11 months ago I posted asking “What is the reason no one is competing with UpWork?”. Today we are announcing our Series A!

Reposting a redacted version because previous post got removed for mentioning product identifying details.

11 months ago I posted on r/startups asking What is the reason no one is competing with UpWork?.

It has been a crazy year since!

I've moved to SF.

I met my co-founder during COVID.

When we realized that our goals were aligned we've committed to building this together.

From there on we'd meet every morning, share breakfast, brainstorm on the whiteboard (very old school I know), work together, & take long walks way past sunset.

Our friendship grew stronger and so did our conviction about the size of the opportunity.

And once we realized how big this thing could be, we started recruiting our engineers, designers, community team, … all around the idea of giving everyone the freedom and opportunity to work independently.

We've hired a ton of extraordinarily talented & caring people. We've raised our pre-seed, seed and series A. We've are building an amazing product using an amazing technology stack.

[redacted]

Today I am the happiest I've ever been, working with the greatest team in the world, solving a problem I deeply care about. We just had our (mostly remote) launch party, and I just wanted to share this excitement with r/startups and encourage everyone to never give up if you are truly convinced about something. 😊

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

11 months ago I posted asking “What is the reason no one is competing with UpWork?”. Today we are announcing our Series A!

11 months ago I posted on /r/startups asking What is the reason no one is competing with UpWork?.

It has been a crazy year since!

I've moved to SF.

I met my co-founder during COVID.

When we realized that our goals were aligned we've committed to building this together.

From there on we'd meet every morning, share breakfast, brainstorm on the whiteboard (very old school I know), work together, & take long walks way past sunset.

Our friendship grew stronger and so did our conviction about the size of the opportunity.

And once we realized how big this thing could be, we started recruiting our engineers, designers, community team, … all around the idea of giving everyone the freedom and opportunity to work independently.

We've hired a ton of extraordinarily talented & caring people. We've raised our pre-seed, seed and series A. We've are building an amazing product using an amazing technology stack.

Our platform is called Contra, and today we are sharing the first preview on ProductHunt. With today’s release, we are giving people the tools to describe their proudest career moments, publicly thank the people with whom they’ve worked with, and begin accepting inquiries for future opportunities.

This is the first Contra drop of many that will shape the new prfessional ntwork for your independent journey. A zero commission alternative to the existing freelancing platforms.

Today I am the happiest I've ever been, working with the greatest team in the world, solving a problem I deeply care about. We just had our (mostly remote) launch party, and I just wanted to share this excitement with /r/startups and encourage everyone to never give up if you are truly convinced about something. 😊

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[link] [comments]
Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

With software markets getting bigger, will more VCs bet on competing startups?

This morning I covered three funding rounds. One dealt with the no-code/low-code space, another focused on the OKR software market and the last dealt with a company in the consumer investing space. Worth a combined $ 420 million, the investments made for a contentedly busy morning.

But they also got me thinking about startup niches and competition. Back in the days when inside rounds were bad, SPACs were jokes and crypto a fever dream, there was lots of noise about investors who declined to place competing bets in any particular startup market.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


This rule of thumb still holds up today, but we need to update it. The general sentiment that investors shouldn’t back competing companies is still on display, as we saw Sequoia walk away from a check it put into Finix after it became clear that the smaller company was too competitive with Stripe, another portfolio company.

But as startups get more broad and stay private longer, the space into which VCs can invest may narrow — especially if they have a big winner that stays private while building both horizontally and vertically (like Stripe, for example).

Does that mean Sequoia can’t invest elsewhere in fintech? No, but it does limit their investing playing field.

Which is dumb as hell. Nothing that Sequoia could invest in today is really going to slow Stripe’s IPO, unless the company decides to not go public for a half-decade. Which would be lunacy, even for today’s live-at-home-with-the-parents startup culture that leans toward staying private over going public.

Startups – TechCrunch

Competing with both Perfect Day and Beyond Meat, Chile’s NotCo raises $85 million to expand to the US

NotCo, the Chilean food technology company making plant-based milk and meat replacements, has confirmed the close of a new $ 85 million round of funding to take the company’s products into the U.S. market.

The announcement confirms earlier reporting from TechCrunch that the company had raised new capital, but according to people with knowledge of the investment, the valuation for the company is roughly $ 300 million, and not the $ 250 million TechCrunch previously reported.

The funding came from new investors, including the consumer-focused private equity firm L Catterton Partners, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone’s Future Positive investment firm and the giant venture capital firm General Catalyst. Previous investors Kaszek Ventures, The Craftory, Bezos Expeditions (the personal investment firm for Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos), Endeavor Catalyst, IndieBio, Humbolt Capital and Maya Capital all followed on in this round.

NotCo makes a hamburger substitute that’s currently being marketed at Burger King and Papa John’s restaurants in Chile as part of its NotBurger and NotMeat brands, and it has a line of dairy products including NotIceCream, NotMayo and NotMilk.

Both markets are not small, with milk alone being a multi-billion-dollar category that NotCo chief executive Matias Muchnick believes his company can dominate in both Latin America and the US. That trajectory will put it on a collision course with well-funded competitors like Perfect Day, which raised $ 300 million in financing earlier this year and launched a new consumer brand subsidiary, the Urgent Company, for products made with its milk substitutes.

For longtime investors in the company, like Kaszek Ventures managing partner Nicolas Szekasy, the new financing for NotCo validates his firm’s early faith that a company from Santiago, Chile could compete in some of the world’s largest consumer markets.

“We continue to actively support the company since its early days with a strong conviction of the potential that NotCo has to be the leading global player in the food-tech space. In this uncertain time, consumers have amplified their appetite for the plant-based world,” said Szekasy in a statement. “In parallel, COVID has allowed us to see that meat production is not only environmentally harmful and inefficient, but also that its supply chain is fragile. So we are happy to witness an inflection point where plant-based products are becoming an increasing proportion of a new normal, once they can actually taste amazing like we see NotCo crafting.”

Joining the company to help with its international expansion plans are a clutch of seasoned executives from large multi-national food brands. Flavia Buchmann, a former executive at Coca-Cola overseeing the company’s Sprite brand, has been tapped as the company’s new chief marketing officer. Former Danone executives Luis Silva and Catriel Giuliano are taking the reins as heads of global business development and research and development, respectively. And Jose Menendez a former banker at Jeffries and executive at Tapad, is now NotCo’s global chief operating officer.

A flood of venture capital dollars have come into the food space since NotCo first burst on the scene, and many of these deals are operating at the intersection of novel biomanufacturing technologies and food science. But NotCo’s take on food tech is more akin to Beyond Meat than Impossible Foods or Perfect Day.

The company isn’t making biologically engineered foods, it’s taking its taxonomy of existing foods and determining which combinations of plant ingredients will most closely mimic all aspects of the animal products they’re replacing.

So a closer analogy would be companies like Just or the newly funded Climax Foods. Muchnick said the difference is in where these companies are spending their time. Instead of focusing on a protein that can act as one replacement for casein or the carbohydrate lactose, NotCo is trying to replicate the whole product — the entire sensorial panel of a particular food.

“Flavors, taste, smell, color and the interaction between all of them and the molecular components in food,” said Muchnick. “It’s not just the concept of how limited we are to replicating products and how limited to using AI to address other challenges in the food industry.”

For Muchnick, the biggest opportunity for NotCo is dairy. While the company has plans to introduce a number of new products, including a chicken replacement, to complement its line of NotBurger and NotMeat products, it’s really the dairy business where the company wants to land and expand.

It’s looking to cut a deal with a large quick-service restaurant, along with deals for an online channel and a direct to consumer play.

As it grows, consumers can expect to see the company’s brands recede into the background as Muchnick looks to focus on supplying products to other vendors.

“We partnered upstream and downstream,” Muchnick said. The company works with suppliers, including Ingredion, ADM and Cargill and downstream has product partners that will incorporate its milk substitute into other products.

What we want is to be the catalyst of change with many other companies. Why don’t we become the enabler. We’re becoming the Intel inside of other products.”

At that scale, the company would be a prime candidate for public investors, and if Muchnick has his way the company will get there. “We are aiming to have a $ 300 million company by 2024 with 70% of that business in the U.S.,” he said. 

Startups – TechCrunch

AutoX launches its RoboTaxi service in Shanghai, competing with Didi’s pilot program

Autonomous vehicle startup AutoX announced the public launch of of its self-driving taxi service in Shanghai today. Called simply RoboTaxi, AutoX’s offering already faces competition from Didi, China’s largest ride-hailing platform, which launched its own robo-taxi pilot program in Shanghai at the end of June.

AutoX’s RoboTaxis will first be available in Jiading District, starting with a fleet of 100 vehicles. Rides can be booked through AutoNavi, the mapping and transportation-booking app owned by Alibaba, one of the startup’s investors. AutoX, which is headquartered in Shenzhen, raised a $ 100 million Series A last year from backers including Dongfeng Motor, one of China’s largest vehicle manufacturers, Alibaba, and Plug and Play’s China fund.

AutoX’s service will compete against Didi’s self-driving taxi pilot, which also operates in Jiading District, a large suburban district that is fairly close to Shanghai’s center, but less congested. Didi’s service launched a few weeks after the company announced it had raised $ 500 million from investors including SoftBank for its new autonomous driving subsidiary. Didi’s ambitious goal is to deploy more than one million autonomous vehicles by 2030.

AutoX and Didi are both competing against a list of autonomous taxi services from Chinese rivals like Pony.ai, Baidu and WeRide. All have already deployed robotaxi programs in different cities. Other companies, like Momenta, are focused on building and selling software for self-driving taxis to partners, which may enable even more robotaxi fleets to launch. Momenta’s progress is due in part to state support, because the Chinese government has created several large funds for industries including autonomous driving, 5G and artificial intelligence, as it tries to offset the economic impact of COVID-19.

When asked about the competitive landscape, Jewel Li, the chief operating officer of AutoX, told TechCrunch that one of its advantages is investor list, which includes original equipment manufacturers and Alibaba. This means AutoX’s backers not only provide funds, abut also “the use cases in both mobility and logistics for autonomous driving. This investor portfolio is one of a kind, not only in the China market, but also globally.”

The company also has a robotaxi fleet in Shenzhen’s Nanshan District, she added, which gave the company experience operating autonomous rides in a densely-populated urban area.

AutoX is currently the third, and only China-focused company, to hold a permit for driverless robotaxis in California, which Li said is the “highest standard permit in the autonomous driving industry.” (The other two holders are Waymo and Nuro).

AutoX’s RoboTaxis will also be available for bookings through Shanghai-based taxi fleet Letzgo’s app. The two companies announced a strategic partnership today that will have Letzgo staff running RoboTaxis at AutoX’s Shanghai operations center, which opened in April.

AutoX also has plans to build out its robotaxi service in Europe.

Startups – TechCrunch

Watch & interact with these 5 startups competing in tomorrow’s Pitchers & Pitches session

How’s your 60-second pitch working for ya? Could it stand a refresh? Get ready to learn new and better ways to make your pitch more effective at opening doors to opportunity. Step one: register here — it won’t cost you a dime.

Step two: tune in and join us tomorrow, July 23 at 4:30 p.m. ET / 1:30p.m. PT, for the next Pitchers & Pitches competition. We randomly chose five Digital Startup Alley exhibitors to bring the heat — in the form of their best 60-second pitch — in front a panel of expert judges. We’ll name all the names in just a minute.

Note: Anyone can attend Pitchers & Pitches, but only companies exhibiting in Digital Startup Alley during Disrupt 2020 are eligible to pitch.

The invaluable critique, feedback and advice pitchers receive will help them take their elevator pitch to new heights — a great way to prepare for showcasing their tech at Disrupt 2020. Not pitching? No problem — you can apply what you learn to your own business and take your elevator pitch up a few more floors.

Here are five more excellent reasons to tune in.

  • Check out the new virtual Disrupt platform before it goes live in September
  • Watch and interact with the pitch-off event on the virtual main stage
  • Meet and video network with other attendees
  • Connect with the five pitchers in their virtual booth in the startup expo
  • The viewing audience (that’s you folks) chooses which team wins the pitch-off

The founders of the winning startup get a consulting session with cela, a company that connects early-stage startups to accelerators and incubators that can help scale their businesses.

Okay, let’s get to the judges for this session. We’ve tapped the experienced minds of two TechCrunch editors — Jordan Crook and Alex Wilhelm. Rounding out the panel we have two top featured VCs – Monique Idlett, of Reign Ventures and Jess Morris Jr., General Partner and Founder of Chapter One VC. They’ll drop a whole lot of knowledge to help you impress potential investors and customers alike.

Here are the five pitchers currently warming up in the bullpen and ready to take the mound in tomorrow’s competition.

Mnemonic AI

Timshel

Ivory & Gold

Lamienins

ZeBrand Inc. 

The next Pitchers & Pitches takes place tomorrow, July 23 at 4:30p.m. ET / 1:30p.m. PT. Register here for free. Don’t miss your chance to improve your pitch, bring the heat and unlock more opportunity.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Startups – TechCrunch