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Updated: 7 hours 26 min ago

BrioHR raises $1.3M ahead of Y Combinator’s demo day

2021, March 2 - 5:33am

As the next Y Combinator demo day approaches, more startups from the current Winter 2021 batch are showing up in our inboxes. One of the most interesting from the mix is BrioHR, which is building human resources (HR) software for Southeast Asia.

The company fits into a theme I’ve noticed amongst startups, namely a focus on taking proven software genre approaches to specific parts of the world, localizing them and building in-region winners. This theme is not new, of course, but it does feel slightly more pronounced amongst recent accelerator batches than before (TechCrunch covers Techstars, Y Combinator, 500 Startups and other accelerators as part of our startup focus). Perhaps this is the impact of so many accelerators going virtual, widening the founder pool from whom they might matriculate to include a more global group of founders.

Back to BrioHR itself, the company is announcing $1.3 million in fundraising, inclusive of its YC check. The investment was led by Global Founders Capital, and saw participation from East Ventures and angel investors.

TechCrunch caught up with Benjamin Croc, the company’s co-founder and CEO, who is located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (the city pictured in the image at the top of this post). The time zones were tricky to navigate, but the company’s vision was simple enough: A software-as-a-service (SaaS) HR software suite, tailored to fit the laws of the Southeast Asian region.

Croc and his co-founder, Nabil Oudghiri, founded the company in 2018, incorporating in the second half of the year after talking over their idea for a few months. BrioHR did not launch its product until the fourth quarter of 2019, opening for what Croc described as early adopters. The startup launched more broadly in the first quarter of 2020, right in time for COVID-19 to shake up the world.

Its fundraising came in two chunks, one in the middle of 2020 and one that came in the third quarter of the year; the first chunk of the raise was larger than the second. BrioHR raised the capital using a convertible note, with terms that Croc described as near to standard.

In our conversation, TechCrunch was curious about how prevalent SaaS as a model is in Malaysia and the other countries the startups wants to sell into. The co-founder said that while SaaS is not as well known in his part of the world as it is in the United States — not a huge surprise given that the U.S. is the largest SaaS market in the world — he praised the speed at which Southeast Asian countries adopt business trends; if Croc is right, his view could point to a very active subscription software market in the region in coming years.

BrioHR competes with local companies that are more focused on providing single solutions, like payroll management. From our discussion, it appears that Croc hopes that by going broad, in a feature sense, BrioHR will surpass legacy competitors. The startup is itself still building out its regional tooling, providing payroll support in only a handful of countries. It intends to expand that service to new countries this year, and be everywhere with its payroll product in two to three years, its co-founder said.

Notably, even though it has already raised capital, BrioHR intends to take part in Y Combinator’s demo day. Croc said it is taking part for optionality. TechCrunch read that as the company isn’t actively looking to raise more capital at the moment, but wouldn’t turn down another convertible note at a comfortable cap. Then again, what company at any demo day would?

Since launching out of its early-adopter program, Croc said that the company has grown 10x. That’s not hard from a small base, so the company’s 2021 growth will be more illustrative of its true near-term potential. Let’s see what new metrics it breaks out in a few weeks’ time.

Personio raises $125M on a $1.7B valuation for an HR platform targeting SMEs

Early Stage is the premiere ‘how-to’ event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear firsthand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, legal, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in — there’s ample time included in each for audience questions and discussion.

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Categories: Business News

Murmur, still in private beta, wants to help startups make private work agreements public

2021, March 2 - 3:59am

As building in public continues to gain popularity with early-stage startup founders, Murmur, coming out of stealth today, wants to leverage that natural transparency to a louder frequency.

Founded by Aaron Dignan, Murmur helps startups create work agreements based on the policies of other startups. “Work agreements” is an intentionally broad phrase, but encapsulates everything that a team decides about how work works, from paternal leave strategies to strategic priorities to how hiring works.

“It’s everything you’ve ever argued about [within your startup],” Dignan said.

It requires a healthy level of transparency within the ecosystem, meaning that a startup would have to be open with sharing its policies to the public in the first place. But, if Murmur works, it could help early-stage founders save time on the pain-staking process of figuring out how to build policies from scratch around hiring, OKR goals and vacation policies.

Instead, a new founder could just rely on other, seasoned founders, who have shared their policies for anyone to enjoy, and customize their own plan based around those practices.

The 10 benefits and policies any modern workplace should have

Today, Murmur announced that it has raised $1.8 million to scale its working agreements platform in a round led by Lerer Hippeau, with participation from SemperVirens, Human Ventures and Remote First Capital. Other investors include Steve Schlafman, Mariano Suarez-Battan (the CEO of Mural), Brian Sugar (the CEO of PopSugar) and Adam Pisoni (the co-founder of Yammer).

The company, still in private beta, will be launching to the public in early summer 2021.

Murmur is a web-based platform that allows startups to author, customize and plan policies that will shape a team’s culture. The platform helps teams go from proposal to decision with features like voting, edits and feedback throughout the process of creating an agreement. Instead of pushing a copy and paste of another startup’s policy, Murmur prompts founders to use the outsourced policies as seeds, and add customization as they go.

“Anybody can Google and find some company’s years-old processes; the trick is in making an inclusive ‘agreement’ with a real team all participating [and] the magic of keeping it and iterating it, and improving it,” Dignan said.

Image Credits: Murmur

Right now, it is free for anyone to see listed company public agreements. But it costs money to use the Murmur platform to create and customize your own agreements off of this information. With this format, you can see that Dignan thinks that the conversion power of the company lies more in its platform than the content.

Dignan tells me that the team is still testing pricing strategies, but the current plan is a free trial followed by a monthly per-seat fee of $12 to $15 per month, per user. One day, companies could charge a premium for a “kit” of tools on their platform.

Murmur’s initial target for customers are startups that are growing fast and already work in public, such as Buffer, Basecamp, Lattice and Blinkist, but in the future, big enterprises could also see it useful.

Murmur is launching amid a general trend of companies that are pitching themselves as best-practices-as-a-service. Companies in this space aren’t simply enabling other startups to use a fancy SaaS tool, they are not-so-gently pushing them to use those tools in the best possible way for the best possible outcome. Murmur, if it hits scale, could help the next generation of startups figure out the best way to start companies.

Dignan says that the startup “aims to do for working practices what GitHub did for code.”

Remote work is obviously a key catalyst for the company, since the transition has reminded teams that transparency, standards and communication is vital to a functioning organization.

While the startup currently only has Murmur working agreements on the platform, it plans to onboard the agreements of dozens of companies in the coming months. Even though the platform is what makes Murmur special, it’s clear that curating agreements from top companies plays a vital role in Murmur’s success.

It is not paying companies to publicly list their agreements, and the branding benefit of transparency is well worth the confidentiality cost of sharing due to recruitment benefits.

Best practices as a service is a key investment theme to watch in 2021

Dignan says connections from his book about the future of work will help land those agreements. Writing a book about a changing world of work before a global pandemic turned everything upside down is ironic, but Dignan, it appears, doesn’t view Murmur as a pandemic pivot.

“I’ve been thinking about this tool for seven years,” he said. But he didn’t think an opinionated tool would have a large enough total addressable market, and that anything that would scale would just reinforce the status quo. He didn’t build Murmur for a while because he thought that the ecosystem didn’t need “yet another customer engagement tool.”

So, he waited. And the pandemic, another peak of the Black Lives Matter movement and the election happened within one year.

“It was all signaling that the complexity is too much,” he said. “We need new ways of working, making decisions and organizing as people. And that felt like this huge moment where we plant the seed and in a few years’ time, the market will be huge.”

Categories: Business News

Why your organization needs product principles

2021, March 2 - 3:26am
Ethan Eismann Contributor Share on Twitter Ethan Eismann is the Vice President of Design at Slack, leading design and engineering teams to deliver exceptional product experiences.

At Slack, every one of our processes and features has been designed with the primary goal of making Slack a workplace tool that feels human. We see ourselves as our users’ hosts, and we want them to feel comfortable and happy every time they’re in Slack. Our product isn’t just built for work — it’s built for people doing work, and everything we create is meant to forward our mission of making work life simpler, more pleasant and more productive.

Our job is to understand what people want, and then translate that value through thoughtfully designed, well-functioning products and features.

Against the backdrop of an unprecedented shift to remote work, we’ve seen an influx of people turning to Slack to make the transition to a digital-first workplace. Building thoughtful, intuitive products that add value, delight and human-centric experiences into peoples’ working lives has never been more important.

Product principles are essential guidelines that help teams evaluate work across functions.

To ensure we’re meeting our customers where they’re at, we created a set of guiding “product principles” that inform everything we build, and which serve as the foundation for our entire product decision-making process.

There’s business value in improving an organization’s processes, and we’ve been able to provide better experiences for our customers by enacting ever-evolving product principles and using them to evaluate our products and features. Any company can benefit from having product principles — it’s all about how you develop and deploy them across your organization.

First, what are product principles?

Product principles are essential guidelines that help teams evaluate work across functions, as well as up and down the decision-making chain, by ensuring all work ladders up to the organization’s ultimate goals. Better alignment, in turn, leads to better and faster product decisions.

Product principles should always evolve to keep up with the changing ways you work and what your customers need. At Slack, we currently have five principles that guide us:

  1. Don’t make me think.
  2. Be a great host.
  3. Prototype the path.
  4. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
  5. Make bigger, bolder bets.

By implementing these principles into all we build across teams — design, legal, marketing and more — they provide a shared framework for decision-making that keeps us aligned and therefore able to make better decisions, faster.

The idea of having principles themselves isn’t a new concept, but the creation process behind building and promoting these principles is often overlooked or underdeveloped.

Start with your product philosophy

Before building the principles themselves, it’s important to first establish your product philosophy, which will inform how your organization will ultimately view and abide by its principles.

At Slack, we embrace an approach we call “getting to the next hill.” While there is a long-term product strategy, we don’t spend a lot of time debating exactly where we’ll be in one or two years from now. Instead, we focus on more immediate, incremental moves to improve our customers’ working lives.

We’ve found that because Slack is used in so many different ways by so many different companies, it’s better to learn from how our customers use our features than from endlessly debating aspirational future ideas.

Categories: Business News

Hear how to nail your virtual pitch meeting at Early Stage 2021

2021, March 2 - 2:47am

On a recent episode of Extra Crunch Live, Bain Capital Ventures’ Matt Harris said that if you had asked him a year ago what would happen to venture capital during a pandemic lockdown, he would have replied “it would have fallen off a cliff.” Before the world changed so fundamentally, VCs and founders alike believed they needed to meet in person to build trust before signing paperwork that would financially and emotionally bond them together for years and years.

Today, the landscape is very different. More institutional capital is flowing into startups at much faster rates and a good deal of credit must go to the virtual pitch meeting. Founders can now take 30+ meetings in a single day, but are they making the most of those meetings?

At TechCrunch Early Stage in April, Melissa Bradley will talk us through how to nail your virtual pitch meeting and take questions from the audience.

Bradley is the co-founder of Ureeka, a venture-backed mentorship platform for SMBs that pairs founders with experts and mentors. Bradley is also founder and managing partner of 1863 Ventures, a business development program that accelerates underrepresented entrepreneurs (a group Bradley calls the New Majority) into their hyper-growth phase.

She’s also a professor at Georgetown University’s business school, teaching impact investing, social entrepreneurship, P2P economies and innovation.

In short, Bradley deeply understands what it’s like to sit on both sides of the table, as a VC and a founder, and even more deeply understands what it takes to have a successful virtual meeting from her experience building Ureeka (which is entirely virtual).

Bradley joins an all-star cast of speakers at TC Early Stage, an event that is packed with breakout sessions focused on all the core competencies that a startup needs to be successful. Here’s a preview of some of the sessions going down at TC Early Stage:

  • How to Get An Investor’s Attention (Marlon Nichols, MaC Venture Partners)
  • Four Things to Think About Before Raising a Series A (Bucky Moore, Kleiner Perkins) 
  • How Founders Can Think Like a VC (Lisa Wu, Norwest Venture Partners) 
  • Finance for Founders (Alexa von Tobel, Inspired Capital) 
  • Building and Leading a Sales Team (Ryan Azus, Zoom CRO)
  • Keys to Nailing Product Market Fit (Rahul Vohra, Superhuman)

That’s not all. The TC Early Stage curriculum is being spread across two events, with fundraising and operations represented on April 1 & 2 and fundraising and marketing deep dives on July 8 & 9. Folks who buy a ticket to just one event will get three months of Extra Crunch for free, and folks who buy a dual-event ticket will get six months of Extra Crunch membership for free.

An Extra Crunch membership comes with access to:

And much more! Really, what are you waiting for? Pick up a ticket to TC Early Stage here or use the widget below:

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Categories: Business News

Martech company Zeta Global raises $222.5M in debt

2021, March 2 - 2:00am

Zeta Global, the marketing technology company founded by David A. Steinberg and former Apple CEO John Sculley, is announcing an additional $222.5 million in new debt financing.

The company has gone down the debt route before — a Series F raised in 2017 combined $115 million funding with $25 million in debt. BofA Securities served as lead arranger and bookrunner for the new financing, with participation from Barclays, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley Senior Funding.

“For this round, we were able to both refinance our debt and add in a large amount of capacity for current operations and future initiatives,” Steinberg (Zeta’s CEO) told me via email. “We were able to work with our syndicate to capture a low interest rate and take advantage of the strong credit markets.”

The company emphasizes its data-driven approach to marketing, combining companies’ first-party data with artificial intelligence and what it says are more than 2.4 billion customer identifiers. Steinberg said this approach has only become more crucial, with 2020 delivering “a five-year acceleration” as brands face the challenge of “digitally transforming their business structure to be data-centric.”

“Zeta’s capabilities are helping marketers engage customers across the entire digital ecosystem more intelligently and efficiently, with individualized messages, offers, and content by way of our identity-based data and predictive AI,” Steinberg continued. “Our challenge is to continue to keep up with our customers’ needs and maintain our competitive advantage around data and AI.”

The company’s funding announcement notes that previous loans have been used to finance acquisitions and integrations, including commenting platform Disqus and machine learning-powered marketing platform Boomtrain. Asked whether this new debt will also be used for acquisitions, Steinberg said the company continues to “organically innovate,” with a focus on its customer data platform and connected TV capabilities.

3 adtech and martech VCs see major opportunities in privacy and compliance

Early Stage is the premiere ‘how-to’ event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear firsthand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, legal, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in — there’s ample time included in each for audience questions and discussion.

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Categories: Business News

As Coinbase looks to list, Robinhood rides the crypto boom

2021, March 2 - 1:02am

The impending Coinbase direct listing is a fintech debut to watch. The cryptocurrency-focused consumer trading concern is set to become a public company on the back of a strong 2020, and a particularly strong final quarter.

And it appears that the company is also having a strong kickoff in 2021. What Coinbase is worth is therefore hard to guess, though some are trying, as we’ve noticed.

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

But Coinbase is hardly the only company enjoying a crypto bounce: Robinhood, another American consumer fintech we’ve spent too much time discussing in recent weeks, is also riding a wave in its users’ cryptocurrency activity.

Between both companies, we’re seeing signs of the sort of growing consumer interest and trading volume that has historically come with sustained periods of bitcoin price expansion. But Coinbase charges fees for trading, while Robinhood doesn’t. And transaction-fee-based income is the vast majority of Coinbase’s revenues — 96% in calendar 2020, for example.

The situation sets up an interesting contrast.

This morning, let’s see what we can learn about Coinbase’s recent trading volume before looking into Robinhood’s. And finally, we’ll remind ourselves of how Coinbase talked about Robinhood in its S-1 filing. Is Robinhood crypto a possible threat to Coinbase’s consumer trading volumes? Let’s tinker.

An argument called forever

Kicking off with Coinbase, The Block’s Frank Chaparro got us thinking this morning by tweeting the following chart:

You can see why the chart caught our eye. Now, we can’t reproduce the same chart on CryptoCompare, as the tool required sits behind a locked door. But we can, however, leverage other services to confirm the gist of the image.

Other data agrees: Historical trading information via Nomics shows a steep rise in 2021 bitcoin trading on Coinbase Pro, a piece of the larger Coinbase empire. And Bitcoinity shows similar gains for Coinbase trading volumes over the same time period.

Chaparro is correct that the data paints a compelling Q1 2021 revenue story for Coinbase. But it’s not the only company that is seeing crypto demand spike.

Categories: Business News

Tonal triples its physical stores with Nordstrom partnership

2021, March 2 - 12:55am

Tonal, maker of the smart home fitness trainer, announced it is more than tripling the number of physical locations it sells devices in through a new partnership with Nordstrom.

Starting this month, Tonal will have 50-square-foot stations in the women’s activewear departments of at least 40 Nordstrom locations across the U.S., bringing the total number of Tonal physical locations to 60 by the end of 2021. Shoppers will be able to walk in or book appointments to try Tonal devices and purchase them through employees on-hand.

“As we looked to expand our retail footprint and strategy, we looked to the retail landscape, and we really feel like Nordstrom says ‘best in class’ — the department store is well suited to succeed in a COVID and post-COVID world,” explained Christopher Stadler, Tonal’s CMO.

Tonal, which manufactures a wall-mounted device with a digital weight system that emulates various traditional gym stations, already operates 16 locations across the country with devices shoppers can try and work out to, with plans to open four additional showrooms later this year. But the partnership with Nordstrom, which expects overall sales growth of 25% in 2021, marks a first of its kind for at-home fitness makers. Peloton, for instance, operates a larger network of dedicated showrooms in the U.S., Canada, Germany and the U.K., but it has yet to partner with an outside retailer to display and demo its bikes and treadmills.

An example of Tonal’s placement at a Nordstrom in Walnut Creek. Image Credits: Tonal.

Tonal’s physical expansion arrives amid a boom in demand for at-home equipment during the pandemic. According to Stadler, sales of Tonal equipment surged 800% from December 2019 to December 2020, causing wait times up to 10-12 weeks for deliveries. Those delays are somewhat comparable to Peloton, which has also faced significant delivery wait times in recent months and currently reports delays of 6-10 weeks — an issue Peloton CEO John Foley acknowledged and apologized for in a note to users.

Tonal, for its part, is working to address shipment delays. According to Stadler, the startup has significantly ramped up production of devices, increased employee headcount, and in some cases, now air-ships equipment from Taiwan to the U.S. to meet demand.

“We have seen extraordinary demand for Tonal, and we’re working aggressively around the clock to produce, deliver and install Tonals faster and faster,” says Stadler. “We’ve absolutely ramped up production, and all facets of the organization are rallying to deliver our customer orders as quickly as we can.”

Health tech startup Bold raises $7 million in seed funding for senior-focused fitness programs

Early Stage is the premiere ‘how-to’ event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear firsthand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, legal, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in — there’s ample time included in each for audience questions and discussion.

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Categories: Business News

Get live feedback on your pitch deck from tech leaders on Extra Crunch Live

2021, March 2 - 12:22am

Extra Crunch Live, the members-only event series that features tech leaders waxing poetic on how to perfect the pitch deck (and more!) has gotten off to a strong start in 2021. Thus far, we’ve seen the most beautifully simple deck in existence with the help of Justworks’ Isaac Oates and Bain’s Matt Harris, learned how to nail the narrative with Lightspeed’s Gaurav Gupta and Grafana’s Raj Dutt, heard about the perils of pricing with Accel’s Steve Loughlin and Ironclad’s Jason Boehmig and learned the value of simple pitch decks with Felicis’ Aydin Senkut and Guideline’s Kevin Busque.

And that’s only the beginning. We’ve got a packed slate coming your way in March, featuring Cleo Capital’s Sarah Kunst, PlanetFWD’s Julia Collins, Flourish Ventures’ Emmalyn Shaw, Steady’s Adam Roseman, Mayfield’s Navin Chaddha and Poshmark’s Manish Chandra.

Check out the incredible speakers joining us on Extra Crunch Live in March

One of the beautiful things about Extra Crunch Live is the Pitch Deck Teardown. Our esteemed speakers take a look at pitch decks submitted by the audience and give their live feedback. It’s an invaluable way to understand how VCs and founders alike think about what makes a great deck.

The importance of the pitch deck can’t be underestimated. It is often the first point of contact between a company and venture investors, but how investors consume a pitch deck (and what they really think) is also a bit of a black box.

Are they speed-flipping through the slides or taking their time? Do they prefer more information on the team or context on the industry? More numbers or more words? How many slides is the right number of slides?

There are too many questions to count, and often very few answers. But we’re popping the lid off of that black box with the Pitch Deck Teardown.

If this seems like a good fit for you, you can submit your pitch deck to be featured on Extra Crunch Live right here. (We prioritize decks submitted by Extra Crunch members, but anyone can send us a deck and we’ll take a look at as many as possible!)

See you on the next episode of Extra Crunch Live!

Check out the incredible speakers joining us on Extra Crunch Live in March

Early Stage is the premiere “how-to” event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear firsthand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, legal, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in — there’s ample time included in each for audience questions and discussion.

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Categories: Business News

Equity Monday: More venture money for Europe, and public companies blast off

2021, March 2 - 12:16am

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here — and be sure to check out our most recent Friday episode, which featured news on Finix and Coinbase and Reddit, among others.

(Also don’t forget that Equity is growing! And TechCrunch events are about to kick off and kick some butt.)

The Equity podcast is growing

Here’s what we got into this fine Monday morning:

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

Early Stage is the premiere “how-to” event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear firsthand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, legal, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in — there’s ample time included in each for audience questions and discussion.

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Categories: Business News

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