Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture-capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.
This week we — Natasha and Danny and Alex and Grace — had more than a little to noodle over, but not so much that we blocked out a second episode. We try to stick to our current format, but, may do more shows in the future. Have a thought about that? email@example.com is your friend and we are listening.
Now! We took a broad approach this week, so there is a little of something for everything down below. Enjoy!
Like we said, it’s a lot, but all of it worth getting into before the weekend. Hugs from the team, we are back early Monday.
This morning TripActions, a software company whose tools help businesses book and manage corporate travel, announced a new $155 million investment.
Three investors led the round: prior investor Andreessen Horowitz, Addition Ventures, and Elad Gil. The new investment, a Series E, values TripActions at $5 billion on a post-money basis, a company spokesperson wrote via email.
Valuation marks are normally only moderately useful, but in the case of TripActions’ latest round carry more weight.
The company — along with restaurant software unicorn Toast — became something of a poster-child for the impact of COVID-19 on some categories of startups. TechCrunch covered the launch of a new $500 million credit facility for a TripActions product called Liquid in late February, 2020. A month later in late March TripActions laid off hundreds of staff as the travel market froze solid.
For a company that had raised $250 million at a $4 billion valuation in mid-2019, it was a dramatic reversal of fortunes. (TripActions did raise an additional $125 million in what it called “convertible-to-IPO financing” last June, when the travel market was especially bleak.)
Today, however, investors are betting on the company’s fortunes, not only providing it with another nine-figures of capital, but giving it a new, larger valuation as well.
An up-round less than a year after layoffs is an impressive recovery, so TechCrunch wanted to learn more about the corporate travel market, TripActions’ bread and butter, and the pace of the venerable business trip’s recovery; as COVID-19 vaccines roll out, how quickly are employees getting back onto planes?
According to a company spokesperson, the corporate travel market is at “20 percent levels as of this month,” while growing between 3% and 6% “week-over-week.” That pace of recovery could have given investors confidence that TripActions’ recovery to at least most of its former strength was merely a matter of time.
TechCrunch also asked TripActions what the corporate travel market will look like in the Zoom-ready, hybrid-work world that many expect. A spokesperson wrote that the company “strongly” believes that corporate travel will come back, “maybe not at 100 percent immediately,” but to 75% “within the next year.”
The spokesperson also wrote that a more distributed working population could actually boost corporate travel. If that bears out, TripActions could wind up in a stronger position post-COVID than it might have managed if the pandemic had never happened. For a unicorn forced to lay off so many workers when its market temporarily disappeared, such a return to power would be a coup.
Returning to the round, TripActions intends to use the new monies to invest in its product. The company highlighted recent feature releases in an email to TechCrunch to underscore the point, including software integrations, adding that it intends to keep working on its finance-focused Liquid product.
The spokesperson also said that the company “will build features on the travel side for distributed teams to meet in-person more easily.” As many anticipate that the days of completely geographically centered companies are over, the decision makes sense.
TechCrunch asked what portion of its previously laid off staff have been rehired to date, and if the new funds will be used to rehire employees that were let go last year. We’ll update the piece when we hear back.
Regardless, from pre-pandemic highs, to a COVID-19 trough, to today with a newly raised valuation and lots of new cash, TripActions’ last year is a future business case study in the making.
Lime has changed its corporate travel policy to ensure not a dime of its money ends up in the coffers of the Trump Organization’s hotels and other properties in response to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that led to several deaths.
The micromobility startup wants to take that action further and has asked TripActions, the Palo Alto-based corporate travel booking service that it uses, to encourage other customers to do the same. TripActions has not returned emails seeking comment.
Earlier today, Lime asked TripActions to remove Trump properties from showing up in a search if one of its employees is booking corporate travel, according to an internal email written by Lime CEO Wayne Ting and sent to the rest of the staff.
“While some startups have argued that companies should never be political, we have always understood that the work we do here at Lime is inherently political,” Ting wrote. “We are speaking out and standing up for what we believe is right because that is the right thing to do. And we are looking for ways to ensure our actions — and dollars — don’t support those who are complicit in this attack on our democracy.”
Lime has not made any political contributions to date, according to the email. (TechCrunch confirmed with Lime that it hasn’t made any federal political contributions.) Ting wrote that the company will never support any elected official who voted to challenge the certification of the results of the Electoral College. He then went further, extending it to the Trump Organization, a real estate portfolio that includes hotels, golf properties and resorts as well as residential holdings like Trump Tower.
“Moreover, we are committing to never support or spend money at any of the business ventures and affiliates of the Trump and Kushner families,” Ting wrote. “In fact, earlier today, we asked TripActions to remove all Trump properties from Lime search results and encouraged them to institute this policy for all of their customers.”
I know many of us watched last week’s events in Washington DC in shock and horror. The bedrock of any democracy is the peaceful transfer of power based on the will of the people. It was horrific to see a mob of insurrectionists — including white supremacists, neo-nazis, and conspiracy theorists — spurred on by the President, storm the halls of Congress to undermine and overturn that most sacred democratic ritual through violence and intimidation.
The day was made even more disturbing by the stark contrast in police response between last week’s violent riots and last summer’s overwhelmingly peaceful protests for racial justice. If the rioters last week had been black and brown and held high the flag of Black Lives Matter instead of Donald Trump and the Confederacy, would they have been allowed to overrun the Capitol, ransacked offices, and walked back out the front door in their own volition? The unfortunate thing is the answer is self-evident.
As more information became available over the last few days, it’s also clear that President Trump and certain Members of Congress still do not comprehend the gravity of their offenses, show appropriate remorse for inciting such unbelievable violence, or commit to ensure they never happen again.
While some startups have argued that companies should never be political, we have always understood that the work we do here at Lime is inherently political. We are speaking out and standing up for what we believe is right because that is the right thing to do. And we are looking for ways to ensure our actions — and dollars — don’t support those who are complicit in this attack on our democracy.
We signed on to PFNYC’s letter calling for Congress to certify the results of the Presidential election ahead of the unrest. And while we have not made political donations to date, we are committing now to never support any elected official who voted to challenge the certification of the results of the Electoral College.
Moreover, we are committing to never support or spend money at any of the business ventures and affiliates of the Trump and Kushner families. In fact, earlier today, we asked TripActions to remove all Trump properties from Lime search results and encouraged them to institute this policy for all of their customers.
I know these events have been difficult to watch, painful to comprehend, and deeply hurtful on the most personal level for many of our colleagues. Please always know, we are here to support you and each other. And if it is helpful, you can find mental health support services here for US employees, and here for those in other countries.
One of Dr. King’s quotes that has always given me great strength in hard times is that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The road ahead will feel long and winding, but I truly believe when we all do our part, the righteous cause slowly, begrudgingly, and eventually triumphs.
Nonprofit donor management platform EveryAction is buying Mobilize, a company that connects Democratic campaigns to volunteers and helps marshal activists toward progressive causes. Mobilize, formerly known as MobilizeAmerica, grew out of Higher Ground Labs, an incubator focused on leveraging tech for left-leaning political causes and campaigns.
With the acquisition, EveryAction can now extend Mobilize’s organizing tools to its existing base of more than 15,000 clients, which includes the Sierra Club and the Human Rights Campaign. EveryAction is a nonprofit-focused wing of NGP VAN, a company that provides much of the digital infrastructure for the Democratic Party. The terms of the Mobilize deal were not disclosed.
Mobilize, founded in early 2017, rode the wave of Trump-era activism on the left to become a ubiquitous tool helping progressive campaigns translate online interest and energy into action. The platform powered outreach for many candidates in 2020’s Democratic primary, including now President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign, who continued to use Mobilize into the general election.
After Trump’s surprise win in 2016 — and the surprising strategies that got the campaign there — Democrats turned to the startup scene to hone new tools. If the last four years served as a testing ground for Democratic political startup, 2020 sees them on the cusp of a new era altogether.
Earlier this year, Mobilize raised a $3.75 million Series A round led by progressive tech incubator Higher Ground Labs. Chris Sacca’s Lowercase Capital and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, a prominent Democratic donor, also participated in the Series A. Mobilize’s acquisition follows another recent exit connected to Higher Ground Labs: In August, Social Capital, founded by billionaire ex-Facebooker Chamath Palihapitiya, picked up text banking platform Hustle.
Within EveryAction, Mobilize will become its own unit led by Mobilize CEO and co-founder Alfred Johnson. The company’s existing team will move over into the new division under EveryAction’s umbrella. Mobilize co-founder and President Allen Kramer will also move over to EveryAction as deputy general manager of organizing.
“EveryAction is the leading software provider to nonprofits with clients like the National Audubon Society, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the United Nations Foundation,” Johnson told TechCrunch. “They are uniquely poised to bring our best-in-class offering for events and volunteer management to these very deserving organizations.”
Prior to the acquisition, EveryAction was already connected to Mobilize as an integration on its platform and Johnson called the news a “natural evolution” of that relationship. “Our two companies are extremely aligned in mission: to help cause-driven organizations build bigger movements by driving and deepening supporter engagement,” Johnson said. “Together, we can help more people do more good.”