Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

SpaceX has launched its latest batch of Starlink satellites, growing the constellation by another 58 spacecraft just 10 days after its most recent Starlink launch. That brings the total number of operational Starlink broadband internet satellites on orbit to 538. SpaceX also split the payload for this Starlink mission for the first time, giving up two of its usual Starlink payload complement in order to also carry three Planet Skysat spacecraft on behalf of that client.

SpaceX’s latest Starlink launch was significant not only because it brings the company closer to its goal of actually operating a consumer-facing broadband internet service, which it hopes to begin doing for a limited pool of customers in the U.S. and Canada by later this year, but also because these Starlink satellites carried new modifications designed to make them more astronomer-friendly.

Starlink, because of its size and the relatively low-altitude orbit that they traverse, has been criticized by nighttime scientific observers because they present a potentially bright distraction as they pass overhead. SpaceX launched one Starlink satellite equipped with a new deployable sun visor it created that can block reflections of sunlight off of their antenna surfaces, and on this launch, each of the 58 satellites was outfitted with this new mitigating technology.

Hopefully, that means that Starlink can now exist more harmoniously with scientists who rely on Earth-based observation of the stars and night sky, but the ultimately proof will be in what difference these solar visors make when deployed in volume among the Starlink constellation.

This mission was also the first conducted under SpaceX’s formalized SmallSat Rideshare Program, which offers small satellite operators a chance to book a ride aboard an upcoming SpaceX launch in a relatively flexible, ‘on-demand’ manner using a web portal SpaceX created for the purpose. SpaceX’s efforts to offer more value to the rideshare business reflects a recognition that other launch providers like Rocket Lab, which tailor specifically to that market segment, are significant potential competition to its overall bottom line.

The launch today, which occurred at 5:21 AM EDT (2:21 AM PDT) also included a recovery landing of the Falcon 9 first stage booster used to propel the payload to space. This booster also previously flew on two of SpaceX’s Dragon cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station.


TechCrunch

Last week, we suggested that for a truly diverse venture industry, the limited partners who provide investing capital to VCs — institutions like universities and hospital systems — need to start incorporating diversity mandates into their work. Say a venture firm wanted to secure a commitment from the University of Texas System; it would first need to agree, in writing, to pour a certain percentage of its capital into startups founded by underrepresented groups.

Given how fragmented the world of institutional investing, the idea might sound impracticable. But Lo Toney, one of a small but growing number of black VCs in Silicon Valley, suggests it might actually be inevitable. He points, for example, to pension funds like the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which manages the assets of 1.6 million employees, many of whom “look like me,” says Toney. Imagine what might happen if they started asking more questions about who is managing their money.

Not that Toney is waiting on this development. He doesn’t need to. As a former partner at Comcast Ventures, then GV, Toney was able to secure Alphabet as the anchor investor in his own investment firm, Plexo Capital, whose debut vehicle has been funding venture outfits, as well as making direct startup investments. Now, with renewed attention being paid to the dearth of people of color throughout the startup industry, Plexo has LPs knocking on its door again, and Toney’s plans for that second fund involve not just helping his current fund managers but helping more investors of color form venture firms of their own.

It’s an extension of work that’s already in progress. Plexo, which closed its debut fund last year with $ 42.5 million — including from the Ford Foundation, Intel, Cisco Systems, the Royal Bank of Canada, and Hampton University — already has stakes in 20 funds, including Precursor Ventures, Ingressive Capital, Kindred Ventures, Equal Ventures, Boldstart Ventures, and Work-Bench.

Almost all are run exclusively or in part by people of color. Meanwhile, Work-Bench has a female cofounder in Jessica Lin, a former Cisco Systems manager. “We have enough reports from the Harvard’s and the McKinsey’s of the world to show us that diversity at all levels matters,” says Toney. “We see better performance from companies with diverse boards, public companies with diverse management teams; when there are diverse managers, we see better performance.”

With his second fund, he’s hoping to turn the dial even further. More specifically, he says, to better assist those GPs in Plexo’s first fund and to fund more black GPs, it aims to help “develop a Y Combinator of sorts” that helps them understand some of the “nuances of making the transition from being a great investor to being a great fund manager.”

Part of the idea is to institutionalize the work that Plexo already does in an ad-hoc way around helping managers to prepare marketing materials, pitch their strategy to both high-net-worth individuals and institutions, and manage LP communications after that base of investors has been established. And those are just three aspects of the many elements of fund management with which Plexo can help, he says.

Plexo is also exploring “putting a strategy in place [to] help a lot of these younger GPs with working capital, to be able to incur the expenses that it takes to start a fund [given that] it can take, on average, a million dollars.” (That’s taking into account no salary, travel expenses, service providers, and the money that a general partner typically has to kick in to his or her own the fund, he adds.)

It’s a model that Plexo thinks it can use to move things along faster than were it solely investing in individual companies.

Still, Plexo can’t do it alone. Neither can its friends and allies, some of whom include Elliott Robinson of Bessemer Venture Partners, Frederik Groce of Storm Ventures and Sydney Sykes of the retail startup Dolls Kill, who separately steer a young organization called BLCK VC that works to connect and advance black venture investors.

Toney remains especially concerned over the few people of color at bigger and later-stage venture firms — investors who might otherwise have the networks and know-how to support black entrepreneurs as their startups mature. It’s a valid worry. According to a 2018 report in The Information, there were just seven black decision-makers at the then 102 venture firms with more than $ 250 million under management, and those numbers are relatively unchanged. The dearth is particularly glaring for black investors who are women.

The industry could, slowly, over time, grow less homogenous and more inclusive of underrepresented groups. But it would happen faster if institutions that accept federal funding or else manage the money of public employees decided to focus more on the issue. In fact, it’s conceivable that their constituents — including donors and employees through their pension fund contributions — might at some point insist on it.

“There’s often not really a collective realization of the power and influence that one can have within our asset class to actually affect change,” says Toney. “I suspect — and I don’t know this, and I’m not part of any initiatives — that we’ll see more of these [pension] funds take a stance, and that [this shift] will come from the bottom up, from their employee base.”

It might not take much to get the ball rolling. “They could put the pressure on our industry even simply asking questions [including]: ‘How many black partners do you have?’ ‘How many women do you have?’ ‘What does the composition of your portfolio look like?’”

“Even just asking those questions as a first step — that in and of itself would affect change,” he says, “because who wants to look bad when answering those questions?”


TechCrunch

For years, Chinese e-commerce exporters have been learning the ins and outs of ad placement on Facebook, Instagram and other mainstream social media platforms to reach customers around the world. But they recently spotted a new way to grab people’s attention, one that has never felt more familiar.

Video influencers.

Shopping via videos is currently all the rage in China. There are efforts from short video apps like Douyin — TikTok’s Chinese sister — that match merchants with content creators for promotion. During the coronavirus lockdown, millions of consumers relied on live videos to check out products and posed questions to merchants remotely, a practice that has won endorsement from local governments as a way to drum up domestic consumption. In just Q1 this year, more than 4 million live shopping sessions took place in China.

In other parts of the world, brands and video creators — especially influencers with sizable followings — are also getting pally. A few American venture capitalists have recognized the early potential of the collaboration. Amazon, a few years behind its Chinese counterparts in live streaming, launched Amazon Live last year.

Now Alibaba, one of the pioneers of shoppable videos in China, has big plans to attract and train up international influencers — so it can sell more around the world through AliExpress . The platform is one of Alibaba’s marketplaces for international consumers, which altogether claim 180 million annual active consumers.

“Chinese manufacturers are always looking for ways to sell and influencers are the quickest way to drive traffic these days,” reckoned Miranda Tan, chief executive of Robin8, a data-driven influencer marketing platform.

Indeed, a few Shenzhen-based e-commerce exporters told TechCrunch that they are actively looking to work with international content creators, particularly TikTok influencers, to market their products. For now, they depend on their Chinese staff to make low-budget promo videos that often miss important cultural nuances.

Everyone is a seller

AliExpress plans to recruit as many as 100,000 “promoters,” who will help merchants and brands on AliExpress promote through YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other popular internet platforms. Besides popular influencers, the platform is also after talented content creators behind the camera and seasoned marketers with access to customer acquisition channels.

Screenshot: a live broadcasted promotion on AliExpress

“Live shopping is still in its relative infancy in the overseas consumer market,” Martin Wang, who heads overseas seller operation and social commerce cooperation at AliExpress, told TechCrunch. “Our initiative will help propel the overseas ecosystem forward.”

Fabian Ouwehand, the founder of short-video marketing agency Uplab, echoed that view. “It’s interesting because it will push the industry [abroad] to innovate on social commerce. It looks like they are trying a strategy [through which] every user can become a seller — key opinion consumers going to the West.”

To that end, the team created the “Connect” matchmaking system for influencers to find promotional tasks and is providing training and analytics tools to support their creative process. While live selling has been available to Alibaba sellers in China since 2016, AliExpress only added the feature last year and announced the recruitment program in April.

The call for talent came at a time when millions around the world have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s no surprise that AliExpress is billing the recruitment as one that could “help individuals rebuild after COVID-19.”

“A lot of people don’t have money now and are looking for ways to make money during the coronavirus outbreak,” contended Tan, who has observed many individuals are learning to be product promoters on social media to make extra bucks. “Everyone becomes their own independent company.”

Cultural differences

An obvious target for AliExpress is the emerging crop of bilingual foreign influencers living in China. “Many are foreign students in China with a positive image and a knack for expression. They have a flexible schedule in the evening, so agencies will approach them, train them as live streaming hosts and eventually sign with them,” said Wang.

The influencers fluent in Chinese and their native language may seem like ideal ambassadors in sellers’ target markets, but there is a potential drawback. “They might look to Li Jiaqi and Weiya as role models,” said Wang, referring to China’s top beauty influencers known for their record-smashing sales. “But what works in China may not work in their home countries.”

On the demand side, Wang worried that Chinese merchants are too accustomed to seeing meteoric sales numbers that influencers in China generate. “The overseas [live streaming] market has not reached the stage of maturity, so it’s our priority to manage expectations from both sides [of sellers and content creators.]”

Most of AliExpress’s sellers naturally come from China, the world’s factory, while Russia is its biggest market for revenue. The platform has been working to boost its inventory by opening up to sellers in Turkey, Russia, Spain and Italy last year. For instance, Russia is a big market for AliExpress’s Turkish merchants. The expansion means an even greater challenge for the Chinese company to cope with differences in business dynamics and consumer behavior across regions.


TechCrunch

As protests continue across the U.S. and beyond, there has been chatter this week in Silicon Valley and the venture industry more broadly about race and which venture firms have done a better job of diversifying their ranks and founder bets. There have been mea culpas, promises by firms to hold themselves more accountable, vows to “listen and learn.” SoftBank and Andreessen Horowitz have even announced new funds to invest in startups led by founders of color.

It’s heartening to see, but these efforts will only go so far in leveling the playing field for people who’ve largely been left out of the trillions of dollars of economic value produced by the global startup ecosystem. Let’s face it, the vast majority of VCs, like other business leaders, tend to forget about diversity when they aren’t being questioned about it.

In fairness, inertia is powerful. It’s also the case that venture teams are more fragile than they might appear to outsiders, and because they involve long-term partnerships of highly competitive alphas, changing their composition isn’t an overnight exercise. Still, the bigger obstacle is really perception: investors won’t say so publicly, but many don’t buy the argument that diversity generates returns. They need proof.

One surefire way to get it? Legislation.

Already, most VCs today sign away their rights to invest in firearms or alcohol or tobacco when managing capital on behalf of the pension funds, universities, and hospital systems that fund them. What if they also had to agree to invest a certain percentage of that capital to founding teams with members from underrepresented groups? We aren’t talking about targets anymore but actual mandates. Put another way, rather than wait for venture firms to organically develop into less homogenous organizations — or to invest in fewer founders who share their gender and race and educational background —  alter their limited partner agreements.

It may sound extreme, but study after study has shown that diversity pays dividends. Need one from an Ivy League economist to be persuaded? Try Paul Gompers of Harvard Business School, who has examined the decisions of thousands of venture capitalists and tens of thousands of investments in recent years and found that “diversity significantly improves financial performance on measures such as profitable investments at the individual portfolio-company level and overall fund returns,” as reported by HBR.

A separate Harvard-led study involving a broader basket of asset classes — hedge funds, mutual funds, and private equity funds among them — found that, in most asset classes, women and people of color in the finance industry performed at levels equal to their non-diverse counterparts.

Critics might note here that the world of academia is one thing while the business world is another. It’s the very reason we propose legislation that, for starters, would force state pension funds to incorporate diversity-related caveats into their dealings with asset managers, including VCs.

As for the private universities like Stanford and Princeton and Yale that also help fund the venture industry — and which say they are committed to diversity yet refuse to share the demographic data that would prove it — they receive billions of dollars in federal funding each year (and as nonprofit institutions, they don’t pay taxes on investment gains their endowments might make).

In short, if there is a will, there are legal levers that could be applied here, too.

We aren’t talking about funding exclusively or even predominately emerging managers. We’re aware that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, for example, recently ratcheted back its emerging manager program owing to slipping returns. Think instead of a hybrid approach that sees both new and existing managers required to diversify their teams and their portfolio companies in order to win over future commitments.

It’s seemingly the direction the U.S. needs to move in if it’s ever going to truly eradicate inequality and the conscious or unconscious bias that plagues many money managers. If the approach is codified into law, there might finally be enough data to establish with certainty that investing in more diverse teams pays, especially when investors are forced to make them work.

Some limited partners may lose access to certain venture managers, it’s true. But it wouldn’t be a good look for those managers. On the contrary, you can imagine how such moves would benefit both the institutions that implement them, and every asset manager they fund.

Talking and tweeting and carving out pools of dedicated capital is certainly better than nothing. But black Americans, women, and other underrepresented groups have waited long enough for the powers that be to figure out solutions. It’s time to consider fundamental change within the power structures at the root of the startup world — the money behind the venture firms. It’s time to turn theory into practice.


TechCrunch

Tesla’s board certified a financial milestone that unlocks the first tranche — worth more than $ 700 million — of an unprecedented multibillion-dollar pay package for CEO Elon Musk, according a document filed Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The milestone allows Musk to purchase the first grouping or tranche of nearly 1.69 million shares at a steep discount. Tesla shares closed Thursday at $ 805.81, putting the value at $ 775 million. Musk is able to buy those stock options at a price of $ 350.02 per share.

“As of the date of this proxy statement, one of the 12 tranches under this award has vested and become exercisable, subject to Mr. Musk’s payment of the exercise price of $ 350.02 per share and the minimum five-year holding period generally applicable to any shares he acquires upon exercise,” the SEC document reads.

The compensation plan approved by shareholders in 2018 consists of 20.3 million stock option awards broken up into 12 tranches of 1.69 million shares. These options will vest in 12 increments if Tesla hits specific milestones on market cap, revenue and adjusted earnings (excluding certain one-time charges such as stock compensation).

When the board and shareholders approved the package, Musk was theoretically able to earn nearly $ 56 billion if no new shares were issued. However, last year Tesla sold $ 2.7 billion in shares and convertible bonds, Reuters reported at the time.

To access those first tranche of stock options, Tesla’s market value had to reach a six-month average of $ 100.2 billion and either $ 20 billion in annual revenue or $ 1.5 billion in adjusted EBITDA. To meet the next milestone, Tesla’s market cap must increase another $ 50 billion in value and $ 35 billion in revenue or $ 3 billion in adjusted EBITDA.

The board certified the market cap and revenue milestone. The other operational milestone relating to $ 1.5 billion Adjusted EBITDA has been achieved but is subject to formal certification by the board, , according to the SEC filing.

Tesla SEC May 2020

Image Credits: Screenshot/SEC filing

The board must certify that each milestone has been achieved before Musk can exercise those stock options. To unlock every tranche, Tesla’s market cap will have to reach $ 650 billion.

Musk has never accepted a salary. Instead, he opted for, the shareholders approved, equity-based compensation plans. In a previous equity compensation plan, Musk was awarded stock options worth about $ 78 million in 2012 that vested only after Tesla hit production and market value milestones.

The 2018 CEO compensation plan not only ensured Musk would a be part of Tesla for the next decade, it also put an emphasis on market cap and revenue, not necessarily profitability.

Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting is scheduled for July 7, according to the document.


TechCrunch

During these long, mundane physically-distant days, stretching on into an uncertain future like an ever-lengthening beigeish corridor, it’s impossible not to miss hanging out with friends. Especially the kind of hanging out where you’re not really doing anything in particular, not talking about any one thing—just kind of being.

As we continue to stay physically distant from one another, it can be hard to feel socially present with the tools we have. Even with Zoom and other more casual chat apps, video chat can feel sort of flat. (And for those of us lucky enough to be working from home, visiting friends after work with the same tools we use to do work stuff doesn’t always feel great.) More often than not, we sit, stationary at our designated video-chat-spot, trade reports from self-quarantine and maybe drag in a cat or a kid or two.

But even untethered from our desks with more playful video chat apps or innovations like Facebook’s Portal and its roving eye, there’s still something else that doesn’t get conveyed. With flat screens, we have little sense of our physical selves in relation to one another. Socializing spatially, as it turns out, is something we probably took for granted. But the gaming world has understood this for years.

Now more than ever, we need creative ways to feel present with other people. The whole crisis looks like a huge opportunity for the gaming industry, but also one for more transcendent digital social experiences that don’t just look like playing a few rounds of Call of Duty after work. Hopefully, these experiences could be so imaginative that we don’t even know what they could look like yet.

If VR had delivered on its early promise, we’d all probably be living in it right now. The idea of having some kind of shared virtual realm is still a potent one, but the additional hardware has proven too prohibitive to get the average person on board (for now, at least) and even the coolest VR experiences remain niche. Still, it’s clear that we want to come together, not just in Instagram DMs and email threads, but as avatars navigating shared spaces. Somehow.

Virtual worlds getting it right

If the mainstream crossover success of Animal Crossing is any indication, people have a huge appetite for virtual spaces right now. Even with Nintendo’s truly painful online multiplayer experience, there’s something fun and special about visiting a friend, bopping each other with nets and showing them your new digs.

In Animal Crossing, this is truly a more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts experience. The last time I genuinely laughed and could not stop was visiting my younger sister’s Animal Crossing island right after the game launched. In spite of the interface’s few emotes and harsh character limits, her weird sense of humor managed to bubble up through the game’s limitations. And those constraints made it more special, for some reason. When I left her island I felt a pang of sadness at leaving her funny little physical manifestation, running circles around my own. It felt different than signing out of a video chat or dropping out of a conversation via text.

These experiences are happening on an individual level, but also a collective one—and people are getting creative. One of the writers from Rogue One just made his own in-game Animal Crossing talkshow, complete with its own tiny guest couch and cityscape view.

A developer in New York even launched a dev conference that took place entirely on an Animal Crossing island. Much like a normal conference, “Deserted Island DevOps” boasted speakers, moderators and even talks to be uploaded to YouTube after the fact.

Plenty of players are using Animal Crossing for more intimate get-togethers too, like celebrating Ramadan and Passover last month or just gathering far-flung friends or family together in one place.

 

The pandemic is showing us that the sweet spot of mainstream virtual presence might be something more than a Zoom-like video conference but less than a full-on virtual reality experience. Video games, or more specifically video games as platforms, seem to be resonating right now, even among the kinds of people who wouldn’t identify as gamers. That last bit is important.

This is something that Fortnite maker Epic Games has been doing right for a while now. There’s a reason that Fortnite, like Animal Crossing, brought non-gamers into the fold. Sure, Fortnite is fun and addictive, but lots of games are fun and addictive—and Fortnite is much harder than a lot of those games.

Epic’s real innovation is its buttery-smooth social layer that seamlessly connects players across platforms. If you can talk a friend into downloading an app, you’re in business. Of course, other games get this right too (Minecraft comes to mind, of course, and others) but timing is everything right now. And Fortnite’s team is cleverly iterating on its already-good ideas.

This week, Epic added a new deliberately chill game mode called Party Royale to Fortnite—a new island just for hanging out with friends. Littered with appropriately zany non-lethal weapons like throwable hamburgers and paintball guns, Party Royale is a designated space where you can take a group and chat while doing mindless yet amusing nonsense, like awkwardly kicking a soccer ball around (I did this with a total stranger for 20 minutes for some reason!) or driving virtual ATVs off virtual precipices.

And like much of Epic’s battle royale hit, the island itself is over-the-top weird, stocked with everything from a pirate ship to a music festival grounds awash in colorful lights, gigantic neon dancers and a very psychedelic vibe, molly not included. There’s even a drive-in movie screen, like another area of the main game, which could signal interesting things to come. If we’re lucky and Epic expands it out, Fortnite’s newest casual online virtual space could evolve into something pretty interesting.

Fortnite is a game ostensibly about killing people before they kill you, but it’s also a concert venue—and that hints at Epic’s deeper ideas about the game as a versatile social platform. The game held its latest big in-game show event last month, this time featuring a skyscraper-height Travis Scott who performed as he stormed around a bucolic-turned-kaleidoscopic version of the Fortnite map. 12 million people tuned in, besting the 10 million who played during the more modest Marshmello in-game EDM show a year prior. Whether you even listen to his music or not, the wildly visually imaginative event was, by all accounts, cool as hell.

Video games should evolve to meet the moment

For anyone who’s spent any time in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), this will all sound familiar. These games have long, vibrant history of drawing huge numbers of people together into persistent shared virtual spaces and letting them express themselves. Curating outfits, decorating spaces and even making choices around playstyle and faction affiliation are all ways to express aspects of who you are and what you’re about in a virtual world populated by other people doing the same. As someone who played World of Warcraft for years, this was the real appeal of the game for many of us. The game itself—quests, dungeons and the rest—was secondary.

During its peak ten years ago, World of Warcraft had as many active subscribers as players who tuned into the Travis Scott event—12 million. Since then, gaming exploded into the mainstream and by late 2018, Fortnite boasted almost 80 million active players. Online multiplayer itself bounded forward too, mostly through the success of blockbuster first-person shooters—usually grim, well-funded and vaguely or overtly militaristic games that routinely court one kind of gamer. Playful, candy-colored shooters like Fortnite, Splatoon and Overwatch emerged to extend a hand to casual players, even non-gamers, but there’s still plenty of room for online gaming to move beyond shooters.

The wild popularity of Minecraft carved out a path for cooperative gaming not just because building stuff is incredibly fun, though that’s true too, but because doing anything new with friends in a virtual space is really cool. Scrappier games like the incredible No Man’s Sky could do for exploration what Minecraft did for building, but with an indie developer’s budget, big ideas about multiplayer play can only get so far. Historically, the lion’s share of industry resources still get funneled toward reliably profitable military-style shooters. But with the world changing, trends could transform too. Just look at sales of Animal Crossing’s social feng shui sim dominating sales during the first months of the epidemic.

There’s a big opportunity right now for games offering a common social experience that’s magnetic enough to draw in the kind of people who don’t even play games. For those of us stuck at home, imaginative gaming worlds offer not just their usual escape from the moment’s stresses, but a way to share space when we can’t come together.

We just need more of them to visit.


TechCrunch

[Editor’s note: Want to get this free weekly recap of TechCrunch news that startups can use by emailSubscribe here.] 

Multiple liquidation preferences, full-ratchet anti-dilution clauses and pay-to-play provisions are some of the words that still haunt startup founders who survived downturns in decades past. So far in this downturn, though, investors seem to be sparing the brutal terms that tend to surface when the money has all the leverage.

Why? It’s easier to let a company fail by saying no to funding* than it is to hold them along with terms that can’t possibly inspire the common stockholders — or so one can read between the lines from investors, founders and tech lawyers that Connie Loizos talked to for TechCrunch this week.

Overall, investors seem to fear hurting their long-term reputations and missing out on the next great company, same as it has been in the startup world for many years. Again, at least so far.

As lawyer Mike Sullivan, a partner and head of the corporate group in Orrick’s San Francisco office, notes, there simply aren’t enough deals being closed right now to draw any sweeping conclusions. “I haven’t seen investors try to take advantage of companies as a result of the crisis,” says Sullivan,” but I don’t have a lot of data points. I think it’s still too early to tell whether we’ll see the terms that we saw in the nuclear winter of 2001 and 2002,” after the dot-com boom ended.

Your mileage may vary, of course. One New York attorney said that the harshest terms recently were coming from growth-stage firms on the East Coast, who had always been more focused on the numbers anyway.

*Speaking of saying no, a new report out by tech law firm Fenwick & West details a sharp decline in Silicon Valley funding in March that we all knew was happening. More analysis by Alex Wilhelm over on Extra Crunch.

Aileen Lee

Early-stage focus could favor smaller investors now

Many venture firms that started out small a decade or two ago became later-stage as their portfolios grew along with booming markets. Now they have a lot of later-stage work to do. The result is that founders may have more success with raising from dedicated early-stage investors than with multi-stage founds. Here’s more on the dynamic, as described by Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures to Jordan Crook in our first (and very popular, thanks for attending everyone) live video call in a series that we’re calling Extra Crunch Live:

But I think the multi-stage firms that, say, have an early-stage fund and a growth fund, they’re in a different zone. Oftentimes, they have many portfolio companies that have really high burn rates and they have a lot of money, so they’ve got a different level of triage going on with those portfolio companies. Also, in some cases, because the market’s been so hot for the past 10 years, they’ve had a shopping list of companies that they wish they had been able to invest in, and maybe those companies may take an extra $ 50 million or $ 100 million dollars right now. So, a lot of the multi-stage firms are going to focus on getting a little more money into Stripe or Airbnb or the companies that they wish they had exposure to.

She goes on to note that many investors are now ready to start investing generally, and she’s now spending 50% of her time talking to new companies (versus almost all portfolio work just a couple of weeks ago).

The boom in spontaneous social apps

Clubhouse has been getting the most attention in some tech circles lately, but it’s part of a much larger trend that Josh Constine has been tracking for TechCrunch. The ‘spontaneous’ apps that make it easy to talk to everyone else now in quarantine could also break down existing barriers in how we communicate long into the future. Here’s how he defines the concept:

What quarantine has revealed is that when you separate everyone, spontaneity is a big thing you miss. In your office, that could be having a random watercooler chat with a co-worker or commenting aloud about something funny you found on the internet. At a party, it could be wandering up to chat with group of people because you know one of them or overhear something interesting. That’s lacking while we’re stuck home since we’ve stigmatized randomly phoning a friend, differing to asynchronous text despite its lack of urgency.

The big question is if people will stay spontaneous once thing normalize and we all can go back to our old routines. Given the long-term trends toward remote work and more private, personalized communication, I agree with Josh that we’re looking at a real part of the future.

Oh also, want to hear about Clubhouse more, still? Don’t miss Equity Monday this past week.

Image Credits: Paper Boat Creative / Getty Images

What fintech investors see in the pandemic

In our latest set of weekly investor surveys for Extra Crunch, we checked in with top fintech investors about how they are dealing with the pandemic, and separately, what trends they are focusing on long-term. Here’s Matt Harris of Bain Capital Ventures on what it takes for a fintech startup to survive (and succeed) now:

The survival of fintech startups through 2020 is less about stage and more about the two dimensions I mentioned earlier — vulnerability in terms of cash balance, burn, and durability of revenue, and direct impact of COVID-19 on their topline. Regardless of stage, startups will face both operational and fundraising challenges. Many of the companies that survive will do so out of sheer luck of their business model or fundraising timing, while others will have to actively change the way they operate in today’s world. In general, we’ve seen the most strength in B2B focused companies with recurring revenue models, particularly those focused on helping businesses automate and move analog processes online.

Around TechCrunch

Extra Crunch Live: Join Mark Cuban for a Q&A on April 30 at 11am ET/8am PT

Extra Crunch Live: Navigating the pandemic with an equitable lens

Throw us your best 60-second pitch on May 13 at Pitchers and Pitches

Introducing the Digital Startup Alley Package for Disrupt SF

Across the Week

TechCrunch

Y Combinator officially shifts its next accelerator class to fully remote format
The pandemic will force sports to reimagine the fan experience
How to make sense of the coronavirus chaos
What is contact tracing?
Can employers mandate COVID-19 testing?

Extra Crunch

An IPO? In this economy?
Dear Sophie: How can we support our immigrant colleagues during layoffs?
The changing face of employment law during a global pandemic
6 investment trends that could emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic
Will China’s coronavirus-related trends shape the future for American VCs?

#EquityPod

From Alex:

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

This week we had a choice of all sorts of news, but as we cut the show together as a group Danny pushed all the funding rounds up. So, when Alex and Natasha jumped into the show we had a bunch of good news to cover. We’re avoiding COVID-19 news, but the pandemic is just a part of the broader stories we want to tell. For the foreseeable future, coronavirus will be always be part of our interviews. But the conversation can’t start and stop there.

So what was on the docket? Three things: Accelerator news for the early-stage founders, funding rounds, of course, and some layoff news that was worth mentioning as it might trickle down beyond the unfortunate hosts. 

Listen here!


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