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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Tuesday, March 22, 2022! Excited to announce that we’re bringing in a few other folks to help bring this newsletter for you. Christine Hall helped write the Big Tech and Startups sections today, for example. Haje Jan Camps will also be rotating in this week. Give them a follow!
Before we start, We’re talking about air mobility and urban planning at our upcoming Sessions: Mobility event, so if that’s your bag, hit the link. Now, to work! – Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Okta leaks, stock dips: Okta, a former startup and present-day public company, confirmed a January breach today “after hackers posted screenshots overnight, apparently showing access to the company’s internal systems,” TechCrunch reports. The company’s stock initially fell sharply in the wake of the disclosure, but recovered during the day’s trading.
- Forge shows IPO market not dead: Forge helps investors in private companies sell shares in startups to others. So, it’s a bit ironic that the company went public today in a SPAC combination. But the offering wound up being a smashing success, with the newly public company spiking around 60% as we write this newsletter. That’s among the best debuts we’ve seen in some time — and could help other private companies look toward an exit of their own.
- Muni empowers LatAm women to make money shopping: Muni is a play to make online commerce more common in places where ordering goods digitally is not the norm. By working with community leaders who can earn a wage for their work, users can place group orders that are then delivered collectively and distributed on a last-mile basis from there. The company just closed a $20 million Series A led by Lightspeed Venture Partners.
Startups and VC
To kick off, let’s have a smile. Have you been on Zoom too much lately? Do you want to be a cat, deep down in your soul? If so, you might want to take a look at this neat tool from Zoom to turn you, well, into an animal. The fun little tool might be aimed at kids, but I fully intend to use it in my next all-hands. (A big shoutout to Amanda Silberling for helping keep TechCrunch weird.)
Turning to the startup market, we have some unicorn news to kick us off. Jeeves, which is not a search engine product, just raised $180 million at a $2.1 billion valuation. The fintech company’s round sticks out from the rest thanks to the fact that it quadruples Jeeves’ valuation in around a half year. And then there’s Capitolis, which raised $110 million at a $1.6 billion valuation. The US and Israeli company works with large financial institutions concerning “how they move money,” our own Ingrid Lunden reports.
We’ve been covering more agricultural technology companies lately, which we sort into a bucket labeled “agtech.” So let’s harvest a few of our latest headlines from that particular crop, yeah? up first, a robot that scans crop fields for health indicators and potential issues. It’s also adorable, at least as far as robots go. We also wrote up the story about a number of individuals who, instead of raising a fund out the gate, started an agtech publication that they parlayed into a fund. It’s a super interesting yarn.
- Unicorn Cityblock Health names CEO: It’s not often that a startup worth $6 billion changes CEO before an IPO, so when Cityblock Health moved co-founder Toyin Ajayi into the top executive role, we took notice. The company has raised $900 million to date for its work as a primary healthcare provider with a focus on in-home and virtual care. Our podcast Found dug into the story.
- Harness moves more deeply into open source dev tools: With more and more startups building with an open source stance, it’s not a huge shock that Harness – which is working to build “a more complete modern tooling platform for developers,” Ron Miller reports – bought ChaosNative, which builds open source developer tools. This is not the company’s first open source-focused acquisition, TechCrunch reports.
- Today in good startup names: Eko, which is working to bring “applied AI into the stethoscope space,” is well-named. After all, echocardiograms listen to heart echoes, making its name, well, apt. The startup’s digital stethoscope tool has yet to get US Food and Drug Administration clearance to use its software clinically, but with $30 million in new capital, it has the funds to see that effort across the line, we reckon.
- Rokid shows it’s still around and ready to go global: We had not heard much from Chinese augmented reality company Rokid since 2018, but its new cash infusion of a $160 million Series C round is providing the company is ready to take on more of the enterprise side of the world. Be watching for more on its smart glasses and headsets for field workers.
- Firefly Aerospace headed for SPAC?: A recent filing with the US Federal Communications Commission suggests the rocket startup has plans to go public via a special purpose acquisition company. This might be some good news for the company, which saw its largest shareholder, Ukrainian Max Polyakov, forced to sell his shares over national security concerns.
Be an entrepreneur who leads with transparency
Founding a tech company isn’t like starting most small businesses: No one expects a plumber to show 3% month-over-month growth, for example.
Tech entrepreneurs are under pressure to build a team, regularly ship new products, and quickly capture revenue so they can provide a return to their investors. So it’s not surprising that sometimes, they let ethics fall by the wayside.
Entrepreneur and investor Marjorie Radlo-Zandi says the “fake it till you make it” mindset is a useful motivational tool, but it’s not a basis for a sustainable business strategy:
The founder of a company I invested in secretly kept two sets of books: one with correct historical financials, and another with inflated numbers more than 10 times actuals. Sales and product performance had fallen short. His solution was to present the inflated financials to investors.
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
- Nvidia wants to help guide your self-driving car: Nvidia is showing off the fruits of its DeepMap acquisition with the new Drive Map feature that combines survey mapping with crowdsourced mapping data from vehicles using its platform.
- Twitter wants EU to think of the bigger tech picture: After two years in development, Twitter has kicked off its Open Internet Alliance, a policy advocacy lobby group aimed at prodding lawmakers to look at the internet not through the lens of tech giants, but as a broad ecosystem that doesn’t need such harsh digital regulations. Kind of ironic because in the US, Twitter is one of those tech giants, but it’s all in the name of kicking off an “open conversation and press for regulation that fosters diversity and innovation on the internet,” as was told to TechCrunch.
- Twitch allowing users to appeal account bans: The company updated its appeals and reporting processes, with one of the bigger changes being a new portal where users can appeal and monitor the progress of an impending account suspension. Over the past two years, Twitch tells TechCrunch it quadrupled its moderating, but also wanted to make good on a wrong decision.
- Microsoft’s AI translations just got better: Microsoft updated its translation services, aka Z-Code, which means users now have a one-stop shop — you can now directly translate between 10 languages, for example, English to Bulgarian, without the need for multiple systems. This isn’t the only place where Z-Code is being used by Microsoft, but it is the first time the approach is being used for a translation service.
- Shopify has entered link-in-bio territory: Linkpop is Shopify’s approach to the link-in-bio craze, enabling creators to launch storefronts and sell directly from their Linkpop page, while consumers can purchase without leaving the app they were using. It’s the company’s goal to have Linkpop users create a Shopify storefront. (Link-in-bio has gained traction, so much so that Linktree raised $110 million to keep developing new features.)