Bryant Barr. Together, Barr and Curry run SC30 Inc., which manages Curry’s investment, media, philanthropy and brand partnership interests.

SC30 Inc.’s third investment came in December 2018, when the fund participated in hotel-booking platform SnapTravel’s $21.2 million Series A round.

Curry’s foray into the tech ecosystem started when he co-founded marketing automation platform Slyce. Since then, Curry has taken a more structured approach to investing through SC30 Inc., where the portfolio has grown to eight investments in companies such as TSM and Palm.

It’s worth noting Curry is not the only baller in the tech investment game. There are his former teammates Andre Igoudala, an investor in Lime and board member of Jumia, and Kevin Durant, an investor in a number of startups through his fund Thirty Five Ventures.

At Disrupt SF 2019, listen as the three-time NBA champion Stephen Curry and SC30 Inc. President Bryant Barr discuss SC30 Inc. investments, featuring SnapTravel CEO Hussein Fazal as he shares how he determined SC30 Inc. would make a good strategic investor. We’ll also talk to Curry about his general investment strategy and overall ambitions in tech.

Disrupt SF runs October 2 – 4 at the Moscone Center in the heart of San Francisco. Passes are available here.

On-demand plant food startup Simple Feast raises $33M B round to push its climate credentials

By Mike Butcher

As Greta Thunberg heads back to Europe from the U.S. after radicalizing a generation, entrepreneurs are quickly realizing there is a zeitgeist to be gotten hold of here. With food production a major contributor to climate change, it’s no surprise then that on-demand food startups are appearing to cater to this new audience.

Simple Feast launched its plant-based food product in early 2017 and since then has developed a fast-food range that is catching the climate and taste fashion wave.

The company has now raised a total of $33 million in a Series B round led by U.S.-based venture capital firm 14W, with a number of other existing investors participating, including Europe’s Balderton Capital, which is increasing their investment in the business.

The company was partly self-funded in the beginning, then added Sweet Capital (London/Stockholm) and byFounders (CPH/SF) as the first VCs. Later, Balderton Capital (London) and 14W (NYC) joined in the Series A and B. The total funding to date is now north of $50 million.

The founders are Jakob Jønck and Thomas Ambus; Jønck was co-founder of Endomondo, acquired by MyFitnessPal.

Jønck says: “The future of food does not just belong to plants, but will be both plant-based and unprocessed. This movement is pivotal to save not only our planet, but also human health. With this investment, we can continue our journey and bring our products to more people, in existing as well as new markets, while also strengthening our R&D efforts in new food innovation.”

Simple Feast is ticking the climate agenda boxes, with packaging made solely by FSC-approved cardboard boxes, to the cooling element they use to keep the food fresh (frozen tap water in drinkable cartons) and their use of all-organic produce.

Alex Zubillaga from 14W commented: “Over the past year since first investing in Simple Feast, we have continued to be impressed by the caliber and deep operational experience of the management team that Jakob Jønck has built around him… We believe Simple Feast has the opportunity to become a global, category-defining brand as they expand to the U.S. early next year.”

Typical customers are meat-eating families in their 30s and 40s who are trying to cut down on their meat consumption. They are well-educated, have a middle or high income and demand high quality and transparency in the food they consume. Their main competitors are restaurants, meal-kits and take-away. The idea is not to compromise on taste or quality, nor convenience or packaging.

Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

How to get your ads working, and whether PR is worth it

By Arman Tabatabai
Julian Shapiro Contributor
Julian Shapiro is the founder of BellCurve.com, a growth marketing agency that trains you to become a marketing professional. He also writes at Julian.com.

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

This is how you’re going stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice you can’t get elsewhere.

Our community consists of 600 startup founders paired with VP’s of growth from later-stage companies. We have 300 YC founders plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo, and Ritual.

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars, Slack group, or marketing training programSee past growth reports here.

Without further ado, onto the advice.


How to get customer testimonials from hard-to-reach executives

Based on insights from Guillaume Cabane.

A customer testimonial from a well-known executive may be the social proof that improves conversion rates on your landing pages or in sales collateral. But executives of reputable companies are generally busy and difficult to reach.

Here’s how to get the testimonial:

  • Contract with a freelance journalist who’s written for a reputable publication like the New York Times.
  • Reach out to your executive customers with something like “Hey, we have a journalist who has previously written for NYT who’s interested in speaking to a few of our customers for a piece. Do you have 15 minutes for a quick call?”
  • For $200 in freelancer time, you get a testimonial you can use (in the words you want) from a reputable executive. Be sure to figure out some way to make it worth the executive’s time.

Help TechCrunch offer a valuable new tool for startups (by taking this quick survey)

By Eric Eldon

It’s hard to find the expert help you need right at the clutch moment when you’re building your startup. We’re trying to solve that problem through a product we’ve been developing this year, called Verified Experts — and we’d like to get some more input on it from startup people like you.

As in real life, where you ask your professional network for recommendations, we’re asking startup founders to tell us who the lawyers, growth marketers, brand designers and other experts are who have made/are making a big difference for their company. We use these collective recommendations plus our own research to identify the best experts. Then we publish profiles on the site about them, run guest columns from them that readers have been loving, on topics like growth tactics, immigration tips and term sheet issues.

Now, we’re ramping up this effort — and we’d like to get a little more detail from you about the way that you find and work with startup service providers today.

Please take this 2-minute survey and tell us more.

Beyond helping us to create something that can support startup founders everywhere, you’ll also get a discount to Extra Crunch — and two lucky winners will get full-access Innovator Pass tickets to Disrupt in SF next month.

Startups Weekly: Part & Parcel plans plus-sized fashion empire

By Kate Clark

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups and venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I wrote about Stripe’s grand plans. Before that, I noted Peloton’s secret weapons

Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you don’t subscribe to Startups Weekly yet, you can do that here.

Startup spotlight

The best companies are built by people who have personally experienced the problem they’re attempting to solve. Lauren Jonas, the founder and chief executive officer of Part & Parcel, is intimately familiar with the struggles faced by the women she’s building for.

San Francisco-based Part & Parcel is a plus-sized clothing and shoe startup providing dimensional sizing to women across the U.S. The company operates a bit differently than your standard direct-to-consumer business by seeking to include the women who wear and evangelize the Part & Parcel designs by giving them a cut of their sales.

Here’s how it works: Ambassadors sign up to receive signature styles from Part & Parcel, which they then share and sell to women in their network. Ultimately, the sellers are eligible to receive up to 30% of the profit per sale. The out-of-the-box model, which might remind you somewhat of Mary Kay or Tupperware’s business strategy, is meant to encourage a sense of community and usher in a new era in which plus-sized women can facilitate other plus-sized women’s access to great clothes. 

190615 PartandParcel 00 16384

“I bought a brown men’s polyester suit and wore it to an interview,” Jonas, an early employee at Poshmark and the long-time author of the popular blog, ‘The Pear Shape,’ tells TechCrunch. “I was that kid wearing a men’s suit.”

Clothing tailored to plus-sized women has long been missing from the retail market. Increasingly, however, new brands are building thriving businesses by catering precisely to the historically forgotten demographic. Dia&Co., for example, raised another $70 million in venture capital funding last fall from Sequoia and USV. And Walmart recently acquired another brand in the space, ELOQUII, for an undisclosed amount. Part & Parcel, for its part, has raised $4 million in seed funding in a round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Jeremy Liew.

The startup launched earlier this year in Anchorage, “a clothing desert,” and has since grown its network to include women in several other underserved markets. Given her own history struggling to find a fitted woman’s suit, Jonas launched her line with structured pieces, including suits and blouses — though the startup’s biggest success yet, she says, has been its boots, which come in three different calf width options.

“Seventy percent of women in this country are plus-sized,” Jonas said. “I’m bringing plus out of the dark corner of the department store.”

This week in VC

sex tech 1

Image: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Must read

TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey published a highly anticipated deep dive on the state of sex tech this week. The piece provides new data on funding in sex tech and wellness companies, analysis on sex tech startup’s battle for public advertising and responses from industry leaders on how we can destigmatize sex with technology. Here’s a short passage from the story:

Cindy Gallop sees a market opportunity in every type of business obstacle she encounters. That’s why All The Sky will also seek to invest in startups that tackle the infrastructural tools needed to fuel sextech, like payments, hosting providers and e-commerce sites.

“I want to fund the sextech ecosystem to maintain and sustain a portfolio for All the Skies, to create a bloody huge sextech ecosystem and three, to monopolistically build out the ecosystem to be a multi-trillion-dollar market,” Gallop says.

On my radar

I swung by Contrary Capital‘s Demo Day this week, in which a number of startups gave a 4- to 5-minute pitch. Next on my list is Alchemist‘s Demo Day in Menlo Park. The accelerator welcomes enterprise startups for a six-month program focused on early customer adoption, company development and mentorship.

Also on my radar is Females To The Front. The event began this week in Palm Springs and if I were based in SoCal, I would have swung by. Led by Amy Margolis, the event is said to be the largest gathering of female cannabis founders and funders to date. Here’s how the group describes the event: “Females to the Front Retreat will mix immersive and hands-on workshops, pitch training, investment deck preparation and business skill set education with investor meetings and plenty of shared meals, pool time, yoga, connections, rest and rejuvenation. Every workshop is built to directly engage attendees instead of powerpoint and panels. Be prepared to return home inspired, engaged and with so many more tools in your toolbox.”

For the record, I don’t advertise events in my newsletter just wanted to give props to this one because it’s a great development for the cannabis tech ecosystem.

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Time to Disrupt

We are just weeks away from our flagship conference, TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco. We have dozens of amazing speakers lined up. In addition to taking in the great line-up of speakers, ticket holders can roam around Startup Alley to catch the more than 1,000 companies showcasing their products and technologies. And, of course, you’ll get the opportunity to watch the Startup Battlefield competition live. Past competitors include Dropbox, Cloudflare and Mint… You never know which future unicorn will compete next.

You can take a look at the full agenda here. And if you still need convincing, here’s five reasons to attend this year’s conference from our COO himself.

And finally… #EquityPod

This week, the lovely Alex Wilhelm, editor-in-chief of Crunchbase News, and I gathered to discuss a number of topics including WeWork’s IPO and Uber’s attempts to bypass a new law meant to protect gig workers. Listen here.

Cloudflare co-founder Michelle Zatlyn on the company’s IPO today, its unique dual class structure, and what’s next

By Connie Loizos

Shares of Cloudflare rose 20% today in its first day of trading on the public market, opening trading at $18 after it priced its IPO at $15 a share yesterday and holding steady through the day.

Put another way, the performance of the nine-year-old company — which provides cloud-based network services to enterprises — was relatively undramatic as these things go. That’s a good thing, given that first-day “pops” often signal that a company has left money on the table. Indeed, Cloudflare had initially indicated that its shares would be priced between $10 and $12, before adjusting the price upward, which suggests its underwriters, led by Goldman Sachs, accurately gauged demand for the offering.

Of course, it was still a very big day for Cloudlfare’s 1,069 employees and especially for Cloudflare’s founders Matthew Prince, its CEO, and Michelle Zatlyn, its COO. We talked with Zatlyn today in the hours after the duo rang the opening bell to ask about the experience, and how the IPO impacts the company going forward.

Our chat has been edited lightly for length and clarity.

TC: Thanks for making time for us on a busy day.

MZ: Of course! [TechCrunch’s] Battlefield [competition, in which Cloudflare competed in 2011] is such an integral part of our funding story. Thank you for giving us the stage to launch our company.

TC: Did you get any sleep last night?

MZ: I was so exhausted that I got a great night’s sleep. This whole process has been so incredible, so special. I didn’t know what to expect, and it’s been way better than I could have imagined. There are 150 of our teammates, early employees, family members, board members, champions and other friends here with us [in New York at the NYSE]. We also live-streamed [our debut] to our offices around the world so they could share this moment with us.

TC: How are you feeling about today? The stock is up 20%. There’s always banter afterward about whether a listing was priced right, whether any money was left on the table.

MZ: At this point, we’ve raised almost a billion dollars between today and all of the money we’ve raised from venture investors. We have a great team. We’re really happy. The markets are going to react how they react, but it’s part of our DNA to provide more value than we capture. We think that’s the way to build an enduring company.

TC: You have a liquid currency now. Do you imagine Cloudflare might become more acquisitive as a public company?

MZ: We’ve done some acquisitions on the smaller side and of course, we have a team that’s always looking at different opportunities. But we’re really engineering-driven, and we think we have many products and services left to build, so we’ll continue to invest in our products and in R&D development, as well as in our customer relationships.

TC: Retaining employees is a challenge that some newly public companies worry about. How will you address this in the coming days and months as lock-up periods expire?

MZ: I’m so proud of where we are today and of our whole team, and we’re just getting started. [Matthew and I will] show up Monday morning and get back to work and so will our employees, because they want to make the company [an even greater business].

TC: The company went public with a dual-class structure that gives not just management but all employees 10 times the voting rights of the shares sold to the public. Why was this structure important to Cloudflare, and did it give investors pause?

MZ: There are more than 1,000 people around the world who are building the product and working with customers, and we think it’s important for them to have that 10:1 structure, so it’s something we put in place a few years ago with the encouragement of some of our earlier investors.

TC: Were you modeling this after another company? Is there a precedent for it?

MZ: I don’t know of another one — there may be — but we weren’t inspired by another company. We just felt passionately about this being the right corporate structure and [I don’t think it was harder for us to tell the story of Cloudflare because of it]. Over the last two weeks, in talking with investors across the world, it wasn’t in the top 10 topics that came up, so I think we did a good job of describing it in our S-1.

TC: What was the roadshow like? What surprised you most?

MZ: Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of work involved from all kinds of people, in finance, our legal teams … But roadshows have a bad rap in that people think they’re grueling and that, by the end, you’ll be exhausted. That was my expectation. But it was really fun. It was a huge privilege to represent Cloudflare to all these investors who were incredibly smart and well-prepared. We traveled all over and people told us ‘You look better than most teams.’

Michelle Zatlyn

TC: Where does one go for these roadshows?

MZ: You have the usual suspects; there’s a travel roadshow circuit, with some variations based on people’s vacation schedules, but New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Baltimore is common, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Toronto. You go in person to some places and in others, people dial in. But the whole thing gave me new insight into these pools of capital after venture capital. It was really interesting.

TC: Cloudflare said in a recent amendment to its S-1 that it was in touch with the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control back in May after determining that its products were used by individuals and entities that have been blacklisted by the U.S. Did this new revelation slow anything down?

MZ: There was no impact. Your group of advisors expands when you go through a public offering, and lawyers dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t,’ and you become a better company for it.

We deliver cybersecurity solutions that are made broadly available to businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits, and that’s incredible, but there are also some unsavory actors online, and we’ve always been a transparent organization [about having to grapple with this].

TC: How will Cloudflare handle requests for service by embargoed and restricted entities going forward? As a public company, does that process change in any way?

MZ: We have a really good process today. I think people think that we let anyone use Cloudflare and that’s it. But if customers are breaking the law, we remove them from our network and that’s not new and we publish transparency reports on it.

Sometimes, [you’re confronting] things that aren’t illegal but they’re gross, and the question is whose job is it to take it offline. But I work with some of the smartest minds on this and we try to be very transparent about how we figure this out. The conversation is so much better than it was a few years ago, too, with policy makers and academics and the business community engaging on this. People around the world are talking about where the lines can be drawn, but these are tricky, heady conversations.

TC: They certainly put Cloudflare in a precarious spot sometimes, as when the company banned the internet forum 8chan earlier this year after it was learned that the site was used by a gunman to post an anti-immigration rant. Can we expect that Cloudflare will continue to make decisions like this on a case-by-case basis?

MZ: Freedom of speech is such a fundamental part of this nation. Citizens should want the lawmakers to decide what the law should be, and if lawmakers could do this, it would be much better. On the other side, these are new issues that are arising so we shouldn’t rush. Lots of opinions need to be weighed and conversations are much further along than they once were, but there’s still work to be done, and Cloudflare is one [participant] in a much broader conversation.

MoviePass will shut down on September 14th

By Greg Kumparak

MoviePass’ all-you-can-watch movie theater membership always seemed too good to be true. After multiple price hikes, business model changes, temporary shutdowns and raising a mountain of money less than a year ago, the company seems to be calling it quits.

MoviePass has issued an announcement letting customers know that the service will stop working as of September 14th — so, tomorrow — because “its efforts to recapitalize MoviePass™ have not been successful to date.”

For the past few months, MoviePass had existed in a weird sort of zombie state; some customers in some regions were still able to use it, but no new subscribers were being accepted. Not helping the matter any, a database with “tens of thousands” of MoviePass customer card numbers was found unsecured at the end of August.

The company says it’s exploring “all strategic and financial alternatives,” from a massive “reorganization” to a sale of the company and all of its assets. In the meantime, though, it sounds like the service is dead, effective pretty much immediately.

Story developing…

How to work with top influencers and avoid ad blockers

By Arman Tabatabai
Julian Shapiro Contributor
Julian Shapiro is the founder of BellCurve.com, a growth marketing agency that trains you to become a marketing professional. He also writes at Julian.com.

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

This is how you’re going stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice you can’t get elsewhere.

Our community consists of 600 startup founders paired with VP’s of growth from later-stage companies. We have 300 YC founders plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo, and Ritual.

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

Without further ado, onto the advice.

Editor’s note: This is the first of a new series of articles on startup growth tactics in 2019 for Extra Crunch. This first article has been unlocked for all TechCrunch readers.


Don’t abandon email unsubscribers. They’re still useful.

Based on insights from Matt Sornson of Clearbit.

You’ve launched a new feature and want to tell your audience about it. You can send an email to your newsletter subscribers, but how do you reach the 20%+ who unsubscribed? Most people mistakenly consider this audience to be a lost cause.

  • Create a custom audience of all newsletter unsubscribers on Facebook.
  • Run ads announcing the new feature to that audience.
  • Now you’ve reactivated people who at one point had an interest in your product — instead of forever ignoring them.

Tips for effectively working with influencers

Based on insights from Barron Caster of Rev.

  • Create a referral system for influencers: Influencers who sign up others get a % of their sales or signups. This makes a mini-pyramid structure and turns your influencers into a salesforce. Why is this important? Some influencers don’t actually sell products, but just sign up tons of other influencers. Find these people.
  • Get everything you can out of an engagement (e.g. permission to use them as a testimonial for emails, social proof, etc.).
  • Working with influencers is a relationship-building game:
    • Actually go to conferences to meet influencers.
    • Treat influencers like royalty. Surprise them with gifts like flowers/donuts. $100 to send a gift can pay hefty dividends if they like your brand more and share that with their followers.
    • Give influencers a tangible benefit to share with their followers. They care about their followers and want to beneficially incentivize them to click on their link and buy with them.

More tips for working with influencers

Based on insights from Cezar Grigore of Tremo Books.

  • Geo rollouts: Your ROI increases when a bunch of influencers in the same category / region share your product within an interval of 2-4 weeks. It gives the impression that everyone is talking about your product.
  • Initially focus on influencers with 10-150k audiences. They’re smaller and more willing to accept bartered deals. There are enough influencers in this range willing to work in exchange for a free product. Most may not be producing results, but some work well, bringing in 50-200 customers within 24 hours. As you build up your following and reputation for your brand, it becomes much easier to work with more influential people.
  • It’s harder to cut deals with bigger influencers (100k-2M). Only about 5-10% of bigger influencers are willing to work on an affiliate basis (e.g. $10/customer).

Overcoming ad blockers that screw up your conversion data

  • Ad blockers can block FB’s tracking libraries and underreport ad conversions (even by 50%). The trick? Consider using the static IMG FB pixel — not the JavaScript one — which ad blockers don’t appear to block. — C.
  • Here’s another ad block workaround: You can extract UTM tags from the URL then save them into LocalStorage using JavaScript. Next, send that stored data plus the user’s on-site conversion behavior to a custom backend that, inherently, will circumvent ad blockers. Just be diligent about ensuring your marketing links all have UTM tags. —Neal O’Grady of Demand Curve
  • Remember that the use of ad blockers varies heavily by audience and device type. Depending on who your audience is, ad blockers can either be a huge problem or a non-problem. —Neal O’Grady of Demand Curve
    • So, for example, few people on mobile have ad blockers. Not much of a problem there.
    • However, on desktop, up to ~75% of millennial gamers and techies may have it installed.
    • In contrast, on desktop, maybe only 25% of middle-aged Americans outside of tech hub cities may have it installed.
    • These are hand-wavy numbers. Google for specifics.

Despite tipping policy changes, DoorDash says back pay is not ‘at issue here’

By Megan Rose Dickey

When DoorDash announced changes in its tipping model last month, it was certainly a step in the right direction. Some workers, however, have said it’s not enough. In addition to wanting fair wages, they want back pay.

In light of DoorDash’s announcement, labor group Working Washington said a key question remained: “Will they pay workers backpay for the customer tips the company has been misappropriating since 2017?”

“There’s no ‘back pay’ at issue here because every cent of every tip on DoorDash has always gone and will always go to Dashers,” a DoorDash spokesperson told TechCrunch via email in response to a question about whether or not DoorDash would back pay its delivery workers.

When Instacart changed its tipping practices earlier this year, it also retroactively compensated shoppers when tips were included in the payment minimums. DoorDash, however, does not see the need for back pay.

“An independent third-party research firm has confirmed that Dashers were paid as was explained on our website and in our app: Dashers received a minimum base bay from DoorDash, plus 100% of customer tips, plus additional pay for some orders to reach the guaranteed minimum,” the spokesperson said. “A reminder that under our old model, DoorDash would boost pay if a customer left little or no tip. Although boost pay was intended to help Dashers, we recognize that it also had the unintended effect of making some customers feel like their tips didn’t matter. Under our new model, every dollar a customer tips will be an extra dollar in their Dasher’s pocket.”

Additionally, DoorDash says it will increase the amount it pays on average through base pay and bonuses. Ideally, that will increase overall earnings for Dashers.

“This commitment is incredibly important to us, which is why we’ll be working with that same independent third party to ensure that Dasher earnings under this new model increase,” the spokesperson said.

As DoorDash previously announced, the new payment policies will go into effect this month following feedback from its tests. Since the announcement, however, DoorDash has put $30 million toward a campaign committee to establish a 2020 ballot initiative that would enable companies to provide workers benefits, establish wage commitments and guarantees, offer flexibility and establish that drivers are not employees. Lyft and Uber have also each put $30 million into the initiative. Meanwhile, gig worker protections bill AB5 passed.

AB5 would help to ensure gig economy workers are entitled to minimum wage, workers’ compensation and other benefits by requiring employers to apply the ABC test. The bill, first introduced in December 2018, aims to codify the ruling established in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v Superior Court of Los Angeles. In that case, the court applied the ABC test and decided Dynamex wrongfully classified its workers as independent contractors.

According to the ABC test, in order for a hiring entity to legally classify a worker as an independent contractor, it must prove the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity, performs work outside the scope of the entity’s business and is regularly engaged in an “independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.”

The bill has yet to be signed into law, but Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to do so. Moving forward, we can surely expect DoorDash to continue advocating for its independent worker model. We can also expect organizers from Working Washington to keep advocating for better wages and protections.

Calculating sales efficiency in a startup: The magic number that will help you scale

By Arman Tabatabai
Ryan Floyd Contributor
Ryan Floyd is a founding Managing Director of Storm Ventures, investing in early stage enterprise SaaS companies, and the host of Ask a VC Youtube channel.

Sales efficiency is the best way to understand the economics of a business. To me, it answers the question as to whether a business can ever scale. The harsh truth is, if it can’t scale, investors won’t be interested.

Sales efficiency is more simple to measure than other related concepts like CAC (customer acquisition cost) or LTV (lifetime value). Here’s why:

  • CAC is harder to truly measure, especially new CAC. In a SaaS organization, sometimes it can be hard to allocate those costs to what that new CAC is, as opposed to upsell or cross-sell within the same organization. Salespeople are almost always trying to pursue two goals:
    • Trying to acquire new customers
    • Selling within an existing customer (more seats within an established department, or expanding to a new division)

These activities generate different CAC; trying to strip out only the new CAC can be tricky. Sales efficiency, on the other hand, looks at all net new ARR (annual recurring revenue), which includes new customer ARR as well as expansion ARR.

  • LTV tries to measure the value of a customer over time, assuming both repeat purchases and eventual churn; this gives you a good sense of the ultimate value of that customer to your business over time. The challenge with LTV in SaaS is that the data points that you might use to assume churn and repeat purchase behavior aren’t very robust — there are few SaaS businesses that have enough customers to really make these numbers reliable.

Enterprise businesses should focus on unit economics of sales early. When a business scales, it rarely buys you better economics — usually it just means more losses.

Gracphic for sales efficiency

Image via Ryan Floyd / Storm Ventures

The role of sales efficiency in your ‘go-to-market fit’

At Storm Ventures we use a concept we call finding ‘go-to-market fit’ (GTM fit).

Space is the next economic frontier… hear more about it at Disrupt SF

By Devin Coldewey

For decades space has been the play place for world powers, but the advent of (relatively) cheap and frequent rocket launches has opened it up for new business opportunities. But it’s still hard as hell, as early adopters of this orbital economy Tess Hatch of Bessemer Ventures, Swarm’s Sara Spangelo and OneWeb’s Adrian Steckel can attest. They’ll be on the Extra Crunch stage at Disrupt SF 2019 on October 3rd at 1:40 PM.

Spangelo and Steckel are in the midst of launching what have been termed “mega-constellations,” collections of hundreds or thousands of satellites offering a coordinated service (in their cases, global connectivity). These efforts are only possible with the new launch economy, and came hot on its heels, showing there’s no reason to wait to put new plans in action.

But such constellations bring their own challenges. Just from an orbital logistics point of view, launching a single satellite so that it enters a unique and predictable trajectory is hard enough; launching a dozen or a hundred at once is more difficult by far. And after launch, how will those satellites be tracked? How will they communicate to the surface and each other? What about the growing risk of collisions?

On top of that are more terrestrial, but no less crucial, questions: What services can be made available from orbit? What’s a reasonable amount to spend on them? How will they compete with and accommodate one another? Whose regulations will they follow?

These latter questions are among those that must also be answered by investors like Hatch, who is familiar with both the technical and capital side of the burgeoning space industry (and of course the technical side of the capital side). Space ventures can be extremely expensive and high-risk, but to get your foot in the door at this stage could be the start of a billion-dollar advantage a couple of years down the line.

If you’re planning on getting involved with the new space economy, or are just curious about it, join us for an extended discussion and Q&A on the 3rd.

Disrupt SF runs October 2 to October 4 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Tickets are available here, and they just happen to be available at a discount today only.

24-hour Friday flashback on Disrupt SF passes

By Lauren Simonds

We here at TechCrunch love a good flashback, like when Sebastian Thrun’s puppy, Charlie, was in the spotlight during Thrun’s fireside chat at Disrupt SF a few years ago.

Sebastian Thrun (Udacity) at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017

Since then, the serial entrepreneur and inventor seems to have doubled down on his vision of the future of transportation with his current flying car company, Kitty Hawk Corporation. Thrun is working on bringing two aircraft to market — the one-person Flyer and a two-person autonomous taxi called Cora. He (along with a stellar line up of startup leaders) will be at Disrupt SF this year to give a behind the scenes look at Kitty Hawk and what the future of flight might look like.

In this same vein, we’re doing our own Flashback Friday by rolling back to early bird prices for Disrupt SF. For today only, you’ll have the chance to save up to $1,300 on your pass with even bigger savings when you bring your whole team along for the ride. Need more reasons to attend? We’ll give you five.

The excitement of Disrupt SF begins in just a few short weeks – don’t let this chance to attend the largest startup conference in Silicon Valley pass you by and register today. Who knows, we might even have a chance to see Charlie return to the limelight.

Boston gets a new biotech accelerator with the launch of Petri

By Jonathan Shieber

As biotechnology becomes more central to new innovations in healthcare, material science and manufacturing, one of the nation’s research hubs is getting a new accelerator called Petri to launch companies focused on the commercialization of new technologies.

Backed by the Boston-based venture capital firm Pillar, Petri has a three-year $15 million commitment to back companies developing new biotech applications in food, healthcare, industrial chemicals and new materials — along with the enabling technologies to bring these products to market.

“We’re at the inflection point where these technologies will impact and continue to impact health but will also  impact food, agriculture, chemicals and materials,” says Petri co-founder, Tony Kulesa. “Everything we touch has some element of biology.”

Pillar has already invested in a couple of companies that show the potential promise of new biotech research coming from Boston-based universities, like Boston University, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Asimov,io, a company that has set an ultimate goal of designing new genomes for industrial applications, was co-founded by graduates from Boston University and MIT, and is a part of the Pillar portfolio. PathAi, a company working on enabling technologies for computational biology, also counts an MIT grad as a co-founder. Meanwhile, Harvard’s George Church has been instrumental in the development of a number of biotech companies working at the frontier of genetic applications for healthcare and manufacturing.

As an instructor at MIT, Kulesa spent seven years at MIT watching, in his words, how engineering has transformed biology. “It became clear to me that these technologies need to get out in the world,” he said.

Joining Kulesa as a managing director is Brian Baynes, a serial entrepreneur who founded Midori Health, an animal nutrition startup; Kaleido Biosciences, a microbiome control focused company; Celexion, a protein engineering and synthetic biology company; and Codon Devices, a synthetic biology toolkit company which was sold to Ginkgo Bioworks .

Over time, Kulesa and Baynes expect to have 10 to 20 companies in each cohort as the program expands. In addition to checks of at least $250,000 the Petri accelerator has lab and office space available for each company.

The companies also could benefit from potential partnerships with companies like Ginkgo Bioworks, which happens to share office space in the same building, and with the accelerator’s clutch of big-name advisors and “co-founders” recruited from across the life sciences industry.

These co-founders, who collectively hold a double-digit equity stake in Petri’s accelerator, include Reshma Shetty, from Ginkgo Bioworks; Emily Leproust of Twist Bioscience; Stan Lapidus, who was at Exact Sciences and Cytyc; Daphne Koller, the co-founder and chief executive of Insitro; Alec Nielsen, the founder Asimov; and researchers Chris Voigt of MIT and Pam Silver and George Church from Harvard’s Wyss Institute.

Genetically engineered organisms are finding their way into everything from food to fuel to chemistry. Companies like Impossible Foods, which uses genetically modified soy product, has raised hundreds of millions for its protein replacement, while Solugen, a manufacturer of chemicals using genetically modified organisms, has raised tens of millions to commercialize its technology. And Ginkgo Bioworks has raised nearly half a billion dollars to pursue applications for industrial biology.

“Engineering thinking has arrived in biology and the number of entrepreneurs that are interested in this area has grown dramatically,” says Pillar founding partner Jamie Goldstein, in a statement. “Unlike classic biotech, these ideas don’t require tens or hundreds of millions before you can demonstrate value — creating the opportunity for different funding models.”

WeWork and Uber are proof valuations are meaningless

By Kate Clark

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

This week Kate and Alex were back to cover a lot of late-stage news, which they rounded up with some early-stage notes toward the end. As a reminder, come check out the show at Disrupt SF if you are in town, we’ll be out amongst startups, chatting all things startups and money.

Up top, we dug into WeWork and the latest from the company’s continuing IPO saga. The question regarding the co-working company’s public offering has changed to whether the IPO will happen this year, not just at what price the firm can entice enough investment to actually get public.

Alex has written about the company’s cash appetite a few times now, which raise the question of how long the company can survive without some sort of large, external investment. If SoftBank is willing to commit more capital is an open question.

Moving along to Uber, the firm underwent layoffs again this week. More than 400 people, or 8% of the operations, were cut as the company attempts to streamline operations, cut costs and, well, take baby steps toward profitability.

Turning to the early-stage part of the world, there’s a new early-stage-focused venture fund out there, Work Life Ventures, which intends to put small checks into promising SaaS companies. The firm is led by SaaS School founder Brianne Kimmel, a well-known angel investor in the enterprise space. So far she’s backed three companies out of the fund, including recent Y Combinator standout Tandem.

We finished off the episode with… cereal. A company called Magic Spoon (their website is here, as promised) raised $5.5 million this week for its D2C breakfast business. Our take is that the price point is a bit too high for comfort in its current iteration. It’ll be interesting to see if the startup can lower its prices now that it has new capital.

We’ll be back in a week! Chat soon, and please stop telling us to become angel investors!

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

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