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Hello and welcome to the Daily Crunch for January 6, 2021! Today we have not just killer notes about this year’s weird confab CES, but breaking news from the media and even an editorial by US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. And, of course, a series of updates from the land of startups. Let’s have fun! –Alex
Ploonge Top 3
- Reflections on yet another CES pandemic: Our own Brian Heater has must-read for this year’s half-IRL CES event. Ploonge has decided not to appear in person due to the increase in COVID-19 cases, but that doesn’t mean we’re not paying attention. If you want to learn even more about what it’s like to cover the event from afar, Devin Coldeway has the nitty-gritty you’ve been looking for.
- NYTimes is buying The Athletic: After The Athletic toured the country hiring as many newspaper sports reporters as it could, the company is reversing its model and selling instead in itself to The New York Times. For a reported price of $550 million. It’s a lot of money, but no at that a lot in terms of today’s startup. The media remains a very difficult game.
- Fintech supported by Mark Cuban goes public: Remember SPACs? Dave does, because fintech has finally taken its blank check business to the public markets. Ploonge spoke with the company’s CEO about the transaction, its timing and what’s to come for the company.
Rounding out the main stories of the day is this entry by the US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. He talks about innovation and the role of government in creating what’s next, from a traffic perspective.
Before we get into our usual mix of boot updates, something fun. Ploonge’s Natasha Lomas herself spent four weeks testing an Ultrahuman “metabolic fitness” service. “Becoming a cyborg is no longer as science fiction as it sounds” in the world of quantified health, she says, but the post is a great insight into how we can take care of our bodies in the future.
- How will the sale of cryptocurrencies affect NFTs? On the last day, before a partial rally, cryptos were sold sharply. Ploonge wants to know what impact falling cryptocurrency prices will have on NFTs and other assets that are priced in cryptocurrency terms.
- Cryptographic loan without cryptographic collateral: Lucas Matney reports that “most [crypto] borrowing platforms rely on an end-user’s existing encryption assurance,” while startup DeFi Goldfinch is taking a different approach. He has just raised $25 million for his efforts, led by a16z.
- Zuddl raises $13 million for virtual events: Remarkably, I haven’t heard that Hopin has raised another trillion dollars in several months, which now seems a surprise considering how busy this company has been in recent years. Regardless, the virtual event space still attracts capital, says Zuddl. While it’s nice to see competition in the online confab market, I have to kindly protest Zuddl’s name, which sounds like a mix of zoodle (which is disgusting) and confusion (which is what the company name reminds me of).
- The mental health startup market is on the rise: Ploonge has blogged notes today about Little Otter ($22 million, focused on children’s mental health) and Mined ($3.5 million, focused on emotional well-being). Two rounds in the same space in a single day seem like a data point to me.
- RIP Popcorn Time: The golden age of online piracy is behind us, but that doesn’t mean that some services that flagrantly violated copyright law haven’t kept the flame of the past alive. For a while. Now there’s no more Popcorn Time, which I’m sure some of you will cry.
- Dunzo Raises $240 Million From Reliance Retail: Focused on hyperlocal delivery in seven Indian cities, Dunzo has pulled off a massive new round led by Reliance Retail, which has invested $200 million of the total for a 25.8% stake in the company. Fast and hyperlocal delivery is a big push around the world. We are curious about the economics involved, but of course there is an appetite to invest in the thesis.
There was even more. Rupifi raised $25 million to build its B2B payments business in India, while JABU raised $3.2 million for its B2B e-commerce business, and Payfit became France’s latest unicorn after raising US $259 million. It’s busy out there – so busy that some people, even in the entrepreneurial world, are curious about the pace of investment in today’s private market.
5 growth marketing forecasts for 2022
Our latest guest column with predictions for the coming year isn’t just a prediction: growth expert Jonathan Martinez shares several tactics early-stage companies can use to capitalize on these trends.
Among other topics, Martinez shared methods for incrementally testing ads, his thoughts on video ads and influencer marketing, and some thoughts on Facebook and iOS 14 privacy changes.
“I believe we will start to see heavy investments from Facebook and other social media platforms to keep users on their platforms, where they will still have access to primary data,” writes Martinez.
(Ploonge+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams progress. You can apply here.)
Big Tech Inc.
- Meta has a good VR vacation cycle: Meta, the company behind Facebook and the Oculus VR platform, appears to have had a good year-end sales cycle, reports Ploonge. The mobile companion app for the Oculus VR hardware has been downloaded “approximately 2 million times worldwide since Christmas Day” by third-party data. That’s a bunch of headphones.
- Spotify makes an innovation: Spotify introduced a new podcast advertising format. Cue the parades. What I want is for Spotify to create new ways to support musical artists I love. Spotify, on the other hand, is busy working on the podcasting side of their business. I suppose part of my job is podcasting, but Spotify. Come on. Focus on the music again!
- Facebook and Google are fined for European cookies: About a quarter of a billion in fines have been handed over to Google and Facebook for “not adhering to local (and pan-EU) cookie consent rules” thanks to the National Freedom and Information Commission, or CNIL. Someone should add up all the fines that American technology companies have paid to various EU countries and bodies at some point; is starting to add up.
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