Month: August 2021

Reframe your Metaphors, and other lessons from Y Combinator S21 Day 1

After a 17-hour marathon through nearly 200 startup pitches, the Equity team was fired up to get back on Twitter and chat through some early trends and favorites from the first day of Y Combinator’s demo party. We’ll be back on the air tomorrow, so make sure you’re following the show on Twitter so you don’t miss out.

What did Natasha and Alex chat about? The following:

  • First Impressions: We started by going through top-line numbers, geographic breakdown, and how the accelerator is doing when it comes to the representation of diverse founders. The last bit had a tiny bit of progress, but diversity continues to be an issue in YC’s batches – even as cohort size grows. We also chatted about what startups pitching can work on: like better mics, which are cheap and good.
  • Our early favorites: Metaphor, Lumify, Alex’s favorite duo Indian real estate plays, Akudo, Reframe, and Playhouse.
  • And some hmmm moments, including our thoughts on Writesonic, which Natasha has a potentially paranoid theory on.

TechCrunch has extensive coverage of the day on the site, so there’s lots to dig into if you are in the mood. More tomorrow!

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

Sanas aims to convert one accent to another in real time for smoother customer service calls

In the customer service industry, your accent dictates many aspects of your job. It shouldn’t be the case that there’s a “better” or “worse” accent, but in today’s global economy (though who knows about tomorrow’s) it’s valuable to sound American or British. While many undergo accent neutralization training, Sanas is a startup with another approach (and a $5.5M seed round): using speech recognition and synthesis to change the speaker’s accent in near real time.

The company has trained a machine learning algorithm to quickly and locally (that is, without using the cloud) recognize a person’s speech on one end and, on the other, output the same words with an accent chosen from a list or automatically detected from the other person’s speech.

Screenshot of the Sanas desktop application.

Image Credits:

It slots right into the OS’s sound stack so it works out of the box with pretty much any audio or video calling tool. Right now the company is operating a pilot program with thousands of people in locations from the USA and UK to the Philippines, India, Latin America, and others. Accents supported will include American, Spanish, British, Indian, Filipino and Australian by the end of the year.

To tell the truth, the idea of Sanas kind of bothered me at first. It felt like a concession to bigoted people who consider their accent superior and think others below them. Tech will fix it… by accommodating the bigots. Great!

But while I still have a little bit of that feeling, I can see there’s (Read more...)

Unicorn to Unicorny

This post is by Om Malik from On my Om

A unicorn company, or unicorn startup, is a private company with a valuation over $1 billion. As of August 2021, there are more than 800 unicorns around the world.

CB Insights

I sometimes felt quite alone in my scorn for the idea of “unicorn” terminology as applied to startups and their valuation. The focus on valuation undermines the “value” and “values” of the startup. It puts focus on entirely the wrong things!

Anyway, aren’t unicorns are rare and mostly figments of imagination? Now they are not even rare. There are so many that they might outnumber a decent Zebra herd on the Serengeti. The total valuation of the 800 unicorns: $2.6 trillion! I guess we have gone from unicorn to unicorn-y.

Don’t worry: Dan Primack, the VC industry’s chronicler-in-chief, has proposed a new term: dragon.

Dragons are much bigger, stronger and more awe-inspiring than unicorns. They destroy whatever’s in their path, and their own destruction is viewed as catastrophic (at least if “GOT” is any guide).

To qualify, a company must be valued at $12 billion or more, net of venture funding. Yes, it’s a somewhat arbitrary figure. But it reflects the >10x “unicorn” growth since the Fortune piece, and the rapidly ascending private funding trajectory.

By the numbers: Currently, there would be 19 dragons. Of those, nine are based in the U.S.

Dan Primack, Pro Rata

Right on cue, a friend pinged me and said that if dragons don’t work out, they could easily be renamed: (Read more...)

Road to Decarbonization: The United States Electricity Mix

The following content is sponsored by the National Public Utilities Council

Road to Decarbonization: The United States Electricity Mix

The U.S. response to climate change and decarbonization is ramping up, and putting a focus on the country’s electricity mix.

As pressure has increased for near-term and immediate action after the UN’s latest IPCC report on climate change, major economies are starting to make bolder pledges. For the United States, that includes a carbon pollution-free utilities sector by 2035.

But with 50 states and even more territories—each with different energy sources readily available and utilized—some parts of the U.S. are a lot closer to carbon-free electricity than others.

How does each state’s electricity mix compare? This infographic from the National Public Utilities Council highlights the energy sources used for electricity in U.S. states during 2020, using data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The U.S. Electricity Generation Mix By State

How does the United States generate electricity currently?

Over the course of 2020, the U.S. generated 4,009 TWh of electricity, with the majority coming from fossil fuels. Natural gas (40.3%) was the biggest source of electricity for the country, accounting for more than nuclear (19.7%) and coal (17.3%) combined.

Including nuclear energy, non-fossil fuels made up 41.9% of U.S. electricity generation in 2020. The biggest sources of renewable electricity in the U.S. were wind (8.4%) and hydro (7.3%).

But on a state-by-state breakdown, we can see just how different the electricity mix is across the country (rounded to (Read more...)

Extra Crunch roundup: Toast and Freshbook S-1s, pre-pitch tips, flexible funding lessons

The digital transformation currently sweeping society has likely reached your favorite local restaurant.

Since 2013, Boston-based Toast has offered bars and eateries a software platform that lets them manage orders, payments and deliveries.

Over the last year, its customers have processed more than $38 billion in gross payment volume, so Alex Wilhelm analyzed the company’s S-1 for The Exchange with great interest.

“Toast was last valued at just under $5 billion when it last raised, per Crunchbase data,” he writes. “And folks are saying that it could be worth $20 billion in its debut. Does that square with the numbers?”

Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members.
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription.

Airbnb, DoorDash and Coinbase each debuted at past Y Combinator Demo Days; as of this writing, they employ a combined 10,000 people.

Today and tomorrow, TechCrunch reporters will cover the proceedings at YC’s Summer 20201 Demo Day. In addition to writing up founder pitches, they’ll also rank their favorites.

Even remotely, I can feel a palpable sense of excitement radiating from our team — anything can happen at YC Demo Day, so sign up for Extra Crunch to follow the action.

Thanks very much for reading; I hope you have an excellent week.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch

How Amazon EC2 grew from a notion into a foundational element of cloud computing

Image Credits: Ron Miller/TechCrunch

In August 2006, AWS activated (Read more...)

Corinne Riley | Funding the Cloud Challengers

This post is by Greylock Partners from Greymatter

Audio version of the essay by Greylock investors Corinne Riley and Jerry Chen entitled "Funding the Cloud Challengers." This essay, which is part of Greylock's Castles in the Cloud series, analyzes the top venture capital cloud investing trends since 2019. You can read the essay at, and find the entire project at

Jerry Chen | How to Break Up Big Cloud’s Dominance

This post is by Greylock Partners from Greymatter

Audio version of Greylock general partner Jerry Chen's essay "How to Break Up Big Cloud's Dominance," read by Greylock Head of Editorial Heather Mack. This essay, which outlines strategies startups can take to compete with the Big 3 cloud providers, is part of our Castles in the Cloud project. You can read the essay at, and find the entire project at

Jerry Chen | Castles in the Cloud

This post is by Greylock Partners from Greymatter

The audio version of Greylock general partner Jerry Chen's essay introducing Castles in the Cloud, which is Greylock’s interactive project to map multiple data points of the cloud computing ecosystem — and plots new opportunities for success. Greylock marketing partner Elisa Schreiber reads the essay. You can read the essay at, and find the entire project at

Mainframes, ML and digital transformation

Patrick Collison once made a joke that if you erect enough enterprise software billboards, an airport will spontaneously appear around them. It’s a pretty good bet that all of those billboards would say ‘digital transformation’, and that phrase always sounds to me like a parody of tech marketing. It’s got ‘digital!’ in there, and ‘transformation!’ - what on earth could this mean? If you poke away at it a little, though, this describes a pretty interesting generational shift in the technology inside big companies. 

Perhaps the best high level way to talk about this is just to say, as a gross generalisation, that in the 60s and 70s giant companies bought mainframes, and in the 80s and 90s the centre of gravity of enterprise IT moved from mainframes to client-server, Oracle, Windows and PCs, and now it’s moving again, to cloud and SaaS, and a bunch of other technologies that come with that. 

Screenshot 2021-06-20 at 12.15.20 pm.png

Moving from mainframes to client-server didn't just mean you went from renting one kind of box to buying another - it changed the whole way that computing worked. In particular, software became a separate business, and there were all sorts of new companies selling you new kinds of software, some of which solved existing problems but some of which changed how a company could operate. SAP made just-in-time supply chains a lot easier, and that enabled Zara, and Tim Cook’s Apple. New categories of software enabled new ways of doing business. 

The same shift is happening now, (Read more...)