May 26, 2019 Off

The savage genius of SoftBank funding competitors

By Jill T Frey

Venture capitalists aren’t supposed to make their portfolio companies battle to the death. There’s a long-standing but unofficial rule that investors shouldn’t fund multiple competitors in the same space. Conflicts of interest could arise, information about one startup’s strategy could be improperly shared with the other, and the companies could become suspicious of advice provided by their investors. That leads to problems down the line for VCs, as founders may avoid them if they fear the firm might fund their rival down the line.

SoftBank shatters that norm with its juggernaut $100 billion Vision Fund plus its Innovation Fund. The investor hasn’t been shy about funding multiple sides of the same fight.

The problem is that SoftBank’s power distorts the market dynamics. Startups might take exploitative deals from the firm under the threat that they’ll be outspent whoever is willing to take the term sheet. That can hurt employees, especially … Read the rest

May 26, 2019 Off

Week-in-Review: Trump’s order takes a hatchet to Huawei’s heart

By Jill T Frey

Last week, Trump signed an executive order that enabled the federal government to prohibit U.S. companies from buying telecom equipment from foreign companies at their discretion.

This week, the full damage began to feel apparent to China’s fastest-growing smartphone powerhouse, Huawei. American companies, at the behest of Trump and company, began turning on the Chinese giant, and what they’re stripping away will undoubtedly impact Huawei in a material way. Huawei may soon have to deal without simple, little things like — I don’t know — access to the non-open-sourced version of Android or possibly the prevailing chip architectures in modern smartphones, or Google’s app store.Here are some of the parties at play that may be leaving Huawei by the wayside. ARM. Intel, Qualcomm, Xilinx and Broadcom. Google.

Basically, the past week has stripped away decades of the American smartphone technology backbone and ensured that Huawei is … Read the rest

May 25, 2019 Off

Equity transcribed: How to avoid an IPO

By Jill T Frey

This week, the Equity duo of Kate Clark and Alex Wilhelm convened to get some quick hits in about Slack’s WORK, Luckin Coffee and Sam Altman’s departure from Y Combinator.

They then dug a bit deeper into the money around food: DoorDash and Sun Basket both raised this week. And what is a discussion about venture in food without mentioning Blue Apron?

And finally, TransferWise illustrates how not to IPO.

In all of this, they considered a world without the word “unicorn” as it relates to billion-dollar valuations — before admitting they are probably responsible for a good amount of its use.

Alex: So I think that the real unicorns now are companies that are growing, and are profitable, while also been worth over a billion dollars. Because we’ve seen very few of these, Zoom famously, was a profitable company. And its S-1, appears TransferWise also is, I can’t name

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May 25, 2019 Off

To realize its VR dreams, Facebook needs to kill what Oculus has built

By Jill T Frey

Mark Zuckerberg has poured billions into his virtual reality dream, a new platform that Facebook owns.

Facebook bought Oculus and has spent the last five years killing what it was and reinventing it as a Facebook-scale company. It has dumped most of the co-founders, brought in Zuck loyalists to take over the most important decisions and shifted towards accessibility over appeasing the company’s early supporters.

Facebook’s latest release is the realization of all that.

The company’s Quest product, which they released on Tuesday, offers a streamlined version of high-end virtual reality while leveraging time-honed software to make the process of getting up-and-running immeasurably easier. It’s probably the best VR product that’s been built yet, and one that has the mainstream firmly in view.

Facebook needs to lean in on the new device and move away from what got it there.

With past VR releases, there’s always been a key technology … Read the rest

May 25, 2019 Off

This is one smart device that every urban home could use

By Jill T Frey

Living in a dense urban environment brings many startup-fuelled conveniences, be it near instant delivery of food — or pretty much whatever else you fancy — to a whole range of wheels that can be hopped on (or into) to whisk you around at the tap of an app.

But the biggest problem afflicting city dwellers is not some minor inconvenience. It’s bad, poor, terrible, horrible, unhealthy air. And there’s no app to fix that.

Nor can hardware solve this problem. But smart hardware can at least help.

For about a month I’ve been road-testing a wi-fi connected air purifier made by Swedish company, Blueair. It uses an Hepa filtration system combined with integrated air quality sensors to provide real-time in-app feedback which can be reassuring or alert you to unseen problems.

Flip to the bottom of this article for a speed take or continue reading for the full Read the rest

May 25, 2019 Off

Growth, Kubernetes, rocket launches, gender in tech, and more Luckin Coffee

By Jill T Frey

Housekeeping & Extra Crunch 20% event discount reminder

    • Extra Crunch will not be publishing on Monday due to the Memorial Day holiday in the United States. Publishing will resume as normal on Tuesday.
    • Reminder: if you are an annual member of Extra Crunch, your membership includes a 20% discount on event tickets and exhibitor packages. If you want to claim a discount for one of our upcoming events, such as Sessions: Mobility, Sessions: Enterprise or TechCrunch Disrupt SF, just send an email to [email protected] and our customer service team will get you all setup.
    • We have pushed out a product update to the Extra Crunch landing page. Now, you can see a featured list of our member-exclusive top stories, just as you can on TechCrunch’s main page.
    • Finally, if you ever have any challenges with your account — login issues, paywall issues, etc., please do email
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May 25, 2019 Off

Which public US universities graduate the most funded founders?

By Jill T Frey

A lot of students attend public universities to lessen the financial burden of higher education. At last tally, tuition and fees at American public colleges and universities averaged around $6,800 a year, per the federal government. That’s far below the $32,600 mean price tag for private, nonprofit institutions.

Yet when it comes to public universities, the old adage “you get what you pay for” clearly does not apply. Leading public research universities in particular have a track record of turning out enviably knowledgeable and successful graduates. That includes a whole lot of funded startup founders.

And that leads us to our latest ranking. At Crunchbase News, we’ve been tracking the intersection of alumni affiliation and startup … Read the rest

May 25, 2019 Off

Startups Weekly: VCs are drunk on beverage startups

By Jill T Frey

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a newsletter published every Saturday that dives into the week’s most noteworthy venture deals, fundraises, M&A transactions and trends. Let’s take a quick moment to catch up. Last week, I wrote about an alternative to venture capital called revenue-based financing and before that, I jotted down some notes on one of VCs’ favorite spaces: cannabis tech. Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to [email protected] or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets.

This week, I want to share some thoughts — questions, rather — on beverages. Just as my inbox has been full of cannabis-related pitches, it’s also been packed with descriptions of new…drinks. Perhaps the most noted so far is Liquid Death, canned water for the punk rock crowd, because why not? Liquid Death has attracted nearly $2 million in funding from angel investors like Away co-founder Jen Rubio and … Read the rest

May 25, 2019 Off

China’s largest chipmaker is delisting from the Nasdaq

By Jill T Frey

The U.S-China trade war is increasingly influencing tech. Huawei has suffered a turbulent past week with key suppliers pausing work with the company, and now China’s largest chipmaker is planning to delist from the New York Stock Exchange.

Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) announced in a filing published Friday that it plans to delist next month ending a 15-year spell as a public company in the U.S. The firm will file a Form 25 to delist on June 3, which is likely to see it leave the NYSE around ten days later. SMIC, which is backed by the Chinese government and state-owned shareholders, will focus on its existing Hong Kong listing going forward but there will be trading options for those holding U.S-based ADRs.

In its announcement, SMIC said it plans to delist for reasons that include limited trading volumes and “significant administrative burden and costs” around the listing and … Read the rest

May 24, 2019 Off

Business author Julian Guthrie on the biggest difference between ‘alpha’ men and women

By Jill T Frey

If you’ve been out and about in Silicon Valley in the last month or so, chances are you’ve heard of “Alpha Girls,” a new book written by journalist Julian Guthrie about four people who’ve made a big impact on the world of startup investing. The book recognizes them — Theresia Gouw, MJ Elmore, Sonja Hoel Perkins, and Magdalena Yesil — because they are interesting individuals, each with very different upbringings and skill sets and areas of expertise.

But they also succeeded in the venture industry during a time when they were almost always the only woman in the room, or at the conference, or in the middle of a team-building event. Elmore signed on with IVP in 1982,  becoming a general partner by age 28. Yesil cofounded the dot com high-flier CyberCash before joining USVP as a partner in 1998. Perkins’s star also rose quickly. By age 29, … Read the rest