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Hello and welcome to the Daily Crunch for January 11, 2022! Today we have new venture funds, spyware news, Brex rise (again) and much more. We’re back to 100% of the pace of startups and tech news from last year, so we hope you’re rested. It’s going to be a busy and busy year. – Alex
Ploonge top 3
- Cybersecurity is important to democracy: Spyware built by the infamous NSO Group was “used to spy on three critics of the Polish government,” according to Citizen Lab, reports Ploonge. The result of the allegations is that there are now doubts about the 2019 parliamentary elections in Poland. This isn’t the last time we’ll see this kind of story around the world.
- Turo’s business is roaring in 2021: car rental unicorn Turo has filed for IPO, so Ploonge has dug into the numbers. The gist is that, after a fairly stable 2020, Turo’s business has seen strong growth and better revenue quality during the first three quarters of 2021. We should get more up-to-date numbers in time. (For IPO fans, keep in mind that HR software company Justworks will launch later this week.)
- Brex confirms $300 million increase: The race to control the corporate spending market was a key theme last year, and 2022 is starting on a similar note, with well-known market competitor Brex confirming it has raised nine figures on a Series D-2 round that values the former startup at $12.3 billion. We expect Brex rival Ramp to announce more capital when you read this summary, given what the past year has been like.
Starting our coverage of startups today, a few notes before we get into the individual newsletters. First, the SPAC boom left the public market full of formerly private companies that merged with blank-check entities and then lost half their value. SPACs have failed to take private companies public enough in the past year to reduce the number of unicorns, and the mediocre post-match results add to an overall failure.
And Kleiner Perkins joined a16z and Norwerst in announcing more than 10 figures of new capital. The venture capital firm, now in its 50th year, just closed $1.8 billion in two funds. Founders, that sound you just heard was the starting weapon.
- Locket soars to the top of app stores: Today Sarah Perez added me to a new social service, prompting us to exchange selfies and dog photos. The app? Locket, which is tearing up mobile app graphics. Read about what it does and why it’s popular.
- In-orbit refueling: This story is the coolest. Darrell Etherington, our inner space expert, writes that “Orbit Fab has teamed up with Astroscale to provide in-orbit refueling services for the latter company’s geostationary maintenance spacecraft.” This is a solution to a problem most people don’t think about. But if we want low-flying satellites to stay, well, afloat, sometimes they’ll need more fuel. And it looks like the technology to do that is getting close to maturity.
- Back Market puts more points on the board for France: French startups had a very good 2021, and Back Market is helping the country’s tech scene start this year on a solid footing. The company “operates a market for refurbished electronic devices” and has just closed a $510 million Series E that values it at $5.7 billion. Last year, it raised $335 million, for reference.
- IVF technology is on the rise: If you haven’t had a chance to visit the fringes of infertility, you may not be aware of just how complicated the IVF process is. It’s complex. The good news for parents-to-be is that startups like Fertilis, an Australian company, are raising capital to make the ordeal a little more likely to result in a live birth.
- New proves there’s still capital in the market for neobanks: Of course, Chime hasn’t gone public yet, much to our chagrin, but the lack of exits in the neobanking space isn’t slowing investors down. Novo, a neobank aimed at small and medium-sized companies, just closed $90 million with a valuation of $700 million.
- StoreDot raises capital for super-fast battery charging: EVs are great, but still a little slow to recharge. While gasoline-powered cars aren’t great for the air we breathe, they are incredibly good at on-board fuel. StoreDot is busy closing a round that could be worth up to $80 million to type, very fast battery recharge.
- Online tutoring is big business (outside of China): Sure, the Chinese government has kick-started the domestic edtech market, but that doesn’t mean tutoring is a worldwide type of business. Proof of that? GoStudent just closed a $340 million Series D less than a year after closing a $244 million Series C.
We’re short on time, but there was so much more: this African e-commerce company just closed a series A, mostly AI managed $25 million and Qonto – also in the business banking space like Novo! – raised over half a billion. That’s it busy out there.
And just to squeeze in one more thing, Ron Miller has a great story about a group that is helping women in tech thrive through mentorship.
Don’t trust averages: how to assess and strengthen the health of your business
Startups grow quickly, and when you’re building one, it can be easy to lose track of what’s working – and what’s not.
One way to track your company’s performance is to look at the overall numbers, but Karen Peacock, CEO of Intercom, has a warning: Averages can be dangerously misleading.
“If Jeff Bezos walks into a bar with 100 people, suddenly, on average, the net worth of every individual in that bar is over a billion dollars. Is this helpful? Would that lead you to take the right steps? No – averages hide true insights.”
Peacock explains how founders can assess where their business’s strengths lie and where they need to work harder, including how to assess revenue health and use customer segmentation to find “leaks in the bucket.”
(Ploonge+ is our membership program, which helps startup founders and teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
- Apple will allow third-party payment options in South Korea: a change in the wind? Possibly. News that Apple will change its in-app payment rules in South Korea – it had no choice – could lead other countries to similar decisions. For Apple, focused on preserving a big chunk of the iOS economy for itself, it’s bad news.
- EU sanctions itself for privacy mistakes: here’s a fun one – insert Spider-Man meme pointing to Spider-Man – the “European Union chief data protection supervisor has sanctioned the European Parliament for a series of breaches of the rules” block data protection,” Natasha Lomas he writes. At least they are consistent!
- And finally, today, the Indian government now owns just under 36% of Vodafone Idea, “to prevent the country’s third-largest telecom operator from collapsing.” Wild!
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