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Venture investors and startup execs say they don’t need Elizabeth Warren to defend them from big tech

Posted by on Mar 8, 2019 in Amazon, AT&T, ben narasin, chief technology officer, coinbase, Companies, economy, elizabeth warren, entrepreneurship, Facebook, Federal Trade Commission, Google, IBM, kara nortman, Los Angeles, Microsoft, new enterprise associates, Private Equity, Social Media, Startup company, TC, Technology, Technology Development, United States, upfront ventures, us government, venky ganesan, Venture Capital, Walmart, world wide web, zappos | 0 comments

Responding to Elizabeth Warren’s call to regulate and break up some of the nation’s largest technology companies, the venture capitalists that invest in technology companies are advising the presidential hopeful to move slowly and not break anything.

Warren’s plan called for regulators to be appointed to oversee the unwinding of several acquisitions that were critical to the development of the core technology that make Alphabet’s Google and the social media giant Facebook so profitable… and Zappos.

Warren also wanted regulation in place that would block companies making over $25 billion that operate as social media or search platforms or marketplaces from owning companies that also sell services on those marketplaces.

As a whole, venture capitalists viewing the policy were underwhelmed.

“As they say on Broadway, ‘you gotta have a gimmick’ and this is clearly Warren’s,” says Ben Narasin, an investor at one of the nation’s largest investment firms,” New Enterprise Associates, which has $18 billion in assets under management and has invested in consumer companies like Jet, an online and mobile retailer that competed with Amazon and was sold to Walmart for $3.3 billion.

“Decades ago, at the peak of Japanese growth as a technology competitor on the global stage, the US government sought to break up IBM . This is not a new model, and it makes no sense,” says Narasin. “We slow down our country, our economy and our ability to innovate when the government becomes excessively aggressive in efforts to break up technology companies, because they see them through a prior-decades lens, when they are operating in a future decade reality. This too shall pass.”

Balaji Sirinivasan, the chief technology officer of Coinbase, took to Twitter to offer his thoughts on the Warren plan. “If big companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon are prevented from acquiring startups, that actually reduces competition,” Sirinivasan writes.

“There are two separate issues here that are being conflated. One issue is do we need regulation on the full platform companies. And the answer is absolutely,” says Venky Ganesan, the managing director of Menlo Ventures. “These platforms have a huge impact on society at large and they have huge influence.”

But while the platforms need to be regulated, Ganesan says, Senator Warren’s approach is an exercise in overreach.

“That plan is like taking a bazooka to a knife fight. It’s overwhelming and it’s not commensurate with the issues,” Ganesan says. “I don’t think at the end of the day venture capital is worrying about competition from these big platform companies. [And] as the proposal is composed it would create more obstacles rather than less.”

Using Warren’s own example of the antitrust cases that were brought against companies like AT&T and Microsoft, is a good model for how to proceed, Ganesan says. “We want to have the technocrats at the FTC figure out the right way to bring balance.”

Kara Nortman, a partner with the Los Angeles-based firm Upfront Ventures, is also concerned about the potential unforeseen consequences of Warren’s proposals.

“The specifics of the policy as presented strike me as having potentially negative consequences for innovation, These companies are funding massive innovation initiatives in our country. They’re creating jobs and taking risks in areas of technology development where we could potentially fall behind other countries and wind up reducing our quality of life,” Nortman says. “We’re not seeing that innovation or initiative come from the government – or that support for encouraging immigration and by extension embracing the talented foreign entrepreneurs that could develop new technologies and businesses.”

Nortman sees the Warren announcement as an attempt to start a dialogue between government regulators and big technology companies.

“My hope is that this is the beginning of a dialogue that is constructive,” Nortman says. “And since Elizabeth Warren is a thoughtful policymaker this is likely the first salvo toward an engagement with the technology community to work collaboratively on issues that we all want to see solved and that some of us are dedicating our career in venture to help solving.”

Source: The Tech Crunch

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The Wing gets $75M from Sequoia, Airbnb

Posted by on Dec 19, 2018 in Airbnb, brian chesky, funding, jess lee, kara nortman, kerry washington, sequoia capital, Startups, upfront ventures, valerie jarrett, Venture Capital, WeWork | 0 comments

The Wing, the owner of several co-working spaces and social clubs designed for women, has garnered the support of Sequoia Capital in its latest funding round.

The startup has announced a $75 million Series C led by the storied venture capital firm, with support from Airbnb and Upfront Ventures, as well as existing investors NEA and WeWork.

Headquartered in New York, The Wing was founded by Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan in 2015. To date, the pair have raised $117.5 million, including a $32 million Series B in November 2017 led by WeWork, a co-working giant presumably interested in an eventual acquisition of its female-friendly counterpart.

A spokesperson for The Wing declined to disclose its valuation.

The Wing has 6,000 members across locations in New York, Washington, DC and San Francisco — where it first opened its doors just two months ago. The company has additional spots slated to open in West Hollywood, Chicago, Boston, London, Toronto and Paris in 2019. Memberships at the workspaces, which are complete with feminist imagery, conference rooms, a cafe, library, lactation room, beauty room, showers and more, are $215 apiece.

The Wing’s staff is majority female and its spaces are designed by female architects. It’s not surprising the investors behind its latest fundraise are mostly women, too.

As part of the Series C funding, Sequoia partner Jess Lee and Upfront partner Kara Nortman have joined The Wing’s board of directors. Lee, in a statement, said the funding would assist The Wing in bringing its physical community of career-oriented women into the digital realm.

Earlier this year, the company launched a mobile application for its members to stay connected with each other and to RSVP to Wing events.

“This investment will enable us to further The Wing’s mission and scale to new heights both offline and online,” Gelman, The Wing’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

“The Wing’s mission is the advancement of women through community, and we could not be more excited to partner with such a powerful community of women who lead their fields in tech, Hollywood, policy, and sports. This round is proof positive that women can be on both sides of the table.”

Also participating in the financing are actress Kerry Washington, producer Katie McGrath, former White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, and two of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense co-founders Robbie Kaplan and Hilary Rosen. U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team players Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Meghan Klingenberg and Becky Sauerbrunn also provided capital to The Wing.

Airbnb, for its part, has not previously invested in The Wing and is not an active investor in startups. It’s unclear what sort of partnership may be brewing between the home-sharing “unicorn” and the feminist co-working space. In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said he was “incredibly inspired” by The Wing and was “thrilled to support them.”

According to a report from The Information published Tuesday, Airbnb is in talks to lead a $75 million investment in a startup called Lyric, which transforms apartment buildings into hotels for travelers. That, coupled with its contribution to The Wing’s funding round, could mean Airbnb is foraying into the business of startup investing.

Source: The Tech Crunch

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