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How the pandemic drove the IPO wave we see today

2020, November 22 - 6:00am

This is The TechCrunch Exchange, a newsletter that goes out on Saturdays, based on the column of the same name. You can sign up for the email here.

I had a neat look into the world of mental health startup fundraising planned for this week, but after being slow-motion carpet-bombed by S-1s, that is now shoved off to Monday and we have to pause and talk about COVID-19.

The pandemic has been the most animating force for startups and venture capital in 2020, discounting the slow movement of global business into the digital realm. But COVID did more than that, as we all know. It crashed some companies as assuredly as it gave others a boost. For every Peloton there is probably a Toast, in other words.

Such is the case with this week’s crop of unicorn IPO candidates, though they are unsurprisingly weighted far more toward the COVID-accelerated cohort of startups instead of the group of startups that the pandemic cut off at the knees. 

More simply, COVID-19 gave most of our recent IPOs a polite shove in the back, helping them jog a bit faster toward the public-offering finish line. Let’s talk about it.

Roblox, the gaming company that targets kids, has been a beneficiary during the COVID-19 pandemic, as folks stayed home and, it appears, gave their kids money to buy in-game currency so that their parents could have some peace. Great business, even if Roblox warned that growth could slow sharply next year, when compared to its epic 2020 gains.

But Roblox is hardly the only company taking advantage of COVID-19’s impacts on the market to get public while their numbers are stellar. We saw DoorDash file last week, crowing from atop a mountain of revenue growth that came in part from you and I trying to stay home since March. As it turns out you order more delivery when you can’t leave your house.

Affirm got a COVID-19 boost as well, with not only e-commerce spend growing — Affirm provides point-of-sale loans to consumers during online shopping — but also because Peloton took off, and lots of folks chose to finance their new exercise bike with the payment service. Call it a double-boost.

The IPO is well-timed. Wish falls into the same bucket, though it did hit some supply-chain and delivery issues due to the pandemic, so you could argue it either way.

Regardless, as we have seen from global numbers, COVID-19 is very much not done wreaking havoc on our health, happiness, and ability to go about normal life. So the trends that this week’s S-1s have shown us still have some room to run.

Which is irksome for Airbnb, a unicorn that was supposed to have debuted already via a direct listing, but instead had to hit pause, borrow money, lay off staff, and now jog to the startup finish line with less revenue in this Q3 than the last. In time, Airbnb will get back to full-speed, but among our new IPO candidates it’s the only company net-harmed by COVID-19. That makes it special.

There are other trends to keep tabs on, regarding the pandemic. Not every software company that you might expect to be thriving at the moment actually is; Workday shares are off 8% today as I write to you, because the company said that COVID-19 is harming its ability to land new customers. Here’s its CFO Robynne Sisco from its earnings call

Keep in mind, however, that while we have seen some recent stability in the underlying environment, headwinds due to COVID remains particularly to net new bookings. And given our subscription model, these headwinds that have impacted us all year will be more fully evident in next year’s subscription revenue weighing on our growth in the near-term.

Yeesh. So don’t look at recent IPOs and think that all things are good for all companies, or even all software companies. (To be clear, the pandemic is a human crisis, but my job is to talk about its business impacts so here we are. Hugs, and please stay as safe as you can.)

Market Notes

There was so much news this week that we have to be annoyingly summary. 

I caught up with Brex CEO Henrique Dubugras the other day, giving The Exchange a chance to parse what happened to the company during the early COVID days when the company decided to cut staff. The short answer from the CEO is that the company went from growing 10% to 15% each month, to seeing negative growth — not a sin, Airbnb saw negative gross bookings for a few months earlier this year — and as the company had hired for a big year, it had to make cuts. Dubugras talked about how hard of a choice that was to make.

Brex’s business rebounded faster than the company expected, however, driven in part by strong new business formation — some data here — and companies rapidly moving into the digital realm and moving to finance systems like Brex’s. 

Looking forward, Dubugras wants to expand the pool of companies that Brex can underwrite, which makes sense as that would open up its market size quite a lot. And the company is as remote as companies are now, with its CEO opening up during our chat about the pros and cons of the move. Happily for the business fintech unicorn, Dubugras said that some of the negatives of companies working more remotely haven’t been as tough as expected. 

Next up: Growth metric. Verbit, a startup that uses AI to transcribe and caption videos, raised a $60 million Series C this week led by Sapphire Ventures. I couldn’t get to the round, but the company did note in its release that it has seen 400% year-over-year revenue growth, and that its “revenue run-rate [has] grown five-fold since 2019.” Nice.

Jai Das led the round for Verbit, and, in a quirk of good timing, I’m hosting an Extra Crunch Live with him in a few weeks. (Extra Crunch sub required for that, head here if you need one. The discount code ‘EQUITY’ should still be working if it helps.)

Telos, a Virginia-based cybersecurity and identity company went public this week. It fell under our radar because there is more news than we have hands to type it up. Such is the rapid-fire news cycle of late 2020. But, to catch us both up, Telos priced midrange but with an upsized offering, valuing it around $1 billion, according to MarketWatch.

After going public, Telos shares have performed well. Cybersecurity is having one hell of a year.

Turning back to our favorite topic in the world, SaaS, ProfitWell’s Patrick Campbell dropped a grip of data on the impact of COVID-19 on the B2B SaaS market. Mostly it’s positive. There was a hit early on, but then growth seems to have accelerated. Just keep in mind the Workday example from earlier; not everyone is in software growth paradise as 2020 comes to a close.

And, finally, after Affirm released its S-1 filing, competing service Klarna decided it was a good time to drop some performance data of its own. First of all, Klarna — thanks. We like data. Second of all, just go public. Klarna said that it grew from 10 million customers in the United States to 11 million in three weeks, and that the second statistic was up 106% compared to its year-ago tally. 

Affirm, you are now required by honor to update your S-1 with even more data as an arch-nerd clapback. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.

Various and Sundry

Alright, that’s enough of all that. Chat to you soon, and I hope that you are safe and well and good.

Alex

Categories: Business News

Affirm, Airbnb, C3.ai, Roblox, Wish file for tech IPO finale of 2020

2020, November 22 - 4:00am

Editor’s note: Get this free weekly recap of TechCrunch news that any startup can use by email every Saturday morning (7 a.m. PT). Subscribe here.

The wait was long but this week the time was right: Airbnb finally filed its S-1 and so did Affirm, C3.ai, Roblox, and Wish. We are likely to see these five price on public markets before the end of an already superlative year for tech IPOs. The ongoing pandemic and political turmoil were not scary enough, apparently.

This coming decade, you have to think that we’ll see a more even spread of tech companies going public. Many of the companies above have been bottled up for years behind privately funded growth strategies. Today, however, the industry has a better grasp of SPACs and direct listings, and various funding routes. Companies have more options from their founding for how they might grow and exit one day. Public investors in 2020 also seem to have a deeper appreciation for the current revenue numbers and future growth opportunities for tech companies. Why, I can still remember all the geniuses who bragged about shorting the Facebook IPO not so long ago.

Will we see a more even spread of where IPOs come from? While all of this week’s filers are headquartered in San Francisco or environs, that now feels almost like a coincidental reference to the years when these companies were founded. More states have been minting their own unicorns, with Ohio-based Root Insurance recently going public and Utah-based Qualtrics heading (back) that way. Tech startups are now global, meanwhile, and plenty of countries are working to keep their unicorns closer to home than New York.

On to the headlines from TechCrunch and Extra Crunch:

If you didn’t make $1B this week, you are not doing VC right (EC)

Affirm files to go public

Inside Affirm’s IPO filing: A look at its economics, profits and revenue concentration (EC)

Airbnb files to go public

5 questions from Airbnb’s IPO filing (EC)

The VC and founder winners in Airbnb’s IPO (EC)

Roblox files to go public

What is Roblox worth? (EC)

Wish files to go public with 100M monthly actives, $1.75B in 2020 revenue thus far

Unpacking the C3.ai IPO filing (EC)

With a 2021 IPO in the cards, what do we know about Robinhood’s Q3 performance? (EC)

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

What does a Biden administration mean for tech?

What does Joe Biden intend as president around technology policy? On the one hand, tech companies might not be returning to the White House too fast. “All told, we’re seeing some familiar names in the mix, but 2020 isn’t 2008,” Taylor Hatmaker explains about potential presidential appointments from the industry. “Tech companies that emerged as golden children over the last 10 years are radioactive now. Regulation looms on the horizon in every direction. Whatever policy priorities emerge out of the Biden administration, Obama’s technocratic gilded age is over and we’re in for something new.”

However, tech industries and companies focused on shared goals might find support. In a review of Biden’s climate-change policies, Jon Shieber looks at major green infrastructure plans that could be on the way.

Any policies that a Biden administration enacts would have to focus on economic opportunity broadly, and much of the proposed plan from the campaign fulfills that need. One of its key propositions was that it would be “creating good, union, middle-class jobs in communities left behind, righting wrongs in communities that bear the brunt of pollution, and lifting up the best ideas from across our great nation — rural, urban and tribal,” according to the transition website. An early emphasis on grid and utility infrastructure could create significant opportunities for job creation across America — and be a boost for technology companies. “Our electric power infrastructure is old, aging and not secure,” said Abe Yokell, co-founder of the energy and climate-focused venture capital firm Congruent Ventures. “From an infrastructure standpoint, transmission distribution really should be upgraded and has been underinvested over the years. And it is in direct alignment with providing renewable energy deployment across the U.S. and the electrification of everything.”

Image Credits: Steve Proehl (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The future of construction tech

A skilled labor shortage is piling on top of the construction industry’s traditional challenges this year. The result is that tech adoption is getting a big push into the real world, Allison Xu of Bain Capital Ventures writes in a guest column for Extra Crunch this week. She maps out six main construction categories where tech startups are emerging, including project conception, design and engineering, pre-construction, construction execution, post construction and construction management. Here’s an excerpt from the article about that last item:

  • How it works today: Construction management and operations teams manage the end-to-end project, with functions such as document management, data and insights, accounting, financing, HR/payroll, etc.
  • Key challenges: The complexity of the job site translates to highly complex and burdensome paperwork associated with each project. Managing the process requires communication and alignment across many stakeholders.
  • How technology can address challenges: The nuances of the multistakeholder construction process merit value in a verticalized approach to managing the project. Construction management tools like ProcoreHyphen Solutions and IngeniousIO have created ways for contractors to coordinate and track the end-to-end process more seamlessly. Other players like Levelset have taken a construction-specific approach to functions like invoice management and payments.

Virtual HQs after the pandemic?

Pandemic-era work solutions like online team meeting spaces are heading towards a less certain, vaccine-based reality. Have we all gone remote-first enough that they will have a real market, still? Natasha Mascarenhas checks in with some of the top companies to see how it’s looking, here’s more:

With the goal of making remote work more spontaneous, there are dozens of new startups working to create virtual HQs for distributed teams. The three that have risen to the top include Branch, built by Gen Z gamers; Gather, created by engineers building a gamified Zoom; and Huddle, which is still in stealth.

The platforms are all racing to prove that the world is ready to be a part of virtual workspaces. By drawing on multiplayer gaming culture, the startups are using spatial technology, animations and productivity tools to create a metaverse dedicated to work.

The biggest challenge ahead? The startups need to convince venture capitalists and users alike that they’re more than Sims for Enterprise or an always-on Zoom call. The potential success could signal how the future of work will blend gaming and socialization for distributed teams.

Around TechCrunch

Head of the US Space Force, Gen. John W. ‘Jay’ Raymond, joins us at TechCrunch Sessions: Space

Amazon’s Project Kuiper chief David Limp is coming to TC Sessions: Space

Across the week

TechCrunch

Against all odds: The sheer force of immigrant startup founders

S16 Angel Fund launches a community of founders to invest in other founders

Pre-seed fintech firm Financial Venture Studio closes on debut fund to build on legacy of top investments

How esports can save colleges

Why are telehealth companies treating healthcare like the gig economy?

A court decision in favor of startup UpCodes may help shape open access to the law

Extra Crunch

Will Zoom Apps be the next hot startup platform?

Is the internet advertising economy about to implode?

Surging homegrown talent and VC spark Italy’s tech renaissance

Why some VCs prefer to work with first-time founders

3 growth tactics that helped us surpass Noom and Weight Watchers

A report card for the SEC’s new equity crowdfunding rules

#EquityPod

From Alex Wilhelm:

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast (now on Twitter!), where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week wound up being incredibly busy. What else, with a week that included both the Airbnb and Affirm IPO filings, a host of mega-rounds for new unicorns, some fascinating smaller funding events and some new funds?

So we had a lot to get through, but with Chris and Danny and Natasha and your humble servant, we dove in headfirst:

What a week! Three episodes, some new records, and a very tired us after all the action. More on Monday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Categories: Business News

All IPOs should be paid for in Robux

2020, November 21 - 9:00pm

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast (now on Twitter!), where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is an all-time first for the show, it’s an Equity Leftovers. Which means that we’re not focusing on a single topic like we would in an Equity Shot. This is just, well, more Equity.

Danny and I and Chris got together to chat about a few things that we could not leave out:

And with this, our fourth episode in six days, we shall pause until Monday. Hugs from the Equity crew.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Categories: Business News

Extra Crunch roundup: A fistful of IPOs, Affirm’s Peloton problem, Zoom Apps and more

2020, November 21 - 7:08am

DoorDash, Affirm, Roblox, Airbnb, C3.ai and Wish all filed to go public in recent days, which means some venture capitalists are having the best week of their lives.

Tech companies that go public capture our imagination because they are literal happy endings. An Initial Public Offering is the promised land for startup pilgrims who may wander the desert for years seeking product-market fit. After all, the “I” in “ISO” stands for “incentive.”

A flurry of new S-1s in a single week forced me to rearrange our editorial calendar, but I didn’t mind; our 360-degree coverage let some of the air out of various hype balloons and uncovered several unique angles.

For example: I was familiar with Affirm, the service that lets consumers finance purchases, but I had no idea Peloton accounted for 30% of its total revenue in the last quarter.

“What happens if Peloton puts on the brakes?” I asked Alex Wilhelm as I edited his breakdown of Affirm’s S-1. We decided to use that as the subhead for his analysis.

The stories that follow are an overview of Extra Crunch from the last five days. Full articles are only available to members, but you can use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one or two-year subscription. Details here.

Thank you very much for reading Extra Crunch this week; I hope you have a relaxing weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

What is Roblox worth?

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman (opens in a new window)

Gaming company Roblox filed to go public yesterday afternoon, so Alex Wilhelm brought out a scalpel and dissected its S-1. Using his patented mathmagic, he analyzed Roblox’s fundraising history and reported revenue to estimate where its valuation might land.

Noting that “the public markets appear to be even more risk-on than the private world in 2020,” Alex pegged the number at “just a hair under $10 billion.”

What is Roblox worth?

What China’s fintech can teach the world

HANGZHOU, CHINA – JULY 31: An employee uses face recognition system on a self-service check-out machine to pay for her meals in a canteen at the headquarters of Alibaba Group on July 31, 2018 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. The self-service check-out machine can calculate the price of meals quickly to save employees’ queuing time. (Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images)

For all the hype about new forms of payment, the way I transact hasn’t been radically transformed in recent years — even in tech-centric San Francisco.

Sure, I use NFC card readers to tap and pay and tipped a street musician using Venmo last weekend. But my landlord still demands paper checks and there’s a tattered “CASH ONLY” taped to the register at my closest coffee shop.

In China, it’s a different story: Alibaba’s employee cafeteria uses facial recognition and AI to determine which foods a worker has selected and who to charge. Many consumers there use the same app to pay for utility bills, movie tickets and hamburgers.

“Today, nobody except Chinese people outside of China uses Alipay or WeChat Pay to pay for anything,” says finance researcher Martin Chorzempa. “So that’s a big unexplored side that I think is going to come into a lot of geopolitical risks.”

What China’s fintech market can teach the world

Inside Affirm’s IPO filing: A look at its economics, profits and revenue concentration

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman (opens in a new window)

Consumer lending service Affirm filed to go public on Wednesday evening, so Alex used Thursday’s column to unpack the company’s financials.

After reviewing Affirm’s profitability, revenue and the impact of COVID-19 on its bottom line, he asked (and answered) three questions:

  • What does Affirm’s loss rate on consumer loans look like?
  • Are its gross margins improving?
  • What does the unicorn have to say about contribution profit from its loans business?

Inside Affirm’s IPO filing: A look at its economics, profits and revenue concentration

If you didn’t make $1B this week, you are not doing VC right

Image Credits: XiXinXing (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

“The only thing more rare than a unicorn is an exited unicorn,” observes Managing Editor Danny Crichton, who looked back at Exitpalooza 2020 to answer “a simple question — who made the money?”

Covering each exit from the perspective of founders and investors, Danny makes it clear who’ll take home the largest slice of each pie. TL;DR? “Some really colossal winners among founders, and several venture firms walking home with billions of dollars in capital.

If you didn’t make $1B this week, you are not doing VC right

5 questions from Airbnb’s IPO filing

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman (opens in a new window)

The S-1 Airbnb released at the start of the week provided insight into the home-rental platform’s core financials, but it also raised several questions about the company’s health and long-term viability, according to Alex Wilhelm:

  • How far did Airbnb’s bookings fall during Q1 and Q2?
  • How far have Airbnb’s bookings come back since?
  • Did local, long-term stays save Airbnb?
  • Has Airbnb ever really made money?
  • Is the company wealthy despite the pandemic?

5 questions from Airbnb’s IPO filing

Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost explains the strategy behind acquiring Spacemaker

Andrew Anagnost, president and CEO, Autodesk.

Earlier this week, Autodesk announced its purchase of Spacemaker, a Norwegian firm that develops AI-supported software for urban development.

TechCrunch reporter Steve O’Hear interviewed Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost to learn more about the acquisition and asked why Autodesk paid $240 million for Spacemaker’s 115-person team and IP — especially when there were other startups closer to its Bay Area HQ.

“They’ve built a real, practical, usable application that helps a segment of our population use machine learning to really create better outcomes in a critical area, which is urban redevelopment and development,” said Anagnost.

“So it’s totally aligned with what we’re trying to do.”

Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost explains the strategy behind acquiring Spacemaker

Unpacking the C3.ai IPO filing

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman (opens in a new window)

On Monday, Alex dove into the IPO filing for enterprise artificial intelligence company C3.ai.

After poring over its ownership structure, service offerings and its last two years of revenue, he asks and answers the question: “is the business itself any damn good?”

Unpacking the C3.ai IPO filing

Is the internet advertising economy about to implode?

Image Credits: jayk7 / Getty Images

In his new book, “Subprime Attention Crisis,” writer/researcher Tim Hwang attempts to answer a question I’ve wondered about for years: does advertising actually work?

Managing Editor Danny Crichton interviewed Hwang to learn more about his thesis that there are parallels between today’s ad industry and the subprime mortgage crisis that helped spur the Great Recession.

So, are online ads effective?

“I think the companies are very reticent to give up the data that would allow you to find a really definitive answer to that question,” says Hwang.

Is the internet advertising economy about to implode?

Will Zoom Apps be the next hot startup platform?

Image Credits: Zoom

Even after much of the population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, we will still be using Zoom’s video-conferencing platform in great numbers.

That’s because Zoom isn’t just an app: it’s also a platform play for startups that add functionality using APIs, an SDK or chatbots that behave like smart assistants.

Enterprise reporter Ron Miller spoke to entrepreneurs and investors who are leveraging Zoom’s platform to build new applications with an eye on the future.

“By offering a platform to build applications that take advantage of the meeting software, it’s possible it could be a valuable new ecosystem for startups,” says Ron.

Will Zoom Apps be the next hot startup platform?

Will edtech empower or erase the need for higher education?

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Without an on-campus experience, many students (and their parents) are wondering how much value there is in attending classes via a laptop in a dormitory.

Even worse: Declining enrollment is leading many institutions to eliminate majors and find other ways to cut costs, like furloughing staff and cutting athletic programs.

Edtech solutions could fill the gap, but there’s no real consensus in higher education over which tools work best. Many colleges and universities are using a number of “third-party solutions to keep operations afloat,” reports Natasha Mascarenhas.

“It’s a stress test that could lead to a reckoning among edtech startups.”

Will edtech empower or erase the need for higher education?

3 growth tactics that helped us surpass Noom and Weight Watchers

3D rendering of TNT dynamite sticks in carton box on blue background. Explosive supplies. Dangerous cargo. Plotting terrorist attack. Image Credits: Gearstd / Getty Images.

I look for guest-written Extra Crunch stories that will help other entrepreneurs be more successful, which is why I routinely turn down submissions that seem overly promotional.

However, Henrik Torstensson (CEO and co-founder of Lifesum) submitted a post about the techniques he’s used to scale his nutrition app over the last three years. “It’s a strategy any startup can use, regardless of size or budget,” he writes.

According to Sensor Tower, Lifesum is growing almost twice as fast as Noon and Weight Watchers, so putting his company at the center of the story made sense.

3 growth tactics that helped us surpass Noom and Weight Watchers

Send in reviews of your favorite books for TechCrunch!

Image via Getty Images / Alexander Spatari

Every year, we ask TechCrunch reporters, VCs and our Extra Crunch readers to recommend their favorite books.

Have you read a book this year that you want to recommend? Send an email with the title and a brief explanation of why you enjoyed it to bookclub@techcrunch.com.

We’ll compile the suggestions and publish the list as we get closer to the holidays. These books don’t have to be published this calendar year — any book you read this year qualifies.

Please share your submissions by November 30.

Dear Sophie: Can an H-1B co-founder own a Delaware C Corp?

Image Credits: Sophie Alcorn

Dear Sophie:

My VC partner and I are working with 50/50 co-founders on their startup — let’s call it “NewCo.” We’re exploring pre-seed terms.

One founder is on a green card and already works there. The other founder is from India and is working on an H-1B at a large tech company.

Can the H-1B co-founder lead this company? What’s the timing to get everything squared away? If we make the investment we want them to hit the ground running.

— Diligent in Daly City

Dear Sophie: Can an H-1B co-founder own a Delaware C Corp?

Categories: Business News

Kea raises $10M to build AI that helps restaurants answer the phone

2020, November 21 - 5:42am

Kea is a new startup giving restaurants an opportunity to upgrade one of the more old-fashioned ways that they take orders — over the phone.

Today, Kea is announcing that it has raised a $10 million Series A led by Marbruck, with participation from Streamlined Ventures, Xfund, Heartland Ventures, DEEPCORE, Barrel Ventures and AVG Funds, as well as angel investors Raj Kapoor (chief strategy officer at Lyft), Craig Flom (who was on the founding team at Panera Bread), Wingstop franchisee Tony Lam and Five Guys franchisee Jonathan Kelly.

Founder and CEO Adam Ahmad said that with restaurants perpetually understaffed, they usually don’t have someone who can devote their attention to answering the phone. (Many of you, after all, are probably pretty familiar with the experience of calling a restaurant and being immediately placed on hold.)

At the same time, he suggested it remains an important ordering channel — especially during the pandemic, as takeout and delivery has become the biggest source of revenue for many restaurants. The New Yorker’s Helen Rosner put it succinctly when she suggested that anyone who wants to support restaurants should “pick up the damn phone.

Similarly, Ahmad said that for restaurants, paying substantial third-party ordering fees on all of their orders is “not a sustainable long-term strategy.” So Kea is offering technology that should help restaurants handle more orders over the phone, creating what Ahmad called a “virtual cashier” who can do the initial intake with customers, process most routine orders and bring in a human employee when needed.

The idea of an automated voice assistant may bring back unpleasant memories of trying to call your bank or another Byzantine customer service department. But Ahmad said that while most existing phone systems are “not smart,” Kea’s AI is very different, because it’s just focused on restaurant ordering.

“We’re doing a very closed domain,” he said. “In the pizza world, there are only a couple thousand permutations. We’re not innovating for the whole dictionary — it’s a constrained model, it’s a menu.”

In fact, the Kea team gave me a number to dial where I could try out the system for myself. It was a pretty straightforward and easy process, where I provided my address and then the details of my pizza order. And again, you can transfer to a human employee at any time. (In fact, I was accidentally transferred during my demo, leading me to quickly hang up in embarrassment.)

Kea is already live in more than 250 restaurants, including Papa John’s, Donatos and Primanti Brothers, and it says it’s saving them an average of 10 hours of labor per week, with a 23% increase in average order size. With the new funding, Ahmad’s goal is to bring Kea to 1,000 restaurants across 37 states in 2021.

Duplex, Google’s conversational AI, has updated 3M+ business listings since pandemic

Categories: Business News

Loadsmart raises $90 million to further consolidate its one-stop freight and logistics platform

2020, November 21 - 2:55am

Leading on-demand digital freight platform Loadsmart has raised a $90 million Series C funding round, led by funds under management by BlackRock and co-led by Chromo Invest. The funding will be used to continue to build out its platform to offer even more end-to-end logistics services to its freight customers, and the company says that it will be doing that in part through new collaboration with strategic investor TFI International, a leader in the logistics space, which also participated in this round.

In addition to TFI, the round also saw renewed investment from Maersk, a global oceanic shipping leader and one of Loadsmart’s strategic backers since its Series A round. The company says it has increased its revenues by 250% across 2020, while at the same time managing to keep its operating expenses flat. In a press release announcing the news, the company seemed to take indirect shots at competitors, including Uber Freight and Convoy, by noting that it has achieved its growth through “organic” means, rather than “by subsidizing its customers’ freight spend” through aggressive pricing.

Convoy raises $400 million to expand its on-demand trucking platform

Loadsmart offers booking for freight transportation across land, rail and through ports, all from a single online portal. It recently added the ability to ship partial truckloads, and its consistency brought in new strategic investors deeply involved in all aspects of the industry, including port management and overland shipping, which is likely contributing to its growth through ever-deeper industry insight.

Categories: Business News

Xesto is a foot scanning app that simplifies shoe gifting

2020, November 21 - 2:45am

You wait ages for foot scanning startups to help with the tricky fit issue that troubles online shoe shopping and then two come along at once: Launching today in time for Black Friday sprees is Xesto — which like Neatsy, which we wrote about earlier today, also makes use of the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera to generate individual 3D foot models for shoe size recommendations.

The Canadian startup hasn’t always been focused on feet. It has a long-standing research collaboration with the University of Toronto, alma mater of its CEO and co-founder Sophie Howe (its other co-founder and chief scientist, Afiny Akdemir, is also pursuing a Math PhD there) — and was actually founded back in 2015 to explore business ideas in human computer interaction.

But Howe tells us it moved into mobile sizing shortly after the 2017 launch of the iPhone X — which added a 3D depth camera to Apple’s smartphone. Since then Apple has added the sensor to additional iPhone models, pushing it within reach of a larger swathe of iOS users. So you can see why startups are spying a virtual fit opportunity here.

“This summer I had an aha! moment when my boyfriend saw a pair of fancy shoes on a deep discount online and thought they would be a great gift. He couldn’t remember my foot length at the time, and knew I didn’t own that brand so he couldn’t have gone through my closet to find my size,” says Howe. “I realized in that moment shoes as gifts are uncommon because they’re so hard to get correct because of size, and no one likes returning and exchanging gifts. When I’ve bought shoes for him in the past, I’ve had to ruin the surprise by calling him – and I’m not the only one. I realized in talking with friends this was a feature they all wanted without even knowing it… Shoes have such a cult status in wardrobes and it is time to unlock their gifting potential!”

Howe slid into this TechCrunch writer’s DMs with the eye-catching claim that Xesto’s foot-scanning technology is more accurate than Neatsy’s — sending a Xesto scan of her foot compared to Neatsy’s measure of it to back up the boast. (Aka: “We are under 1.5 mm accuracy. We compared against Neatsy right now and they are about 1.5 cm off of the true size of the app,” as she put it.)

Neatsy wants to reduce sneaker returns with 3D foot scans

Another big difference is Xesto isn’t selling any shoes itself. Nor is it interested in just sneakers; its shoe-type agnostic. If you can put it on your feet it wants to help you find the right fit, is the idea.

Right now the app is focused on the foot scanning process and the resulting 3D foot models — showing shoppers their feet in a 3D point cloud view, another photorealistic view as well as providing granular foot measurements.

There’s also a neat feature that lets you share your foot scans so, for example, a person who doesn’t have their own depth sensing iPhone could ask to borrow a friend’s to capture and takeaway scans of their own feet.

Helping people who want to be bought (correctly fitting) shoes as gifts is the main reason they’ve added foot scan sharing, per Howe — who notes shoppers can create and store multiple foot profiles on an account “for ease of group shopping”.

“Xesto is solving two problems: Buying shoes [online] for yourself, and buying shoes for someone else,” she tells TechCrunch. “Problem 1: When you buy shoes online, you might be unfamiliar with your size in the brand or model. If you’ve never bought from a brand before, it is very risky to make a purchase because there is very limited context in selecting your size. With many brands you translate your size yourself.

“Problem 2: People don’t only buy shoes for themselves. We enable gift and family purchasing (within a household or remote!) by sharing profiles.”

Xesto is doing its size predictions based on comparing a user’s (<1.5mm accurate) foot measurements to brands’ official sizing guidelines — with more than 150 shoe brands currently supported.

Howe says it plans to incorporate customer feedback into these predictions — including by analyzing online reviews where people tend to specify if a particular shoe sizes larger or smaller than expected. So it’s hoping to be able to keep honing the model’s accuracy.

“What we do is remove the uncertainty of finding your size by taking your 3D foot dimensions and correlate that to the brands sizes (or shoe model, if we have them),” she says. “We use the brands size guides and customer feedback to make the size recommendations. We have over 150 brands currently supported and are continuously adding more brands and models. We also recommend if you have extra wide feet you read reviews to see if you need to size up (until we have all that data robustly gathered).”

Asked about the competitive landscape, given all this foot scanning action, Howe admits there’s a number of approaches trying to help with virtual shoe fit — such as comparative brand sizing recommendations or even foot scanning with pieces of paper. But she argues Xesto has an edge because of the high level of detail of its 3D scans — and on account of its social sharing feature. Aka this is an app to make foot scans you can send your bestie for shopping keepsies.

“What we do that is unique is only use 3D depth data and computer vision to create a 3D scan of the foot with under 1.5mm accuracy (unmatched as far as we’ve seen) in only a few minutes,” she argues. “We don’t ask you any information about your feet, or to use a reference object. We make size recommendations based on your feet alone, then let you share them seamlessly with loved ones. Size sharing is a unique feature we haven’t seen in the sizing space that we’re incredibly excited about (not only because we will get more shoes as gifts :D).”

Xesto’s iOS app is free for shoppers to download. It’s also entirely free to create and share your foot scan in glorious 3D point cloud — and will remain so according to Howe. The team’s monetization plan is focused on building out partnerships with retailers, which is on the slate for 2021.

“Right now we’re not taking any revenue but next year we will be announcing partnerships where we work directly within brands ecosystems,” she says, adding: “[We wanted to offer] the app to customers in time for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. In 2021, we are launching some exciting initiatives in partnership with brands. But the app will always be free for shoppers!”

Since being founded around five years ago, Howe says Xesto has raised a pre-seed round from angel investors and secured national advanced research grants, as well as taking in some revenue over its lifetime. The team has one patent granted and one pending for their technologies, she adds.

Categories: Business News

What is Roblox worth?

2020, November 21 - 1:23am

With Roblox joining the end-of-year unicorn stampede toward the public markets, we’re set for a contentedly busy second half of November and early December. I hope you didn’t have vacation planned in the next few weeks.

This morning we need to get deeper into the Roblox S-1 so we can better understand the nature of its revenue generation. Why? Because we want to start working on what the gaming company is worth; some comparisons are being made to Unity, another unicorn that went public earlier this year with a gaming focus.

The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.

Should we apply Unity’s revenue multiple to Roblox? Or does the company deserve a slimmer multiple based on the substance of its revenue?

We’ll also have to remind ourselves how much capital Roblox last raised while private, and at what price. Given our historical knowledge of its financial results, we might be able to nail some valuations to revenue figures, helping us understand, roughly, how the venture capital community was valuing Roblox while it was private.

If you want an overview of just the numbers, Natasha and I wrote a digest here.

Now, let’s get to work.

What’s Roblox worth as a public company?

To get a foundation, let’s recall how Roblox was valued during its last private round. According to Crunchbase data, Roblox’s $150 million Series G was raised at a $3.9 billion pre-money valuation. So, Roblox was worth $4.05 billion after the February 2020 funding event.

Roblox files to go public

Naturally there is a lag between when a deal is struck and when it is announced. So, let’s rewind the clock to Q4 2019 and ask ourselves what Roblox looked like at the time. From its S-1, here are the Q4 2019 numbers:

  • Revenue of $138.3 million, +44.2% compared to the year-ago quarter
  • A net loss of $39.6 million, +197.1% compared to the year-ago quarter

Annualizing that revenue figure, Roblox was on a $553.3 million run rate at around the time it raised that Series G. In revenue-multiple terms, Roblox was valued at 7.3x its top line on an annualized basis.

If you are a SaaS fan you are probably pretty shocked right now. Why the hell was Roblox, a software company, worth so little? Well let’s remind ourselves how it makes money:

We generate substantially all of our revenue through the sales of Robux to users. Users can spend Robux to purchase access to experiences, enhancements in experiences, and items in the Avatar Marketplace. Robux are available as one-time purchases or monthly subscriptions. We recognize revenue ratably over the estimated average lifetime of a paying user. […]

Other revenue streams include a minimal amount of revenue from advertising, licenses, and royalties.

Categories: Business News

Prices increase tonight for our space-focused event, TC Sessions: Space

2020, November 21 - 1:16am

“Space, the final frontier…” You can probably recite the “Star Trek” opening monologue in your sleep. But we’re talking science fact, not fiction, and TC Sessions: Space 2020 provides real opportunity to connect with the people, information and funding you need to boldly build the future of space technology.

Go boldly, yes. But why pay full price? Early-bird pricing ends — in Gene Roddenberry’s parlance — on Stardate 98489.04. (a.k.a. today, November 20 at 11:59 p.m. PST). Boldly buy your pass before the deadline and save $100.

Tune in to hear from leading space industry founders, investors and technologists from across the public, private and defense industries. When it comes to experts, TechCrunch delivers. People like Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck, U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations General Jay Raymond and Lockheed Martin VP and head of civil space programs Lisa Callahan.

On the investment front we have VCs like Chris Boshuizen (Data Collective DCVC), Mike Collett (Promus Ventures) and Tess Hatch (Bessemer Venture Partners). And don’t miss out on the Fast Money breakout sessions to learn about space accelerator programs and how to access grant money.

Topics span a galaxy’s worth of technology, including 3D-printed rockets, earth observation data, orbital operations, ground station networks, launch services, broadband communications, defense operations and manufacturing in space.

Here’s a classic “but wait, there’s more” moment, because we’re not done adding opportunity. And this one’s a doozy!

Starburst x TechCrunch: Pitch Me to the Moon — Starburst Aerospace and TechCrunch are teaming up to launch a pitch competition called Pitch Me to the Moon. Think the Startup Battlefield, but for space. Ten promising early-stage space startups, selected by Starburst, will have an opportunity to present their innovations live to a panel of high-profile judges from across the industry.

Find this and all the panel discussions, interviews, fireside chats and interactive Q&As listed in the event agenda. Don’t worry about time conflicts — all sessions are available live and on-demand. Feel free to network with attendees, take care of client business or catch sessions live knowing that you can watch anything you missed later as your schedule permits.

Up your exposure game with a Space Startup Exhibitor Package ($360). It includes digital exhibition space, lead-generation capabilities and three conference passes. Bonus exposure: All exhibiting space startups get to pitch live to attendees during the event.

Go boldly for $100 less. Buy your pass to TC Sessions: Space 2020 before the early-bird deal ends tonight, November 20 at 11:59 p.m. PST.

Is your company interested in sponsoring TC Sessions: Space 2020? Click here to talk with us about available opportunities.

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Categories: Business News

Snap acquired Voisey, an app to create music tracks overlaying your own vocals

2020, November 21 - 1:05am

Snapchat helped pioneer the use of lenses on faces in photos and videos to turn ordinary picture messages into fantastical creations where humans can look like, say, cats, and even cats can wear festival-chic flower crowns. Now it sounds like the company might be turning its attention… to sound.

The company appears to have acquired Voisey, a U.K. startup that features instrumentals that you overlay with your own voice to create short music tracks (and videos), and also lets musicians upload instrumentals that become the basis for those tracks. Users can apply audio filters (like auto-tune, automated harmonies and some funny twists like a Billie-Eilish-ish effect) to their voices; and they can browse and view other people’s Voisey tracks.

The results look something like this or this.

The deal was first reported by Business Insider, which noted Voisey had changed its company address in London to that of Snap’s. In addition to that, we have seen that filings in Companies House indicate that the the four people who co-founded the startup — Dag Langfoss-Håland, Pal Wagtskjold-Myran, Erlend Drevdal Hausken and Oliver Barnes — as well as the startup’s first two investors — Terry Steven Fisher and Jason Lee Brook — all resigned as directors of the company on October 21. At the same time, two employees at Snap — Atul Manilal Porwal on the legal team and international controller Amanda Louise Reid — were assigned directorship roles.

Snap’s London spokesperson Tanya Ridd said Snap declined to comment for this story. Voisey did not respond to our email.

Voisey had raised only $1.88 million to date (per PitchBook data), and it’s ranked at 143 in iOS in Music in the U.S. currently, according to AppAnnie stats. It’s not clear how much Snap would have paid for the startup, but the news comes on the heels of a Snap filing earlier this month that indicated that the U.K. entity, which is still loss-making, is poised to borrow up to $500 million, so there is possibly some cash for acquisitions reserved as part of that.

Voisey has been described in the past as a “TikTok for music creation”. And it does look a little like the popular video app, which like Voisey is also focused around user-generated content. Voisey has a distinctly stronger creator feel to it, and there has even been at least one singer discovered on the platform. The Billie Eilish-esque Olivia Knight, who goes by “poutyface,” signed with Island Records/Warner Chappell earlier this year.

On the other hand, TikTok — at least for now — is less about music creation and more about people creating other kinds of content — dancing, written messages, chitchat — set to music. We write “for now” because TikTok’s parent ByteDance has also quietly acquired assets for music creation, so maybe we should watch this space.

It’s not clear whether Snap would look to integrate some or all of Voisey’s features into its flagship app Snapchat to create new music services, or run Voisey as a separate app (with easy hooks into Snapchat), or a combination of the two. Based on experience it could be any of these.

Snap has been slowly building up its music cred, but up to now that has felt more like work to clone TikTok: last month, it launched Sounds on Snapchat, a feature to let people add tunes to their Stories, to make them, well, more like TikTok videos. That has come with a growing trove of licensing deals with big publishers.

Even before it launched that, Snap hadn’t ignored the power of sound completely. It has been offering voice filters, to give your videos a more comedic twist, for years already. But with music being one of the most engaging of formats on social media, Voisey could potentially give Snap, and Snapchat, a leg up in the feature race with a platform to build original content.

What’s interesting is the timing of this deal.

It was just last week that we revealed another voice-focused acquisition of Snap’s, the Israeli startup Voca.ai, which it acquired for $70 million (although a close source disputed that and said it’s $120 million…).

Snap acquired Voca.ai, which makes AI-based voice agents for call centers

As with Voisey, no word on where Voca.ai tech will be used, but Voca.ai is an AI-based startup that lets companies create interactive voice-based chatbots for customer service interactions. That could see Snap expanding the kinds of services it provides to businesses, or expanding how people can interact using voice on its existing services, specifically its Spectacles, or both (or, again, something completely different).

Put together with the Voisey deal, it’s a sign of the company doing a lot more than just snapping pictures.

Categories: Business News

If you didn’t make $1B this week, you are not doing VC right

2020, November 21 - 12:59am

The only thing more rare than a unicorn is an exited unicorn.

At TechCrunch, we cover a lot of startup financings, but we rarely get the opportunity to cover exits. This week was an exception though, as it was exitpalooza as Affirm, Roblox, Airbnb and Wish all filed to go public. With DoorDash’s IPO filing last week, this is upwards of $100 billion in potential float heading to the public markets as we make our way to the end of a tumultuous 2020.

All those exits raise a simple question — who made the money? Which VCs got in early on some of the biggest startups of the decade? Who is going to be buying a new yacht for the family for the holidays (or, like, a fancy yurt for when Burning Man restarts)? The good news is that the wealth is being spread around at least a couple of VC firms, although there are definitely a handful of partners who are looking at a very, very nice check in the mail compared to others.

So let’s dive in.

I’ve covered DoorDash’s and Airbnb’s investor returns in-depth, so if you want to know more about those individual returns, feel free to check out those analyses. But let’s take a more panoramic perspective of the returns of these five companies as a whole.

First, let’s take a look at the founders. These are among the very best startups ever built, and therefore, unsurprisingly, the founders all did pretty well for themselves. But there are pretty wide variations that are interesting to note.

First, Airbnb — by far — has the best return profile for its founders. Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk and Joe Gebbia together own nearly 42% of their company at IPO, and that’s after raising billions in venture capital. The reason for their success is simple: Airbnb may have had some tough early innings when it was just getting started, but once it did, its valuation just skyrocketed. That helped to limit dilution in its earlier growth rounds, and ultimately protected their ownership in the company.

David Baszucki of Roblox and Peter Szulczewski of Wish both did well: they own 12% and about 19% of their companies, respectively. Szulczewski’s co-founder Sheng “Danny” Zhang, who is Wish’s CTO, owns 4.9%. Eric Cassel, the co-founder of Roblox, did not disclose ownership in the company’s S-1 filing, indicating that he doesn’t own greater than 5% (the SEC’s reporting threshold).

DoorDash’s founders own a bit less of their company, mostly owing to the money-gobbling nature of that business and the sheer number of co-founders of the company. CEO Tony Xu owns 5.2% while his two co-founders Andy Fang and Stanley Tang each have 4.7%. A fourth co-founder, Evan Moore, didn’t disclose his share totals in the company’s filing.

Finally, we have Affirm . Affirm didn’t provide total share counts for the company, so it’s hard right now to get a full ownership picture. It’s also particularly hard because Max Levchin, who founded Affirm, was a well-known, multi-time entrepreneur who had a unique shareholder structure from the beginning (many of the venture firms on the cap table actually have equal proportions of common and preferred shares). Levchin has more shares all together than any of his individual VC investors — 27.5 million shares, compared to the second largest investor, Jasmine Ventures (a unit of Singapore’s GIC) at 22 million shares.

Categories: Business News

Why is GoCardless COO Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas pivoting to become a full-time VC?

2020, November 21 - 12:39am

Index Ventures, a London- and San Francisco-headquartered venture capital firm that primarily invests in Europe and the U.S., recently announced its latest partner. Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas, currently COO of London-based fintech GoCardless and previously the chief product officer of Skyscanner, will join Index in January.

Gonzalez-Cadenas is a seasoned entrepreneur and operator, but has also become a prolific angel investor in the U.K. and Europe over the last three years, making more than 50 angel investments in total. Well-regarded by founders and co-investors, his transition to a full-time role in venture capital feels like quite a natural one.

Earlier this week, TechCrunch caught up with Gonzalez-Cadenas over Zoom to learn more about his new role at Index and how he intends to source deals and support founders. Index’s latest hire also shared his insights on Europe’s venture market, describing this era as the “best moment in entrepreneurship in Europe.”

TechCrunch: Let me start by asking, why do you want to become a VC? You’re obviously a well-established entrepreneur and operator, are you sure venture capital is the career for you?

Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas: I’ve been an angel investor for the last three years and this is something that has basically grown for me quite organically. I started doing just a handful and seeing if this is something I like and over time it has grown quite a lot and so has the number of entrepreneurs I’m partnered with. And this is something I’ve been increasingly more excited to do. So it has grown organically and something that emotionally has been getting closer and closer as time has passed.

And the things I like more specifically are: One, I’m quite a curious person, and for me, investing gives you the possibility of learning a lot about different sectors, about different entrepreneurs, different ways of building businesses, and that is something that I enjoy a lot.

The second bit is that I care a lot about helping entrepreneurs, especially the next generation of entrepreneurs, build great businesses in Europe. I’ve been very lucky, in the past, to learn from great people, like Gareth [Williams, Skyscanner co-founder] and Hiroki [Takeuchi. CEO at GoCardless], in my journey. I feel a duty of helping the next generation of entrepreneurs and sharing all the things that I’ve learnt. I care a lot about setting up founders as much as possible for success and sharing all those experiences I’ve learned [from].

These are the key two motivations that have led me to decide that it would be a great time now to move to the investing side.

How have you managed your deal flow while having a full-time job and where is that deal flow coming from?

It is typically coming in three buckets. A part of it is coming from my entrepreneur and operator network. So there are entrepreneurs and operators I know that are referring other entrepreneurs to me. Another bucket is other investors that I typically co-invest with. Another bucket is venture capitalists. I basically tend to invest quite a lot with VCs and in some cases they are referring deals to me.

In terms of managing it alongside GoCardless, it takes quite a lot of effort. It requires a lot of dedication and time invested during evenings and weekends.

The good thing is that my network typically tends to send me quite highly curated deals so essentially the deal flow I have luckily tends to be quite high quality, which makes things a bit more manageable. But don’t get me wrong, it still takes quite a lot of effort even if the deal flow is relatively high quality.

Presumably you haven’t been able to be all that hands-on as an angel investor, so how are you going to make that transition and what is it that you think you bring with the operational side to venture?

The way I think about this is, the entrepreneurs I typically invest in and their companies tend to be quite capable in their day-to-day perspective. Where they tend to find more value in interactions with me is what I call the “moments of truth.” Those key decisions, those key points in the journey where essentially it can influence the trajectory of the business in a fundamental way. It could be things like, I am fundraising and I don’t know how to position the business. Or I’m thinking about my strategy for the next 18 months and I will basically welcome an experienced person giving me a qualified opinion.

Or I have a big people problem and I don’t know how to solve that problem and I need that third person who has been in my shoes before. Or it could be that I’m thinking about how to organize my team as I move from startup to scale-up and I need help from someone who has scaled teams before. Or could be that I’m hiring three executives and I don’t know what a great CMO looks like. It’s those high-impact, high-leverage questions that the entrepreneurs tend to find helpful engaging with me, as opposed to very detailed day-to-day things that most of the entrepreneurs I work with tend to be quite capable of doing. And so far that model is working. The other thing is that the model is quite scalable because you are engaging 2-3 times per year but those times are high quality and highly impactful for the entrepreneur.

I typically also tend to have pretty regular and frequent communication with entrepreneurs on Slack. It’s more like quick questions that can be solved, and I tend to get quite a lot of that. So I think it’s that bimodel approach of high-frequency questions that we can solve by asynchronous means or high-impact moments a few times per year where, essentially, we need to sit down and we need to think together deeply about the problem.

And I tend to do nothing in the middle, where essentially, it’s stuff that is not so impactful but takes a huge amount of time for everyone, that doesn’t tend to be the most effective way of helping entrepreneurs. Obviously, I’m guided by what entrepreneurs want from perspective, so I’m always training the models in response to what they need.

Categories: Business News

Onit acquires legal startup McCarthyFinch to inject AI into legal workflows

2020, November 21 - 12:30am

Onit, a workflow software company based in Houston, announced this week that it has acquired 2018 TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield alum McCarthyFinch. Onit intends to use the startup’s AI skills to beef up its legal workflow software offerings.

The companies did not share the purchase price.

After evaluating a number of companies in the space, Onit focused on McCarthyFinch, which gives it an artificial intelligence component the company’s legal workflow software had been lacking. “We evaluated about a dozen companies in the AI space and dug in deep on six of them. McCarthyFinch stood out from the pack. They had the strongest technology and the strongest team,” Eric M. Elfman, CEO and co-founder of Onit told TechCrunch.

The company intends to inject that AI into its existing Aptitude workflow platform. “Part of what really got me excited about McCarthyFinch was the very first conversation I had with their CEO, Nick Whitehouse. They considered themselves an AI platform, which complemented our approach and our workflow automation platform, Aptitude,” Elfman said.

McCarthyFinch CEO and co-founder Whitehouse says the startup was considering whether to raise more money or look at being acquired earlier this year when Onit made its interest known. At first, he wasn’t really interested in being acquired and was hoping to go the partner route, but over time that changed.

“I was very much on the partner track, and was probably quite dismissive to begin with because I was quite focused on that partner strategy. But as we talked, all egos aside, it just made sense [to move to acquisition talks],” Whitehouse said.

McCarthyFinch AI services platform automates tedious legal tasks

The talks heated up in May and the deal officially closed last week. With Onit headquartered in Houston and McCarthyFinch in New Zealand the negotiations and meetings all happened on Zoom. The two companies’ principals have never met in person. The plan is for McCarthyFinch to stay in place, even after the pandemic ends. Whitehouse expects to make a trip to Houston whenever it is safe to do so.

Whitehouse says his experience with Battlefield has had a huge influence on him. “Just the insights that we got through Battlefield, the coaching that we got, those things have stuck with me and they’ll stick with me for the rest of my life,” he said.

The company had 45 customers and 17 employees at the time of the acquisition. It raised US$5 million along the way. Now it becomes part of Onit as the journey continues.

Categories: Business News

LA-based Credit Key raises $33 million for its business-to-business payments platform

2020, November 21 - 12:01am

Bringing to small businesses across the U.S. the buy-now pay-later model that transformed companies like Klarna and Affirm into billion-dollar businesses has netted the payment and lending company Credit Key another $33.85 million in funding.

The Los Angeles-based company raised its latest cash from Greycroft, Bonfire Ventures, Loeb.nyc and other, undisclosed investors, the company said.

“B2B e-commerce continues to expand at an incredible pace, but a great majority of merchants still lack the payment tools that their customers are asking for,” said John Tomich, co-founder and chief executive of Credit Key, in a statement. “As we equip more and more merchants with our point-of-sale financing option, we continue to see data that points to larger orders, fewer abandoned carts and improved customer acquisition.”

For businesses, the company offers an alternative payment solution that quickly provides financing for purchases at the point-of-sale.

Credit Key assumes the credit risk and loan servicing, and buyers can have a transparent payment plan with competitive interest rates, the company said.

The company is tackling a huge market. There are more than $9 trillion in business-to-business payments processed in the U.S. each year, and while (only) $1.3 trillion of those payments happen online, the percentage of e-commerce transactions is growing rapidly.

Credit Key said that it expects the e-commerce market to reach $1.8 trillion by 2022.

“As small and medium-sized businesses increase online purchasing, they’re eager to find alternatives to the limits of both traditional trade credit and the common credit card,” Tomich said. “We anticipate continued momentum and we’re excited to assist small businesses as they work through the recovery and position themselves for the future.”

Klarna raises $650 million at a $10.6 billion valuation

Categories: Business News

AllRight, an English language learning app for children, raises $5M from Genesis Investments

2020, November 20 - 11:55pm

AllRight is a platform for English language learning, aimed at children four years or older, which combines lessons with real teachers and homework with “AI-powered” tutors. It’s now raised a $5 million Series A round led by Genesis Investments, with participation from TMT Investments, TerraVC and existing investors Flashpoint and Misha Lyalin.

The Ukraine-based startup will now enter new markets and strengthen its positions in Poland, Russia, Spain and Latin America. AllRight’s competitors include Open English, LingoKids (which has raised $22 million), MyBuddy, Preply ($15 million) and NovaKid ($2.3 million).

There are approximately 1.5 billion English language learners globally and the number of children among them reached 500 million in 2020. The global English language learning market is projected to reach $55 billion by 2025, growing at 7% annually, according to reports.

So the company targets markets with low online education penetration rates, such as emerging markets. Since its launch in 2017, AllRight has launched Spanish-English, Polish-English and Russian-English language pairs and garnered 9,000 students, who take 50,000 lessons per month.

The learning process is powered by a real-time collaboration platform for teachers and students, doing live lessons online with lessons “quality controlled by AI” and an “AI-powered tutor” with a voice-only interface with speech recognition and synthesis. This allows children to practice spoken English with AI. The app has obviously benefited from the fact that many lessons in schools are now conducted virtually due to the pandemic.

AllRight was founded by Oleg Oksyuk, and the team is comprised of people drawn from 51Talks, SkyEng, Cisco and Yandex. He said: “Our pilot language pair launch three years ago showed that learning a language with gamification in early childhood produces excellent results. That is why in March 2019 we directed our efforts to further delivery of an affordable edutainment program and launched Spanish-English and Polish-English language pairs.”

Vitaly Laptenok, general partner of Genesis Investments, said: “This is the biggest deal of Genesis Investments by date…The platform currently demonstrates 3x year-over-year growth and the team supports these dynamics by entering new markets and scaling there.”

Categories: Business News

Wish files to go public with 100M monthly actives, $1.75B in 2020 revenue thus far

2020, November 20 - 11:11pm

This morning Wish, a well-known mobile e-commerce startup, filed to go public. It joins Affirm, Airbnb and Roblox in filing this week as many well-known and valuable private companies look to debut before the year ends and the holidays start.

Wish’s S-1 (which is filed under its corporate name ContextLogic) is of particular interest given that COVID-19 and the global pandemic have changed consumer behavior around the world in 2020. As going to stores became more risky over time, many shoppers turned to buying more goods from the internet, bolstering e-commerce players like Shopify and BigCommerce, as well as companies that facilitate online payments, like Square and PayPal.

How has the pandemic impacted Wish? It appears to have accelerated its growth.

Looking back in time, Wish saw its revenue growth slow in 2019, before expanding much more quickly in 2020. From 2017 to 2018, for example, when Wish saw revenues of $1.10 billion and $1.73 billion respectively, it grew 57%. But from 2018 to 2019, its revenue only grew to $1.90 billion, up a far-smaller 10%.

More recently, the situation has improved for the digital retailer, with Wish managing to grow more quickly in the first three months of 2020. In the first nine months of 2019, Wish racked up revenues of $1.33 billion. In the same period of 2020 the company’s top line grew to $1.75 billion, up 32% from the year-ago result.

That’s far better than the 10% growth pace that Wish showed in 2019. Wish’s growth acceleration helps explain why it is going public now: it has a growth story to tell investors.

But the company’s accelerated growth has come at a cost, namely rising losses. During the first three quarters of 2019, Wish posted net losses of just $5 million, before some preferred stock costs pushed its total deficit to $12 million. In the same period of 2020 Wish lost a far steeper $176 million.

Wish’s falling gross margins have not helped. In 2018, Wish had gross margins of 84%. That number fell to 77% in 2019, and then to just 65% in the first three quarters of 2020.

But the e-commerce player did have some more positive details to show, as this table details:

Image Credit: Wish S-1.

Improving free cash flow in 2020 compared to 2019? Check. Monthly active user growth rising nicely? Yes. Active buyers up compared to the year-ago period? Yep. Looking at the company’s adjusted profitability is not encouraging, but a 6% adjusted EBITDA margin won’t send investors packing for the hills if they buy Wish’s growth story.

COVID-19 was not simply a boost to Wish, its S-1 makes clear. The pandemic shut some supply hubs, slowed supply chains and lengthened delivery times. But the company also said that it “benefited from greater mobile usage and less competition from physical retail as a result of shelter-in-place mandates” and “benefited from increased user spending due to U.S. government stimulus programs.” Noting that stimulus is fading, Wish warns investors in the document that it “cannot assure you that increased levels of mobile commerce will continue when COVID-19 has subsided or otherwise, or that the U.S. government will offer additional stimulus programs.”

Wish is wealthy, with around $1.1 billion in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities. It also has no long-term debts that could cause concern.

Finally, who is going to win in the deal? Most notably, Peter Szulczewski, Wish’s founder and CEO. He controls 65.5% of the company’s Class B shares and around 58% of its total voting power, pre-IPO. Major investors include DST Global, Formation8, Founder Fund, GGV Capital and Republic Technologies.

Quite a lot of venture hopes and returns are riding on this IPO, then. More soon.

Roblox files to go public

Categories: Business News

With new cash and a former Apple exec now at the helm, Connect Homes is ready to reconstruct homebuilding

2020, November 20 - 10:17am

Greg Leung had worked at Apple for years and was coming off a stint at the smart lock company Otto when he got the call to interview with Connect Homes.

The pitch — building a starter home for a much lower cost than other prefabricated houses on the market, and one that could be dropped in to locations in the urban core of most cities — was too good to pass up.

“Basically, it’s a beautiful product, but done in a way that disrupts and transforms the way homes are built,” said Leung.

The homes come in 15 standardized configurations and can scale from 460 square foot up to 3,200 square feet. What differentiates the company from its competitors, says Leung, is the speed with which Connect Homes can build a house, putting up a full house in six days.

Not only that, but the homes are able to use standard shipping networks and rail transit to bring their homes anywhere in the country. “We build modules the size of a shipping container, so we can connect to the regular intermodal shipping network,” Leung said.

Interior view of a Connect Homes pre-fabricated home. Image Credit: Connect Homes

The company’s smaller homes run around $174,000 all-in, while a 3,200-square-foot home costs around $825,000. That’s about half of the cost for a custom home today, Leung said.

“What we’re doing is providing a beautiful, modern, product for half the price of a traditional custom homebuilder,” he said.

Currently, Leung said, there are three types of new construction getting built — new tract homes, multi-family housing units and high rises. But, there’s an opportunity to infill housing. “Seventy percent of the Bay Area and LA were built in the 70s. That means there are millions of homes that are too small and out of date and energy inefficient,” Leung said. “It costs $1 million to $1.5 million to build a home… No one is addressing the urban infill market except for us.”

And Leung’s interest extended beyond the 88 projects that the company has completed for new homeowners. From its Los Angeles headquarters with a factory in San Bernardino, California, the company is also looking to change how municipalities and governments think about temporary shelters and living spaces for the unhoused.

Founded by Jared Levy and Gordon Stoddard, two architects who worked in the pre-fabricated building division of the firm Marmol Radziner, Connect Homes had raised $27 million to build out a vision of pre-fab future.

That capital includes a recent $5 million round that served to reboot the company and refocus it around its manufacturing technology that can create deployable shelters alongside its housing work. That was another draw for Leung, whose experience in Northern California made him acutely aware of the housing problem the nation faces.

The single module shelter that the company has developed can be transported and put on site in one day. Adding a generator to the 40 foot by eight foot module the company is building means that the shelter has the flexibility of a trailer, but can be ready for habitation in 24 hours.

“We designed this to sell to municipalities and third-party service providers to house people,” Leung said. 

Customers for the new product include the Thatcher School in Ojai and a project in Mountain View, California done in partnership with Life Moves.

Prices for the shelters range between $20,000 and $30,000 per-bed, or $80,000 per module. Those prices compare incredibly favorably to the $500,000 to $1 million communities pay for a bed in permanent supportive housing, said Leung.

Still, the company’s fancy replacements for tent cities don’t do anything to address the underlying housing crisis that plagues cities across the country.

“We’re trying to be the opposite of bespoke housing that we see as part of the problem. The shelters was a reaction to an urgent need. We had the ability to do something innovative to solve the problem,” said Leung. “I don’t see the amazing talent and innovation being applied to this problem. And it’s affecting the well-being and health of millions and millions of people… This is something that will last for possibly lifetimes.”

View of a Connect Homes house being installed. Image Credit: Connect Homes

The attempt to create a new fable for the reconstruction of the building industry is what drew Brick & Mortar Ventures back to the table to recapitalize the company with the new $5 million in cash the company recently secured, according to Darren Bechtel, the founder and managing director of the firm.

A scion of the Bechtel engineering and construction family, Bechtel has a deep knowledge of the industry and sees Connect Homes as one of the best bets to disrupt traditional construction.

“You cannot construct today cheaper than existing assets,” Bechtel said. But, the opportunity to rethink construction as manufacturing is creating an environment that can drive down costs more effectively, he said.

“It’s been a primitive form of manufacturing for some time,” Bechtel said of the housing industry. “The difference from traditional manufacturing and even automobiles, is that when you get to the scale of a house, you exceed the ability to transport that product efficiently from the manufacturing site to the end delivery site.”

That’s the key problem that Bechtel saw Connect Homes solving. “You have to standardize around intermodal shipping or you have to get permits. You are limited on which roads you use,” he said. “If you’re doing a true kit of parts, you’re requiring craft workers to do the finished work on site.”

Connect Homes, said Bechtel, is taking a different approach from the homebuilders that are looking to be mostly vertically integrated. He said Connect Homes was taking a more Apple-like approach where they oversee the product lifecycle and the customer experience. “That’s how you reach global scale and create the VW and Audi of housing,” he said. “A house is the most expensive purchase. The fact that this is still a bespoke product in the vast majority of scenarios doesn’t make sense.”

Bechtel also drew a distinction between the companies that are primarily targeting the accessory dwelling unit market in California and Connect Homes, which has broader aspirations.

“A lot of people who are buying and selling ADUs are getting an extra guest house. They want more space for themselves,” he said. “At a much larger scale if you can take existing housing stocks that are in medium or high density areas that are old properties with larger footprints and you can create two or three housing units in the same spot with new inventory, you’re drastically improving both the quality and the quantity of housing stock.”

That’s the ultimate goal for Connect Homes, Bechtel said. And it’s going to be returning to market just as that market could be poised to rebound, said Bechtel.

“We believe you’re going to see a massive rebound in the need for housing,” said Bechtel. “The single family housing market will return.” And when it does, Connect Homes will be working on scaling up to meet the new demand.

Construction tech startups are poised to shake up a $1.3-trillion-dollar industry

Categories: Business News

Steve Case’s Revolution is targeting $500 million for its fourth growth fund

2020, November 20 - 9:25am

Revolution, the Washington, D.C.-based investment firm founded by AOL co-founder CEO Steve Case and former AOL senior exec Ted Leonsis, is raising $500 million for its fourth fund, shows a new SEC filing.

Asked about the effort earlier today, the firm — one of whose executives leaves for the White House in January —  declined to comment.

This new fund was expected. It has been more than four years since Revolution announced its third growth fund, a vehicle that closed with $525 million in capital commitments. That’s a longer time between funds than we’re seeing more broadly across the venture industry, where teams have tended to raise new funds approximately every two years, but Revolution’s pacing could tie to its mission. The firm tends to invest primarily in what it long ago dubbed “rise of the rest” cities, where the cost of living and talent is less extreme and where checks go a lot further as a result.

The outfit is also investing out of more than one fund at a time. In recent years, it formed a seed practice and has since raised two Rise of the Rest seed funds, the most recent of which closed last year with $150 million in capital commitments.

Orchard real estate platform raises $69 million Series C led by Revolution Growth

Presumably, the firm’s investors have further taken note of some recent exits for Revolution. Earlier this year, its Boston-based portfolio company DraftKings closed on a three-way merger and debuted on the Nasdaq. Meanwhile, BigCommerce, an Austin-based SaaS startup helping companies build, manage and market online stores, went public via a traditional IPO in early August and currently boasts a market cap of $4.2 billion. (Revolution provided the capital for the company’s Series C round in 2013 and continued to invest in subsequent rounds.)

Others of Revolution’s notable investments include Orchard, a tech platform that helps users sell their current home while simultaneously purchasing their next one and whose $69 million Series C round was led by Revolution in September; TemperPack, a maker of thermal liners meant to address the plastic waste that raised $31 million in Series C funding this past summer, including follow-on funding from Revolution; and sweetgreen, the fast-casual restaurant chain that has endured some ups and downs owing to the pandemic but that closed on $150 million in funding a year ago and which first received backing from Revolution back in 2013.

AOL founder Steve Case, involved early in Section 230, says it’s time to change it

Last month, we talked at some length with Case, including about his involvement in the creation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which helped create today’s internet giants.

We also talked at the time about whether COVID-19 will cause Silicon Valley to finally lose its gravitational pull. Said Case at the time, in comments not published previously:

Obviously the jury is out. I think a lot of people who decided to leave Silicon Valley to shelter someplace else, most of those will end up returning. I don’t think you’ll see a mass exodus from the city, whether that be Silicon Valley or New York or Boston, which some have predicted.

I do think some of the people who decided to leave at least temporarily will decide to stay, and most of them will end up still working for their current company, in part because some of the tech companies like Facebook and Square and many others have have made it easier to work remotely. But some, once they get settled in another place, and their family is settled, will likely will decide to do something different [and] I think it could be a helpful catalyst in terms of these rise-of-the-rest cities that were showing some signs of momentum. This could be an accelerant.

We had also talked with Case about data that suggests that women and other founders who are not in the networking flow of traditional venture firms are getting left behind as deals are being struck over Zoom. He’d also seen the data and was surprised by it. As he told us:

Yeah, that’s a concern. And it’s a concern about place. It’s also a concerned about people. If you just look at the the NVCA data, last year, 75% of venture capital went to just three states and more than 90% of venture capital went to men and less than 10% to women, even though women represent half our population. And last year, even though Black Americans are about 14% of the population, Black founders got less than 1% of venture capital. So if you just look at the data, it does matter where you live, it does matter what you look like, it does matter the kind of school you went to.

I would have thought that because of the pandemic and because suddenly, Zoom meetings for pitches were becoming increasingly commonplace . . .that that would open up the aperture for most venture capitalists. They would be more willing to take meetings with people in other places, and also be willing to get to reach out to some of the diverse communities that they haven’t traditionally have invested in.

Some of that has happened, for sure. We have seen more interest among coastal investors in opportunities in these in these rise-of-the-rest cities. I think the challenge more broadly, when you go beyond place toward people is what you hear from more of these venture capitalists. They say, ‘Yes, we understand that it’s a problem we need to be help solve. It’s also an opportunity we can potentially seize, because some of these entrepreneurs are going to build some really valuable companies. But we don’t really have the networks. We tend to be mostly situated where we live and have worked or went to school and also where we’ve previously made investments. So we just don’t have the networks in the middle of a country. We don’t have networks with Black founders,’ and so forth.

So that’s an area that we’re really focusing on now: how do we extend the networks. I do think most VCs realize they should be part of the solution, and not part of the problem.

Case mentioned during our call — ahead of the U.S. presidential election — his longstanding friendship with now President-elect Joseph Biden. Case isn’t the only one at Revolution with ties to Biden, however. Ron Klain, an executive vice president at Revolution, previously served as Biden’s chief of staff when he was vice president and, as the world learned last week, Klain is again heading into politics after being chosen to serve as the incoming White House chief of staff.

Said Case of Klain last week to the New York Times: “He can process a lot of information, focus on the things that matter and balance a lot of balls.”

Pandemic’s impact disproportionately reduced VC funding for female founders

Categories: Business News

FireEye acquires Respond Software for $186M, announces $400M investment

2020, November 20 - 8:42am

The security sector is ever frothy and acquisitive. Just last week Palo Alto Networks grabbed Expanse for $800 million. Today it was FireEye’s turn, snagging Respond Software, a company that helps customers investigate and understand security incidents, while reducing the need for highly trained (and scarce) security analysts. The deal has closed, according to the company.

FireEye had its eye on Respond’s Analyst product, which it plans to fold into its Mandiant Solutions platform. Like many companies today, FireEye is focused on using machine learning to help bolster its solutions and bring a level of automation to sorting through the data, finding real issues and weeding out false positives. The acquisition gives them a quick influx of machine learning-fueled software.

FireEye sees a product that can help add speed to its existing tooling. “With Mandiant’s position on the front lines, we know what to look for in an attack, and Respond’s cloud-based machine learning productizes our expertise to deliver faster outcomes and protect more customers,” Kevin Mandia, FireEye CEO said in a statement announcing the deal.

Palo Alto Networks to acquire Expanse in deal worth $800M

Mike Armistead, CEO at Respond, wrote in a company blog post that today’s acquisition marks the end of a four-year journey for the startup, but it believes it has landed in a good home with FireEye. “We are proud to announce that after many months of discussion, we are becoming part of the Mandiant Solutions portfolio, a solution organization inside FireEye,” Armistead wrote.

While FireEye was at it, it also announced a $400 million investment from Blackstone Tactical Opportunities fund and ClearSky (an investor in Respond), giving the public company a new influx of cash to make additional moves like the acquisition it made today.

It didn’t come cheap. “Under the terms of its investment, Blackstone and ClearSky will purchase $400 million in shares of a newly designated 4.5% Series A Convertible Preferred Stock of FireEye (the ‘Series A Preferred’), with a purchase price of $1,000 per share. The Series A Preferred will be convertible into shares of FireEye’s common stock at a conversion price of $18.00 per share,” the company explained in a statement. The stock closed at $14.24 today.

Respond, which was founded in 2016, raised $32 million, including a $12 million Series A in 2017 led by CRV and Foundation Capital and a $20 million Series B led by ClearSky last year, according to Crunchbase data.

FireEye snags security effectiveness testing startup Verodin for $250M

Categories: Business News

Roblox files to go public

2020, November 20 - 8:18am

Roblox, the child-friendly gaming company, filed to go public today.

Its listing comes one day after the lending company Affirm initiated its own public offering and a mere two days after Airbnb’s filing.

Roblox filed confidentially to go public in mid-October, but its numbers were unreleased until today when it published its S-1 document.

The company is not the first gaming platform company to go public this year, with gaming engine Unity debuting earlier this year. After its IPO, Unity shares have rocketed, perhaps preparing the public markets for Roblox’s own debut.

This post will provide an overview of Roblox’s business results, and a quick dig into its history of raising private capital and who owns what in the company as it stands today. TechCrunch will have more on venture capital results, and the nuances of Roblox’s business model, once we tease them out of its fresh SEC filing.

Unity’s IPO numbers look pretty … unreal?

Financials

Roblox is a free-to-play game and developer platform, which means users don’t pay to access its service, but there are in-game purchases through a currency called Robux and a subscription service called Roblox Premium, which comprise the bulk of the company’s revenues.

Third-party developers can create experiences on the platform that cost Robux, a model that has seen significant uptake over time. According to Roblox, its developer and creator pool earned $72.2 million in the first three quarters of 2019, a figure that soared to $209.2 million in the same period of 2020. (TechCrunch has a deep-dive into Roblox and its pre-IPO success here if you want more depth in its business mechanics. We’ve also dug into its tech stack evolution here, if that is your jam.)

Roblox has seen similar growth in its total revenues, growing 139% to $312.8 million in 2018, and 56% to $488.2 million in 2019. More recently, the company’s revenue expanded 68% in the first three quarters of 2020 from its 2019 result over the same period, to $588.7 million.

The company, then, has grown more quickly in 2020 to date than it did in 2019, an impressive acceleration at scale. A COVID-derived tailwind has helped the company, with Roblox stating in its S-1 filing that it enjoyed “rapid growth” in part of Q1, and all of Q2 and Q3 that it says was “due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic given our users have been online more as a result of global COVID-19 shelter-in-place policies.”

The unicorn gaming company also warned that “in future periods” it anticipates “growth rates for our revenue to decline,” going on to warn that it “may not experience any growth in bookings or our user base during periods” that are later compared to its COVID-boosted 2020 results.

How investors weigh that warning against the company’s growth remains to be seen, but Roblox has had an extraordinary 2020. For example, the company’s bookings — what it defines as “sales activity in a given period without giving effect to certain non-cash adjustments” — grew 62% in 2018 to $499.0, 39% in 2019 to $694.3 million, and 171% to $1.24 billion in the first three quarters of 2020, when compared to the same period of 2019.

That growth is downright impressive. As you’d imagine, the company’s impressive sales gains were derived from rising user interest, with Roblox averaging “31.1 million average DAUs across over 180 countries” during the first nine months of 2020, up from 17.1 million during the same portion of 2019.

Along with more consumers coming to the Roblox platform, the hours engaged also increased. Users on Roblox spent 22.2 billion hours in the first nine months of 2020, up 122% during the same portion of 2020. Daily active users spend an average of 2.67 hours per day on the platform.

How Roblox avoided the gaming graveyard and grew into a $2.5B company

Despite its rapid growth, Roblox, like many unicorns, is still unprofitable. The company lost $97.2 million in 2018, $86.0 million in 2019. Its losses exploded in 2020, with the company posting a net loss of $203.2 million in the first three quarters of the year, compared to just $46.3 million during the same portion of 2019.

Those losses appear to be driven mainly from rising spend across its operations, and an increase in the cost of share-based compensation in 2020 compared to 2019.

However, on a cash basis Roblox appears to be in much better shape than its GAAP numbers would have you initially estimate.  The firm’s operating cash flow grew from $62.6 million in the first nine months of 2019 to $345.3 million in the same period of this year. Over the same period, the company’s free cash flow was $6.0 million and $292.6 million.

Roblox’s numbers demonstrate that its space can be large, and economically interesting. So much so that the company will make a number of VCs rich.

How Roblox completely transformed its tech stack

Who owns what?

While private, Roblox raised $335.7 million, according to Crunchbase data, with rounds led by Altos Ventures, First Round Capital, Meritech, Index, Greylock, Tiger Global and Andreessen Horowitz powering its life until today.

Roblox has around $810 million in cash and equivalents heading into its IPO. And once it goes public, the company’s investors will start a clock on when they can convert their formerly illiquid shares into cash.

The S-1 gives an idea of who owns how much of the gaming developer platform, and thus who might benefit the most from the IPO. Altos Ventures is the principal stockholder, holding 23.9% of the company at 114,261,961 shares. This is not surprising, given how many Roblox rounds it helped lead. Right behind Altos comes Meritech Capital, which owns 11.6% of Roblox; Index Ventures, with 11.1%; Tiger Global at 8.2%; and First Round Capital at 7%.

The executive team, in aggregate, holds just 6.8% of the company. David Baszucki, the co-founder and CEO of Roblox, owns 8,252,471 shares, or 1.6% of the company, indicating the true effects of dilution when you are as richly funded a company as Roblox.

Beyond the numbers

In its S-1, Roblox did address that its success depends on its ability to “provide a safe online environment” for children, or else its “business will suffer dramatically.”

In 2018, Roblox responded to a grotesque hack that allowed a young girl’s avatar to be raped on a playground on one of its games. Other allegations continue, including that the business has offered a platform to criminal offenders to lure children into interacting with creeps off-platform, according to the S-1.

“While we devote considerable resources to prevent this from occurring, we are unable to prevent all such interactions from taking place,” the document states. However, the document does go on to say that communications on its platform are not encrypted “at this time” and that they have an “increased risk” of data security incidents around access and disclosure. With children on the platform, this is a huge weak spot for Roblox.

The business intends to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “RBLX.”

Categories: Business News

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