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Calendly CEO Tope Awotona is joining us at Disrupt 2021

By Jordan Crook

It all seems so simple. Instead of the dreaded back-and-forth on email, what if there was a solution that helped two parties (or multiple parties) schedule a call or a hangout?

Calendly was born out of that question. Today, the company is worth more than $3 billion, according to reports, and has more than 10 million users. The growth of the product is insane, with more than 1,000% growth from last year.

But that kind of success doesn’t come without hard work and dedication.

To hear more about the journey from bootstrapped to billions, Calendly founder and CEO Tope Awotona will join us at Disrupt this September.

P.S. Early Bird Tickets to Disrupt end today, Friday, July 30. Book your tickets now! 

Awotona put his entire life savings into Calendly and managed to bootstrap it for years before taking a $350 million funding round led by OpenView and Iconiq.

We’ll chat with Awotona about the early days of Calendly, how he navigated the hyper-growth phase, what made him choose to finally take institutional funding, his thoughts on pricing and packaging, and much more.

Awotona joins an incredible roster of speakers, including Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Mirror’s Brynn Putnam, Chamath Palihapitiya, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield and more. Plus, Disrupt features the legendary Startup Battlefield competition, where startups from across the globe compete for $100,000 and eternal glory.

Disrupt’s virtual format provides plenty of opportunity for questions, so come prepared to ask the experts about the issues that keep you up at night.

One post can’t possibly contain all of Disrupt’s events. Don’t miss the epic Startup Battlefield competition, hundreds of early-stage startups exhibiting in the Startup Alley expo area, special breakout sessions — like the Pitch Deck Teardown — and so much more.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 offers tons of opportunities. Don’t miss out on the first one — buy your Disrupt pass today, July 30, by 11:59 pm (PT) for less than $100. It’s a sweet deal!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

BioNTech founder Uğur Şahin and Mayfield’s Ursheet Parikh are coming to Disrupt

By Darrell Etherington

It’s hard to argue that any technology company has had a greater impact in the past decade than BioNTech, the mRNA-based therapeutics pioneer behind the world’s most widely-used COVID-19 vaccine. Developed in record time in partnership with Pfizer, thanks to an existing partnership to work on immunization for the common flu, BioNTech’s mRNA inoculation is without a doubt one of the biggest medical innovations of the past century.

BioNTech co-founder and CEO Uğur Şahin isn’t stopping there, of course: the company recently announced that it would be developing an mRNA-based vaccine targeting malaria, an illness that still kills more than 400,000 people per year. It also has treatments for a range of cancers in process in its development pipeline, and has announced plans to address HIV and tuberculosis with future candidates.

This year at Disrupt 2021, Şahin will join us along with Mayfield Fund Partner Ursheet Parikh, a key investor in BioNTech. Both Şahin and Parikh will be talking to us about how the COVID-19 vaccine came to be, but more importantly, about what the future holds for mRNA technology and its potential to address a wide range of chronic healthcare problems that have been tough challenges to solve for decades or even centuries. We’ll also be talking about what it means to build a biotech startup with true platform potential, and how that might differ now as compared to what investors were looking for just a few short years ago.

Şahin and Parikh are just two of the many high-profile speakers who will be on our Disrupt Stage and the Extra Crunch Stage. During the three-day event, writer, director, actor and Houseplant co-founder Seth Rogen will be joined by Houseplant Chief Commercial Officer Haneen Davies and co-founder and CEO Michael Mohr to talk about the business of weed, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg will talk about the future of getting around and the government’s role in partnering with startups, and Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong will dig into the volatile world of cryptocurrency and his company’s massive direct listing earlier this year.

Disrupt 2021 wouldn’t be complete without Startup Battlefield, the competition that launched some of the world’s biggest tech companies, including Cloudflare and Dropbox. Join Secretary Buttigieg and over 10,000 of the startup world’s most influential people at Disrupt 2021 online this September 21-23. Check out the Disrupt 2021 agenda. We’ll add even more speakers.

Buy your Disrupt pass before July 30 at 11:59 pm (PT), and get ready to join the big, bold and influential — for less than $100.

Get your pass to attend now for under $99 for a limited time!

Yoobic raises $50M for its chat and communications app app aimed at frontline and service workers

By Ingrid Lunden

Slack set the standard in many ways for what knowledge workers want and expect out of a workplace collaboration app these days, but a lot has been left on the table when it comes to frontline workers. Today, one of the software companies that has built a popular app for that frontline crowd to become a part of the conversation is announcing a funding round that speaks to the opportunity to do more.

Yoobic, which provides an app for frontline and service workers to manage tasks, communicate with each other and management, and also go through training, development and and other e-learning tasks, has picked up $50 million.

Highland Europe led the round, a Series C, with previous investors Felix Capital, Insight Partners, and a family office advised by BNF Capital Limited also participating. (Felix led Yoobic’s Series A, while Insight Partners led the Series B in 2019.) Yoobic is not discussing valuation but from what I understand from a reliable source, it is now between $300 million and $400 million.

The funding comes at a time of strong growth for the company.

Yoobic works with some 300 big brands in 80 countries altogether covering a mammoth 335,000 locations in sectors like retail, hospitality, distribution and manufacturing. Its customers include the likes of the Boots pharmacy chain, Carrefour supermarkets, Lancôme, Lacoste, Logitech, Lidl, Peloton, Puma, Vans, VF Corp, Sanofi, Untuckit, Roots, Canada Goose, Longchamp, Lidl, Zadig & Voltaire, and Athletico.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s estimated that there are 2.7 billion “deskless” (frontline and service) workers globally, accounting for no less than 80% of the world’s workforce. But here is the shocker: only 1% of IT budgets is currently spent on them. That speaks of huge opportunity for startups to build more here, but only if they (or the workers themselves( can manage to convince those holding the purse strings that it’s worth the investment.

So to that end, the funding will be used to hire more talent, to expand geographically — founded in London, the company is now headquartered in New York — and to expand its product. Specifically, Yoobic plans to build more predictive analytics to improve responsiveness and give more insight to companies about their usage, and to build out more tools to cater to specific verticals in the world of frontline work, such as manufacturing, logistics and transportation, Fabrice Haiat, CEO and co-founder of YOOBIC, told TechCrunch in an interview.

Yoobic started life several years ago with a focus specifically on retail — an area that it was concentrating on as recently as its last round in 2019, providing tools to help with merchandizing, communicating about stock between stores and more. While retail is still a sizeable part of its business, Yoobic saw an opening to expand into a wider pool of verticals with frontline and service employees that had many of the same demands as retail.

That turned out to be a fortunate pivot as the pandemic struck.

“Covid-19 had a big impact on us,” said Haiat, who co-founded the company with brothers Avi and Gilles. “The first two months we were in panic mode. But what happened was that businesses realized that frontline employees were critical to the success of their operations.”

Since Covid hit last year, he said that activity on the platform rose by 200%, and earlier this year it passed 1 million activities per month on its platform. “We are growing like crazy,” Haiat said.

There are a number of reasons why building for frontline workers is important. Roaming round without a fixed desk, spending more time with customers than looking at a screen or in meetings, and generally having different business priorities and practices are just a few of the reasons why software built for the former doesn’t necessarily work for the latter.

There have been a number of companies that have aimed to build services to address that gap — they stretch back years, in fact. And there have been some interesting moves to consolidate in the market among those building some of the more successful tools for people in the field: Crew recently got acquired by Square; ServiceMax acquired Zinc; and Facebook’s Workplace has been on a march to amass some of the world’s biggest companies as customers of its own communications platform with a strong play for frontline workers.

Haiat argues that while all of these are fine and well, none of them understand the full scope of the kinds of tools that those in the field really need. That ranges from practical features (such as a way to handle inventory management), through to features that companies would love to have for their employees as long as they can be delivered in an easy way (such as professional development and training). In that context, the basic communications that all of the current crop of apps for frontline workers offer feel like basic tablestakes.

That close understanding of the gap in the market and what is needed to fix it is one reason why the company has seen such strong growth, as well as interest from investors.

“We’re excited to partner with YOOBIC, which, thanks to the highly impressive team led by Fabrice, Avi and Gilles, has clearly established itself as a leader in the digital workplace space with demonstrable market traction and impressive growth.” said Jean Tardy-Joubert, partner at Highland Europe, in a statement. “While companies have historically focused on digital investments for deskbound employees, the world is becoming distributed and decentralized.  We anticipate a seismic shift that will see huge resources, technology, and capital shifted toward frontline teams.” Tardy-Joubert will be joining the YOOBIC Board with this round.

ServiceMax promises accelerating growth as key to $1.4B SPAC deal

By Ron Miller

ServiceMax, a company that builds software for the field-service industry, announced yesterday that it will go public via a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, in a deal valued at $1.4 billion. The transaction comes after ServiceMax was sold to GE for $915 million in 2016, before being spun out in late 2018. The company most recently raised $80 million from Salesforce Ventures, a key partner.

Broadly, ServiceMax’s business has a history of modest growth and cash consumption.

ServiceMax competes in the growing field-service industry primarily with ServiceNow, and interestingly enough given Salesforce Ventures’ recent investment, Salesforce Service Cloud. Other large enterprise vendors like Microsoft, SAP and Oracle also have similar products. The market looks at helping digitize traditional field service, but also touches on in-house service like IT and HR giving it a broader market in which to play.

GE originally bought the company as part of a growing industrial Internet of Things (IoT) strategy at the time, hoping to have a software service that could work hand in glove with the automated machine maintenance it was looking to implement. When that strategy failed to materialize, the company spun out ServiceMax and until now it remained part of Silver Lake Partners thanks to a deal that was finalized in 2019.

TechCrunch was curious why that was the case, so we dug into the company’s investor presentation for more hints about its financial performance. Broadly, ServiceMax’s business has a history of modest growth and cash consumption. It promises a big change to that storyline, though. Here’s how.

A look at the data

The company’s pitch to investors is that with new capital it can accelerate its growth rate and begin to generate free cash flow. To get there, the company will pursue organic (in-house) and inorganic (acquisition-based) growth. The company’s blank-check combination will provide what the company described as “$335 million of gross proceeds,” a hefty sum for the company compared to its most recent funding round.

Construct Capital’s Dayna Grayson will be a Startup Battlefield Judge at Disrupt 2021

By Jordan Crook

Dayna Grayson has been in venture capital for more than a decade and was one of the first VCs to build a portfolio around the transformation of industrial sectors of our economy.

At NEA, where she was a partner for eight years, she led investments in and sat on the boards of companies including Desktop Metal, Onshape, Framebridge, Tulip, Formlabs and Guideline. She left NEA to start her own fund, Construct Capital, that focuses exclusively on early-stage startups, with a portfolio that includes Copia, ChargeLab, Tradeswell and Hadrian.

It should come as no surprise, then, that we’re absolutely thrilled to have Grayson join us at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 in September.

Grayson has more than proven that she has a keen eye for transformational technology. Desktop Metal went public in 2020 — she still sits on the board as chair of the compensation committee. Onshape, another NEA-era investment, was acquired by PTC in 2019 for a whopping $525 million. Framebridge was also acquired by Graham Holdings in 2020.

Grayson saw an opportunity to develop a venture brand more hyperfocused on the types of deals she was doing at NEA, which centered around manufacturing and digitizing industrial verticals. That’s where Construct Capital came in. It’s a $140 million fund helmed by Grayson and former Uber exec Rachel Holt.

At Disrupt, Grayson will serve as a Startup Battlefield judge. The Battlefield is one of the world’s most prestigious and exciting startup competitions. Twenty+ early-stage startups hop on our stage and present their wares to a panel of expert VC judges, who then grill the founders on everything about the business, from the revenue model to the go-to-market strategy to the team to the technology itself.

The winner walks away with $100,000 in prize money and the glory of being a Battlefield winner. Households names in tech have gotten their start in the Battlefield, from Dropbox to Mint.

Grayson joins plenty of other seasoned investors on the Battlefield stage, including Camille Samuels, Deena Shakir, Terri Burns, Shauntel Garvey and Alexa Von Tobel.

Disrupt 2021 goes down from September 21 to 23 and is virtual. Snag a ticket here starting under $100 for a limited time!

Mathematicians Prove a 2D Version of Quantum Gravity Works

By Charlie Wood
In three towering papers, a team of mathematicians has worked out the details of Liouville quantum field theory, forging a bridge between math and physics.

Psychedelic VR meditation startup Tripp raises $11 million Series A

By Lucas Matney

As an increasing number of startups sell investors on mobile apps that help consumers prioritize well-being and mindfulness, other startups are looking for a more immersive take that allow users to fully disconnect from the world around them.

Tripp has been building immersive relaxation exercises that seek to blend some of the experiences users may find in guided meditation apps with more free-form experiences that allow users to unplug from their day and explore their thoughts inside a virtual reality headset while watching fractal shapes, glowing trees and planets whir past them. As the name implies, there have been some efforts by the startup to create visuals and audio experiences that mimic the feelings people may have during a psychedelic trip — though doing so sans hallucinogens.

“Many people that will never feel comfortable taking a psychedelic, this is a low friction alternative that can deliver some of that experience in a more benign way,” CEO Nanea Reeves tells TechCrunch. “The idea is to take mindfulness structures and video game mechanics together to see if we can actually hack the way that you feel.”

The startup tells TechCrunch they’ve closed a $11 Million in funding led by Vine Ventures and Mayfield with participation from Integrated, among others. Tripp has raised some $15 million in total funding to date.

Image via Tripp

VR startups have largely struggled to earn investor fervor in recent years as major tech platforms have sunsetted their virtual reality efforts one-by-one leaving Facebook and Sony as the sole benefactors of a space that they are still struggling to monetize at times. While plenty of VR startups are continuing to see engagement, many investors which backed companies in the space five years ago have turned their attention to gaming and computer vision startups with more broad applications.

Reeves says that the pandemic has helped consumers dial into the importance of mindfulness and mental health awareness, something that has also pushed investors to get bolder in what projects in the space that they’re backing.

Tripp has apps on both the Oculus and PlayStation VR stores and subscription experiences that can be accessed for a $4.99 per month subscription.

The company provides a variety of guided experiences, but users can also use the company’s “Tripp composer” to build their own visual flows. Beyond customization, one of Tripp’s major sells is giving consumers deeper, quicker meditative experiences, claiming that users can get alleviate stress with sessions as short as 8 minutes inside their headset. Tripp is currently in the midst of clinical trials to study the software platform’s effectiveness as a therapeutic device.

The company says that users have gone through over 2 million sessions inside the app so far.

Yasmin Razavi of Spark Capital will sit in judgment at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021’s Startup Battlefield

By Devin Coldewey

Joining us on stage as a judge for TechCrunch Disrupt 2021‘s Startup Battlefield will be Yasmin Razavi, general partner at Spark Capital. Her engineering background and fintech chops should make for incisive questions for the founders presenting.

Razavi invests in growth-stage enterprise, fintech and developer companies, but her background is until fairly recently an engineering-focused one. She grew up in Tehran, studied engineering at the University of Toronto and got her MBA at Harvard Business School.

A stint at McKinsey eventually led to being a product manager at Snap, where she built the tech behind the app’s monetization stack. In 2017 she joined Spark, and since then has led investments in Marqueta, Deel, Rapyd, Niantic, Capitolis and Earnin.

We recently had Razavi at Disrupt as a panelist, and of course if you’re an Extra Crunch subscriber you can watch the whole thing here.

“Ultimately anyone who wants to be a shareholder or investor in your business wants to understand the unit economics of your business,” she said during the  panel. “For me, there’s all sorts of fancy metrics being thrown around; ultimately they all come down to what is the unit economics, and what is the payback I can expect when I invest in growth?”

Razavi’s philosophy is go to market and out-execute the competition, then capitalize on that success. Why anyone would want to do the opposite is hard to say, but the point is to move quickly and decisively as early as possible so that making money later is a natural consequence rather than a scramble.

Catch her on the Disrupt stage and grab your ticket to Disrupt 2021 now!

Just 12 hours left to apply to Startup Battlefield at TC Disrupt 2021

By Neesha A. Tambe

We’ve been urging you to apply to Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 for weeks now, and you have just over 12 hours left before the application window slams shut on May 27 at 11:59 pm (PT). Don’t procrastinate — the experience alone, whether you win the $100,000 prize or not, can improve the trajectory of your business.

Case in point: Mollie Breen started out as a mathematician at the National Security Agency before co-founding an IoT/OT security startup called Perygee. She and her team competed in Startup Battlefield last year at Disrupt 2020. Although they didn’t reach the finals, Breen has plenty to say about the experience. Here’s what she shared with us in a quick Q&A.

TC: Why did you apply to Startup Battlefield?                                             

Breen: I admired the leadership and growth of other companies that, at one point, were Startup Battlefield contestants. I noticed they had similar traction to us when they applied, and their products resembled ours in their ability to disrupt the respective industry.

TC: What was the training process like?

Breen: It was incredibly valuable both in the short term and long term. Every team gets a weekly session with the Battlefield editor. Together you rehearse and go over every iteration of the pitch line-by-line and slide-by-slide. After each session, I walked away with constructive feedback on everything — the content, the speaking style and even the font color on a particular slide.

This was a unique opportunity, and we put in extra hours to be ahead of schedule, sent drafts for review in the off hours and even doubled down on additional practice with Q&As. As a result, we couldn’t have been more prepared for pitch day. And the training has stayed with Perygee well past the sessions and the competition.

TC: What did it feel like to pitch at Disrupt?

Breen: Pitching at Disrupt was, in some ways, like other pitches except that you have an international audience. Since, at that point, we had practiced our pitch dozens of times, the real unknown during the competition was the Q&A with the VC judges.

There was additional pressure to answer succinctly and convincingly within a time constraint that you wouldn’t have during a normal one-on-one pitch. But with the prep help from the TechCrunch team, I felt ready to speak in front of such a large audience. I encourage anyone who might be nervous about the big stage to go for it and trust you’ll have more than enough preparation when you get there.

TC: What was the post-pitch impact? Did you meet investors, press or other key partners?

Breen: It helped accelerate our progress. Following Battlefield, we closed an oversubscribed fundraising round. We acquired additional beta users, including our first beta user who messaged us after reading about Perygee on TechCrunch. We also gained numerous press opportunities to share our story.

It’s almost a year since Startup Battlefield, and I’m still impressed by how many people start the conversation saying they watched the pitch while reading our company’s background. It’s a reminder that the opportunities created by being a TechCrunch Battlefield company continue.

TC: Do you have any great news to share since your pitch?

Breen: At TechCrunch Battlefield we were a small team doing MVP testing and just about to start raising. Since the pitch, we have scaled on all fronts. We grew the founding team and the engineering team, and we deployed the product to enterprise networks. Some of those deployments include contacts who reached out because of TechCrunch — and we raised our seed round!

TC: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Breen: I’m grateful for the camaraderie and relationships we developed with the other teams. What you didn’t see on stage during the pitches was all of us cheering one another on from the group chat or social media feed. Even now, we continue to support one another through navigating business questions or promoting product launches. If it weren’t for Startup Battlefield, I would never have met this awesome group of startups.

You have just 24 hours left to channel your inner Mollie Breen. Apply to Startup Battlefield before the deadline expires on May 27 at 11:59 pm (PT). Get moving!

Breinify announces $11M seed to bring data science to the marketing team

By Ron Miller

Breinify is a startup working to apply data science to personalization, and do it in a way that makes it accessible to non-technical marketing employees to build more meaningful customer experiences. Today the company announced a funding round totalling $11 million.

The investment was led by Gutbrain Ventures and PBJ Capital with participation from Streamlined Ventures, CXO Fund, Amino Capital, Startup Capital Ventures and Sterling Road.

Breinify co-founder and CEO Diane Keng says that she and co-founder and CTO Philipp Meisen started the company to bring predictive personalization based on data science to marketers with the goal of helping them improve a customer’s experience by personalizing messages tailored to individual tastes.

“We’re big believers that the world, especially consumer brands, really need strong predictive personalization. But when you think about consumer big brands or the retailers that you buy from, most of them aren’t data scientists, nor do they really know how to activate [machine learning] at scale,” Keng told TechCrunch.

She says that she wanted to make this type of technology more accessible by hiding the complexity behind the algorithms powering the platform. “Instead of telling you how powerful the algorithms are, we show you [what that means for the] consumer experience, and in the end what that means for both the consumer and you as a marketer individually,” she said.

That involves the kind of customizations you might expect around website messaging, emails, texts or whatever channel a marketer might be using to communicate with the buyer. “So the AI decides you should be shown these products, this offer, this specific promotion at this time, [whether it’s] the web, email or SMS. So you’re not getting the same content across different channels, and we do all that automatically for you, and that’s [driven by the algorithms],” she said.

Breinify launched in 2016 and participated in the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield competition in San Francisco that year. She said it was early days for the company, but it helped them focus their approach. “I think it gave us a huge stage presence. It gave us a chance to test out the idea just to see where the market was in regards to needing a solution like this. We definitely learned a lot. I think it showed us that people were interested in personalization,” she said. And although the company didn’t win the competition, it ended up walking away with a funding deal.

Today the startup is growing fast and has 24 employees, up from 10 last year. Keng, who is an Asian woman, places a high premium on diversity.

“We partner with about four different kinds of diversity groups right now to source candidates, but at the end of the day, I think if you are someone that’s eager to learn, and you might not have all the skills yet, and you’re [part of an under-represented] group we encourage everyone to apply as much as possible. We put a lot of work into trying to create a really well rounded group,” she said.

Google is making a 3D, life-size video calling booth

By Devin Coldewey

Google is working on a video calling booth that uses 3D imagery on a 3D display to create a lifelike image of the people on both sides. While it’s still experimental, “Project Starline” builds on years of research and acquisitions, and could be the core of a more personal-feeling video meeting in the near future.

The system was only shown via video of unsuspecting participants, who were asked to enter a room with a heavily obscured screen and camera setup. Then the screen lit up with a video feed of a loved one, but in a way none of them expected:

“I could feel her and see her, it was like this 3D experience. It was like she was here.”

“I felt like I could really touch him!”

“It really, really felt like she and I were in the same room.”

CEO Sundar Pichai explained that this “experience” was made possible with high-resolution cameras and custom depth sensors, almost certainly related to these Google research projects into essentially converting videos of people and locations into interactive 3D scenes:

The cameras and sensors — probably a dozen or more hidden around the display — capture the person from multiple angles and figure out their exact shape, creating a live 3D model of them. This model and all the color and lighting information is then (after a lot of compression and processing) sent to the other person’s setup, which shows it in convincing 3D. It even tracks their heads and bodies to adjust the image to their perspective.

But 3D TVs have more or less fallen by the wayside; turns out no one wants to wear special glasses for hours at a time, and the quality on glasses-free 3D was generally pretty bad. So what’s making this special 3D image?

Pichai said “we have developed a breakthrough light field display,” probably with the help of the people and IP it scooped up from Lytro, the light field camera company that didn’t manage to get its own tech off the ground and dissolved in 2018.

Light field cameras and displays create and show 3D imagery using a variety of techniques that are very difficult to explain or show in 2D. The startup Looking Glass has made several that are extremely arresting to view in person, showing 3D models and photographic scenes that truly look like tiny holograms.

Whether Google’s approach is similar or different, the effect appears to be equally impressive, as the participants indicate. They’ve been testing this internally and are getting ready to send out units to partners in various industries (such as medicine) where the feeling of a person’s presence makes a big difference.

At this point Project Starline is still very much a prototype, and probably a ridiculously expensive one — so don’t expect to get one in your home any time soon. But it’s not wild to think that a consumer version of this light field setup may be available down the line. Google promises to share more later this year.

Win $100,000: Apply to Startup Battlefield at TC Disrupt 2021

By Neesha A. Tambe

You’ve been hard at work building your game-changing startup. Diligent in its care and feeding so that, one day soon, it will grow into the mighty unicorn you envision. If you fit that description, we want you to apply to compete in the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 on September 21-23.

Any early-stage startup founder with an MVP — regardless of your category or geographic location — is eligible to apply. But here’s the thing. The window for tossing your hat into the ring is shrinking rapidly. Don’t wait — apply to compete in Startup Battlefield before the window slams shut on May 27 at 11:59 p.m. (PT).

Let’s run down the list of many benefits that come from competing in the world’s most famous startup launching pad.

Perfect pitch: All competing startups get weeks of free training with the TC Startup Battlefield training squad. You’ll hone your presentations skills, polish your business model and pitch with cool, calm confidence come game day.

Global exposure: An all-virtual Startup Battlefield means that thousands upon thousands of startup influencers, icons, tech media, potential investors, customers, collaborators and developers around the world will tune in to watch this always-epic event. All competitors — win or lose — bask in, and benefit from, this global, equal-opportunity spotlight.

Plenty of perks: Battlefield gladiators are TC Disrupt VIPs. You’ll enjoy lots of complimentary bennies, including exhibition space in virtual Startup Alley, event passes, tickets to future TC events, a private reception with members of the Startup Battlefield alumni community, access to the CrunchMatch networking platform and a free subscription to Extra Crunch.

Mucho moola: One startup will rise above the rest to claim the Disrupt Cup, the title of Startup Battlefield Champion and the $100,000 of equity-free prize money. Ka-ching.

Of course, you’ll make your pitch to, and then answer questions from, panels of expert judges. Who are these mystical beings you need to impress? So far, we’ve announced two, with plenty more to come. We’re thrilled to have both Alexa von Tobel, co-founder and managing partner of Inspired Capital, and Terri Burns, a partner at GV (formerly known as Google Ventures) on board.

Remember those influencers and potential investors we mentioned earlier? We’re talking about folks like Rachael Wilcox, a creative producer at Volvo Cars. Rachel told us that she goes to TechCrunch events to “find new and interesting companies, make new business connections and look for startups with investment potential.” She also shared her thoughts about Startup Battlefield.

“The Startup Battlefield translated easily to the virtual format. You could see the excitement, enthusiasm and possibility of the young founders, and I loved that. You could also ask questions through the chat feature, and you don’t always have time for questions at a live event.”

Your unicorn dreams might be on an early-stage startup budget, but this is a huge opportunity for you to gain global exposure and have a good shot at winning $100,000. Apply to compete in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 on September 21-23. Don’t wait — we stop accepting applications on May 27 at 11:59 p.m. (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Deadline extended: Apply to Startup Battlefield at TC Disrupt 2021

By Neesha A. Tambe

When you’re head-down and nose to the grindstone — I’m looking at all you hard-working early-stage startup founders — it’s easy to miss a deadline for an outstanding opportunity. Case in point: competing in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 in September.

We want every game-changing, innovative startup — from anywhere around the world — to have a shot at massive exposure to investors, media and other influential unicorn-makers. The $100,000 in equity-free prizemoney would be nice, too, right? That’s why we’re extending our application deadline for another full week.

It won’t cost you a thing to apply or to participate, so don’t let this trajectory-changing opportunity slip past you. Apply to Startup Battlefield here before May 27 at 11:59 pm (PT).

The TechCrunch editorial team will vet every application and ultimately choose roughly 20 startups to go head-to-head. Each team receives weeks of free, rigorous coaching from our seasoned Battlefield team. Your pitch, presentation skills and business model will reach new heights of excellence. You’ll also be ready to deftly handle all the questions you’ll receive from our expert VC judges.

Startup Battlefield plays out over several rounds, with the field progressively narrowing. Each time you make the cut, you’ll repeat your pitch-and-answer session to a new set of judges. All that training, prep and focus leads to a final showdown and one last grab for the brass ring. And then it’s up to the judges to decide which stand-out startup wins the championship and that huge check.

While only one startup wins the money and the title, every team that competes benefits from standing in a global spotlight. Sean Huang, co-founder of Matidor, competed in Startup Battlefield at Disrupt 2020. His team was one of the five finalists. Here’s what he said about his experience:

“Going through Startup Battlefield helped us simplify and improve our pitch. It helped us not only with brand messaging, but also to win other pitch competitions after Battlefield. By pitching in the finals, we booked a demo with one of the final panelists.

We received inbound investment interest from 12 Tier-1 investors, and eight potential key clients came to our website for a demo session. We also received an endorsement letter for our Y Combinator application from a fellow Battlefield participant, with whom we formed a great connection.”

You’re head down and focused — that’s why we’re giving you a one-week extension. So, stop, look up and grab this opportunity to take your startup to whole new levels. Get your nose off that grindstone and apply to Startup Battlefield here before May 27 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

The DC Insurrection Lays Bare the Fiction of America

By Jason Parham
The actions of rioters showed a need to hold on to a vision of the country that’s at odds with reality.
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