Lynk, a “knowledge-as-a-service” platform with more than 840,000 experts, raises $24 million

Lynk co-founder and chief executive officer Peggy Choi

Lynk co-founder and chief executive officer Peggy Choi

Lynk, a “knowledge-as-a-service” platform that connects clients with over 840,000 experts in a wide range of fields, announced today it has raised $ 24 million led by Brewer Lane Ventures and MassMutual Ventures, with participation from Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund. The company uses machine learning algorithms to match users, who include investment firms, Fortune 100 companies and government entities, with experts on its platform, helping connect them with people they would probably not find at traditional consultancies or by searching online.

“At the core of it, the search is a people search based on what you know, and not just where you work, to put it very simply,” co-founder and chief executive officer Peggy Choi told TechCrunch.

Founded in 2015, Lynk has now raised a total of $ 30 million. It has more than 200 employees across offices in eight cities: Hong Kong, New York City, Singapore, London, Mumbai, Shanghai, Hyderabad, Toronto and Manila. Its funding will be used for product launches and to expand in North America and China, where its seen demand grow over the past twelve months.

Lynk’s flagship product, Lynk Answers, is currently used by about 200 enterprise clients when their employees need to do research for projects including geographical expansion, product-market fit and due diligence, with many relying on the platform for on-the-ground research in areas they can’t travel to because of the pandemic. For example, investors talk with advisors on Lynk to understand new technology or the dynamics in a sector. Over the past few years, companies have used Lynk to help them react quickly to geopolitical changes, including events that affected their supply chain. Some sought supply chain experts when shipments got stuck in customs or they wanted to diversify their manufacturing by setting up factories in Southeast Asia.

Before Lynk, Choi worked in finance, including at Silver Lake in London and TPG in San Francisco. As an investor, “every day you have to do a lot of conversations with executives and different kinds of experts to learn about new industries or companies really quickly. Through that experience, I realized that talking to the right person makes a huge difference,” she said.

In contrast, Choi found herself at a loss when her parents wanted to launch an art gallery. “They had all these day-to-day business questions and sometimes they asked me because they thought I would know how to address it. But I don’t know either, I’m not the right person for them, so I had to find the right people,” she said. “When I saw that contrast, I thought, what about using data to organize people in a way based on what they know?”

Lynk, which monetizes by charging enterprise clients a subscription fee, fills the gap between traditional consultancies and consumer-oriented Q&A platforms like Quora or China’s Zhihu. The platform also includes SaaS features that provide an alternative to email chains, like collaboration tools and auto-transcription for expert interviews so they can be organized, searched and referenced by a team.

Lynk’s experts, who the platform calls “Knowledge Partners,” include C-suite executives, independent consultants, lawyers, engineers, financial analysts and scientists, among others. The company finds them through several channels, including digital marketing, a referral program for current Knowledge Partners and partnerships with groups, associations and institutions. Lynk vets experts before they are added to the platform, where they set their own rates.

When users have a question, Lynk’s search engine shows them a list of experts based on criteria like domain expertise and geography. Then they ask potential experts a couple of questions to see if they are the right match. Lynk uses data from those conversations, on an anonymized basis, to refine its search technology and make matching more accurate. Once users pick experts, they work with them in different ways. Most of the time they do a question-and-answer session. Sometimes that turns into speaker and workshop engagements or longer-term projects.

Choi said building an inclusive roster of experts is a priority for Lynk. The company’s team and board are divided equally between women and men and represent more than 20 nationalities. It wants to build a diverse database through initiatives like outreach programs and campaigns like Lynk Elite Expert Women to recruit people, including those who haven’t done consulting before.

“When we were running the [Lynk Elite Expert Women] campaign, we realized that a lot of people find it a very new way of being valued,” said Choi. “Especially if they’ve spent their entire life doing something, they also want to know what people want to know about their area.”

Startups – TechCrunch

African startup funding is heading to more destinations, but “big four” still collects lion’s share – Disrupt Africa

African startup funding is heading to more destinations, but “big four” still collects lion’s share  Disrupt Africa
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

Extra Crunch roundup: Digital health VC survey, edtech M&A, deep tech marketing, more

I had my first telehealth consultation last year, and there’s a high probability that you did, too. Since the pandemic began, consumer adoption of remote healthcare has increased 300%.

Speaking as an unvaccinated urban dweller: I’d rather speak to a nurse or doctor via my laptop than try to remain physically distanced on a bus or hailed ride traveling to/from their office.

Even after things return to (rolls eyes) normal, if I thought there was a reliable way to receive high-quality healthcare in my living room, I’d choose it.

Clearly, I’m not alone: a May 2020 McKinsey study pegged yearly domestic telehealth revenue at $ 3 billion before the coronavirus, but estimated that “up to $ 250 billion of current U.S. healthcare spend could potentially be virtualized” after the pandemic abates.

That’s a staggering number, but in a category that includes startups focused on sexual health, women’s health, pediatrics, mental health, data management and testing, it’s clear to see why digital-health funding topped more than $ 10 billion in the first three quarters of 2020.

Drawing from The TechCrunch List, reporter Sarah Buhr interviewed eight active health tech VCs to learn more about the companies and industry verticals that have captured their interest in 2021:

  • Bryan Roberts and Bob Kocher, partners, Venrock
  • Nan Li, managing director, Obvious Ventures
  • Elizabeth Yin, general partner, Hustle Fund
  • Christina Farr, principal investor and health tech lead, OMERS Ventures
  • Ursheet Parikh, partner, Mayfield Ventures
  • Nnamdi Okike, co-founder and managing partner, 645 Ventures
  • Emily Melton, founder and managing partner, Threshold Ventures

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Since COVID-19 has renewed Washington’s focus on healthcare, many investors said they expect a friendly regulatory environment for telehealth in 2021. Additionally, healthcare providers are looking for ways to reduce costs and lower barriers for patients seeking behavioral support.

“Remote really does work,” said Elizabeth Yin, general partner at Hustle Fund.

We’ll cover digital health in more depth this year through additional surveys, vertical reporting, founder interviews and much more.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week; I hope you have a relaxing weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

8 VCs agree: Behavioral support and remote visits make digital health a strong bet for 2021

Woman having a medicine video conferencing with her doctor using digital tablet. Senior woman on a video call with a doctor using her tablet computer at home.

Image Credits: Luis Alvarez (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Lessons from Top Hat’s acquisition spree

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

In the last year, edtech startup Top Hat acquired three publishing companies: Fountainhead Press, Bludoor and Nelson HigherEd.

Natasha Mascarenhas interviewed CEO and founder Mike Silagadze to learn more about his content acquisition strategy, but her story also discussed “some rumblings of consolidation and exits in edtech land.”

How VCs invested in Asia and Europe in 2020

Last year, U.S.-based VCs invested an average of $ 428 million each day in domestic startups, with much of the benefits flowing to fintech companies.

This morning, Alex Wilhelm examined Q4 VC totals for Europe, which had its lowest deal count since Q1 2019, despite a record $ 14.3 billion in investments.

Asia’s VC industry, which saw $ 25.2 billion invested across 1,398 deals is seeing “a muted recovery,” says Alex.

“Falling seed volume, lots of big rounds. That’s 2020 VC around the world in a nutshell.”

Decrypted: With more SolarWinds fallout, Biden picks his cybersecurity team

Image Credits: Treedeo (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

In this week’s Decrypted, security reporter Zack Whittaker covered the latest news in the unfolding SolarWinds espionage campaign, now revealed to have impacted the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Malwarebytes.

In other news, the controversy regarding WhatsApp’s privacy policy change appears to be driving users to encrypted messaging app Signal, Zack reported. Facebook has put changes at WhatsApp on hold “until it could figure out how to explain the change without losing millions of users,” apparently.

Hot IPOs hang onto gains as investors keep betting on tech

A big IPO debut is a juicy topic for a few news cycles, but because there’s always another unicorn ready to break free from its corral and leap into the public markets, it doesn’t leave a lot of time to reflect.

Alex studied companies like Lemonade, Airbnb and Affirm to see how well these IPO pop stars have retained their value. Not only have most held steady, “many have actually run up the score in the ensuing weeks,” he found.

Dear Sophie: What are Biden’s immigration changes?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Dear Sophie:

I work in HR for a tech firm. I understand that Biden is rolling out a new immigration plan today.

What is your sense as to how the new administration will change business, corporate and startup founder immigration to the U.S.?

—Free in Fremont

Hello, Extra Crunch community!

Hello in Different Languages

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I began my career as an avid TechCrunch reader and remained one even when I joined as a writer, when I left to work on other things and now that I’ve returned to focus on better serving our community.

I’ve been chatting with some of the folks in our community and I’d love to talk to you, too. Nothing fancy, just 5-10 minutes of your time to hear more about what you want to see from us and get some feedback on what we’ve been doing so far.

If you would be so kind as to take a minute or two to fill out this form, I’ll drop you a note and hopefully we can have a chat about the future of the Extra Crunch community before we formally roll out some of the ideas we’re cooking up.

Drew Olanoff
@yoda

In 2020, VCs invested $ 428m into US-based startups every day

Last year was a disaster across the board thanks to a global pandemic, economic uncertainty and widespread social and political upheaval.

But if you were involved in the private markets, however, 2020 had some very clear upside — VCs flowed $ 156.2 billion into U.S.-based startups, “or around $ 428 million for each day,” reports Alex Wilhelm.

“The huge sum of money, however, was itself dwarfed by the amount of liquidity that American startups generated, some $ 290.1 billion.”

Using data sourced from the National Venture Capital Association and PitchBook, Alex used Monday’s column to recap last year’s seed, early-stage and late-stage rounds.

How and when to build marketing teams at deep tech companies

Pole lifting rubber duck with hook in its head

Image Credits: Andy Roberts (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Building a marketing team is one of the most opaque parts of spinning up a startup, but for a deep tech company, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

How can technical founders working on bleeding-edge technology find the right people to tell their story?

If you work at a post-revenue, early-stage deep tech startup (or know someone who does), this post explains when to hire a team, whether they’ll need prior industry experience, and how to source and evaluate talent.

Bustle CEO Bryan Goldberg explains his plans for taking the company public

Bustle Digital Group CEO Bryan Goldberg

Bustle Digital Group CEO Bryan Goldberg. Image Credits: Bustle Digital Group

Senior Writer Anthony Ha interviewed Bustle Digital Group CEO Bryan Goldberg to get his thoughts on the state of digital media.

Their conversation covered a lot of ground, but the biggest news it contained focuses on Goldberg’s short-term plans.

“Where do I want to see the company in three years? I want to see three things: I want to be public, I want to see us driving a lot of profits and I want it to be a lot bigger, because we’ve consolidated a lot of other publications,” he said.

It may not be as glamorous as D2C, but beauty tech is big money

Directly Above Shot Of Razors On Green Background

Image Credits: Laia Divols Escude/EyeEm (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is not a huge fan of personal-care D2C brands merging with traditional consumer product companies.

This month, razor startup Billie and Proctor & Gamble announced they were calling off their planned merger after the FTC filed suit.

For similar reasons, Edgewell Personal Care dropped its plans last year to buy Harry’s for $ 1.37 billion.

In a harsher regulatory environment, “the path to profitability has become a more important part of the startup story versus growth at all costs,” it seems.

Twilio CEO says wisdom lies with your developers

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 12: Founder and CEO of Twilio Jeff Lawson speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016 at Pier 48 on September 12, 2016 in San Francisco, California. Image Credits: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Companies that build their own tools “tend to win the hearts, minds and wallets of their customers,” according to Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson.

In an interview with enterprise reporter Ron Miller for his new book, “Ask Your Developer,” Lawson says founders should use developer teams as a sounding board when making build-versus-buy decisions.

“Lawson’s basic philosophy in the book is that if you can build it, you should,” says Ron.

Startups – TechCrunch

Help: More detail than a basic pitch deck, but nowhere near a 50 slide master plan – sweet spot?

No one really talks about how to bridge the gap between ALL the details on paper and a quick sell pitch deck.

The best example of detailed pitch deck thinking is This Crunchbase post

Can anyone provide any advice or examples in finding that sweet spot?

Status: Early stage

Purpose/audience:

  • Potential cofounders
  • Strategic advisors
  • Early investors ($ 10k-$ 100k)

I'm thinking somewhere around 25 slides?

Thanks.

submitted by /u/Prodigal_son_911
[link] [comments]
Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Decrypted: With more SolarWinds fallout, Biden picks his cybersecurity team

All change in the capital as the Biden administration takes charge, and thankfully without a hitch (or violence) after the attempted insurrection two weeks earlier.

In this week’s Decrypted, we look at the ongoing fallout from the SolarWinds breach and who the incoming president wants to lead the path to recovery. Plus, the news in brief.


THE BIG PICTURE

Google says SolarWinds exposure “limited,” more breaches confirmed

The cyberattack against SolarWinds, an ongoing espionage campaign already blamed on Russia, claimed the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as another federal victim this week. The attack also hit cybersecurity company Malwarebytes, the company’s chief executive confirmed. Marcin Kleczynski said in a blog post that attackers gained access to a “limited” number of internal company emails. It was the same attackers as SolarWinds but using a different intrusion route. It’s now the third security company known to have been targeted by the same Russian hackers after a successful intrusion at FireEye and an unsuccessful attempt at CrowdStrike.

Startups – TechCrunch

Digital securities platform iSTOX closes $50 million Series A to make private equity accessible to more investors

Oi Yee Choo, chief commercial officer of digital securities platform iSTOX

Oi Yee Choo, chief commercial officer of digital securities platform iSTOX

iSTOX, a digital securities platform that wants to make private equity investment more accessible, has added new investors from Japan to its Series A round, bringing its total to $ 50 million. Two of its new backers are the government-owned Development Bank of Japan and JIC Venture Growth Investments, the venture capital arm of Japan Investment Corporation, a state-backed investment fund.

Other participants included Juroku Bank and Mobile Internet Capital, along with returning investors Singapore Exchange, Tokai Tokyo Financial Holdings and Hanwha Asset Management.

Founded in 2017 and owned by blockchain infrastructure firm ICHX, iSTOX’s goal is to open private capital opportunities, including startups, hedge funds and private debt, that are usually limited to a small group of high-net-worth individuals to more institutional and accredited investors. (It also serves accredited investors outside of Singapore, as long as they meet the country’s standards by holding the equivalent amount in assets and income.) iSTOX’s allows users to make investments as small as SGD $ 100 (about USD $ 75.50) and says it is able to keep fees low by using blockchain technology for smart contracts and to hold digital securities, which makes the issuance process more effective and less costly.

iSTOX’s Series A round was first announced in September 2019, when the company said it had raised an undisclosed amount from Thai investment bank Kiatnakin Phatra Financial Group while participating in the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) FinTech Regulatory Sandbox. The Singaporean government has been especially supportive of blockchain technology, launching initiatives to commercialize its use in fintech, data security, logistics and other sectors.

iSTOX completed the sandbox program in February 2020, and was approved by the MAS for the issuance, custody and trading of digitized securities. The new funding will be used for geographical expansion, including in China, where it already has an agreement in the city of Chongqing, and Europe and and Australia, where it is currently working on issuance deals. iSTOX also plans to add new investment products, including private issuances that investors can subscribe to in “bite-size portions.”

In a press statement, iSTOX chief commercial officer Oi Yee Choo said, “Capital markets are transforming rapidly because of advancements in technology. The regulator MAS and our institutional investors have been far-sighted and progressive, and they support the change wholeheartedly.”

The company is among several Asia-based fintech platforms that want to democratize the process of investing. For retail investors, there are apps like Bibit, Syfe, Stashaway, Kristal.ai and Grab Financial’s investment products.

Since iSTOX works with accredited and institutional investors, however, its most direct competitors include the recently-launched DBS Digital Exchange, which is also based in Singapore. iSTOX’s advantage is that it offers more kinds of assets. Right now, it facilitates the issuance of funds and bonds, but this year, it will start issuing private equity and structured products as well. The company’s securities are also fully digitized, which means they are created on the blockchain, instead of being recorded on the blockchain after they are issued, which means iSTOX is able to offer faster settlement times.

Startups – TechCrunch

British fintech PPRO achieves Unicorn status after raising €148M at €823M valuation: Know more here

PPRO

After the pandemic began, the world witnessed a rise in the need for digital services, including the banking sector. In a recent development, a London-based fintech company PPRO, a provider of local payment infrastructure for online commerce, has raised $ 180M (approx €148.5M) in a fresh round of funding.

Investors in the round

The round saw participation from Eurazeo Growth, Sprints Capital, and Wellington Management.

Prior to this, the company had raised $ 50M (approx €48.1M) from Sprints Capital as well as Citi Ventures and HPE Growth. The company’s current valuation after the latest round is now over $ 1B (approx €823.6M).

Financial Technology Partners acted as exclusive financial advisor and Noerr as legal advisor to PPRO in the transaction.

Use of the raised capital

The latest round will be used by the company to fuel its continued global expansion and support the development of its border-free payment technology and services.

Simon Black, CEO of PPRO, says “Beyond securing the support of such prestigious investors and achieving a milestone valuation, we’ve enabled our customers to grow at record numbers during what has been a tough time for many. By giving businesses the ability to offer payment choice, we’ve helped give people around the world better access to goods and services that improve their lives.”

Black continues, “Our unique local payments infrastructure empowers our customers to quickly increase their global footprint. This investment will help us deliver the highest performance possible for companies leading the global payments industry.”

About PPRO

Founded in 2006 by Philipp Bock, Philipp Nieland, and Tobias Schreyer, PPRO’s local payments platform and expert services help its users to get the industry’s best conversion rates in markets globally by allowing online shoppers to pay with their preferred payment method.

According to the company, its technology allows payment services providers and enterprises with payment platforms to plug in via simple APIs and offload the intricate complexities and massive costs of providing payment method choice to local consumers. Its singular focus on local payment methods helps its customers rapidly speed up time to market and reduce operational costs up to 10 times, claims PPRO

The company says its vision from the start has been to simplify access to the many different payment methods required by consumers and businesses across the world.

In addition, PPRO also offers e-money issuing programs for consumers and corporate. They are FCA licensed to issue e-money as they continue to strengthen their links with alternative payment method schemes and banks around the world.

PPRO claims to have established itself as a trusted infrastructure provider in the cross-border payments space powering international growth for payment service providers and platforms such as Citi, Elavon, Mastercard Payment Gateway Services, Mollie, PayPal, and Worldpay.

Recent development

Last year, the company doubled its year-on-year transaction volumes in the fourth quarter, expanded its global team by 60 per cent, and developed new strategic partnerships with local payment methods in high-growth markets like Indonesia and Singapore.

Commenting on the market, Nathalie Kornhoff-Bruls, MD at Eurazeo Growth, says, “All signs for the future indicate that digital commerce, and even more so cross-border commerce, will continue to grow exponentially while innovation in payment methods remains strong. As a result, facilitating local payments is becoming increasingly complex. Payment service providers, however, no longer have a choice as merchants and their customers are pushing for the adoption.”

In December 2020, Apexx Global, a global payments platform, announced its partnership with PPRO to drive cost savings and conversion rates for merchants globally. Through the sharing of industry expertise, the partnership was aimed at providing benefits to merchants seeking a wide range of payment options and increased transaction flexibility.

Prior to that in June 2020, PPRO announced direct integration with Paysafecash. With this integration, Paysafecash will be available for 24 markets, including the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Romania, and other markets where cash remains a preferred payment method. Payment service providers (PSPs) and their merchants who partner with PPRO get easy access to consumers in over 175 e-commerce markets through just one API and one contract.

Startups – Silicon Canals

Are founders with ‘extroverted’ personalities usually more successful?

Founders’ profiles are as diverse as entrepreneurial ideas around the world. Sure, there are certain personality patterns among entrepreneurs, such as being determined and hardworking, since building something from scratch is far from being easy. Earlier last week, we opened a debate via Twitter and Instagram, asking your opinion on whether founders with extroverted personalities…

This content is for members only. Visit the site and log in/register to read.

The post Are founders with ‘extroverted’ personalities usually more successful? first appeared on EU-Startups.

EU-Startups

London’s mental health startup Spill raises €2.25M to create more psychologically considerate workplace; here’s how

The isolation caused due to the COVID-19 lockdown caused a steep increase in mental health issues across the world. Coupled with the remote working set up, the situation escalated from bad to worse quickly. Addressing the mental health wellbeing of employees who are remotely working is a London-based mental health startup called Spill. It offers remote mental health support for companies via Slack, a well-known workplace messaging tool.

Investment from Ada Ventures

In a recent move, Spill raised £2M (nearly €2.25M) funding from Ada Ventures along with Seedcamp and the government’s Future Fund initiative. Also, Francesca Warner, partner at Ada Ventures joins the Spill board. The fresh fund will be used to develop proactive tools that will help the company create a more psychologically considerate workplace. It will also focus on the prevention of mental health issues instead of treatment. This funding round follows the nearly €750K investment it secured from Passion Capital back in 2019.

Calvin Benton, Founder at Spill, says: “It’s vital that, in today’s knowledge-driven economy, workers have access to high-quality mental health support that’s barrier-free, stigma-free, and free at the point of use. And that’s exactly what Spill will be able to deliver dramatically more of with the help of this latest funding round, led by Ada Ventures.”

Francesca Warner, Founding Partner at Ada Ventures, says, “We’ve been looking to invest in a company tackling the mental health crisis our society faces for some time. We’ve struggled to find products that are accessible, affordable, effective, and used regularly. Spill’s product is all of these things. We’re pleased to have the opportunity to invest in this exceptional team and look forward to the product being available to millions of people in the years to come.”

All-in-one mental health support

London-based startup Spill offers all-in-one mental health support through a Slack app, which lets employees speak with qualified therapists over video, phone or message. Previously, the company offered a message-based therapy app for iOS and Android. Spill relaunched in January last year to provide all-in-one mental health support through Slack. It is also possible to message a therapist and receive a reply by the next day or browse mental health tools and content, all via Slack.

Spill employs over 30 therapists around the U.K., working remotely over video, phone or message. All these therapists are registered with the BACP, NCS, or an equivalent professional body and have at least 200 hours of clinical experience and a minimum three-year relevant degree. As per the company, it claims to be more effective at reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety than an NHS therapy or a course of antidepressants.

Rapid growth in 2020

As per recent research by London mental health startup Spill and Censuswide, 38 per cent of the tech sector workers have considered therapy for the first time. Since it launched its service on Slack, there is a need for psychological support among employees of both smaller and larger companies. As per the data, 44 per cent or those at smaller companies (10-99 people) therapy and 31 per cent in larger companies (100+ people) considered the therapy for the first time. Also, it shows that 26 per cent of tech workers feel that their company failed to support their mental well-being.

As there is a high demand for employee mental health support, Spill witnessed a rapid growth in 2020. After launching its Slack app last January, Spill grew from 0 to 100+ paying companies in less than 12 months. Its clientele includes Typeform, Bulb and Depop.

Startups – Silicon Canals

Extra Crunch roundup: antitrust jitters, SPAC odyssey, white-hot IPOs, more

Some time ago, I gave up on the idea of finding a thread that connects each story in the weekly Extra Crunch roundup; there are no unified theories of technology news.

The stories that left the deepest impression were related to two news pegs that dominated the week — Visa and Plaid calling off their $ 5.3 billion acquisition agreement, and sizzling-hot IPOs for Affirm and Poshmark.

Watching Plaid and Visa sing “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” in harmony after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to block their deal wasn’t shocking. But I was surprised to find myself editing an interview Alex Wilhelm conducted with with Plaid CEO Zach Perret the next day in which the executive said growing the company on its own is “once again” the correct strategy.


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In an analysis for Extra Crunch, Managing Editor Danny Crichton suggested that federal regulators’ new interest in antitrust enforcement will affect valuations going forward. For example, Procter & Gamble and women’s beauty D2C brand Billie also called off their planned merger last week after the Federal Trade Commission raised objections in December.

Given the FTC’s moves last year to prevent Billie and Harry’s from being acquired, “it seems clear that U.S. antitrust authorities want broad competition for consumers in household goods,” Danny concluded, and I suspect that applies to Plaid as well.

In December, C3.ai, Doordash and Airbnb burst into the public markets to much acclaim. This week, used clothing marketplace Poshmark saw a 140% pop in its first day of trading and consumer-financing company Affirm “priced its IPO above its raised range at $ 49 per share,” reported Alex.

In a post titled A theory about the current IPO market, he identified eight key ingredients for brewing a debut with a big first-day pop, which includes “exist in a climate of near-zero interest rates” and “keep companies private longer.” Truly, words to live by!

Come back next week for more coverage of the public markets in The Exchange, an interview with Bustle CEO Bryan Goldberg where he shares his plans for taking the company public, a comprehensive post that will unpack the regulatory hurdles facing D2C consumer brands, and much more.

If you live in the U.S., enjoy your MLK Day holiday weekend, and wherever you are: thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

 

Rapid growth in 2020 reveals OKR software market’s untapped potential

After spending much of the week covering 2021’s frothy IPO market, Alex Wilhelm devoted this morning’s column to studying the OKR-focused software sector.

Measuring objectives and key results are core to every enterprise, perhaps more so these days since knowledge workers began working remotely in greater numbers last year.

A sign of the times: this week, enterprise orchestration SaaS platform Gtmhub announced that it raised a $ 30 million Series B.

To get a sense of how large the TAM is for OKR, Alex reached out to several companies and asked them to share new and historical growth metrics:

  • Gthmhub
  • Perdoo
  • WorkBoard
  • Ally.io
  • Koan
  • WeekDone

“Some OKR-focused startups didn’t get back to us, and some leaders wanted to share the best stuff off the record, which we grant at times for candor amongst startup executives,” he wrote.

5 consumer hardware VCs share their 2021 investment strategies

For our latest investor survey, Matt Burns interviewed five VCs who actively fund consumer electronics startups:

  • Hans Tung, managing partner, GGV Capital
  • Dayna Grayson, co-founder and general partner, Construct Capital
  • Cyril Ebersweiler, general partner, SOSV
  • Bilal Zuberi, partner, Lux Capital
  • Rob Coneybeer, managing director, Shasta Ventures

“Consumer hardware has always been a tough market to crack, but the COVID-19 crisis made it even harder,” says Matt, noting that the pandemic fueled wide interest in fitness startups like Mirror, Peloton and Tonal.

Bonus: many VCs listed the founders, investors and companies that are taking the lead in consumer hardware innovation.

A theory about the current IPO market

Digital generated image of abstract multi colored curve chart on white background.

Digital generated image of abstract multi colored curve chart on white background.

If you’re looking for insight into “why everything feels so damn silly this year” in the public markets, a post Alex wrote Thursday afternoon might offer some perspective.

As someone who pays close attention to late-stage venture markets, he’s identified eight factors that are pushing debuts for unicorns like Affirm and Poshmark into the stratosphere.

TL;DR? “Lots of demand, little supply, boom goes the price.”

Poshmark prices IPO above range as public markets continue to YOLO startups

Clothing resale marketplace Poshmark closed up more than 140% on its first trading day yesterday.

In Thursday’s edition of The Exchange, Alex noted that Poshmark boosted its valuation by selling 6.6 million shares at its IPO price, scooping up $ 277.2 million in the process.

Poshmark’s surge in trading is good news for its employees and stockholders, but it reflects poorly on “the venture-focused money people who we suppose know what they are talking about when it comes to equity in private companies,” he says.

Will startup valuations change given rising antitrust concerns?

GettyImages 926051128

financial stock market graph on technology abstract background represent risk of investment

This week, Visa announced it would drop its planned acquisition of Plaid after the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit to block it last fall.

Last week, Procter & Gamble called off its purchase of Billie, a women’s beauty products startup — in December, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission sued to block that deal, too.

Once upon a time, the U.S. government took an arm’s-length approach to enforcing antitrust laws, but the tide has turned, says Managing Editor Danny Crichton.

Going forward, “antitrust won’t kill acquisitions in general, but it could prevent the buyers with the highest reserve prices from entering the fray.”

Dear Sophie: What’s the new minimum salary required for H-1B visa applicants?

Image Credits: Sophie Alcorn

Dear Sophie:

I’m a grad student currently working on F-1 STEM OPT. The company I work for has indicated it will sponsor me for an H-1B visa this year.

I hear the random H-1B lottery will be replaced with a new system that selects H-1B candidates based on their salaries.

How will this new process work?

— Positive in Palo Alto

Venture capitalists react to Visa-Plaid deal meltdown

A homemade chocolate cookie with a bite and crumbs on a white background

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After news broke that Visa’s $ 5.3 billion purchase of API startup Plaid fell apart, Alex Wilhelm and Ron Miller interviewed several investors to get their reactions:

  • Anshu Sharma, co-founder and CEO, SkyflowAPI
  • Amy Cheetham, principal, Costanoa Ventures
  • Sheel Mohnot, co-founder, Better Tomorrow Ventures
  • Lucas Timberlake, partner, Fintech Ventures
  • Nico Berardi, founder and general partner, ANIMO Ventures
  • Allen Miller, VC, Oak HC/FT
  • Sri Muppidi, VC, Sierra Ventures
  • Christian Lassonde, VC, Impression Ventures

Plaid CEO touts new ‘clarity’ after failed Visa acquisition

Zach Perret, chief executive officer and co-founder of Plaid Technologies Inc., speaks during the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. The summit brings together the leading minds in the tech industry for two-days of keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Zach Perret, chief executive officer and co-founder of Plaid Technologies Inc., speaks during the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. The summit brings together the leading minds in the tech industry for two-days of keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Alex Wilhelm interviewed Plaid CEO Zach Perret after the Visa acquisition was called off to learn more about his mindset and the company’s short-term plans.

Perret, who noted that the last few years have been a “roller coaster,” said the Visa deal was the right decision at the time, but going it alone is “once again” Plaid’s best way forward.

2021: A SPAC odyssey

In Tuesday’s edition of The Exchange, Alex Wilhelm took a closer look at blank-check offerings for digital asset marketplace Bakkt and personal finance platform SoFi.

To create a detailed analysis of the investor presentations for both offerings, he tried to answer two questions:

  1. Are special purpose acquisition companies a path to public markets for “potentially-promising companies that lacked obvious, near-term growth stories?”
  2. Given the number of unicorns and the limited number of companies that can IPO at any given time, “maybe SPACS would help close the liquidity gap?”

Flexible VC: A new model for startups targeting profitability

12 ‘flexible VCs’ who operate where equity meets revenue share

Spotlit Multi Colored Coil Toy in the Dark.

Spotlit Multi Colored Coil Toy in the Dark.

Growth-stage startups in search of funding have a new option: “flexible VC” investors.

An amalgam of revenue-based investment and traditional VC, investors who fall into this category let entrepreneurs “access immediate risk capital while preserving exit, growth trajectory and ownership optionality.”

In a comprehensive explainer, fund managers David Teten and Jamie Finney present different investment structures so founders can get a clear sense of how flexible VC compares to other venture capital models. In a follow-up post, they share a list of a dozen active investors who offer funding via these non-traditional routes.

These 5 VCs have high hopes for cannabis in 2021

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For some consumers, “cannabis has always been essential,” writes Matt Burns, but once local governments allowed dispensaries to remain open during the pandemic, it signaled a shift in the regulatory environment, and investors took notice.

Matt asked five VCs about where they think the industry is heading in 2021 and what advice they’re offering their portfolio companies:

Startups – TechCrunch