The Exchange: Remote dealmaking, rapid-fire IPOs, and how much $250M buys you


This post is by Alex Wilhelm from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Welcome to The Exchange, an upcoming weekly newsletter featuring TechCrunch and Extra Crunch reporting on startups, money, and markets. You can sign up for it here to receive it regularly when it launches on July 25th. You can email me about it here, or talk to me about it on Twitter. Let’s go!

Ahead of parsing Q2 venture capital data, we got a look this week into the VC world’s take on making deals over Zoom. A few months ago it was an open question whether VCs would simply stop making new investments if they couldn’t chop it up in person with founders. That, it turns out, was mostly wrong.

This week we learned that most VCs are open to making remote deals happen, even if 40% of VCs have actually done so. This raises a worrying question: If only 40% of VCs have actually made a fully remote deal, how many deals happened in Q2?

Judging from my inbox over the past few months, it’s been an active period. But we can’t lean on anecdata for this topic; The Exchange will parse Q2 VC data next week, hopefully, provided that we can scrape together the data points we need to feel confident in our take. More soon.

Private markets

As TechCrunch reported Friday, some startups are delaying raising capital for a few quarters. They can do this by limiting expenses. The question for startups that are doing this is what shape they’ll be in when they do surface to hunt for fresh funds; can they still grow at an attractive pace while trying to extend their runway through burn conservation?

But there’s another option besides waiting to raise a new round, and not raising at all. Startups can raise an extension to their preceding deal! Perhaps I am noticing something that isn’t a trend, or not a trend yet, but there have been a number of startups recently raised extensions lately that caught my eye. For example, this week MariaDB raised a $25 million Series C extension, for example. Also this week Sayari put together $2.5 million in a Series B extension. And CALA put together $3 million in a Seed extension. Finally, across the pond Machine Labs put together one million pounds in another Seed extension this week.

I don’t know yet how to numerically drill into the available venture data to tell if we’re really seeing an extension wave, but do let me know if you have any notes to share. And, to be completely clear, the above rounds could easily be merely random and un-thematic, so please don’t read into them more deeply than that they were announced in the last few days and match something that we’re watching.

Public markets

On the public markets front, the news is all good. Tech stocks are up in general, and software stocks set some new record highs this week. It’s nearly impossible to recall how scary the world was back in March and April in today’s halcyon stock market run, but it was only a few months back that stocks were falling sharply.

The return-to-form has helped a number of companies go public this year like Vroom, Accolade, Agora, and others. This week was another busy period for startups, former startups, and other companies looking to go out.

In quick fashion to save time, this week we got to see GoHealth’s first IPO range, nCino’s second (more on the two companies’ finances here), learned that Palantir is going public (it’s financial history as best we can tell is here), and even got an IPO filing (S-1) from Rackspace, as it looks towards the public markets yet again.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. You can read it every morning on Extra Crunch, and now you can receive it in your inbox. Sign up for The Exchange newsletter, which drops every Friday starting July 25.


The IPO waters are so warm that Lemonade is still up more than 100% from its IPO price. So long as growth companies that are miles from making money can command rich valuations, expect companies to keep running through the public market’s door.

There’s fun stuff on the horizon. Coinbase might file later this year, or in early 2021. And the Airbnb IPO is probably coming within four or five quarters. Gear up to read some SEC filings.

Funding rounds worth noting

The coolest funding round of the week was obviously the one that I wrote about, namely the $2.2 million that MonkeyLearn put together from a pair of lead investors. But other companies raised money, and among them the following investments stood out:

  • Sony poured a quarter of a billion dollars into the maker of Fortnite, for a 1.4% stake. This rounds stands out for how small a piece of Epic Games that Sony got its hands on. It feels reminiscent of the recent investment deluge into Jio.
  • TruePill raised $25 million in a Series B. In the modern world it seems batty to me that I have to get off my ass, go to Walgreens or CVS, wait in line, and then ask someone to please sell me Claritin D. What an enormous waste of time. TruePill, which does pharma delivery, can’t get here fast enough. Also, investors in TruePill are probably fully aware that Amazon spent $1 billion on PillPack just a few year ago.
  • From the slightly off-the-wall category, this headline from TechCrunch: UK’s Farewill raises $25M for its new-approach online will writing, funerals and other death services.” Farewill is a startup name that is so bad it probably works; I won’t forget it any time soon, even though I don’t live in the U.K.! And this deal goes to show how big the internet really is. There’s so much demand for digital services that a company with Farewill’s particular focus can put together enough revenue growth to command a $25 million Series B.
  • Finally, TechCrunch’s Ron Miller covered a $50 million investment into OwnBackup. What matters about this deal was how Ron spoke about it: “OwnBackup has made a name for itself primarily as a backup and disaster-recovery system for the Salesforce ecosystem, and today the company announced a $50 million investment.” What to take from that? That Salesforce’s ecosystem is maybe bigger than we thought.

That’s The Exchange for the week. Keep your eye on SaaS valuations, the latest S-1 filings, and the latest fundings. Chat Monday.

A recapitalization reckoning


This post is by Natasha Mascarenhas from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

If you’re an angel who invested in a startup that was meant to go public in 2014, you might be getting a little bit impatient. High-risk, high-reward investing has lost its shine in this environment: the stock market is a mess these days, and you want your cash back.

Enter recapitalization events, where startups restructure their entire cap table to squeeze out old investors, bring on new ones and shift the way equity and debt is managed. For investors, it’s a killer way to enter a company on friendlier terms than normal (read: desperation), and a nice way to get liquidity on a startup you’re betting on.

For founders, it’s rarely good news, as departing investors is not a metric they’re going to add to the pitch deck. As one investor said on background, the spur of coronavirus-related recapitalization events shows “hella dilution for desperate times.”

That’s what makes Workhuman’s transparency with its recent recapitalization event all the more enticing.

Last year, the human-resources platform brought in $580 million in revenue from customers like LinkedIn, Cisco, J&J and other clients. In April, business grew 40%. Co-founder and CEO Eric Mosley says business has grown five times in size since the company pulled back from its 2014 plans to IPO. Workhuman hasn’t raised a single venture round since 2004 (and doesn’t plan to any time soon).

Being conservative has paid off; although Workhuman has operated for nearly two decades, Mosley says he thinks the company is still at the “tip of the iceberg.” The company recently had a recapitalization event to sell the stakes of its earliest investors, who cut a $200,000 check more than 20 years ago.

Rackspace preps IPO after going private in 2016 for $4.3B


This post is by Alex Wilhelm from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

After going private in 2016 after accepting a $32 per share, or $4.3 billion, price from Apollo Global Management, Rackspace is looking once again to the public markets. First going public in 2008, Rackspace is taking second aim at a public offering around 12 years after its initial debut.

The company describes its business as a “multicloud technology services” vendor, helping its customers “design, build and operate” cloud environments. That Rackspace is highlighting a services focus is useful context to understand its financial profile, as we’ll see in a moment.

But first, some basics. The company’s S-1 filing denotes a $100 million placeholder figure for how much the company may raise in its public offering. That figure will change, but does tell us that firm is likely to target a share sale that will net it closer to $100 million than $500 million, another popular placeholder figure.

Rackspace will list on the Nasdaq with the ticker symbol “RXT.” Goldman, Citi, J.P. Morgan, RBC Capital Markets and other banks are helping underwrite its (second) debut.

Financial performance

Similar to other companies that went private, only later to debut once again as a public company, Rackspace has oceans of debt.

The company’s balance sheet reported cash and equivalents of $125.2 million as of March 31, 2020. On the other side of the ledger, Rackspace has debts of $3.99 billion, made up of a $2.82 billion term loan facility, and $1.12 billion in senior notes that cost the firm an 8.625% coupon, among other debts. The term loan costs a lower 4% rate, and stems from the initial transaction to take Rackspace private ($2 billion), and another $800 million that was later taken on “in connection with the Datapipe Acquisition.”

The senior notes, originally worth a total of $1,200 million or $1.20 billion, also came from the acquisition of the company during its 2016 transaction; private equity’s ability to buy companies with borrowed money, later taking them public again and using those proceeds to limit the resulting debt profile while maintaining financial control is lucrative, if a bit cheeky.

Rackspace intends to use IPO proceeds to lower its debt-load, including both its term loan and senior notes. Precisely how much Rackspace can put against its debts will depend on its IPO pricing.

Those debts take a company that is comfortably profitable on an operating basis and make it deeply unprofitable on a net basis. Observe:

Image Credits: SECLooking at the far-right column, we can see a company with material revenues, though slim gross margins for a putatively tech company. It generated $21.5 million in Q1 2020 operating profit from its $652.7 million in revenue from the quarter. However, interest expenses of $72 million in the quarter helped lead Rackspace to a deep $48.2 million net loss.

Not all is lost, however, as Rackspace does have positive operating cash flow in the same three-month period. Still, the company’s multi-billion-dollar debt load is still steep, and burdensome.

Returning to our discussion of Rackspace’s business, recall that it said that it sells “multicloud technology services,” which tells us that its gross margins will be service-focused, which is to say that they won’t be software-level. And they are not. In Q1 2020 Rackspace had gross margins of 38.2%, down from 41.3% in the year-ago Q1. That trend is worrisome.

The company’s growth profile is also slightly uneven. From 2017 to 2018, Rackspace saw its revenue expand from $2.14 billion to $2.45 billion, growth of 14.4%. The company shrank slightly in 2019, falling from $2.45 billion in revenue in 2018 to $2.44 billion the next year. Given the economy that year, and the importance of cloud in 2019, the results are a little surprising.

Rackspace did grow in Q1 2020, however. The firm’s $652.7 million in first-quarter top-line easily bested in its Q1 2019 result of $606.9 million. The company grew 7.6% in Q1 2020. That’s not much, especially during a period in which its gross margins eroded, but the return-to-growth is likely welcome all the same.

TechCrunch did not see Q2 2020 results in its S-1 today while reading the document, so we presume that the firm will re-file shortly to include more recent financial results; it would be hard for the company to debut at an attractive price in the COVID-19 era without sharing Q2 figures, we reckon.

How to value Rackspace is a puzzle. The company is tech-ish, which means it will find some interest. But its slow growth rate, heavy debts and lackluster margins make it hard to pin a fair multiple onto. More when we have it.

nCino sharply raises its IPO price range, boosting possible valuation to $2.6B


This post is by Alex Wilhelm from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

As expected, fintech company nCino has raised its IPO price range. The North Carolina-based banking software firm now expects to sell its shares for between $28 and $29 per share, far more than its initial price range of $22 to $24 per share.

At its $28 to $29 per-share price interval, nCino is worth $2.50 billion to $2.59 billion, sharply more than its preceding $1.96 billion to $2.14 billion range.

The valuation makes more sense for the company, given its growth rate, revenue scale and how the market is currently valuing similar companies. As TechCrunch wrote earlier this week, concerning the SaaS company’s scale and value (emphasis ours):

Annualizing the company’s Q1 (the April 30, 2020 period) revenue results, nCino’s $178.9 million run rate would give it a revenue multiple of 11x to 12x at its expected IPO prices, a somewhat modest result by current standards.

Indeed, as nCino grew about 50% from Q1 2019 to Q1 2020, it feels light. The firm’s GAAP losses are slim compared to revenue as well for a SaaS business, though the company’s operating cash burn did grow from $4.6 million in its fiscal year ending January 31, 2019 to $9 million in its next fiscal year. Its numbers are mostly good, with some less-than-perfect results. Still, given its growth rate, an 11x-12x revenue multiple feels modest; that figure rises, of course, if we use a trailing revenue figure instead of our annualized number.

It would not be a shock, then, if nCino targets a higher price interval for its shares before it formally prices.

With its new IPO price range, nCino’s implied revenue multiple is now 14x to 14.5x, figures that seem far closer to present-day norms.

Now the question for nCino, which is expected to price and trade next week, is whether it can price above its raised range. Given some recent historical precedent, a $1 per-share price beat above its raised interval would not be a shock.

nCino is one of two companies we’re currently tracking on its way to the public markets. The other is GoHealth, which is expected to go public around the same time. Expect next week to be chock-full of IPO news. Heading into earnings season no less!

Silicon Valley is built on immigrant innovation


This post is by Alex Wilhelm from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

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

We wound up having more to talk about than we had time for but we packed as much as we could into 34 minutes. So, climb aboard with Danny, Natasha, and myself for another episode of Equity.

Before we get into topics, a reminder that if you are signing up for Extra Crunch and want to save some money, the code “equity” is your friend. Alright, let’s get into it:

Whew! Past all that we had some fun, and, hopefully, were of some use. Hugs and chat Monday!

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

Creandum backs Amie, a new productivity app from ex-N26 product manager Dennis Müller


This post is by Steve O'Hear from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Amie, a new productivity app from ex-N26 product manager Dennis Müller, has picked up $1.3 million in pre-seed funding to “kickstart” development and hiring.

Backing 23-year-old Müller is Creandum — the European VC best known for being an early investor in Spotify — along with Tiny.VC and a plethora of angels. They include Laura Grimmelmann (Ex-Accel), Nicolas Kopp (CEO, N26 U.S.), Roland Grenke (Dubsmash co-founder) and Zachary Smith (SVP of product at U.S. challenger bank Chime).

Founded early this year and with a planned launch in early 2021, Berlin-based Amie is developing a productivity app that combines a person’s calendar and to-dos in one place. Previously called coco, it promises to work across all devices, with an interface that “works just like you think.”

“Back in the day, you had a calendar on your office wall, and a to-do list on a notepad,” Müller tells me. “You could take your list with you elsewhere, but not your calendar. Those were digitized instead of rethinking the flow. Most productivity apps solve very specific problems, creating a new one, [and] users need too many tools.”

Amie pre-release app screenshot.

Müller says Amie is built on the principle that “to-dos, habits and events all take time, and all belong in the same place.” Many people already schedule to-dos and the startup wants to offer the fastest way to create to-dos, schedule events, check your calendar “and even jump into Zoom calls.”

As a glimpse of what’s to come, Amie promises to let you drag ‘n’ drop to-dos into your day, or turn links and screenshots into to-dos. “With Amie’s Alfred-like app, you can create an event and invite people in a different timezone, all while other apps are still loading,” says the young company.

More broadly, Amie wants to act as a central workspace, letting you also do things like join video calls, take notes and do email, without the need to open extra browser tabs and therefore avoid “context switching.”

“Amie will target professionals who are currently using Google Calendar, due to our integration,” adds Müller. “The waitlist already counts thousands of users, who are mostly professionals working in the tech industry (e.g., designers, developers, bizdevs, etc.”

VCs are cutting checks remotely, but deal volume could be slowing


This post is curated by Keith Teare. It was written by Alex Wilhelm. The original is [linked here]

When COVID-19 began to shutter the United States economy, startups jumped into cost-cutting mode as expectations rose that venture capital was about to get a heck of a lot harder to raise. After all, prior downturns in the broader economy, and tech sector in particular, had taken a bite out of the ability for startups to attract new funds.

PitchBook research shows that, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the amount of money venture capitalists invested fell, with early-stage deal and dollar volume enduring the largest cuts. Late-stage valuations during the same period came under steep pressure. The connection between a slipping economy and a rapidly deteriorating venture capital market, therefore, seems strong.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. You can read it every morning on Extra Crunch, and now you can receive it in your inbox. Sign up for The Exchange newsletter, which drops every Friday starting July 24.


The historically grounded feeling from startups in Q2, as the stock market sold off and unemployment rose, was one of concern: VCs were about to cut their deal pace, and the number of dollars that they were willing to put into each deal would likely fall as well. That investors would need to shake up their process and do deals remotely was not confidence inspiring.

We don’t have full Q2 VC numbers yet, so it’s too soon to say that Q2 was worse or better than expectations. But what we can say, thanks to a new survey from OMERS Ventures, is that VCs moved with reasonable speed to get over the technology and cultural hurdle of remote deal-making to keep the checks flowing. Indeed, according to OMERS Ventures’ research, 69% of the VCs it surveyed in June were willing to do fully remote deals; for startups worried that the venture class was simply going to pack up its checkbook and take an extended vacation, it’s good news.

But the news isn’t all rosy — most VC firms from the 150 in North America and Europe that the venture group surveyed have yet to actually execute a remote deal. And, there’s some indication that overall deal volume could be slowing, perhaps due to “dwindling supply of companies formally going to market,” according to OMERS Ventures’ Damien Steel, a managing partner.

This morning let’s examine which VCs have been the most active, and the least, to find out which types of firms are still investing, and where investors are seeing more deal flow, and less.

Remote deals, fewer deals

Most VCs have decided that remote deal-making is, at minimum, something that they need to become accustomed to. Only 4% of surveyed VCs said that they would not do remote deals, full-stop. Another 23% said that they were fine with remote deals, albeit with some ability to meet entrepreneurs in person.

VCs are cutting checks remotely, but deal volume could be slowing


This post is by Alex Wilhelm from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

When COVID-19 began to shutter the United States economy, startups jumped into cost-cutting mode as expectations rose that venture capital was about to get a heck of a lot harder to raise. After all, prior downturns in the broader economy, and tech sector in particular, had taken a bite out of the ability for startups to attract new funds.

PitchBook research shows that, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the amount of money venture capitalists invested fell, with early-stage deal and dollar volume enduring the largest cuts. Late-stage valuations during the same period came under steep pressure. The connection between a slipping economy and a rapidly deteriorating venture capital market, therefore, seems strong.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. You can read it every morning on Extra Crunch, and now you can receive it in your inbox. Sign up for The Exchange newsletter, which drops every Friday starting July 24.


The historically grounded feeling from startups in Q2, as the stock market sold off and unemployment rose, was one of concern: VCs were about to cut their deal pace, and the number of dollars that they were willing to put into each deal would likely fall as well. That investors would need to shake up their process and do deals remotely was not confidence inspiring.

We don’t have full Q2 VC numbers yet, so it’s too soon to say that Q2 was worse or better than expectations. But what we can say, thanks to a new survey from OMERS Ventures, is that VCs moved with reasonable speed to get over the technology and cultural hurdle of remote deal-making to keep the checks flowing. Indeed, according to OMERS Ventures’ research, 69% of the VCs it surveyed in June were willing to do fully remote deals; for startups worried that the venture class was simply going to pack up its checkbook and take an extended vacation, it’s good news.

But the news isn’t all rosy — most VC firms from the 150 in North America and Europe that the venture group surveyed have yet to actually execute a remote deal. And, there’s some indication that overall deal volume could be slowing, perhaps due to “dwindling supply of companies formally going to market,” according to OMERS Ventures’ Damien Steel, a managing partner.

This morning let’s examine which VCs have been the most active, and the least, to find out which types of firms are still investing, and where investors are seeing more deal flow, and less.

Remote deals, fewer deals

Most VCs have decided that remote deal-making is, at minimum, something that they need to become accustomed to. Only 4% of surveyed VCs said that they would not do remote deals, full-stop. Another 23% said that they were fine with remote deals, albeit with some ability to meet entrepreneurs in person.

Coinbase reported to consider late 2020, early 2021 public debut


This post is by Alex Wilhelm from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Coinbase is the latest mega-startup that may approach the public markets. The digital currency exchange company could follow Palantir, which is also nearing its IPO, after the secretive data-focused unicorn announced that it had filed privately.

Earlier today Reuters reported that Coinbase, a popular American-based cryptocurrency trading platform, could pursue a public debut later this year, or early next year. Plans remain fluid, according to the report, which went on to say that the crypto-focused fintech company “has been in talks to hire investment banks and law firms.”

Coinbase declined to comment, telling TechCrunch in an email that it cannot “comment on rumors or speculation.”

Even more, Reuters reported that Coinbase may pursue a direct listing for its shares, instead of a more traditional initial public offering. A direct listing allows a company to begin to trade publicly without formally pricing its equity through a bloc sale as happens in initial public offerings. Direct listings have become more popular as a concept in recent years as private companies became less dependent on IPOs as a fundraising mechanism, and some of Silicon Valley’s elite became disenchanted with what they consider to be regular underpricing of IPOs, forcing companies going public to leave tens, or hundreds of millions of dollars on the table.

Coinbase is perhaps archetypal for the sort of company that might consider a direct listing. It’s wealthy, having raised north of $500 million during its life as a private company, and highly valued. Coinbase’s most recent private financing of $300 million valued it at $8.0 billion, according to Crunchbase data. A high valuation and the possibility of ample cash reserves are what previous direct listings Slack, and Spotify had as well.

Most companies still tack towards the public markets through IPOs, as we’ve see in recent weeks with the traditional debuts of Accolade, Vroom, and others. Yesterday TechCrunch covered initial price ranges for two more IPOs, GoHealth and nCino, each of which have eschewed the direct listing model in favor of raising funds during their exit from the private markets.

Results

How big Coinbase is today is not clear. The company’s financial history is occluded — common with private companies — and a bit uneven. Media reports have pegged its 2017 revenue at around $1 billion, boosted by that year’s crypto-mania. Precisely how Coinbase performed in 2018 is less clear, though other media reports paint the picture of a smaller company.

Regardless of whether Coinbase direct lists or takes on a traditional IPO, we’ll get to see its S-1 filing. That document will provide good insight into the company’s historical financial performance, allowing us to see how Coinbase fared during various crypto-booms and busts.

With public markets at all-time highs and valuations for tech stocks far above historical norms, it’s not surprising that some highly-valued unicorns are gearing up for a run on the public markets. Let’s see how many pull it off.

Singaporean startup Karana raises $1.7 million for meat substitutes made from jackfruit


This post is by Catherine Shu from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Singaporeans have a growing appetite for plant-based meat substitutes. In fact, demand for products from companies like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Quorn have grown during the pandemic, partly because consumers are making more health-conscious decisions, according to the Straits Time. Now there is a new entrant to the market. Headquartered in Singapore, Karana announced today it has raised $1.7 million in seed funding and plans to launch its first product, a pork substitute made from jackfruit, this year.

Karana’s seed investors include Henry Soesanto, the CEO of Monde Nissin Group, which acquired Quorn Foods in 2015; agtech investment firms Big Idea Ventures and Germi8; and angel investors Kevin Poon and Gerald Li, both Hong Kong entrepreneurs with experience in the food and beverage industry. Karana said the round also included participation from an undisclosed leading Asia-based FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) distributor.

Karana’s jackfruit is sourced from Sri Lanka, where jackfruit is already a common meat substitute. What Karana’s processing method does is create a texture that replicates minced and shredded pork more closely, making it easier to use in dishes like dumplings, char siu bao or bahn mi.

Founded in 2018 by Dan Riegler and Blair Crichton, Karana turns organic jackfruit into a pork substitute by using a proprietary mechanical technique that the company says does not use any chemical processing. Its pork substitute will be available in restaurants this year, before arriving in retail stores at the beginning of next year.

Riegler and Crichton told TechCrunch in an email that Karana uses jackfruit because it not only has a “naturally meaty texture,” but is an environmentally-friendly crop. It is usually grown intercropped (or with other produce, in the same field), has a high yield and low water usage. But about 60% of jackfruit harvested currently goes to waste, they added. “There is a lot of room for further commercialization, which means additional income streams for farmers.”

Karana’s founders started with pork because it is the most frequently consumed meat in Asia. Its seed funding will be used on research and development to launch new products and the company currently talking to strategic partners in other Asian markets. Future Karana products will use other crops grown in Asia to create new meat substitutes.

“Karana is a whole-plant meat company, our focus is on leveraging what nature has given us and enhancing these amazing biodiverse ingredients to create delicious products. In the future, we will launch products using other regional ingredients that will enable us to expand beyond pork,” the founders said. “This is a real differentiator from other companies that are by-and-large relying on commodity crops in processed forms.”

LocalGlobe and TransferWise’s Taavet Hinrikus back ‘frictionless finance’ startup Radix


This post is curated by Keith Teare. It was written by Steve O'Hear. The original is [linked here]

Radix, a U.K. startup that’s building a decentralised finance protocol on which new financial apps can connect and be built on top of, has raised $4.1 million in new funding.

Backing the company, which counts the Ethereum network and a number of other “DeFi” projects as competitors, is London-based seed-stage VC LocalGlobe and TransferWise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus.

Radix DLT Ltd. — separate from the nonprofit Radix Foundation — had previously raised $1.9 million in equity funding in the form of a SAFE note and will be issued 2.4 billion tokens by the Radix Foundation (see below).

In its own words, Radix DLT is building a decentralised finance protocol that aims to provide “frictionless access, liquidity and programmability of any asset in the world.” The Radix team also claims it has overcome the scalability issue that typically plagues decentralised finance and blockchain-based ledgers.

In a public test of the Radix network last year, it claims to have achieved over 1 million transactions per second, a throughput over 5x higher than the Nasdaq at its peak.

It also positions itself as different from other distributed ledgers and decentralised protocols. Radix is “not trying to be a general purpose platform,” says CEO Piers Ridyard. “Decentralised finance, and by extension, the financial industry, is a highly specialised sector that requires a highly specialised set of tools and incentives. Unlike the general purpose protocols that came before it, such as Ethereum, Radix is building a layer 1 protocol specifically for decentralised finance.”

Benefiting from more than seven years of R&D carried out by founder Dan Hughes, a self-taught coder from the North of England, Ridyard says that Radix’s sole focus on DeFi from the get-go means Radix is lowering the barriers to adoption via integrations with payment rails and consumer applications, and increasing on-ledger liquidity by making it as easy as possible for developers to build new DeFi apps. The latter consists of the Radix Engine, a developer interface that claims to enable quick public ledger deployments using a “secure-by-design” environment.

But what’s the problem DeFi potentially solves?

At the highest level, proponents of so-called DeFi point to the fact that every system in finance is essentially built on its own, proprietary, non-compatible technology stack that still has far too many human processes behind it. For example, the London Stock Exchange, the U.S. Nasdaq and the Shanghai Stock Exchange are all built as “islands.” To trade across them requires centralised technology, protocol and legal integrations with each.

“That is because finance, lending, borrowing, swapping and issuance are all done in these little islands of technology that require legal contracts and Excel spreadsheets sent over email as the connective tissue,” says Ridyard. “APIs are improving this process, but there is no such thing as a standard API; Plaid became a $5.3 billion company for essentially this reason.”

By being decentralised and interoperable from day one, it’s this ability to trade across ledgers and asset classes programatically that DeFi systems such as Radix want to provide.

“This is the core and key difference for assets and services that are built on public ledgers,” explains Ridyard. “As soon as they are built on Radix, they become interoperable. I can seamlessly and programmatically move my assets from the services of one application, built by one company and team, to that of another, built by a different company and team, but issued and launched on the same decentralised public ledger. The public ledger acts as an interoperable platform for many startups to experiment and build better versions of existing products (such as stock exchanges) or entirely new products (such as continuous function market makers) that are just not possible with the current systems.”

Worth noting, Ridyard says that from a consumer point of view, the products and services aren’t likely to change much in their appearance — they’ll still be accessed via mobile apps and will probably be offered via regulated companies as they are today. Instead, he says the consumer-facing upsides will be speed, higher rates on deposits and the seamless ability to swap between asset types without needing to go into cash as the interim asset.

Adds the Radix CEO: “I should also stress that decentralised finance is not about moving existing banks onto public ledgers. It is about unbundling of banking services (borrowing, lending, investment) into applications that can all interoperate on a single public network. Banks are like newspapers coming into the internet age, some will make the transition, but not all.”

Cue statement from LocalGlobe’s Saul Klein (for posterity, if nothing else): “I see the same revolutionary potential in the Radix team as I did with the Skype and Netscape teams at the birth of the internet. We’re excited to join them at the start of a new decentralised network revolution.”

*Radix has two main legal entities: Radix DLT Ltd and the Radix Foundation. Since inception, both have received funding in different forms. The Radix Foundation is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, registered in the U.K., and was created to promote the long-term interests of the Radix Public Network as well as help manage the Radix community and ecosystem. Between 2013 and 2017, people from the Radix Community contributed 3,000 BTC in exchange for 3 billion RADIX tokens issued by the Radix Foundation. These tokens arguably have value as they’re needed to pay the transaction fees to use the Radix protocol.

LocalGlobe and TransferWise’s Taavet Hinrikus back ‘frictionless finance’ startup Radix


This post is by Steve O'Hear from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Radix, a U.K. startup that’s building a decentralised finance protocol on which new financial apps can connect and be built on top of, has raised $4.1 million in new funding.

Backing the company, which counts the Ethereum network and a number of other “DeFi” projects as competitors, is London-based seed-stage VC LocalGlobe and TransferWise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus.

Radix DLT Ltd. — separate from the non-profit Radix Foundation — had previously raised $1.9 million in equity funding in the form of a SAFE note and will be issued 2.4 billion tokens by the Radix Foundation (see below).

In its own words, Radix DLT is building a decentralised finance protocol that aims to provide “frictionless access, liquidity and programmability of any asset in the world”. The Radix team also claims it has overcome the scalability issue that typically plagues decentralised finance and blockchain-based ledgers.

In a public test of the Radix network last year, it claims to have achieved over 1 million transactions per second, a throughput over 5x higher than the NASDAQ at its peak.

It also positions itself as different from other distributed ledgers and decentralised protocols. Radix is “not trying to be a general purpose platform,” says CEO Piers Ridyard. “Decentralised finance, and by extension, the financial industry is a highly specialised sector that requires a highly specialised set of tools and incentives. Unlike the general purpose protocols that came before it, such as Ethereum, Radix is building a layer 1 protocol specifically for decentralised finance”.

Benefiting from over 7 years of R&D carried out by founder Dan Hughes, a self taught coder from the North of England, Ridyard says that Radix’s sole focus on DeFi from the get-go means Radix is lowering the barriers to adoption via integrations with payment rails and consumer applications, and increasing on-ledger liquidity by making it as easy as possible for developers to build new DeFi apps. The latter consists of the Radix Engine, a developer interface that claims to enable quick public ledger deployments using a “secure-by-design” environment.

But what’s the problem DeFi potentially solves?

At the highest level, proponents of so-called DeFi point to the fact that every system in finance is essentially built on its own, proprietary, non-compatible technology stack that still has far too many human processes behind it. For example, the London Stock Exchange, the U.S. NASDAQ, the Shanghai Stock Exchange are all built as “islands”. To trade across them requires centralised technology, protocol and legal integrations with each.

“That is because finance, lending, borrowing, swapping, and issuance are all done in these little islands of technology that require legal contracts and excel spreadsheets sent over email as the connective tissue,” says Ridyard. “APIs are improving this process, but there is no such thing as a standard API; Plaid became a $5.3 billion company for essentially this reason”.

By being decentralised and interoperable from day one, it’s this ability to trade across ledgers and asset classes programatically that DeFi systems such as Radix want to provide.

“This is the core and key difference for assets and services that are built on public ledgers,” explains Ridyard. “As soon as they are built on Radix, they become interoperable. I can seamlessly and programmatically move my assets from the services of one application, built by one company and team, to that of another, built by a different company and team, but issued and launched on the same decentralised public ledger. The public ledger acts as an interoperable platform for many startups to experiment and build better versions of existing products (such as stock exchanges) or entirely new products (such as continuous function market makers) that are just not possible with the current systems”.

Worth noting, Ridyard says that from a consumer point of view, the products and services aren’t likely to change much in their appearance — they’ll still be accessed via mobile apps and will probably be offered via regulated companies as they are today. Instead, he says the consumer-facing upsides will be speed, higher rates on deposits and the seamless ability to swap between asset types without needing to go into cash as the interim asset.

Adds the Radix CEO: “I should also stress that decentralised finance is not about moving existing banks onto public ledgers. It is about unbundling of banking services (borrowing, lending, investment) into applications that can all interoperate on a single public network. Banks are like newspapers coming into the internet age, some will make the transition, but not all”.

Cue statement from LocalGlobe’s Saul Klein (for posterity, if nothing else): “I see the same revolutionary potential in the Radix team as I did with the Skype and Netscape teams at the birth of the internet. We’re excited to join them at the start of a new decentralised network revolution”.

*Radix has two main legal entities: Radix DLT Ltd and the Radix Foundation. Since inception, both have received funding in different forms. The Radix Foundation is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, registered in the U.K., and was created to promote the long term interests of the Radix Public Network as well as help manage the Radix community and ecosystem. Between 2013 and 2017, people from the Radix Community contributed 3,000 BTC in exchange for 3 billion RADIX tokens issued by the Radix Foundation. These tokens arguably have value as they’re needed to pay the transaction fees to use the Radix protocol.

Yamo scores €10.1M Series A to offer healthier food choices for young children


This post is by Steve O'Hear from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Yamo, a self-described “foodtech” startup that produces and sells healthier food for babies and young children, has raised €10.1 million in Series A funding.

Backing comes from European food and agriculture tech investor Five Seasons Ventures, Swiss Entrepreneurs Fund, Ringier Digital Ventures, Müller Ventures, btov Partners, Polytech Ventures, BackBone Ventures, Investiere Venture Capital, and Fundament. It brings total funding to €12 million.

Founded in 2016 by CEO Tobias Gunzenhauser, COO José Amado-Blanco, and CMO Luca Michas, yamo is on a mission to give parents healthier and easy food choices for their young children. Its products are available online via direct-to-consumer subscription model, and through grocery stores. The latter includes Coop in Switzerland, and trials in select Edeka and Rewe stores in Germany. With the new funding, yamo is expanding to France and will launch new food products for children.

“In October 2015 Luca and I were co-workers in the same company, and we decided to eat vegan for a month,” says Gunzenhauser, when asked about the startup’s inception. “After starting our vegan challenge we had to scan food labels for hidden animal products. That was when we realised how many products in the supermarket contain unnecessary sugar and unhealthy ingredients. Out of curiosity, we checked the baby food aisle, naively assuming they would be the cleanest and healthiest food products available. We were quite wrong”.

Gunzenhauser and Michas observed that baby food products typically contained added sugar and salt, artificial vitamins, and a “scarily long shelf life, [which] seemed rather odd”.

“Everyone was talking about fresh, healthy, sustainable food for grown-ups, but the world was still feeding the youngest members of our families products that were older than the babies who ate them. Something was very wrong and we didn’t understand it.”

That was when Amado-Blanco, an old friend of Gunzenhauser’s and a food scientist, explained that those products are heat-sterilised, a process that also affects the product’s vitamin content, colour, and taste. The trio decided there had to be a better way and yamo was born.

“We talked to many young parents about how they perceived the current supermarket offering, how they feed their kids and what is necessary for them. We saw a clear gap in the market and set ourselves the goal of creating the freshest, tastiest baby purees the world had ever seen,” explains Gunzenhauser.

Image Credits: yamo

Instead of traditional heat-sterilisation, yamo uses high-pressure pasteurisation (HPP), which kills bacteria in minutes and retains the food’s natural nutrients, taste, colour and smell. yamo’s products last between eight to twelve weeks refrigerated. It also recently launched what it claims is the first non-dairy yoghurt in Europe for kids, using oat-milk.

Gunzenhauser cites yamo’s main competitor as homemade baby food, since the vast majority of baby food is still produced at home by parents. “This might be a result of distrust from parents in today’s offering they would find in retail. Our challenge is to show parents how yamo can support them raising their children healthily without any compromises,” he says.

Of course, the young company is also up against baby food incumbents and the yamo CEO concedes that the big challenge is that its products are refrigerated. “Normal baby food isn’t,” he says. “That is why we had to convince retailers to change the way they sell baby food. Coop changed its shelves for us, integrating a fridge in the regular baby food aisle”.

There are other startups entering the space, too. For example, in the U.K., there’s Little Tummy, and Mia & Ben, and in the U.S. there’s Yumi, among others.

Colvin raises $15M to rethink the flower supply chain


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

At first glance, Colvin — which recently announced that it has raised a $15 million Series B — might look like just another flower and plant delivery company, but co-founder and CEO Andres Cester said the startup has a much grander vision.

“We were born with the ambition the company that would redesign global flower trade,” he said.

Apparently, when Cester and his co-founder/COO Sergi Bastardas started researching the flower supply chain, they found an industry that was both “fragmented” in terms of growsers and sellers, but also surprisingly centralized, with the Aalsmeer Flower Auction in the Netherlands accounting for 77% of all flower bulbs sold globally.

With all the middlemen, Cester said flowers end up being more expensive (with the growers getting a smaller share of the overall payment), and it takes longer for the flowers to reach the consumer.

So the startup created a marketplace where consumers are buying flowers from straight the growers, with Colvin as the only intermediary. That results in average savings of 50% to 100% compared to online competitors, Cester said. (For example, the bouquets featured on the Colvin homepage all cost about €33 or €34).

And while the flower business is hurting overall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bastardas said consumers are turning to online options, with Colvin seeing a fourfold sales increase year-over-year, and delivery volumes worth $1 million in a single day. The challenge, he said, has been making sure to deliver those flowers within the promised time window.

Colvin founders

Image Credits: Colvin

Cester said Colvin started by selling directly to consumers because it was a good way to build the supply from growers, and that consumer sales should a become a profitable, “cash-generating business.” However, the company’s big focus moving forward is building out its sales to flower wholesalers, who in turn sell to the retailers.

“We’re envisioning the B2B part of the business is going to drive most of the returns and valuation,” Bastardas added.

Colvin was founded in Spain and currently operates in Spain, Italy, Germany and Portugal. There are no plans to come to the U.S. anytime soon, but Cester said, “We believe that if we really want to … redesign how the flower industry works, we’re going to have to land in U.S. sooner or later.”

The startup has now raised a total of $27 million. The new round was led by Italian investment fund Milano Investment Partners, with participation from P101 sgr and Samaipata.

And if you’re wondering about the name, Bastardas said the company was named for civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin, who was arrested in several months before Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person.

It’s an incongruous choice for a flower startup, but Bastardas said the founders took inspiration from Colvin’s story and the idea that “from several small actions, we can really change an industry.”

In pandemic era, entrepreneurs turn to SPACs, crowdfunding and direct listings


This post is curated by Keith Teare. It was written by Jonathan Shieber. The original is [linked here]

If necessity is the mother of invention, then new business owners are getting very inventive in the ways in which they access cash. Relying on some long-tested and some new avenues to raise money, entrepreneurs are finding more ways to get public market cash faster than they would have in the past.

Whether it’s from Reg A crowdfunding dollars, Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) or direct listings, these somewhat arcane and specialized financing vehicles are making a comeback alongside a rise in new funding mechanisms to get to market quickly and avoid the dilution that comes from private market rounds (especially since those rounds are likely to come at a reduced valuation given market conditions).

Some of these tools have existed for a while and are newly popular in an era where retail investors are driving much of the daily fluctuations of the public markets. Wall Street institutions are largely maintaining their conservative postures with regard to new offerings, so secondary market retail volume growth is outpacing institutional. Retail investors want into these new issues and are pouring into the markets, contributing to huge pops to new public offerings for companies like Lemonade this Thursday and creating an environment where SPACs and crowdfunding campaigns can flourish.

The rise of zero-commission brokerages and the popularization of fractional trading led by the startup Robinhood and adopted by every one of the major online brokers including Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, E-Trade and Interactive Brokers has created a stock market boom that defies the underlying market conditions in the U.S. and globally. For instance, daily trades on Robinhood are up 300% year-over-year as of March 2020.

According to data from the BATS exchange, the total trade count in the U.S. was up 71% and May trading was up more than 43% over 2019. Meanwhile, E-Trade daily average revenue trades posted a 244% increase in May over last year’s numbers.

Don’t call it a comeback

The appetite for new issues is growing and if many of the largest venture-backed companies are holding off on going public, smaller names are using SPACs to access public capital and reach these new investors.

In pandemic era, entrepreneurs turn to SPACs, crowdfunding and direct listings


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

If necessity is the mother of invention, then new business owners are getting very inventive in the ways in which they access cash. Relying on some long-tested and some new avenues to raise money, entrepreneurs are finding more ways to get public market cash faster than they would have in the past.

Whether it’s from Reg A crowdfunding dollars, Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) or direct listings, these somewhat arcane and specialized financing vehicles are making a comeback alongside a rise in new funding mechanisms to get to market quickly and avoid the dilution that comes from private market rounds (especially since those rounds are likely to come at a reduced valuation given market conditions).

Some of these tools have existed for a while and are newly popular in an era where retail investors are driving much of the daily fluctuations of the public markets. Wall Street institutions are largely maintaining their conservative postures with regard to new offerings, so secondary market retail volume growth is outpacing institutional. Retail investors want into these new issues and are pouring into the markets, contributing to huge pops to new public offerings for companies like Lemonade this Thursday and creating an environment where SPACs and crowdfunding campaigns can flourish.

The rise of zero-commission brokerages and the popularization of fractional trading led by the startup Robinhood and adopted by every one of the major online brokers including Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, E-Trade and Interactive Brokers has created a stock market boom that defies the underlying market conditions in the U.S. and globally. For instance, daily trades on Robinhood are up 300% year-over-year as of March 2020.

According to data from the BATS exchange, the total trade count in the U.S. was up 71% and May trading was up more than 43% over 2019. Meanwhile, E-Trade daily average revenue trades posted a 244% increase in May over last year’s numbers.

Don’t call it a comeback

The appetite for new issues is growing and if many of the largest venture-backed companies are holding off on going public, smaller names are using SPACs to access public capital and reach these new investors.

GoHealth eyes multibillion-dollar valuation as it sets its initial IPO price range


This post is by Alex Wilhelm from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

GoHealth, a Chicago-based company that provides consumers with a digital portal to help them select insurance products, set an initial price range for its IPO today. The firm intends to price its equity between $18 to $20 per share in its debut.

As the company expects to sell 39.5 million shares in the offering, its IPO haul is huge. At the low-end of its range, GoHealth would raise $711 million, a figure that rises to $790 million at other end of its pricing spectrum. Including the 5.925 million shares the company will offer its underwriting team, its fundraise swells to between $817.65 million and $908.5 million.

Valuing the company at its IPO price range is a bit tough, as the firm was previously majority-sold to a buyout firm called Centerbridge in a deal that valued the firm at what Reuters reported as a $1.5 billion price-tag in 2019 (others confirmed the price). That transaction turned the company’s organization, and shareholding structure, into a muddle.

Parts of its shareholding structure are simple. The firm’s Class A shares, for example, at the top end of its IPO price, are worth around $1.7 billion, including equity offered to underwriters. So, regardless of what happens with its other interests and shares, the IPO looks set to be a win for Centerbridge.

Next, there are several hundred million Class B shares that come with votes, but no “economic interest in GoHealth, Inc.” And, finally, there are LLC interests in the company, which correspond with Class B shares. Holders of LLC interests can swap them for “newly-issued shares of our Class A common stock on a one-for-one” when they’d like.

So, how does that all square out? When we properly count all the shares for the firm and apply its IPO price range, GoHealth could be worth between $5.6 billion and $6.3 billion, figures that we are glad other publications arrived at as well.

That’s a big price tag, but one befitting a company looking to raise $711 million to $908.5 million in its public debut.

A financial reminder

In Q1 2020, GoHealth posted $141.0 million in revenue, and net income of $1.4 million. Not a fat profit margin to be sure, but it did make money in the period, which is always popular, if out-of-date in today’s IPO market.

The company has grown nicely in recent years, with its S-1 filing touting 139% “pro forma growth” from 2018 to 2019. That’s great, given that GoHealth has at least some history of making money as well.

Turning to the most recent quarter, however, we find some red ink. In the quarter ending June 30, 2020:

  • GoHealth had revenues of “between $118.0 million and $130.0 million,” up 66.4% at the midpoint of that range compared to the year-ago period.
  • That growth came at a cost, with GoHealth reporting that its “net loss is expected to be between $20.0 million and $26.0 million, as compared to net income of $15.3 million for the three months ended June 30, 2019.”
  • However, for the bulls out there, GoHealth’s adjusted EBITDA — a heavily tuned “profit” metric — should be between $24 and $28 million in the quarter, up from $17.2 million in the year-ago period.

How investors will parse all that out and place a proper valuation on the firm is their job; have fun, ya’ll.

What about startups?

Sure, GoHealth raised capital while it was a private company, and, sure, its business is digital. But it’s not really the core substance of TechCrunch’s coverage, namely startups. The company is around 19 years old, for heaven’s sake.

But what matters for our purposes is that earlier this year there was a boom in insurance marketplaces raising capital, leading TechCrunch to write a piece entitled “Why VCs are dumping money into insurance marketplaces.” GoHealth is a related entity to those younger companies. If it has a good IPO, that’s good for its smaller brethren. If it struggles, or only attracts a slim, unattractive multiple, it could partially chill the fundraising climate for companies looking to follow in its footsteps.

Fintech startup nCino targets ~$2B valuation in impending IPO


This post is by Alex Wilhelm from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

As IPO season continues, another venture-backed tech company is moving closer toward going public. This week nCino filed an updated S-1 filing, providing an initial price range for its equity of $22 to $24 per share.

Indeed, nCino, a fintech startup that provides operating software to banks, intends to sell 7.625 million shares in its debut, worth $167.75 million to $183 million at those prices. Including shares offered to its underwriters, its haul grows to between $192.9 million and $210.5 million.

Discounting the extra shares, nCino is worth between $1.96 billion to $2.14 billion at its current price range.

The startup’s software is what nCino calls a “bank operating system,” providing banking software to help financial entities with lending, customer resource management, account opening and more. It’s a rich space for innovation, given the banking industry’s complexity and wealth. Smaller startups are also working along related lines.

Normally at this point in an IPO process we compare the debuting company’s valuation range with its final private valuation. However, it’s hard to find out what nCino was worth. PitchBook and Crunchbase are bare regarding its last private round, as are other data sources we checked.

Notably, nCino has no preferred stock, so spelunking through different series of preferred equity sourced from S-1 data wasn’t possible. However, the company was healthy — and therefore, valuable — enough to raise more than $130 million across two rounds in 2018 and 2019, including an $80 million round from last October led by Salesforce Ventures and T. Rowe Price.

Regardless of where nCino priced toward the end of its life as a private company, its IPO is a likely win for both Salesforce and Insight Partners. The corporate venture arm of Salesforce and the well-known venture group own 13.2% and 46.6%, respectively, of nCino’s equity before IPO shares are counted; expected ownership for the two groups falls to 12.1% and 42.6%, respectively, when including anticipated IPO equity.

According to Crunchbase data, Insight Partners led nCino’s Series B and C in 2014 and 2015, while Salesforce Ventures led its $51.5 million 2018 round; Salesforce also took part in several of the company’s early rounds, helping to explain its double-digit stake in the firm.

So what?

Modern software companies, often called SaaS firms, set new valuation records this week on the public markets following earlier highs set in Q2. Their performance hints that nCino could find warm welcome from public investors.

Does that fact fit with the valuation that the above-detailed pricing indicates that nCino may achieve? Annualizing the company’s Q1 (the April 30, 2020 period) revenue results, nCino’s $178.9 million run rate would give it a revenue multiple of 11x to 12x at its expected IPO prices, a somewhat modest result by current standards.

Indeed, as nCino grew about 50% from Q1 2019 to Q1 2020, it feels light. The firm’s GAAP losses are slim compared to revenue as well for a SaaS business, though the company’s operating cash burn did grow from $4.6 million in its fiscal year ending January 31, 2019 to $9 million in its next fiscal year. Its numbers are mostly good, with some less-than-perfect results. Still, given its growth rate, an 11x-12x revenue multiple feels modest; that figure rises, of course, if we use a trailing revenue figure instead of our annualized number.

It would not be a shock, then, if nCino targets a higher price interval for its shares before it formally prices. The firm is expected to price next Tuesday and trade the next day, the same time frame as GoHealth. More when we have it.

Permutive raises $18.5M to help publishers target ads in a new privacy landscape


This post is by Anthony Ha from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Permutive is announcing that it has raised $18.5 million in Series B funding, as the London-based startup works to help online publishers make money in a changing privacy landscape.

CEO Joe Root, who co-founded the company with CTO Tim Spratt, noted that publishers are facing increasing regulation, while web browsers are phasing out support for third-party cookies — all good news for privacy advocates, but with a real downside for publisher ad revenue (blocking cookies causes an average 52% decline in ad revenue, according to a Google study last year, though other estimates have been dramatically lower).

Permutive tries to address these issues by allowing publishers to utilize their own first-party data more effectively. Root estimated that without cookies, web visitors break down to 10% who are logged in and authenticated, while 90% are anonymous, and he said, “We use the insight and understanding from that 10% to make predictions about that 90%.”

So from a single anonymous pageview, Permutive can collect 20 or 30 data points about visitor behavior, which it then uses to try to project who that visitor might be and what they might be interested in. Root also noted that the company’s technology relies on edge computing, allowing it to process data more quickly, which is crucial for publishers who may only have a few seconds in which to show a visitor an ad.

If you’re wondering whether this approach has any privacy or regulatory implications of its own, Root suggested Permutive spends “a lot of time making sure we are ideologically aligned with [European privacy regulation] GDPR and ideologically aligned with the browsers.”

Joe Root - Permutive

Joe Root – Permutive

For one thing, “We don’t believe data should be portable across applications,” which is why Permutive is focused on helping publishers use their own data. For another, Root said Permutive is committed to “the destruction of identity in the adtech ecosystem.”

“Using data isn’t a problem — it’s when you attach data to an identity,” he added. So without identity, “Instead of saying, ‘Here is an ad for Anthony, look up everything you know from Anthony,’ we say, ‘Here is an ad for a user interested in tech media.’ One model leaks data and the other doesn’t.”

Root also suggested that these shifts will allow ad dollars to move back to the premium publishers who have more engagement with and data from their readers — publishers who he argued have “up until now funded the long tail” with their cookie-based data.

This approach is reflected in the publishers Permutive already works with, including BuzzFeed, Penske, The Financial Times, The Guardian, Business Insider, The Daily Telegraph, The Economist, Bell Media, News UK and MailOnline.

Founded in 2014, Permutive previously raised $11.5 million, according to Crunchbase. The Series B was led by Octopus Ventures, with participation from EQT Ventures and previous investors.

“Today, Permutive is the U.K. category leader in its field and is beating billion-dollar global businesses on a consistent basis in trial processes,” said Will Gibbs of Octopus Ventures in a statement. “The team has hired many incredible people and is now ready to replicate the success seen in the U.K. in the U.S. Given the evolving regulatory and customer priorities, Permutive’s technology could be genuinely pioneering in its field.”

The startup is also announcing that it has hired Aly Nurmohamed (former global managing director for publisher partners at Criteo) as its general manager for publishing and Steve Francolla (former head of global publisher strategy at LiveRamp) as head of partnerships.

As media revenue struggles, subscription startups see growth


This post is by Alex Wilhelm from Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been a friend to the media business. Its economic impacts slashed advertising budgets, diminishing a key revenue plank for many publications. The results of falling ad spend have been felt across the industry, with a wave of layoffs hitting publications large and small, niche and general.


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Other forms of publisher income, like events, have also been reduced. But the pain of 2020’s media downturn hasn’t been felt equally in the industry. Publications that had built subscription revenue bases were in a better position to weather declines in other media incomes than peers who hadn’t; revenue diversification can provide real shelter when the economy rapidly shifts.

Subscription incomes are not enough for publications to avoid all pain; The Atlantic’s subscription base famously surged during the early months of COVID-19, but the company still saw layoffs. The Athletic’s subscription business was predicated on sports events taking place — it too underwent cuts despite a membership-first model.

In this era, the healthiest publications tend to have a subscription component. The paywalled New York Times and Wall Street Journal are hiring, as is Business Insider, which launched a membership service in 2017. But not all subscription publications that are succeeding are large. Indeed, thanks to a growing set of publisher-friendly subscription services, there are a number of options in the market for supporting publications as small as a single author.

Perhaps most famously, Substack has seen good growth in the last year. The venture-backed newsletter-and-blogging service provides authors with the ability to charge for their writing. But other startups are competing in the space, helping publications derive more income directly from readers.

Pico, which provides paid-subscription tooling for publishers, has seen strong growth in the COVID-19 era. TechCrunch caught up with its co-founder Jason Bade to chat about what his company has seen in recent months. A few months ahead of COVID-19’s arrival, publishing platform Ghost launched its paid subscription product into beta. TechCrunch asked Ghost about the reception, and growth of the membership portion of its business to better understand today’s media market.

What emerges from data and conversations concerning the startup-supported media membership landscape is something hopeful. Some writers are going to build micro-pubs that can finance their existence. Larger publications have never had more available help to wean their businesses off of ads, pageviews and Google’s favor.