Category: Accelerator

May 31, 2019 Off

Diving deep into Africa’s blossoming tech scene

By Jill T Frey

Jumia may be the first startup you’ve heard of from Africa. But the e-commerce venture that recently listed on the NYSE is definitely not the first or last word in African tech.

The continent has an expansive digital innovation scene, the components of which are intersecting rapidly across Africa’s 54 countries and 1.2 billion people.

When measured by monetary values, Africa’s tech ecosystem is tiny by Shenzen or Silicon Valley standards.

But when you look at volumes and year over year expansion in VC, startup formation, and tech hubs, it’s one of the fastest growing tech markets in the world. In 2017, the continent also saw the largest global increase in internet users—20 percent.

If you’re a VC or founder in London, Bangalore, or San Francisco, you’ll likely interact with some part of Africa’s tech landscape for the first time—or more—in the near future.

That’s why TechCrunch put together … Read the rest

May 29, 2019 Off

Fundraising 101: How to trigger FOMO among VCs

By Jill T Frey

Let’s go beyond the high-level fundraising advice that fills VC blogs. If you have a compelling business and have educated yourself on crafting a pitch deck and getting warm intros to VCs, there are still specific questions about the strategy to follow for your fundraise.

How can you make your round “hot” and trigger a fear of missing out (FOMO) among investors? How can you fundraise faster to reduce the distraction it has on running your business?

“You’re trying to make a market for your equity. In order to make a market you need multiple people lining up at the same time.”

Unsurprisingly, I’ve noticed that experienced founders tend to be more systematic in the tactics they employ to raise capital. So I asked several who have raised tens (or hundreds) of millions in VC funding to share specific strategies for raising money on their terms. Here’s their advice.

(The … Read the rest

May 29, 2019 Off

Delane Parnell’s plan to conquer amateur esports

By Jill T Frey

Most of the buzz about esports focuses on high-profile professional teams and audiences watching live streams of those professionals.

What gets ignored is the entire base of amateurs wanting to compete in esports below the professional tier. This is like talking about the NBA and the value of its sponsorships and broadcast rights as if that is the entirety of the basketball market in the US.

Los Angeles-based PlayVS (pronounced “play versus”) wants to become the dominant platform for amateur esports, starting at the high school level. The company raised $46 million last year—its first year operating—with the vision that owning the infrastructure for competitions and expanding it to encompass other social elements of gaming can make it the largest gaming company in the world.

I recently sat down with Founder & CEO Delane Parnell to talk about his company’s formation and growth strategy. Below is the transcript of our … Read the rest

May 22, 2019 Off

These startups are locating in SF and Africa to win in global fintech

By Jill T Frey

To become a global fintech player, locate your company in San Francisco and Africa.

That’s the approach of payments company Flutterwave, digital lending startup Mines, and mobile-money venture Chipper Cash—Africa-founded ventures that maintain headquarters in San Francisco and operations in Africa to tap the best of both worlds in VC, developers, clients, and the frontier of digital finance.

This arrangement wasn’t exactly coordinated across the ventures, but TechCrunch coverage picked up the trend and some common motives among these rising fintech firms.

Founded in 2016 by Nigerians Iyinoluwa Aboyeji and Olugbenga Agboola, Flutterwave has positioned itself as a global B2B payments solutions platform for companies in Africa to pay other companies on the continent and abroad.

Clients can tap its APIs and work with Flutterwave developers to customize payments applications. Existing customers include Uber,  Booking.com and African e-commerce unicorn Jumia.com.

The Y-Combinator backed company is headquartered in … Read the rest

May 20, 2019 Off

Y Combinator promotes Geoff Ralston to president, while Sam Altman shifts to advisor role

By Jill T Frey

Two months ago, when Sam Altman surprised the industry by stepping away from his post as the president of Y Combinator to become the CEO of OpenAI, an artificial intelligence-focused company, TechCrunch was told there were no plans to replace Altman.

Apparently, there were no immediate plans. This morning, the popular accelerator program and investment firm is announcing that it has promoted longtime partner Geoff Ralston to president.

It’s an unsurprising choice for YC, an organization that employs roughly 60 people, many of whom have been affiliated with it in one way or another for years. When its founders, Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston, first looked for someone to lead the rocket ship they had built, they quickly identified Altman, who was part of the first class of Y Combinator and who later helped them advise YC startups.

Similarly, Graham has known Ralston for 20 years; they met at … Read the rest

May 20, 2019 Off

MIT and US Air Force team up to launch AI accelerator

By Jill T Frey

The Pentagon is one of the largest technology customers in the world, purchasing everything from F-35 planes (roughly $90 million each) to cloud services (the JEDI contract was $10 billion). Despite outlaying hundreds of billions of dollars for acquisitions though, the Defense Department has struggled to push nascent technologies from startups through its punishing procurement process.

The department launched the Defense Innovation Unit a few years back as a way to connect startups into the defense world. Now, the military has decided to work even earlier to ensure that the next generation of startups can equip the military with the latest technology.

Cambridge, Mass.-based MIT and the U.S. Air Force announced today they are teaming up to launch a new accelerator focused on artificial intelligence applications, with the Air Force committed to investing $15 million into roughly 10 MIT research projects per year. The accelerator will be called … Read the rest

May 16, 2019 Off

Unveiling its latest cohort, Alchemist announces $4 million in funding for its enterprise accelerator

By Jill T Frey

The enterprise software and services-focused accelerator Alchemist has raised $4 million in fresh financing from investors BASF and the Qatar Development Bank, just in time for its latest demo day unveiling 20 new companies.

Qatar and BASF join previous investors, including the venture firms Mayfield, Khosla Ventures, Foundation Capital, DFJ and USVP, and corporate investors like Cisco, Siemens and Juniper Networks.

While the roster of successes from Alchemist’s fund isn’t as lengthy as Y Combinator, the accelerator program has launched the likes of the quantum computing upstart Rigetti, the soft-launch developer tool LaunchDarkly and drone startup Matternet .

Some (personal) highlights of the latest cohort include:

  • Bayware: Helmed by a former head of software-defined networking from Cisco, the company is pitching a tool that makes creating networks in multi-cloud environments as easy as copying and pasting.
  • MotorCortex.AI: Co-founded by a Stanford engineering professor and a Carnegie Mellon roboticist, the company
Read the rest
May 14, 2019 Off

Beyond costs, what else can we do to make housing affordable?

By Jill T Frey

This week on Extra Crunch, I am exploring innovations in inclusive housing, looking at how 200+ companies are creating more access and affordability. Yesterday, I focused on startups trying to lower the costs of housing, from property acquisition to management and operations.

Today, I want to focus on innovations that improve housing inclusion more generally, such as efforts to pair housing with transit, small business creation, and mental rehabilitation. These include social impact-focused interventions, interventions that increase income and mobility, and ecosystem-builders in housing innovation.

Nonprofits and social enterprises lead many … Read the rest

May 13, 2019 Off

Market map: the 200+ innovative startups transforming affordable housing

By Jill T Frey

In this section of my exploration into innovation in inclusive housing, I am digging into the 200+ companies impacting the key phases of developing and managing housing.

Innovations have reduced costs in the most expensive phases of the housing development and management process. I explore innovations in each of these phases, including construction, land, regulatory, financing, and operational costs.

Reducing Construction Costs

This is one of the top three challenges developers face, exacerbated by rising building material costs and labor … Read the rest

May 13, 2019 Off

Innovations in inclusive housing

By Jill T Frey

Housing is big money. The industry has trillions under management and hundreds of billions under development.

And investors have noticed the potential. Opendoor raised nearly $1.3 billion to help homeowners buy and sell houses more quickly. Katerra raised $1.2 billion to optimize building development and construction, and Compass raised the same amount to help brokers sell real estate better. Even Amazon and Airbnb have entered the fray with high-profile investments.

Amidst this frenetic growth is the seed of the next wave of innovation in the sector. The housing industry — and its affordability problem … Read the rest