Categories
TechCrunch

Former Facebook and Pinterest exec Tim Kendall traces “extractive business models” to VCs – TechCrunch

Last month, former Facebook and Pinterest executive Tim Kendall told Congress during a House hearing on the dangers of social media that Facebook made its products so addictive because its ad-driven business model relies on people paying attention to its product longer every day. He said much the same in the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” in which Kendall — along with numerous other prominent early employees of big tech companies — warns of the threat that Facebook and others pose to modern society. Kendall — who today runs Moment, an app that helps users monitor device habits and reinforces positive screen-time behavior — isn’t done campaigning against his former employer yet. On Friday morning, we talked with him about the FTC inching closer to filing an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook for its market power in social networking; what he thinks of the DOJ’s separate antitrust lawsuit against Google, filed last Tuesday; and how venture capital contributed to the “unnatural” ways the companies have commanded our attention — and advertisers’ dollars along with it. Our conversation has been excerpted. You can hear the full conversation here. TC: Like everyone else, you wrestle with addiction to the apps on your phone. At what point did you decide that you wanted to take a more public role in helping to identify the problem and potentially help solve it. TK:  I’ve always been interested in willpower, and the various things that weaken it. I have addiction in various parts of my family and…Continue readingFormer Facebook and Pinterest exec Tim Kendall traces “extractive business models” to VCs – TechCrunch

Categories
TechCrunch

Political strategist turned tech investor Bradley Tusk on SPACs as a tool for VCs – TechCrunch

Bradley Tusk has become known in recent years for being involved in what’s about to get hot, from his early days advising Uber, to writing one of the first checks to the insurance startup Lemonade, to pushing forward the idea that we should be using the smart devices in our pockets to vote. Indeed, because he’s often at the vanguard, it wasn’t hugely surprising when Tusk, like a growing number of other investors, formed a $300 million SPAC or special acquisition company, one that he and a partner plan to use to target a business in the leisure, gaming, or hospitality industry, according to a regulatory filing. Because Tusk — a former political operative who ran the successful third mayoral campaign for Mike Bloomberg —  seems adept at seeing around corners, we called him up late last week to ask whether SPACs are here to stay, how a Biden administration might impact the startup investing landscape, and how worried (or not) big tech should be about this election. You can hear the full conversation here. Owing to length, we are featuring solely the part of our conversation that centered on SPACs. TC: Lemonade went public this summer and its shares, priced at $29, now trade at $70.  BT: They are down today last I checked. When you only check once in a blue moon, you’re like, ‘Hey, look at how great this is,’ whereas if, like me, you check me every day, you’re like, ‘It lost 4%, where’s my money?’…Continue readingPolitical strategist turned tech investor Bradley Tusk on SPACs as a tool for VCs – TechCrunch

Categories
TechCrunch

VCs reload ahead of the election as unicorns power ahead – TechCrunch

This is The TechCrunch Exchange, a newsletter that goes out on Saturdays, based on the column of the same name. You can sign up for the email here. It was an active week in the technology world broadly, with big news from Facebook and Twitter and Apple. But past the headline-grabbing noise, there was a steady drumbeat of bullish news for unicorns, or private companies worth $1 billion or more. A bullish week for unicorns The Exchange spent a good chunk of the week looking into different stories from unicorns, or companies that will soon fit the bill, and it’s surprising to see how much positive financial news there was on tap even past what we got to write about. Databricks, for example, disclosed a grip of financial data to TechCrunch ahead of regular publication, including the fact that it grew its annual run rate (not ARR) to $350 million by the end of Q3 2020, up from $200 million in Q2 2019. It’s essentially IPO ready, but is not hurrying to the public markets. Sticking to our theme, Calm wants more money for a huge new valuation, perhaps as high as $2.2 billion which is not a surprise. That’s more good unicorn news. As was the report that “India’s Razorpay [became a] unicorn after its new $100 million funding round” that came out this week. Razorpay is only one of a number of Indian startups that have become unicorns during COVID-19. (And here’s another digest out this week concerning…Continue readingVCs reload ahead of the election as unicorns power ahead – TechCrunch

Categories
TechCrunch

Why are VCs launching SPACs? Amish Jani of FirstMark shares his firm’s rationale – TechCrunch

It’s happening slowly but surely. With every passing week, more venture firms are beginning to announce SPACs. The veritable blitz of SPACs formed by investor Chamath Palihapitiya notwithstanding, we’ve now seen a SPAC (or plans for a SPAC) revealed by Ribbit Capital, Lux Capital, the travel-focused venture firm Thayer Ventures, Tusk Ventures’s founder Bradley Tusk, the SoftBank Vision Fund, and FirstMark Capital, among others. Indeed, while many firms say they’re still in the information-gathering phase of what could become a sweeping new trend, others are diving in headfirst. To better understand what’s happening out there, we talked on Friday with Amish Jani, the cofounder of FirstMark Capital in New York and the president of a new $360 million tech-focused blank-check company organized by Jani and his partner, Rick Heitzmann. We wanted to know why a venture firm that has historically focused on early-stage, privately held companies would be interested in public market investing, how Jani and Heitzmann will manage the regulatory requirements, and whether the firm may encounter conflicts of interest, among other things. If you’re curious about starting a SPAC or investing in one or just want to understand how they relate to venture firms, we hope it’s useful reading. Our chat has been edited for length and clarity. TC: Why SPACs right now? Is it fair to say it’s a shortcut to a hot public market, in a time when no one quite knows when the markets could shift? AJ: There are a couple of different threads that…Continue readingWhy are VCs launching SPACs? Amish Jani of FirstMark shares his firm’s rationale – TechCrunch

Categories
TechCrunch

9 VCs in Madrid and Barcelona discuss the COVID-19 era and look to the future – TechCrunch

Spain’s startup ecosystem has two main hubs: Madrid and Barcelona. Most observers place Barcelona first and Madrid second, but the gap appears to close every year. Barcelona has benefitted from attracting expats in search of sun, beach and lifestyle who tend to produce more internationally minded startups. Madrid’s startups have predominantly been Spain or Latin America-focused, but have become increasingly international in nature. Although not part of this survey, we expect Valencia to join next year, as city authorities have been going all-out to attract entrepreneurs and investors. The overall Spanish ecosystem is generally less mature than those in the U.K., France, Sweden and Germany, but it has been improving at a fast clip. More recently, entrepreneurs in Spain have moved away from emulating success in pursuit of innovative technologies. Following the financial crisis, the Spanish government supported the creation of startups with the launch of FOND-ICO GLOBAL, a €1.5 billion fund-of-funds in 2017, which put €800 million into the market that year. Three years later, the fastest-moving sector is tech. In 2018, Spain counted 4,115 active startups, reported 150sec. Barcelona has seen a boom in startups and support systems, with companies based there raising €2.7 billion between 2015 and 2019, almost doubling Madrid’s figure (according to Dealroom). In the first half of a two-part survey that asks 18 Spain-based startup investors about the trends they’re tracking, we reached out to the following VCs: Marta-Gaia Zanchi, managing partner, Nina Capital Marta Antunez, director, Wayra Barcelona Jaime Novoa, associate, K Fund…Continue reading9 VCs in Madrid and Barcelona discuss the COVID-19 era and look to the future – TechCrunch

Categories
TechCrunch

VCs have to train themselves to ‘ask the stupid questions’, says Hoxton Ventures’ Hussein Kanji – TechCrunch

If venture capitalists could predict the future, why wouldn’t they just start companies themselves? That’s the question Hussein Kanji, founding partner at Hoxton Ventures, asked rhetorically at Disrupt 2020. “If anyone says that they have predictive power in this industry and says they know where the future is gonna be, I just question the wisdom of this,” he said during a session exploring how VCs seek out new markets before they even exist. “Because if you could figure it out, you could come up with the idea, you’re capable enough to be able to put all the pieces together, why would you not found the business?” Instead, the key to betting on the future is to learn to ask the stupid questions. “I think it’s actually perfectly fine in the venture industry to not be the smart person and to kind of train yourself to be stupid and ask the stupid questions,” said Kanji. “I think a lot of people are probably too shy to do that. And a lot of people [are] probably too risk averse to then write the check when they don’t really understand exactly what it is that they’re investing into. But a lot of this stuff is a lightbulb moment”. One of those lightbulb moments was Hoxton Ventures’ investment in Deliveroo, the takeout food delivery service that competes with UberEats and helped turn almost every restaurant into a food delivery service. However, Kanji reminded us that the European unicorn wasn’t the first company to try…Continue readingVCs have to train themselves to ‘ask the stupid questions’, says Hoxton Ventures’ Hussein Kanji – TechCrunch

Categories
TechCrunch

10 Berlin-based VCs discuss how COVID-19 has changed the landscape – TechCrunch

A breeding ground for European entrepreneurs, Berlin has a knack for producing a lot of new startups: the city attracts top international, diverse talent, and it is packed with investors, events and accelerators. Also important: it’s a more affordable place to live and work when compared to many other cities in the region. Berlin ranked 10th place in the 2019 Global Ecosystem Report, trailing behind only two other European cities: London and Paris. It’s home to unicorns such as N26, Zalando, HelloFresh and pioneers of the scene such as SoundCloud. Top VCs include Earlybird, Point Nine, Project A, Rocket Internet, Holtzbrinck Ventures and accelerators such as Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator, hub:raum and The Family. To get a sense of how the novel coronavirus has changed the landscape, we asked ten investors to give us an insight into their thinking during these pivotal times: Jeannette zu Fürstenberg, founding partner, La Famiglia Jorge Fonturbel, associate, Target Global Luis Shemtov, founding partner, Lunar Ventures Mike Lobanov, founding partner, Target Global Ludwig Ensthaler, founding partner, 468 Capital Mathias Ockenfels, partner, Speedinvest Axel Bard Bringéus, partner, EQT Ventures Eckhardt Weber, managing partner, Heal Capital Joerg Rheinboldt, managing partner, APX Axel Springer Porsche GmbH & Co. KG Christian O. Edler, partner, Christianedler.com What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally? Generally, we believe in a future in which we can leverage technology to free up humans from repetitive and tedious work and to empower them to shift their focus to what they…Continue reading10 Berlin-based VCs discuss how COVID-19 has changed the landscape – TechCrunch

Categories
TechCrunch

Six Toronto VCs discuss COVID-19 and the post-pandemic era – TechCrunch

As North America’s fourth-largest city, Toronto is one of the world’s top startup ecosystems. After spawning companies like Eventbrite and Crowdmark, Ontario’s capital has attracted international talent that complements its homegrown population of entrepreneurs and technical talent. Six investors we surveyed who work and live in the area said they believe Toronto will continue to thrive after the COVID-19 storm passes. Some of them focus exclusively on the region, while others invest elsewhere as well. As they explained, the city has a lot going for it: It’s diverse, has access to locally trained engineering and business workers, and the area has already fostered many companies that are doing very well. Investors expect Toronto to remain a fintech hub Fintech is one of the city’s top industries, and the investors in this survey expect this to continue. Stephanie Choo, head of investments at Portag3 Ventures, said “fintech continues to see massive tailwinds from the fallout from COVID-19 as incumbents struggle to fully digitize their offerings.” Ameet Shah of Golden Ventures listed fintech as one of Toronto’s key industries. Eva Lau of Two Small Fish Ventures agreed, adding that “blockchain has also been doing well because many blockchain-related technologies or companies were started in Toronto.” Other investors point to fintech business leaders in Toronto like CEOs Mike Katchen of Wealthsimple, Daniel Eberhard of Koho, Andrew D’Souza and Michele Romanow of Clearbanc and Kirk Simpson of Wave Financial. Diversity is one of Toronto’s strengths Nearly all of the surveyed investors cited diversity as…Continue readingSix Toronto VCs discuss COVID-19 and the post-pandemic era – TechCrunch

Categories
TechCrunch

Conduit launches to help founders find actually useful angels and VCs – TechCrunch

The bar for being a successful VC just keeps getting higher. With more and more capital sloshing around and not enough founders and startups to invest in, founders are getting the opportunity to be choosier and choosier about who they want to work with on their cap tables. You can’t just bring a checkbook anymore — founders want operational experience and deep domain expertise in critical areas like growth marketing or recruiting. That’s led to the creation of more service-led VC models like Sweat Equity Ventures, which “earn” their cap table stake through engineering work for startups among other services (while also offering capital). As these operational VC firms and angel investors proliferate though, how do you find the right ones for your startup? What you need is a Conduit to great investors, and that’s precisely what Edward Lando and Sree Kolli and their team have been building. Lando and Kolli have been angel investing from New York City together for a number of years, but increasingly felt that they needed a scalable way to connect their startups to quality operational VCs. Starting from their own networks and expanding organically, they slowly built up Conduit in private beta since January, officially launching to the public today. Conduit founders Edward Lando and Sree Kolli. Photo via Conduit So what exactly is Conduit? It’s essentially a matchmaking service for founders and investors. Founders looking for investors setup free profiles of their startups on the platform and then can search for investors based…Continue readingConduit launches to help founders find actually useful angels and VCs – TechCrunch

Categories
TechCrunch

9 Berlin-based VCs discuss how COVID-19 has changed the landscape – TechCrunch

A breeding ground for European entrepreneurs, Berlin has a knack for producing a lot of new startups: the city attracts top international, diverse talent, and it is packed with investors, events and accelerators. Also important: it’s a more affordable place to live and work when compared to many other cities in the region. Berlin ranked 10th place in the 2019 Global Ecosystem Report, trailing behind only two other European cities: London and Paris. It’s home to unicorns such as N26, Zalando, HelloFresh and pioneers of the scene such as SoundCloud. Top VCs include Earlybird, Point Nine, Project A, Rocket Internet, Holtzbrinck Ventures, and accelerators such as Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator, hub:raum and The Family. To get a sense of how the novel coronavirus has changed the landscape, we asked nine investors to give us an insight into their thinking during these pivotal times: Jorge Fonturbel, associate, Target Global Luis Shemtov, founding partner, Lunar Ventures Mike Lobanov, founding partner, Target Global Ludwig Ensthaler, founding partner, 468 Capital Mathias Ockenfels, partner, Speedinvest Axel Bard Bringéus, partner, EQT Ventures Eckhardt Weber, managing partner, Heal Capital Joerg Rheinboldt, managing partner, APX Axel Springer Porsche GmbH & Co. KG Christian O. Edler, partner, Christianedler.com Jorge Fonturbel, Target Global Which trends are you most excited about investing in, generally? Mobility, logistics, automotive, industry automation, supply chain. How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?70% Europe and Israel, 30% rest of…Continue reading9 Berlin-based VCs discuss how COVID-19 has changed the landscape – TechCrunch