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Flight-hailing startup BlackBird raises $10 million to replace driving with flying

Posted by on Mar 12, 2019 in air travel, Airbnb, Andrew Swain, Blackbird, California, eBay, Francoise Brougher, Google, Lyft, new enterprise associates, pilot, Pinterest, tahoe, TC, Transportation | 0 comments

The origin story of BlackBird, a startup that links travelers to planes and commercial pilots through an app, didn’t begin with air travel. It was prompted by car sickness.

BlackBird CEO and founder Rudd Davis, who was getting his pilot’s license at the time, asked his flight instructor if he would fly his family to Tahoe because his son gets terribly sick every time they traveled by car. What Rudd discovered was an incredible experience that was far more affordable than he realized. 

Davis launched the company in 2016 and has spent the past two years honing in on the business model as well as adding commercial pilots and members. Now, with fresh capital from New Enterprise Associates, BlackBird is ready to spread its wings. 

The company announced Tuesday it has raised $10 million in a Series A round led by NEA. NEA partner Jonathan Golden, who previously worked at Airbnb, has joined the BlackBird board of directors alongside Francoise Brougher of Pinterest, Square and Google, and Andrew Swain, who also is from Airbnb.

BlackBird has also hired Brian Hsu, who spent a decade at eBay and most recently was vice president of supply at Lyft, as chief operating officer. Davis is counting on Hsu, who has experience scaling marketplaces, to help BlackBird expand its membership and reach.

 

The company will use its new injection of capital to scale up, in terms of users, pilots and employees.

BlackBird currently has more than 700 commercial pilots who fly passengers between 50 and 500 miles from and within California. For now, Davis said this is a self-imposed geographic restriction.

“We’re trying to build up density and build up the network and optimize it before we start replicating it to other geographies,” Davis said.

It does face challenges. BlackBird has to find that price-per-seat sweet spot, which is largely driven by how many users and pilots are on the platform. Seats can be around $80 or upwards of $900, depending on the route, pilot availability and demand. And BlackBird must fight misconceptions of what and who the platform is designed for.

“A lot of people have looked at this space before, and really have kind of come up empty handed,” said Golden, who was a seed investor in BlackBird before joining NEA.

What makes BlackBird so compelling, Golden added, is that it’s not about luxury travel, but instead about how to actually replace driving through flights, which is really compelling.

“When most people think about kind of flying non-commercially, they think about huge jets with couches and for billionaires,” Davis said.And that is not the entirety of general aviation; there’s a huge aspect of aviation that is flying in smaller planes. It just hasn’t really been as accessible.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Airbnb agrees to acquire last-minute hotel-booking app HotelTonight

Posted by on Mar 7, 2019 in Airbnb, Australia, battery ventures, Europe, First Round Capital, forerunner ventures, Fundings & Exits, Gaest, greg greeley, HotelTonight, Lyft, M&A, Pinterest, Sam Shank, San Francisco, Startups, TC, Uber, unicorn, vacation rental, Venture Capital | 0 comments

As Airbnb gears up for its big leap into the public markets, it’s expanding its accommodations platform to include more than just treehouses and quirky homes.

Today, the company has confirmed its intent to acquire HotelTonight, the developer of a hotel-booking application that lets travelers arrange last-minute accommodations. The deal was previously reported by The Wall Street Journal, which wrote in January that negotiations for the transaction had “gone cold.”

Airbnb is expected to complete an initial public offering as soon as this year, though co-founder and chief executive officer Brian Chesky has refrained from revealing a specific timeline. Like Uber, which plans to become the ultimate transportation company, Airbnb’s long-term ambition is to build an end-to-end travel platform complete with home sharing, hotel booking, business travel arrangements, experiences and more.

Airbnb declined to disclose terms of its HotelTonight acquisition. Once the deal is complete, the HotelTonight app and website will continue to operate independently, with co-founder and CEO Sam Shank reporting to Airbnb’s president of homes, Greg Greeley.

“We started HotelTonight because we knew people wanted a better way to book an amazing hotel room on-demand, and we are excited to join forces with Airbnb to bring this service to guests around the world,” Shank said in a statement. “Together, HotelTonight and Airbnb can give guests more choices and the world’s best boutique and independent hotels a genuine partner to connect them with those guests.”

Founded in 2010, San Francisco-based HotelTonight garnered a valuation of $463 million with a $37 million Series E funding in 2017, according to PitchBook. In total, the startup has raised $131 million in venture capital funding from Accel and Battery Ventures, which have participated in nearly every funding round for HotelTonight. Other early investors include Forerunner Ventures and First Round Capital.

Airbnb, for its part, was valued at $31 billion in 2017, with a $1 billion round. In January, Airbnb said it was profitable for the second consecutive year on an EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) basis.

HotelTonight offers discounts at hotels in the Americas, Europe and Australia. The company partners with hotels to offer un-sold rooms, catering to business travelers or those looking to make last-minute arrangements. The deal will make it easier for Airbnb users to book hotels without planning weeks or months in advance and will help Airbnb expand its community beyond short-term rental hosts and guests.

Airbnb introduced boutique hotels to its platform in early 2018 and has boasted its quick growth. In 2018, the business said it more than doubled the number of boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, hostels and resorts available. Airbnb’s business travel unit, Airbnb for Work, also had quick success. Launched in 2014, it now accounts for 15 percent of bookings. In total, Airbnb offers some 5 million places to stay in 191 countries.

Airbnb is kicking off 2019 with an acquisitive streak. In January, the company acquired Danish startup Gaest, a provider of a marketplace-style platform for people to post and book venues for meetings and other work-related events. The company again declined to pinpoint the price, though given Gaest had raised just $3.5 million in equity funding, the deal pales in comparison to Airbnb’s HotelTonight acquisition.

2019 is stacking up to be a particularly busy year for unicorn IPOs, some of which were likely delayed by a weeks-long government shutdown at the start of the year. Lyft, which recently unveiled its S-1, is poised to be the first billion-dollar company to exit to the stock markets, followed by Uber, Slack and Pinterest. Will Airbnb nudge its way into that lineup? We’ll see.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Lyft lays out financial risks associated with reclassifying drivers

Posted by on Mar 1, 2019 in 1099, gig economy, Lyft, Transportation | 0 comments

In Lyft’s S-1 this morning, the company laid out the potential consequences for converting its drivers from independent contractors to W-2 employees. This, of course, has been an ongoing conversation within the gig economy.

Those who work as 1099 contractors can set their own schedules, and decide when, where and how much they want to work. For employers, bringing on 1099 contractors means they can avoid paying taxes, overtime pay, benefits and workers’ compensation.

As Lyft notes in the S-1, this conversation has resulted in a number of lawsuits, arbitration proceedings, government investigations and more.

“The tests governing whether a driver is an independent contractor or an employee vary by governing law and are typically highly fact sensitive,” Lyft states in its S-1. “Laws and regulations that govern the status and misclassification of independent contractors are subject to changes and divergent interpretations by various authorities which can create uncertainty and unpredictability for us. We continue to maintain that drivers on our platform are independent contractors in such legal and administrative proceedings, but our arguments may ultimately be unsuccessful.”

In the event Lyft is forced to reclassify its drivers, that could result in a number of new financial burdens for the company. That includes:

  • Expense reimbursement
  • A potential injunction prohibiting Lyft from continuing its current business practices
  • Claims for employee benefits, social security, workers’ compensation and unemployment
  • Monetary exposure relating to failure to withhold and remit taxes, unpaid wages, and wage and hour law requirements

Lyft goes on to note that reclassifying its drivers as W-2 workers “may require us to significantly alter our existing business models and operations.” And this is one of those risks that could very easily happen.

As Lyft points out, it’s actively involved in six class-action lawsuits pertaining to driver classification. And the company has already settled a couple of lawsuits to the sum of $27 million in 2013, and $1.95 million in 2018. Meanwhile, California is actively examining this issue in Assembly Bill 5, which would improve protections and rights for gig economy workers. That bill was introduced in light of a groundbreaking state Supreme Court decision in April.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Lyft will give eligible drivers a one-time cash bonus up to $10K

Posted by on Mar 1, 2019 in Lyft, Transportation | 0 comments

Hardworking drivers, rejoice! As part of Lyft’s initial public offering, the transportation company is deciding to reward the drivers who form the backbone of the company’s core service. The program will give a maximum cash bonus of $10,000 to drivers “in good standing” who have completed at least 20,000 rides as of February 25, 2019.

On the lower end, Lyft will give drivers who have completed at least 10,000 rides as of February 25, 2019 a $1,000 one-time cash bonus. Additionally, Lyft will reward a $1,000 cash bonus to drivers who are currently serving or previously served on the company’s Driver Advisory Council. All of these drivers must be in good standing.

Eligible drivers can expect to be paid on or about March 19, 2019. They can then purchase shares in Lyft’s directed share program or just pocket the cash. It’s up to them.

Uber is also reportedly expected to offer drivers a similar bonus, but the company declined to comment.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Lyft unveils its S-1 and nearly $1B in 2018 losses

Posted by on Mar 1, 2019 in credit suisse, Finance, financial services, Fundings & Exits, jpmorgan chase, Lyft, NASDAQ, San Francisco, Securities and Exchange Commission, Transportation, United States, Venture Capital | 0 comments

The day has finally come. U.S. ride-hailing giant Lyft has unveiled its S-1, the official document required by the Securities and Exchange Commission to go public.

The San Francisco-headquartered business will debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange under the ticker symbol “LYFT.” JPMorgan Chase & Co., Credit Suisse Group AG and Jefferies Financial Group Inc. will lead the initial public offering expected to value Lyft at upwards of $20 billion, a significant leap from its most recent private valuation of $15.1 billion.

The company hasn’t determined how many shares it will sell or a price range. The filing currently lists an offering size of $100 million, though that is typically a placeholder amount.

According to the filing, Lyft recorded $2.2 billion in revenue in 2018, more than double the $1 billion recorded in 2017. Meanwhile, losses have been growing considerably. The company posted a net loss of $911 million on the $2.2 billion in revenue and a $688 million loss on 2017’s $1 billion.

Lyft currently holds 34 percent of the U.S. ridesharing market, a figure the company has been working tirelessly to increase as it gears up for its IPO. Uber holds the remaining 66 percent.

Lyft’s key stakeholders include Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce giant, which boasts a 13 percent pre-IPO stake, General Motors (7.76 percent), Fidelity (7.1 percent), Andreessen Horowitz (6.25 percent) and Alphabet (5.3 percent).

Founded in 2007, Lyft has raised $5.1 billion in venture capital funding to date. The business raised an additional $600 million in Series I funding led by Fidelity in June, its last round of private investment. Other investors in Lyft include AllianceBernstein, Baillie Gifford, KKR, Janus CapitalG and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

Lyft riders took 30.1 million rides in 2018, per the filing. The company has recorded a total of 1 billion rides and operates in 300 markets.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Airbnb, Automattic and Pinterest top rank of most acquisitive unicorns

Posted by on Feb 23, 2019 in Aileen Lee, Airbnb, Automattic, blockspring, coinbase, Column, Commuting, cowboy ventures, CrunchBase, Docker, flatiron school, Italy, Lyft, M&A, neologisms, Neutrino, Pinterest, Sprinklr, Startups, SurveyMonkey, TC, transport, Uber, unicorn, unity-technologies, Venture Capital, vox media, WeWork | 0 comments

It takes a lot more than a good idea and the right timing to build a billion-dollar company. Talent, focus, operational effectiveness and a healthy dose of luck are all components of a successful tech startup. Many of the most successful (or, at least, highest-valued) tech unicorns today didn’t get there alone.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) can be a major growth vector for rapidly scaling, highly valued technology companies. It’s a topic that we’ve covered off and on since the very first post on Crunchbase News in March 2017. Nearly two years later, we wanted to revisit that first post because things move quickly, and there is a new crop of companies in the unicorn spotlight these days. Which ones are the most active in the M&A market these days?

The most acquisitive U.S. unicorns today

Before displaying the U.S. unicorns with the most acquisitions to date, we first have to answer the question, “What is a unicorn?” The term is generally applied to venture-backed technology companies that have earned a valuation of $1 billion or more. Crunchbase tracks these companies in its Unicorns hub. The original definition of the term, first applied in a VC setting by Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures back in late 2011, specifies that unicorns were founded in or after 2003, following the first tech bubble. That’s the working definition we’ll be using here.

In the chart below, we display the number of known acquisitions made by U.S.-based unicorns that haven’t gone public or gotten acquired (yet). Keep in mind this is based on a snapshot of Crunchbase data, so the numbers and ranking may have changed by the time you read this. To maintain legibility and a reasonable size, we cut off the chart at companies that made seven or more acquisitions.

As one would expect, these rankings are somewhat different from the one we did two years ago. Several companies counted back in early March 2017 have since graduated to public markets or have been acquired.

Who’s gone?

Dropbox, which had acquired 23 companies at the time of our last analysis, went public weeks later and has since acquired two more companies (HelloSign for $230 million in late January 2019 and Verst for an undisclosed sum in November 2017) since doing so. SurveyMonkey, which went public in September 2018, made six known acquisitions before making its exit via IPO.

Who stayed?

Which companies are still in the top ranks? Travel accommodations marketplace giant Airbnb jumped from number four to claim Dropbox’s vacancy as the most acquisitive private U.S. unicorn in the market. Airbnb made six more acquisitions since March 2017, most recently Danish event space and meeting venue marketplace Gaest.com. The still-pending deal was announced in January 2019.

WordPress developer and hosting company Automattic is still ranked number two. Automattic <a href=”https://www.crunchbase.com/acquisition/automattic-acquires-atavist–912abccd”>acquired one more company — digital publication platform Atavist — since we last profiled unicorn M&A. Open-source software containerization company Docker, photo-sharing and search site Pinterest, enterprise social media management company Sprinklr and venture-backed media company Vox Media remain, as well.

Who’s new?

There are some notable newcomers in these rankings. We’ll focus on the most notable three: The We CompanyCoinbase and Lyft. (Honorable mention goes to Stripe and Unity Technologies, which are also new to this list.)

The We Company (the holding entity for WeWork) has made 10 acquisitions over the past two years. Earlier this month, The We Company bought Euclid, a company that analyzes physical space utilization and tracks visitors using Wi-Fi fingerprinting. Other buyouts include Meetup (a story broken by Crunchbase News in November 2017) reportedly for $200 million. Also in late 2017, The We Company acquired coding and design training program Flatiron School, giving the company a permanent tenant in some of its commercial spaces.

In its bid to solidify its position as the dominant consumer cryptocurrency player, Coinbase has been on quite the M&A tear lately. The company recently announced its plans to acquire Neutrino, a blockchain analytics and intelligence platform company based in Italy. As we covered, Coinbase likely made the deal to improve its compliance efforts. In January, Coinbase acquired data analysis company Blockspring, also for an undisclosed sum. The crypto company’s other most notable deal to date was its April 2018 buyout of the bitcoin mining hardware turned cryptocurrency micro-transaction platform Earn.com, which Coinbase acquired for $120 million.

And finally, there’s Lyft, the more exclusively U.S.-focused ride-hailing and transportation service company. Lyft has made 10 known acquisitions since it was founded in 2012. Its latest M&A deal was urban bike service Motivate, which Lyft acquired in June 2018. Lyft’s principal rival, Uber, has acquired six companies at the time of writing. Uber bought a bike company of its own, JUMP Bikes, at a price of $200 million, a couple of months prior to Lyft’s Motivate purchase. Here too, the Lyft-Uber rivalry manifests in structural sameness. Fierce competition drove Uber and Lyft to raise money in lock-step with one another, and drove M&A strategy as well.

What to take away

With long-term business success, it’s often a chicken-and-egg question. Is a company successful because of the startups it bought along the way? Or did it buy companies because it was successful and had an opening to expand? Oftentimes, it’s a little of both.

The unicorn companies that dominate the private funding landscape today (if not in the number of deals, then in dollar volume for sure) continue to raise money in the name of growth. Growth can come the old-fashioned way, by establishing a market position and expanding it. Or, in the name of rapid scaling and ostensibly maximizing investor returns, M&A provides a lateral route into new markets or a way to further entrench the status quo. We’ll see how that strategy pays off when these companies eventually find the exit door .


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Startups Weekly: Flexport, Clutter and SoftBank’s blood money

Posted by on Feb 23, 2019 in alex wilhelm, allianz, Bessemer Venture Partners, Coatue Management, connie loizos, DoorDash, dragoneer investment group, DST Global, Flexport, founders fund, GIC, Ingrid Lunden, Keith Rabois, Lyft, mindworks ventures, Naspers, Panda Selected, Pinterest, sequoia capital, Shunwei Capital, Startups, susa ventures, TC, the wall street journal, Uber, Venture Capital, WaitWhat, Y Combinator | 0 comments

The Wall Street Journal published a thought-provoking story this week, highlighting limited partners’ concerns with the SoftBank Vision Fund’s investment strategy. The fund’s “decision-making process is chaotic,” it’s over-paying for equity in top tech startups and it’s encouraging inflated valuations, sources told the WSJ.

The report emerged during a particularly busy time for the Vision Fund, which this week led two notable VC deals in Clutter and Flexport, as well as participated in DoorDash’s $400 million round; more on all those below. So given all this SoftBank news, let us remind you that given its $45 billion commitment, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the Vision Fund’s largest investor. Saudi Arabia is responsible for the planned killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Here’s what I’m wondering this week: Do CEOs of companies like Flexport and Clutter have a responsibility to address the source of their capital? Should they be more transparent to their customers about whose money they are spending to achieve rapid scale? Send me your thoughts. And thanks to those who wrote me last week re: At what point is a Y Combinator cohort too big? The general consensus was this: the size of the cohort is irrelevant, all that matters is the quality. We’ll have more to say on quality soon enough, as YC demo days begin on March 18.

Anyways…

Surprise! Sort of. Not really. Pinterest has joined a growing list of tech unicorns planning to go public in 2019. The visual search engine filed confidentially to go public on Thursday. Reports indicate the business will float at a $12 billion valuation by June. Pinterest’s key backers — which will make lots of money when it goes public — include Bessemer Venture Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, FirstMark Capital, Fidelity and SV Angel.

Ride-hailing company Lyft plans to go public on the Nasdaq in March, likely beating rival Uber to the milestone. Lyft’s S-1 will be made public as soon as next week; its roadshow will begin the week of March 18. The nuts and bolts: JPMorgan Chase has been hired to lead the offering; Lyft was last valued at more than $15 billion, while competitor Uber is valued north of $100 billion.

Despite scrutiny for subsidizing its drivers’ wages with customer tips, venture capitalists plowed another $400 million into food delivery platform DoorDash at a whopping $7.1 billion valuation, up considerably from a previous valuation of $3.75 billion. The round, led by Temasek and Dragoneer Investment Group, with participation from previous investors SoftBank Vision Fund, DST Global, Coatue Management, GIC, Sequoia Capital and Y Combinator, will help DoorDash compete with Uber Eats. The company is currently seeing 325 percent growth, year-over-year.

Here are some more details on those big Vision Fund Deals: Clutter, an LA-based on-demand storage startup, closed a $200 million SoftBank-led round this week at a valuation between $400 million and $500 million, according to TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden’s reporting. Meanwhile, Flexport, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based full-service air and ocean freight forwarder, raised $1 billion in fresh funding led by the SoftBank Vision Fund at a $3.2 billion valuation. Earlier backers of the company, including Founders Fund, DST Global, Cherubic Ventures, Susa Ventures and SF Express all participated in the round.

Here’s your weekly reminder to send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

Menlo Ventures has a new $500 million late-stage fund. Dubbed its “inflection” fund, it will be investing between $20 million and $40 million in companies that are seeing at least $5 million in annual recurring revenue, growth of 100 percent year-over-year, early signs of retention and are operating in areas like cloud infrastructure, fintech, marketplaces, mobility and SaaS. Plus, Allianz X, the venture capital arm attached to German insurance giant Allianz, has increased the size of its fund to $1.1 billion and London’s Entrepreneur First brought in $115 million for what is one of the largest “pre-seed” funds ever raised.

Flipkart co-founder invests $92M in Ola
Redis Labs raises a $60M Series E round
Chinese startup Panda Selected nabs $50M from Tiger Global
Image recognition startup ViSenze raises $20M Series C
Circle raises $20M Series B to help even more parents limit screen time
Showfields announces $9M seed funding for a flexible approach to brick-and-mortar retail
Podcasting startup WaitWhat raises $4.3M
Zoba raises $3M to help mobility companies predict demand

Indian delivery men working with the food delivery apps Uber Eats and Swiggy wait to pick up an order outside a restaurant in Mumbai. ( INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

According to Indian media reports, Uber is in the final stages of selling its Indian food delivery business to local player Swiggy, a food delivery service that recently raised $1 billion in venture capital funding. Uber Eats plans to sell its Indian food delivery unit in exchange for a 10 percent share of Swiggy’s business. Swiggy was most recently said to be valued at $3.3 billion following that billion-dollar round, which was led by Naspers and included new backers Tencent and Uber investor Coatue.

Lalamove, a Hong Kong-based on-demand logistics startup, is the latest venture-backed business to enter the unicorn club with the close of a $300 million Series D round this week. The latest round is split into two, with Hillhouse Capital leading the “D1” tranche and Sequoia China heading up the “D2” portion. New backers Eastern Bell Venture Capital and PV Capital and returning investors ShunWei Capital, Xiang He Capital and MindWorks Ventures also participated.

Longtime investor Keith Rabois is joining Founders Fund as a general partner. Here’s more from TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos: “The move is wholly unsurprising in ways, though the timing seems to suggest that another big fund from Founders Fund is around the corner, as the firm is also bringing aboard a new principal at the same time — Delian Asparouhov — and firms tend to bulk up as they’re meeting with investors. It’s also kind of time, as these things go. Founders Fund closed its last flagship fund with $1.3 billion in 2016.”

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase News editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I discuss Pinterest’s IPO, DoorDash’s big round and SoftBank’s upset LPs.

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Source: The Tech Crunch

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Pinterest files confidentially to go public

Posted by on Feb 21, 2019 in Andreessen Horowitz, Ben Silbermann, Bessemer Venture Partners, Fundings & Exits, Goldman Sachs, IPO, Lyft, Pinterest, Startups, Uber, Venture Capital | 0 comments

Visual search engine Pinterest has joined a long list of high-flying technology companies planning to go public in 2019. The business has confidentially submitted paperwork to the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering slated for later this year, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

Pinterest declined to comment.

Founded in 2008 by Ben Silbermann, earlier reports indicated the company was planning to debut on the stock market in April. In late January, Pinterest took its first official step toward a 2019 IPO, hiring Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase as lead underwriters for its offering.

The company garnered a $12.3 billion valuation in 2017 with a $150 million financing.

Touting 250 million monthly active users, Pinterest has raised nearly $1.5 billion in venture capital funding from key stakeholders Bessemer Venture Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, FirstMark Capital, Fidelity and SV Angel. The business brought in some $700 million in ad revenue in 2018, per reports, a 50 percent increase year-over-year.

Pinterest employs 1,600 people across 13 cities, including Chicago, London, Paris, São Paulo, Berlin and Tokyo. The company says half its users live outside the U.S.

Pinterest will likely follow Lyft, Uber and Slack to the public markets, which have all filed confidential paperwork for IPOs or, in Slack’s case, a reported direct listing, expected in the coming months.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Lyft says it has more wheelchair accessible vehicles available in NYC

Posted by on Feb 8, 2019 in accessibility, Lyft, TC, Transportation | 0 comments

Lyft, which has faced at least one lawsuit pertaining to its alleged discrimination against people with physical abilities, announced today it has expanded its wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV) service in New York City. Details on the blog are very scarce (we’ve reached out to Lyft for more info) but Lyft now has more than 20 partners in New York City to help increase WAV access.

“With more accessible rides on the road, we’ll be better able to help New Yorkers with physical disabilities get around the city,” Lyft wrote in a blog post.

But it’s not clear how many wheelchair-accessible vehicles are available now than before. Previously, Lyft had just a five percent success rate for finding wheelchair-accessible vehicles for riders, while Uber had a 55 percent success rate, according to a 2018 report from the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. For both of these companies, they were able to find for non-accessible rides 100 percent of the time.

The lack of WAVs on Lyft and Uber have resulted in lawsuits for both companies. Last March, Disability Rights Advocates filed a class-action lawsuit against Lyft, alleging the company discriminates against people who use wheelchairs by not making wheelchair-accessible cars available in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The case, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, alleges Lyft directly violates the law by not providing an equal and accessible transportation option to all. The suit specifically alleges Lyft is in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which guarantees people with disabilities are entitled to full and equal accommodations. The suit also alleges Lyft is in violation of the California Disabled Persons Act.

At the time, a Lyft spokesperson told TechCrunch it currently has “partnerships and programs in place to provide enhanced WAV access in various parts of the country, and are actively exploring ways to expand them nationwide.”

Meanwhile, Uber has faced at least two lawsuits regarding its lack of wheelchair-accessible vehicles in both New York and California. In November, however, Uber took steps to ensure people who rely on wheelchairs can get rides when they need them. Through a partnership with paratransit service provider MV Transportation, Uber has been able to add hundreds of wheelchair-accessible vehicles to its platform in six markets, including New York City.

We’ll update this story as we learn more from Lyft.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Startups Weekly: Will Trump ruin the unicorn IPOs of our dreams?

Posted by on Jan 12, 2019 in aurora, BlackRock, Facebook, First Round Capital, funding, goodwater capital, Insight Venture Partners, Lyft, Magic Leap, money, Mr Jeff, Pinterest, Postmates, romain dillet, sequoia capital, Softbank, Startups, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Uber, Valentin Stalf, Venture Capital | 0 comments

The government shutdown entered its 21st day on Friday, upping concerns of potentially long-lasting impacts on the U.S. stock market. Private market investors around the country applauded when Uber finally filed documents with the SEC to go public. Others were giddy to hear Lyft, Pinterest, Postmates and Slack (via a direct listing, according to the latest reports) were likely to IPO in 2019, too.

Unfortunately, floats that seemed imminent may not actually surface until the second half of 2019 — that is unless President Donald Trump and other political leaders are able to reach an agreement on the federal budget ASAP.  This week, we explored the government’s shutdown’s connection to tech IPOs, recounted the demise of a well-funded AR project and introduced readers to an AI-enabled self-checkout shopping cart.

1. Postmates gets pre-IPO cash

The company, an early entrant to the billion-dollar food delivery wars, raised what will likely be its last round of private capital. The $100 million cash infusion was led by BlackRock and valued Postmates at $1.85 billion, up from the $1.2 billion valuation it garnered with its unicorn round in 2018.

2. Uber’s IPO may not be as eye-popping as we expected

To be fair, I don’t think many of us really believed the ride-hailing giant could debut with a $120 billion initial market cap. And can speculate on Uber’s valuation for days (the latest reports estimate a $90 billion IPO), but ultimately Wall Street will determine just how high Uber will fly. For now, all we can do is sit and wait for the company to relinquish its S-1 to the masses.

3. Deal of the week

N26, a German fintech startup, raised $300 million in a round led by Insight Venture Partners at a $2.7 billion valuation. TechCrunch’s Romain Dillet spoke with co-founder and CEO Valentin Stalf about the company’s global investors, financials and what the future holds for N26.

4. On the market

Bird is in the process of raising an additional $300 million on a flat pre-money valuation of $2 billion. The e-scooter startup has already raised a ton of capital in a very short time and a fresh financing would come at a time when many investors are losing faith in scooter startups’ claims to be the solution to the problem of last-mile transportation, as companies in the space display poor unit economics, faulty batteries and a general air of undependability. Plus, Aurora, the developer of a full-stack self-driving software system for automobile manufacturers, is raising at least $500 million in equity funding at more than a $2 billion valuation in a round expected to be led by new investor Sequoia Capital.


Here’s your weekly reminder to send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets


5. A unicorn’s deal downsizes

WeWork, a co-working giant backed with billions, had planned on securing a $16 billion investment from existing backer SoftBank . Well, that’s not exactly what happened. And, oh yeah, they rebranded.

6. A startup collapses

After 20 long years, augmented reality glasses pioneer ODG has been left with just a skeleton crew after acquisition deals from Facebook and Magic Leap fell through. Here’s a story of a startup with $58 million in venture capital backing that failed to deliver on its promises.

7. Data point

Seed activity for U.S. startups has declined for the fourth straight year, as median deal sizes increased at every stage of venture capital.

8. Meanwhile, in startup land…

This week edtech startup Emeritus, a U.S.-Indian company that partners with universities to offer digital courses, landed a $40 million Series C round led by Sequoia India. Badi, which uses an algorithm to help millennials find roommates, brought in a $30 million Series B led by Goodwater Capital. And Mr Jeff, an on-demand laundry service startup, bagged a $12 million Series A.

9. Finally, Meet Caper, the AI self-checkout shopping cart

The startup, which makes a shopping cart with a built-in barcode scanner and credit card swiper, has revealed a total of $3 million, including a $2.15 million seed round led by First Round Capital .

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Source: The Tech Crunch

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