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Extra Crunch roundup: TC Mobility recaps, Nubank EC-1, farewell to browser cookies

What, exactly, are investors looking for?

Early-stage founders, usually first-timers, often tie themselves in knots as they try to project the qualities they hope investors are seeking. In reality, few entrepreneurs have the acting skills required to convince someone that they’re patient, dedicated or hard-working.

Johan Brenner, general partner at Creandum, was an early backer of Klarna, Spotify and several other European startups. Over the last two decades, he’s identified five key traits shared by people who create billion-dollar companies.


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“A true unicorn founder doesn’t need to have all of those capabilities on Day One,” says Brenner, “but they should already be thinking big while executing small and demonstrating that they understand how to scale a company.”

Drawing from observations gleaned from working with founders like Spotify’s Daniel Ek, Sebastian Siemiatkowski from Klarna, and iZettle’s Jacob de Geer and Magnus Nilsson, Brenner explains where “VC FOMO” comes from and how it drives dealmaking.

We’re running a series of posts that recap conversations from last week’s virtual TC Mobility conference, including an interview with Refraction AI’s Matthew Johnson, a look at how autonomous delivery startups are navigating the regulatory and competitive landscape, and much more. There are many more recaps to come; click here to find them all.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

How contrarian hires and a pitch deck started Nubank’s $30 billion fintech empire

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman

Founded in 2013 and based in São Paulo, Brazil, Nubank serves more than 34 million customers, making it Latin America’s largest neobank.

Reporter Marcella McCarthy spoke to CEO David Velez to learn about his efforts to connect with consumers and overcome entrenched opposition from established players who were friendly with regulators.

In the first of a series of stories for Nubank’s EC-1, she interviewed Velez about his early fundraising efforts. For a balanced perspective, she also spoke to early Nubank investors at Sequoia and Kaszek Ventures, Latin America’s largest venture fund, to find out why they funded the startup while it was still pre-product.

“There are people you come across in life that within the first hour of meeting with them, you know you want to work with them,” said Doug Leone, a global managing partner at Sequoia who’d recruited Velez after he graduated from grad school at Stanford.

Marcella also interviewed members of Nubank’s founding team to better understand why they decided to take a chance on a startup that faced such long odds of success.

“I left banking to make a fifth of my salary, and back then, about $5,000 in equity,” said Vitor Olivier, Nubank’s VP of operations and platforms.

“Financially, it didn’t really make sense, so I really had to believe that it was really going to work, and that it would be big.”

Despite flat growth, ride-hailing colossus Didi’s US IPO could reach $70B

Image Credits: Didi

In his last dispatch before a week’s vacation, Alex Wilhelm waded through the numbers in Didi’s SEC filing. The big takeaways?

“While Didi managed an impressive GTV recovery in China, its aggregate numbers are flatter, and recent quarterly trends are not incredibly attractive,” he writes.

However, “Didi is not as unprofitable as we might have anticipated. That’s a nice surprise. But the company’s regular business has never made money, and it’s losing more lately than historically, which is also pretty rough.”

What’s driving the rise of robotaxis in China with AutoX, Momenta and WeRide

AutoX, Momenta and WeRide took the stage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 to discuss the state of robotaxi startups in China and their relationships with local governments in the country.

They also talked about overseas expansion — a common trajectory for China’s top autonomous vehicle startups — and shed light on the challenges and opportunities for foreign AV companies eyeing the massive Chinese market.

The air taxi market prepares to take flight

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

“As in any disruptive industry, the forecast may be cloudier than the rosy picture painted by passionate founders and investors,” Aria Alamalhodaei writes. “A quick peek at comments and posts on LinkedIn reveals squabbles among industry insiders and analysts about when this emerging technology will truly take off and which companies will come out ahead.”

But while some electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) companies have no revenue yet to speak of — and may not for the foreseeable future — valuations are skyrocketing.

“Electric air mobility is gaining elevation,” she writes. “But there’s going to be some turbulence ahead.”

The demise of browser cookies could create a Golden Age of digital marketing

Though some may say the doomsday clock is ticking toward catastrophe for digital marketing, Apple’s iOS 14.5 update, which does away with automatic opt-ins for data collection, and Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies do not signal a death knell for digital advertisers.

“With a few changes to short-term strategy — and a longer-term plan that takes into account the fact that people are awakening to the value of their online data — advertisers can form a new type of relationship with consumers,” Permission.io CTO Hunter Jensen writes in a guest column. “It can be built upon trust and open exchange of value.”

If offered the right incentives, Jensen predicts, “consumers will happily consent to data collection because advertisers will be offering them something they value in return.”

How autonomous delivery startups are navigating policy, partnerships and post-pandemic operations

Nuro second gen R2 delivery vehicle

Image Credits: Nuro

We kicked off this year’s TC Sessions: Mobility with a talk featuring three leading players in the field of autonomous delivery. Gatik co-founder and chief engineer Apeksha Kumavat, Nuro head of operations Amy Jones Satrom, and Starship Technologies co-founder and CTO Ahti Heinla joined us to discuss their companies’ unique approaches to the category.

The trio discussed government regulation on autonomous driving, partnerships with big corporations like Walmart and Domino’s, and the ongoing impact the pandemic has had on interest in the space.

Waabi’s Raquel Urtasun explains why it was the right time to launch an AV technology startup

Image Credits: Waabi via Natalia Dola

Raquel Urtasun, the former chief scientist at Uber ATG, is the founder and CEO of Waabi, an autonomous vehicle startup that came out of stealth mode last week. The Toronto-based company, which will focus on trucking, raised an impressive $83.5 million in a Series A round led by Khosla Ventures.

Urtasun joined Mobility 2021 to talk about her new venture, the challenges facing the self-driving vehicle industry and how her approach to AI can be used to advance the commercialization of AVs.

As the economy reopens, startups are uniquely positioned to recruit talent

We are amidst a sprawling renegotiation between employers and employees as to the very nature of work, and no one has more leverage than skilled technologists — many of whom feel unmoored from their current jobs.

Our 2021 Technologist Sentiment Report — which in the second quarter polled technology professionals who mostly work at bigger organizations — shows 48% tech professionals expressed an interest in changing companies this year, up from 40% in the fourth quarter of 2020, and a big jump from 32% in the second quarter last year.

It’s a unique moment, one that creates an unusual opportunity for startup founders on the hunt for talent.

Fast growing upstarts have a lot of advantages. Bigger companies may be more likely to attempt to recreate the office environment of the past — especially if they have leased space and a built environment that will be difficult to unwind. Startups are often non-traditional and may be able to react to create the hybrid work environments many technologists crave as the economy reopens.

While all startups are certainly not focused on being disruptive, they often rely on cutting-edge technology and processes to give their customers something truly new. Many are trying to change the pattern in their particular industry. So, by definition, they generally have a really interesting mission or purpose that may be more appealing to tech professionals.

A migration of tech talent just as the economy is revving up would be disruptive and could also play to startup strengths. The market for tech talent is already strong: tech hiring has increased every month since November, according to our last tech jobs report released in May. Great data engineers, developers, business analysts and the like are in red-hot demand, and unemployment in tech is just above 2.4% percent, versus 5.5.% percent in the economy overall.

Extra Crunch roundup: EU insurtech, 30 years of ‘Crossing the Chasm,’ embedded finance’s endgame

This morning, Anna Heim and Alex Wilhelm dug into the EU insurtech market, interviewing European VCs and collating the biggest recent rounds to take the temperature of the waters across the pond:

  • Alex Timm, CEO, Root
  • Dan Preston, CEO, MetroMile
  • Luca Bocchio, partner, Accel
  • Florian Graillot, investor, Astorya.vc
  • Stephen Brittain, director and founder, Insurtech Gateway

Several European-based insurtech startups entered unicorn territory this year, such as Bought By Many, which offers pet insurance; London-based Zego; and Alan, a French startup that raised a $220 million round.

According to Brittain, EU startups in this sector are “still at the very early stages of innovation,” having only shown “a fraction of what’s possible” in a market that is “as large as banking.” Interestingly, he predicted that AI will play a larger role in the future as companies deploy it for fraud detection, improved customer experiences and processing claims more quickly.

“We are fully expecting the next generation of AI-driven business to unlock real-time risk analysis, pricing and claims resolution in the next few years,” he said.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch; I hope you have a safe, relaxing weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

What do these 4 IPOs tell us about the state of the market?

Earlier this week, The Exchange assessed the looming Monday.com IPO before reading the tea leaves about that flotation and three others to sum up the overall state of the market.

So what do the Marqeta, Monday.com, Zeta Global and 1stDibs debuts tell us? We may have been too conservative.

Toast’s Aman Narang and BVP’s Kent Bennett on how customer obsession is everything

Image Credits: Bessemer Venture Partners / Toast

On a recent episode of Extra Crunch Live, we spoke to Toast founder Aman Narang and Kent Bennett of Bessemer Venture Partners about how they came together for a deal, what makes the difference for both founders and investors when fundraising, and the biggest lessons they’ve learned so far.

The episode also featured the Extra Crunch Live Pitch-Off, where audience members pitched their products to Bennett and Narang and received live feedback.

Extra Crunch Live is open to everyone each Wednesday at 3 p.m. EDT/noon PDT, but only Extra Crunch members are able to stream these sessions afterward and watch previous shows on-demand in our episode library.

AI startup investment is on pace for a record year

Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim solicited feedback from investors to get a temperature on the market for AI startup investments.

“The startup investing market is crowded, expensive and rapid-fire today as venture capitalists work to preempt one another, hoping to deploy funds into hot companies before their competitors,” they write. “The AI startup market may be even hotter than the average technology niche.”

But that’s not surprising. The Exchange was on it.

“In the wake of the Microsoft-Nuance deal, The Exchange reported that it would be reasonable to anticipate an even more active and competitive market for AI-powered startups,” Alex and Anna note. “Our thesis was that after Redmond dropped nearly $20 billion for the AI company, investors would have a fresh incentive to invest in upstarts with an AI focus or strong AI component; exits, especially large transactions, have a way of spurring investor interest in related companies.”

Their expectation is coming true: Investors reported a fierce market for AI startups.

Dear Sophie: What is a diversity green card and how do I apply for one?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

I started a tech company about two years ago, and ever since I’ve dreamed of expanding my company in the United States.

I would love to have a green card. Someone mentioned that I should apply for a diversity green card. Would you please provide me with more details about it and how to apply?

— Technical in Tanzania

How to start a company in 4 days

Turtle (real) with a rocket on the back, a match (real flame) is about to ignite it. No turtles were harmed in the making of this stock image.

Image Credits: MediaProduction (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Pulley founder and three-time YC alum Yin Wu offers a tactical guide to getting a startup running in four days. Yes, just four days.

“The logistics of setting up a startup should be simple, because over the long run, complicated equity setups and cap tables cost more money in legal fees and administration time,” Wu notes.

Read on for guidance on how to get your business going in less than a week.

Health clouds are set to play a key role in healthcare innovation

Health clouds are important for innovation in healthcare

Image Credits: Natali_Mis / Getty Images

Innovaccer founder and CEO Abhinav Shashank and CTO Mike Sutten write in a guest column that the U.S. healthcare industry is in the middle of a massive transformation.

This shift, they write, “is being stimulated by federal mandates, technological innovation, and the need to improve clinical outcomes and communication between providers, patients and payers.”

Improving healthcare now means we need to process tremendous amounts of healthcare data. How do we do it? The cloud, which “plays a pivotal role in meeting the current needs of healthcare organizations.”

What SOSV’s Climate Tech 100 tells founders about investors in the space

Climate tech presents a trillion-dollar opportunity

Image Credits: MrJub / Getty Images

SOSV’s Benjamin Joffe and Meghan Hind round up a “who’s who” from the venture capital firm’s SOSV Climate Tech 100, a list of the best startups addressing climate change that SOSV has supported from the very beginning.

“What can founders learn from the list about climate tech investors? In other words, who invested in the Climate Tech 100?” they ask.

The fintech endgame: New supercompanies combine the best of software and financials

Image Credits: Donald Iain Smith (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Now that we can transact from anywhere, a new, hybrid class of software companies with embedded financial services are scooping up consumers — and investors are following the action.

Using data from a Battery Ventures report about “the intersection of software and financial services,” this post examines why these companies can be so hard to value and offers a framework for better understanding their business models and investor appeal.

After 30 years, ‘Crossing the Chasm’ is due for a refresh

Hoover Dam area, Mike O'Callaghan, Pat Tillman bridge.

Image Credits: Grant Faint (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Geoffrey Moore’s “Chasm,” a framework for marketing technology products that has been one of the canonical foundational concepts to product-market fit for three decades, needs a bit of an upgrade, Flybridge Capital’s Jeff Bussgang writes.

“I have been reflecting on why it is that we venture capitalists and founders keep making the same mistake over and over again — a mistake that has become even more glaring in recent years,” he writes.

Bussgang goes on to consider the Chasm — and propose tweaks for thinking about market size in the modern era.