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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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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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Knotch raises $25M to help marketers collect data about their content

Posted by on Jan 29, 2019 in Advertising Tech, knotch, new enterprise associates, Startups, Venture Capital | 0 comments

Knotch announced yesterday that it has raised $25 million in Series B funding.

The round was led by New Enterprise Associates, with NEA’s Hilarie Koplow-McAdams joining the Knotch board of directors. Rob Norman, the former chief digital officer of ad giant GroupM, is also joining the board.

“Brands have a desire to understand the effectiveness of their digital content across all channels, a gap that hadn’t been filled before Knotch,” Koplow-McAdams said in a statement. “Our conviction around the Knotch platform and team is driven by their impressive traction and comprehensive product offerings. We’re thrilled to partner with Knotch as they continue their growth trajectory, providing transformative marketing intelligence at scale.”

When we first wrote about Knotch back in 2012, it was a consumer product where people could share their opinions using a color scale. It might seem like a stretch go from that to marketing and data company, but in fact Knotch still collects data using its color-based feedback system — now, it’s using that system to ask consumers about their response to sponsored content.

In addition, Knotch offers a competitive intelligence product, as well as Blueprint, which helps marketers find the best publishers for their sponsored content.

Knotch screen shot

“As [brands are building] their own content hubs and recognizing content as a really key piece of their marketing stack, as they’re turning to this space, there’s not a lot of great options for them to turn to and say, ‘Here’s a way to know in advance which creative themes and topics and formats [are going to resonate]. Here’s how we optimize this content, here’s a way to benchmark what you’re doing,” founder and CEO Anda Gansca told me.

And it sounds like Gansca’s vision goes beyond sponsored content.

“In this convoluted landscape, you need a partner that is going to be your Switzerland of data, who’s aligned with you, collecting transparent digital performance data across paid and own channels,” she said.

Knotch has now raised a total of $34 million. Customers include JP Morgan Chase, AT&T, Ally Bank, Ford, Calvin Klein and Salesforce.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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