Pages Navigation Menu

The blog of DataDiggers

Categories Navigation Menu

EC-exclusive interview with Tim Cook, Slacklash, and tech inclusion

Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Amazon Web Services, app developers, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Deezer, Geoff Cook, Google, Groupon, IBM, Kate Clark, kidbox, Matthew Panzarino, Microsoft, om malik, San Francisco, The Extra Crunch Daily, Tim Cook, Travis Kalanick, True Ventures, Uber, WeWork | 0 comments

An EC-exclusive interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook

TechCrunch editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino traveled to Florida this week to talk with Tim Cook about Apple’s developer education initiatives and also meet with high school developer Liam Rosenfeld of Lyman High School. Apple wants to attract the next set of app developers like Liam into the Xcode world, and the company is building a more ambitious strategy to do so going forward:

But that conversation with Liam does bring up some questions, and I ask Cook whether the thinks that there are more viable pathways to coding, especially for people with non-standard education or backgrounds.

“I don’t think a four year degree is necessary to be proficient at coding,” says Cook. “I think that’s an old, traditional view. What we found out is that if we can get coding in in the early grades and have a progression of difficulty over the tenure of somebody’s high school years, by the time you graduate kids like Liam, as an example of this, they’re already writing apps that could be put on the App Store.”

Against the Slacklash

TechCrunch columnist Jon Evans often writes on developer tools and productivity (see, for example, his Extra Crunch overview of the headless CMS space). Now, he sets his sights on Slack, and finds the product … much better and more productive than many would have you believe, and offers tips for maximizing its value:


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Index Ventures, Stripe back bookkeeping service Pilot with $40M

Posted by on Apr 18, 2019 in computing, Dropbox, Finance, funding, Index Ventures, jessica mckellar, ksplice, linux, MIT, oracle, San Francisco, Software, Startup company, Startups, stripe, Waseem Daher, zulip | 0 comments

Five years after Dropbox acquired their startup Zulip, Waseem Daher, Jeff Arnold and Jessica McKellar have gained traction for their third business together: Pilot.

Pilot helps startups and small businesses manage their back office. Chief executive officer Daher admits it may seem a little boring, but the market opportunity is undeniably huge. To tackle the market, Pilot is today announcing a $40 million Series B led by Index Ventures with participation from Stripe, the online payment processing system.

The round values Pilot, which has raised about $60 million to date, at $355 million.

“It’s a massive industry that has sucked in the past,” Daher told TechCrunch. “People want a really high-quality solution to the bookkeeping problem. The market really wants this to exist and we’ve assembled a world-class team that’s capable of knocking this out of the park.”

San Francisco-based Pilot launched in 2017, more than a decade after the three founders met in MIT’s student computing group. It’s not surprising they’ve garnered attention from venture capitalists, given that their first two companies resulted in notable acquisitions.

Pilot has taken on a massively overlooked but strategic segment — bookkeeping,” Index’s Mark Goldberg told TechCrunch via email. “While dry on the surface, the opportunity is enormous given that an estimated $60 billion is spent on bookkeeping and accounting in the U.S. alone. It’s a service industry that can finally be automated with technology and this is the perfect team to take this on — third-time founders with a perfect combo of financial acumen and engineering.”

The trio of founders’ first project, Linux upgrade software called Ksplice, sold to Oracle in 2011. Their next business, Zulip, exited to Dropbox before it even had the chance to publicly launch.

It was actually upon building Ksplice that Daher and team realized their dire need for tech-enabled bookkeeping solutions.

“We built something internally like this as a byproduct of just running [Ksplice],” Daher explained. “When Oracle was acquiring our company, we met with their finance people and we described this system to them and they were blown away.”

It took a few years for the team to refocus their efforts on streamlining back-office processes for startups, opting to build business chat software in Zulip first.

Pilot’s software integrates with other financial services products to bring the bookkeeping process into the 21st century. Its platform, for example, works seamlessly on top of QuickBooks so customers aren’t wasting precious time updating and managing the accounting application.

“It’s better than the slow, painful process of doing it yourself and it’s better than hiring a third-party bookkeeper,” Daher said. “If you care at all about having the work be high-quality, you have to have software do it. People aren’t good at these mechanical, repetitive, formula-driven tasks.”

Currently, Pilot handles bookkeeping for more than $100 million per month in financial transactions but hopes to use the infusion of venture funding to accelerate customer adoption. The company also plans to launch a tax prep offering that they say will make the tax prep experience “easy and seamless.”

“It’s our first foray into Pilot’s larger mission, which is taking care of running your companies entire back office so you can focus on your business,” Daher said.

As for whether the team will sell to another big acquirer, it’s unlikely.

“The opportunity for Pilot is so large and so substantive, I think it would be a mistake for this to be anything other than a large and enduring public company,” Daher said. “This is the company that we’re going to do this with.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Kindbody raises $15M, will open a ‘Fertility Bus’ with mobile testing & assessments

Posted by on Apr 16, 2019 in articles, Entrepreneur, fertility, Health, infertility, IVF, Kindbody, Los Angeles, manhattan, New York City, Perceptive Advisors, Recent Funding, right, RRE Ventures, San Francisco, social network, Startups, TC, TrailMix Ventures, ultrasound, United States, Venture Capital, winklevoss capital | 0 comments

Kindbody, a startup that lures millennial women into its pop-up fertility clinics with feminist messaging and attractive branding, has raised a $15 million Series A in a round co-led by RRE Ventures and Perceptive Advisors.

The New York-based company was founded last year by Gina Bartasi, a fertility industry vet who previously launched Progyny, a fertility benefit solution for employers, and FertilityAuthority.com, an information platform and social network for people struggling with fertility.

“We want to increase accessibility,” Bartasi told TechCrunch. “For too long, IVF and fertility treatments were for the 1 percent. We want to make fertility treatment affordable and accessible and available to all regardless of ethnicity and social economic status.”

Kindbody operates a fleet of vans — mobile clinics, rather — where women receive a free blood test for the anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), which helps assess their ovarian egg reserve but cannot conclusively determine a woman’s fertility. Depending on the results of the test, Kindbody advises women to visit its brick-and-mortar clinic in Manhattan, where they can receive a full fertility assessment for $250. Ultimately, the mobile clinics serve as a marketing strategy for Kindbody’s core service: egg freezing.

Kindbody charges patients $6,000 per egg-freezing cycle, a price that doesn’t include the cost of necessary medications but is still significantly less than market averages.

Bartasi said the mobile clinics have been “wildly popular,” attracting hoards of women to its brick-and-mortar clinic. As a result, Kindbody plans to launch a “fertility bus” this spring, where the company will conduct full fertility assessments, including the test for AMH, a pelvic ultrasound and a full consultation with a fertility specialist.

In other words, Kindbody will offer all components of the egg-freezing process on a bus aside from the actual retrieval, which occurs in Kindbody’s lab. The bus will travel around New York City before heading west to San Francisco, where it plans to park on the campuses of large employers, catering to tech employees curious about their fertility.

“Our mission at Kindbody is to bring care directly to the patient instead of asking the patient to come to visit us and inconvenience them,” Bartasi said.

A sneak peek of Kindbody’s “fertility bus,” which is still in the works

Kindbody, which has raised $22 million to date from Green D Ventures, Trailmix Ventures, Winklevoss Capital, Chelsea Clinton, Clover Health co-founder Vivek Garipalli and others, also provides women support getting pregnant with in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI). 

With the latest investment, Kindbody will open a second brick-and-mortar clinic in Manhattan and its first permanent clinic in San Francisco. Additionally, Bartasi says they are in the process of closing an acquisition in Los Angeles that will result in Kindbody’s first permanent clinic in the city. Soon, the company will expand to include mental health, nutrition and gynecological services.

In an interview with The Verge last year, Bartasi said she’s taken inspiration from SoulCycle and DryBar, companies whose millennial-focused branding strategies and prolific social media presences have helped them accumulate customers. Kindbody, in that vein, notifies its followers of new pop-up clinics through its Instagram page.

In the article, The Verge called Kindbody “the SoulCycle of fertility” and questioned its branding strategy and its claim that egg freezing “freezes time.” After all, there is limited research confirming the efficacy of egg freezing.

“The technology that allows for egg-freezing has only been widely used in the last five to six years,” Bartasi explained. “The majority of women who froze their eggs haven’t used them yet. It’s not like you freeze your eggs in February and meet Mr. Right in June.”

Though Kindbody touts a mission of providing fertility treatments to the 99 percent, there’s no getting around the sky-high costs of the services, and one might argue that companies like Kindbody are capitalizing off women’s fear of infertility. Providing free AMH tests, which often falsely lead women to believe they aren’t as fertile as they’d hoped, might encourage more women to seek a full-fertility assessment and ultimately, to pay $6,000 to freeze their eggs, when in reality they are just as fertile as the average woman and not the ideal candidate for the difficult and uncomfortable process.

Bartasi said Kindbody makes all the options clear to its patients. She added that when she does hear accusations that services like Kindbody capitalize on fear of infertility, they tend to come from legacy programs and male fertility doctors: “They are a little rattled by some of the new entrants that look like the patients,” she said. “We are women designing for women. For far too long women’s health has been solved for by men.”

Kindbody’s pricing scheme may itself instill fear in incumbent fertility clinics. The startup’s egg-freezing services are much cheaper than market averages; its IVF services, however, are not. Not including the costs of medications necessary to successfully harvest eggs from the ovaries, the average cost of an egg-freezing procedure costs approximately $10,000, compared to Kindbody’s $6,000. Its IVF services are on par with other options in the market, costing $10,000 to $12,000 — not including medications — for one cycle of IVF.

Kindbody is able to charge less for egg freezing because they’ve cut out operational inefficiencies, i.e. they are a tech-enabled platform while many fertility clinics around the U.S. are still handing out hoards of paperwork and using fax machines. Bartasi admits, however, that this means Kindbody is making less money per patient than some of these legacy clinics.

“What is a reasonable profit margin for fertility doctors today?” Bartasi said. “Historically, margins have been very, very high, driven by a high retail price. But are these really high retail prices sustainable long term? If you’re charging 22,000 for IVF, how long is that sustainable? Our profit margins are healthy.”

Bartasi isn’t the only entrepreneur to catch on to the opportunity here, as I’ve noted. A whole bunch of women’s health startups have launched and secured funding recently.

Tia, for example, opened a clinic and launched an app that provides health advice and period tracking for women. Extend Fertility, which like Kindbody, helps women preserve their fertility through egg freezing, banked a $15 million round. And a startup called NextGen Jane, which is trying to detect endometriosis with “smart tampons,” announced a $9 million Series A a few weeks ago.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Boundless gets $7.8M to help immigrants navigate the convoluted green card process

Posted by on Mar 28, 2019 in Amazon, Boundless, Brad Feld, foundation capital, Foursquare, funding, Government, Pioneer Square Labs, San Francisco, Startups, TC, United States, Venture Capital, Warby Parker | 0 comments

Two years ago, former Amazon product manager Xiao Wang stood on the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco and made the case for a platform meant to help couples apply for marriage green cards, a complex process made worse by bureaucracy and red tape.

Called Boundless, the startup had spun out of Seattle startup studio Pioneer Square Labs and raised a $3.5 million seed round. Now, Foundry Group’s Brad Feld has led a $7.8 million Series A in the startup, with participation from existing investors Trilogy Equity Partners, PSL, Two Sigma Ventures and Founders’ Co-Op.

“Families have really only had two choices, they could spend weeks or months trying to figure this out on their own, or they can spend thousands and thousands of dollars on an immigration attorney,” Wang, Boundless co-founder and chief executive officer, told TechCrunch. “What we are trying to do is basically give everyone access to the information, the tools and the support that was previously only available to those that could afford high-priced attorneys.”

Boundless charges $750 for its online green card application support services, which includes ensuring families correctly complete applications and have access to an immigration lawyer to review those applications. The fee comes at a major discount to the costs of an immigration lawyer and streamlines a process that can be delayed months when errors are made. The startup also offers a recently launched $395 naturalization product meant to assist eligible green card holders with their U.S. citizenship applications.

Wang founded Boundless in 2017 after helping build Amazon Go, the e-commerce giant’s line of cashierless convenience stores. Wang is an immigrant, having relocated to the U.S. from China when he was a child.

“We spent almost five months of rent money on an immigration attorney because the stakes were so high and we only had one shot,” Wang said. “We wanted to make sure we were doing it right. This is a story that is echoed by millions of families every year; this is such an important part of them starting a new life in a new country.”

Wang, after three years at Amazon, realized he could use his technology background and data prowess to build an information platform supportive of these millions of families.

“This is exactly what tech and data is meant to do,” he said. “I believe there is a moral obligation for tech to be used in meaningfully improving people’s lives.”

Boundless plans to use this investment to expand its team and product offerings, as well as build out its content library, which Wang said is rapidly becoming the go-to place for immigrants navigating the legal labyrinth that is the U.S. green card and citizenship process. Its resources page, which includes straightforward guides, a number of forms and more, counts 300,000 unique visitors per month.

“We hold their hand through the entire process,” Wang said. “We want to be the single source of information and tools for all family-based immigration.”

Wang and his team also hope to shine a brighter light on immigration policy. In late 2018, as part of its effort to be louder advocates for immigrants, Boundless, alongside Warby Parker, Foursquare, Foundation Capital and more, published an open letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security opposing its proposed “public charge” immigration regulation, which would allow for non-citizens who are in the country legally to be denied a visa or a green card if they have a medical condition, financial liabilities and other disqualifiers.

“The stakes for making sure your application is correct have never been higher; the government has far more leeway to be able to deny applications,” Wang said. “While we can’t speed up the government processing times, we can make meaningful improvements to helping families gather all the materials they need to send in the right information.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Lyft’s imminent IPO could value the company at $23B

Posted by on Mar 18, 2019 in Alphabet, Andreessen Horowitz, Companies, Floodgate Fund, General Motors, initial public offering, Lyft, online marketplaces, rakuten, San Francisco, TC, the wall street journal, transport, Uber, Wall Street Journal | 0 comments

Ridehailing firm Lyft will make its Nasdaq debut as early as next week at a valuation of up to $23 billion, The Wall Street Journal reports. The business will reportedly price its shares at between $62 and $68 apiece, raising roughly $2 billion in the process.

With a $600 million financing, Lyft was valued at $15.1 billion in June.

Lyft filed paperwork for an initial public offering in December, mere hours before its competitor Uber did the same. The car-sharing behemoths have been in a race to the public markets, igniting a pricing war ahead of their respected IPOs in a big to impress investors.

Uber’s IPO may top $120 billion, though others have more modestly pegged its initial market cap at around $90 billion. Uber has not made its S-1 paperwork public but is expected to launch its IPO in April.

Lyft has not officially priced its shares. Its S-1 filing indicated a $100 million IPO fundraise, which is typically a placeholder amount for companies preparing for a float. Lyft’s IPO roadshow, or the final stage ahead of an IPO, begins Monday.

San Francisco-based Lyft has raised a total of $5.1 billion in venture capital funding from key stakeholders including the Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, which boasts a 13 percent pre-IPO stake, plus General Motors (7.76 percent), Fidelity (7.1 percent), Andreessen Horowitz (6.25 percent) and Alphabet (5.3 percent). Early investors, like seed-stage venture capital firm Floodgate, also stand to reap big returns.

Lyft will trade under the ticker symbol “LYFT.” JPMorgan Chase & Co., Credit Suisse Group AG and Jefferies Financial Group Inc. are leading the IPO.

Lyft recorded $2.2 billion in revenue in 2018 — more than double 2017’s revenue — on a net loss of $911 million.

Lyft declined to comment.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

GM Cruise snags Dropbox HR head to hire at least 1,000 engineers by end of year

Posted by on Mar 11, 2019 in Arden Hoffman, Artificial Intelligence, Automotive, autonomous vehicles, chief technology officer, cloud storage, computing, cruise, Cruise Automation, Dan Ammann, Dropbox, executive, General Motors, Google, honda, Kyle Vogt, Lidar, Personnel, San Francisco, Seattle, Softbank, Software, software engineering, strobe, Transportation | 0 comments

GM Cruise plans to hire hundreds of employees over the next nine months, doubling its engineering staff, TechCrunch has learned. It’s an aggressive move by the autonomous vehicle technology company to double its size as it pushes to deploy a robotaxi service by the end of the year. Arden Hoffman, who helped scale Dropbox, will leave the file-sharing and storage company to head up human resources at Cruise.

The GM subsidiary, which has more than 1,000 employees, is expanding its office space in San Francisco to accommodate the growth. GM Cruise will keep its headquarters at 1201 Bryant Street in San Francisco. The company will also take over Dropbox headquarters at 333 Brannan Street some time this year, a move that will triple Cruise’s office space in San Francisco.

“Arden has made a huge impact on Dropbox over the last four years. She helped build and scale our team and culture to the over 2300 person company we are today, and we‘ll miss her leadership, determination, and sense of humor. While we’re sorry to see her go, we’re excited for her and wish her all the best in this new opportunity to grow the team at Cruise,” a Dropbox spokesperson said in an emailed statement. 

Prior to joining Dropbox, Hoffman was human resources director at Google for three years.

The planned expansion and hiring of Hoffman follows a recent executive reshuffling. GM president Dan Ammann left the automaker in December and became CEO of Cruise. Ammann had been president of GM since 2014, and he was a central figure in the automaker’s 2016 acquisition of Cruise and its integration with GM.

Kyle Vogt,  a Cruise co-founder who was CEO and also unofficially handled the chief technology officer position, is now president and CTO.

Cruise has grown from a small startup with 40 employees to more than 1,000 today at its San Francisco headquarters. It has expanded to Seattle, as well, in pursuit of talent. Cruise announced plans in November to open an office in Seattle and staff it with up to 200 engineers. And with the recent investments by SoftBank and Honda, which has pushed Cruise’s valuation to $14.6 billion, it has the runway to double its staff.

The hunt for qualified people with backgrounds in software engineering, robotics and AI has heated up as companies race to develop and deploy autonomous vehicles. There are more than 60 companies that have permits from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test autonomous vehicles in the state.

Competition over talent has led to generous, even outrageous, compensation packages and poaching of people with specific skills.

Cruise’s announcement puts more pressure on that ever-tightening pool of talent. Cruise has something that many other autonomous vehicle technology companies don’t — ready amounts of capital. In May, Cruise received a $2.25 billion investment by SoftBank’s vision fund. Honda also committed $2.75 billion as part of an exclusive agreement with GM and Cruise to develop and produce a new kind of autonomous vehicle.

As part of that agreement, Honda will invest $2 billion into the effort over the next 12 years. Honda also is making an immediate and direct equity investment of $750 million into Cruise.

Cruise will likely pursue a dual path of traditional recruitment and acquisitions to hit that 1,000-engineer mark. It’s a strategy Cruise is already pursuing. Last year, Cruise acquired Zippy.ai, which develops robots for last-mile grocery and package delivery, for an undisclosed amount of money. The deal was more of an acqui-hire and did not include any of Zippy’s product or intellectual property. Instead, it seems Cruise was more interested in the skill sets of the co-founders, Gabe Sibley, Alex Flint and Chris Broaddus, and their team.

In 2017, Cruise also acquired Strobe,  a LiDAR sensor maker. At the time, Cruise said Strobe would help it reduce by nearly 100 percent the cost of LiDAR on a per-vehicle basis.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Bottomless has a solution for lazy coffee addicts

Posted by on Mar 11, 2019 in Accelerator, Amazon, Coffee, digital assistant, drinks, Food, food and drink, funding, Google, Philz Coffee, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Startups, TC, Y Combinator | 0 comments

If you’re like me, you let out a heavy sigh every month or so when you reach out and unexpectedly find an empty bag of coffee. Bottomless, one of the 200-plus startups in Y Combinator’s latest batch, has a solution for us caffeine addicts.

For a $36 annual membership fee, a cost which co-founder Michael Mayer says isn’t set in stone, plus $11.29 per order depending on the blend, Bottomless will automatically restock your coffee supply before you run out. How? The startup sends its members an internet-connected scale free of charge, which members place under their bag of coffee grounds. Tracking the weight of the bag, Bottomless’ scales determine when customers are low on grounds and ensure a new bag of previously selected freshly roasted coffee is on their doorstep before they run out.

Voilà, no more coffee-less mornings.

Founded by Seattle-based husband and wife duo Mayer and Liana Herrera in 2016, Bottomless began as a passion project for Mayer, a former developer at Nike.com. Herrera kept working as a systems implementations specialist until Bottomless secured enough customers to justify the pair working on the project full-time. That was in 2018; months later, after their second attempt at applying, they were admitted into the Y Combinator accelerator program.

Bottomless’ smart scale

Bottomless today counts around 400 customers and has inked distribution deals with Four Barrel and Philz Coffee, among other roasters. Including the $150,000 investment YC provides each of its startups, Bottomless previously raised a pre-seed round from San Francisco and Seattle-area angel investors.

Before relocating to San Francisco for YC, the Bottomless founders were working feverishly out of their Seattle home.

“This whole time we’ve been 3D-printing prototypes out of our apartment and soldering them together out of our apartment,” Mayer told TechCrunch. “We kind of turned our place into this new manufacturing facility. There’s dust everywhere and it’s crazy. But we made 150 units ourselves by hand-soldering and lots of burned fingers.”

The long-term goal is to automate the restocking process of several household items, like pet food, soap and shampoo. Their challenge will be getting customers to keep multiple smart scales in their homes as opposed to just asking their digital assistant to order them some coffee or soap on Amazon .

Amazon recently announced it was doing away with its stick-on Dash buttons, IoT devices capable of self-ordering on Amazon. The devices launched in 2015 before Google Homes and Amazon Alexas hit the mainstream.

So why keep a smart scale in your kitchen as opposed to just asking a digital assistant to replenish your supply? Mayer says it’s coffee quality that keeps it competitive.

“Some of our most enthusiastic customers live out in like deep suburbs far away from city centers, but they really love fresh coffee,” Mayer said.And there’s no way to get fresh coffee if you live 20 or 30 minutes from a city center, right?”

“Or you might think in a city like San Francisco or Seattle, you can get freshly roasted coffee pretty easily because there are restaurants all over the place, right?” He added. “That’s certainly true, but it does take a little bit of extra thought to remember to grab it on the right day when you’re running low.”

Mayer and Herrera don’t consider themselves coffee experts, despite now running what is essentially a direct-to-consumer coffee marketplace out of Seattle, the coffee capital.

“I’m originally from Portland and Portlanders know a lot about coffee,” Mayer said. “I never really considered myself to be a coffee aficionado or a coffee snob in my head, but I guess compared to like the average American from anywhere in the country, I would be just a regular coffee drinker in Portland. All I really knew about coffee going into this was that it’s better fresh. That’s it.”

Bottomless is currently accepting customers in beta. The team will pitch to investors at YC Demo Days next week.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Y Combinator president Sam Altman is stepping down amid a series of changes at the accelerator

Posted by on Mar 8, 2019 in Accelerator, advisor, articles, Artificial Intelligence, chairman, chief executive officer, Co-founder, Michael Seibel, OpenAI, partner, paul graham, president, sam altman, San Francisco, Startups, Venture Capital, Y Combinator, yc | 0 comments

Sam Altman, the well-known president of the prolific Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator, is stepping down, the firm shared in a blog post on Friday.

Altman is transitioning into a chairman role with other YC partners stepping up to take on his day-to-day responsibilities, as first reported by Axios. Sources tell TechCrunch YC has no succession plans. YC’s core program is currently led by chief executive officer Michael Seibel, who joined the firm as a part-time partner in 2013 and assumed the top role in 2016.

The news comes amid a series of shake-ups at the accelerator, which is expected to demo its latest batch of 200-plus companies in San Francisco March 18 and 19. In Friday’s blog post, YC expands on some of those changes, including the firm’s decision to move it’s HQ to San Francisco, which TechCrunch reported earlier this week.

“We are considering moving YC to the city and are currently looking for space,” YC writes. “The center of gravity for new startups has clearly shifted over the past five years, and although we love our space in Mountain View, we are rethinking whether the logistical tradeoff is worth it, especially given how difficult the commute has become. We also want to be closer to our Bay Area alumni, who disproportionately live and work in San Francisco.”

In addition to moving it’s HQ up north, YC has greatly expanded the size of its cohorts — so much so that it’s next demo day will have two stages — and it’s writing larger checks to portfolio companies.

Altman, who joined YC as a partner in 2011 and was named president in 2014, will focus on other efforts, including OpenAI, a research organization in which he co-chairs. Altman was the second-ever YC president, succeeding YC co-founder Paul Graham in 2014. Graham is currently an advisor to YC.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

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

Read More

The Silicon Valley exodus continues

Posted by on Mar 5, 2019 in 500 startups, Accel, Accelerator, angelpad, founders fund, General Catalyst, Kleiner Perkins, Menlo Park, norwest venture partners, palo alto, San Francisco, shasta ventures, Silicon Valley, Startups, TC, True Ventures, Uber, Venture Capital, Y Combinator | 0 comments

For a long time, it was the norm for founders to haul their hardware to the 3000 block of Sand Hill Road, where the venture capitalists of “Silicon Valley” would be awaiting their pitches. Today, many of the investors that touted the exclusivity of “The Valley” have moved north to San Francisco, where they have better access to top entrepreneurs.

Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley institution and to many the lifeblood of the startups and venture capital ecosystem, is the latest to pack up shop. YC, which invests $150,000 for 7 percent equity in a few hundred startups per year, is currently searching for a space in SF to operate its accelerator program, sources close to YC confirm to TechCrunch, because the majority of YC’s employees and its portfolio founders reside in the city.

Founded in 2005, YC’s roots are in Mountain View, California. In its first four years, YC offered programs in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Mountain View before opting in 2009 to focus exclusively on The Valley. In late 2013, as more and more of its partners and portfolio companies were establishing themselves in SF, YC opened a satellite office in the city in what would be the beginning of its journey northbound.

The small satellite office, used to support SF-based staff and provide portfolio companies resources and workspace, is located in Union Square. The fate of YC’s Mountain View office is unclear.

YC’s move north will be the latest in a series of small changes that, together, point to a new era for the Sam Altman-run accelerator. Approaching its 15th birthday, YC announced in September it was changing up the way it invests. No longer would it seed startups with $120,000 for 7 percent equity, it would give startups an additional 30,000 to cover the expenses of getting a business off the ground and it would admit a whole lot more companies.

YC began mentoring its largest cohort of companies to date in late 2018. The astonishing 200-plus group in its winter 2019 batch is more than 50 percent larger than the 132-team cohort that graduated in spring 2018. To accommodate the truly gigantic group at YC Demo Days later this month (March 18 and 19), YC has moved to a new venue, SF’s Pier 48. Historically, YC Demo Days were hosted at the Computer History Museum near its home in Mountain View.

YC has also ditched “Investor Day,” which is typically an opportunity for investors to schedule meetings with startups that just completed the accelerator program. YC writes that the decision came “after analyzing its effectiveness.” On top of that, rumors suggest YC is planning to put an end to Demo Days. Other accelerators, AngelPad for example, put a stop to the tradition last year after realizing demo day was more of a stress to startup founders than a resource. Sources close to YC, however, tell TechCrunch these rumors are categorically false.

YC isn’t the first accelerator to ditch its Silicon Valley digs. 500 Startups, a smaller yet still prolific accelerator, opened an SF satellite office the same year as YC, and in 2018, the nine-year-old program made the decision to permanently relocate to SF. Venture capital firms, too, have realized the opportunities are larger in SF than on Sand Hill Road.

The transition from the peninsula to the city began around 2012, when VC heavyweights like Uber and Twitter-backer Benchmark opened an office in SF’s mid-market neighborhood. Months later, 47-year-old Kleiner Perkins, an investor in Stripe and DoorDash, opened the doors to its new workplace in SF’s South Park neighborhood.

Around that same time a whole bunch of firms followed suit: Shasta Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Accel, GV, General Catalyst and NEA opened SF shops, to name a few. Many of these firms, Benchmark, Kleiner and Accel, for example, held onto their Silicon Valley locations. Firms like True Ventures and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund planted stakes in SF years prior. Both firms have operated SF offices since 2005; True Ventures, for its part, has managed a Palo Alto office from the get-go, as well.

“When we first started, it was [expected] that it would be maybe 60-40 Peninsula to the city; it’s actually turned out to be 80-20 SF to The Valley,” True Ventures co-founder Phil Black told TechCrunch. “For us, it was important to be near our customer: the founder. It’s important for us to be in and around where founders are doing their things.”

The transition out of The Valley is ongoing. Other VC funds are still in the process of opening their first SF offices as more partners beg for shorter commutes. Khosla Ventures, for example, is currently searching for an SF headquarters.

Silicon Valley real estate will likely remain a hot — or warm, at least — commodity, however. Why? Because long-time investors have lives established in that part of the bay, where they’ve built homes in well-kept, affluent cities like Woodside, Atherton and Los Altos.

Still, Y Combinator’s move highlights an increasingly adopted mantra: Silicon Valley isn’t the goldmine it used to be. For the best deals and greatest access to entrepreneurs, SF takes the cake — for now, that is. But with rising rents and a changing attitude toward geographically diverse founders, how long SF will remain the destination for top talent is an entirely different question.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More