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Figure raises $7.5M to help startup employees better understand their compensation

The topic of compensation has historically been a delicate one that has left many people — especially startup employees — wondering just what drives what can feel like random decisions around pay and equity.

Last June, software engineers (and housemates) Miles Hobby and Geoffrey Tisserand set about trying to solve the problem for companies by developing a data-driven platform that aims to help companies structure their compensation plans and transparently communicate them to candidates.

Now today, the startup behind that platform, Figure, announced it has raised $7.5 million in seed funding led by CRV. Bling Capital, Better Tomorrow Ventures and Garage Capital also participated in the financing, along with angel investors such as AngelList co-founder Naval Ravikant, Jason Calacanis, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman and other executives based in Silicon Valley.

The startup has amassed a client list that includes other startups such as fintechs Brex and NerdWallet and AI-powered fitness company Tempo. 

Put simply, Hobby and Tisserand’s mission is to improve workflows and transparency around pay, particularly equity. The pair had both worked at startups themselves (Uber and Instacart, respectively) and ended up leaving money on the table when they left those companies because no one had properly explained to them what their equity, which changed at every valuation, meant.  

Image Credits: Figure co-founders and co-CEOs Miles Hobby and Geoffrey Tisserand. Image Credits: Figure

So, one of their goals was to create a solution that would provide a user-friendly explanation of what a person’s equity stake really means, from tax implications to whether or not they have to buy the stock and/or hold onto it.

“I’ve gone through the job search process many times before and there’s all these complex legal documents to understand why you’re getting 10,000 stock options, but obviously we knew the vast majority of people have no idea how that works,” Tisserand told TechCrunch. “We saw an opportunity there to help companies actually convey the value to their candidates while also making them aware of the potential risks of owning something that’s so illiquid.”

Image Credits: Figure

Another goal of Figure’s is to help create a more fair and balanced process about decisions around pay and equity so that there’s less inequality out there. Pointedly, it aims to remove some of the biases that exist around those decisions by systematizing the process.

“We saw a void in this kind of context around equity…and knew that there had to be a better way for companies to structure, manage and explain their compensation plans,” Hobby said.

To Hobby and Tisserand, Figure is designed to help stop instances of implicit bias.

“Compensation should be based on the work that you’re doing, and not gender or ethnic background,” Tisserand told TechCrunch. “We’re trying to give that context and remove biases. So, we’re trying to help at two different stages –– to surface inequities that already exist and make sure there are no anomalies, and then to help stop them before they can exist.”

Figure also aims to give companies the tools to educate candidates and employees on their total compensation — including equity, salary, benefits and bonuses — in a “straightforward and user-friendly” way. For example, it can create custom offer letters that interactively detail a candidate’s compensation.

“Our goal is for Figure to become an operating system for compensation, where a company can encode their compensation philosophy into our system, and we help them determine their job architecture, compensation bands and offer numbers while monitoring their compensation health to provide adjustment suggestions when needed,” Hobby said.

Post-hire, Figure’s compensation management system “helps keep everything running smoothly.”

Anna Khan, general partner of enterprise software at CRV, is joining Figure’s board as part of the funding. The decision to back the startup was in part personal, she said.

“I’d been investing in software for eight years and was alarmed that no one was building anything around pay equity when it comes to how we’re paid, why we’re paid what we’re paid and on how to build equity long term,” Khan told TechCrunch. “Unfortunately, discussions around compensation and equity still happen behind closed doors and this extends into workflow around compensation — equally broken — with manual leveling, old data and large pay inequities.”

The company plans to use its new capital to expand its product offerings and scale its organization.

NFT art marketplace SuperRare closes $9 million Series A

The NFT ecosystem is having an explosive moment and the startups that were ready to run with it are getting lots of cash to continue capturing that momentum.

SuperRare, an NFT art platform that has garnered tens of millions in new sales in recent weeks, has just raised millions from investors. The $9 million Series A round was led by Velvet Sea Ventures and 1confirmation. Other investors participating in the round include Collaborative Fund, Shrug Capital, Third Kind, SamsungNext, Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures, Mark Cuban, Marc Benioff, Naval Ravikant, and Chamath Palihapitiya, among others.

In an announcement of the raise, the team called the crypto art scene a “global phenomenon.”

SuperRare launched its art platform in 2018, since then it has differentiated by maintaining a closed early access platform that more closely curates the art they sell. Everything on the platform is a single-edition 1/1 sale. The team has said they plan to launch the site widely next year. The company earns a 3% transaction fee on art sales on the platform in addition to a 15% gallery fee for primary sales. One unique facet of the platform is that creators can continue to earn on a piece’s appreciating value following with 10% commissions on secondary sales.

While NFT art sales have taken off in recent weeks, there are still many structural issues facing their mainstream adoption largely due to scalability issues with Ethereum’s mainnet, which SuperRare operates on. Plenty of firms are building layer-two infrastructure that improves speed, and cuts down on energy usage and transaction fees. Today, ConsenSys launched a platform called Palm featuring artists Damien Hirst as the platform’s first artist drop.

After a lengthy crypto winter, blockchain startups are coming back with a vengeance amid a surge in startup investing, a surge in enthusiasm around NFTs and a surge in bitcoin prices. Today, NBA Top Shot maker Dapper Labs announced in had raised $305 million in venture funding.

 

NFT marketplace OpenSea raises $23 million from a16z

OpenSea has been one of a handful of NFT marketplaces to explode in popularity in recent weeks as collectors wade into the trading of non-fungible tokens on the blockchain. While new startups have been popping up everyday, platforms that launched in crypto’s earlier times are receiving rampant attention from investors who see this wave of excitement for cryptocurrencies and tokens as much different than the ones that preceded it.

Today, the startup announced that it’s closed a $23 million round of funding led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from a laundry list of angels and firms including Naval Ravikant, Mark Cuban, Alexis Ohanian, Dylan Field and Linda Xie.

OpenSea launched back in 2017, announcing a $2 million round a few months later from Founders Fund and a few crypto-centric firms. At the time CryptoKitties mania was most of what Ethereum had to offer and early NFT projects were being slowly embraced by a community that was enthusiastic but more curious than anything.

Fast forward to 2021 and NFTs are certainly having a moment, and while the specific shades of that moment may be heavily focused on high-dollar artwork sales from traditional auction houses or NFT memes being tweeted out by Elon Musk, proponents see a future for the tokens that upends the economics of content creation and influence on the internet. The enthusiasm accompanies a months-long rally in the value of cryptocurrencies themselves which have taken Ethereum and Bitcoin to multiples of previous-all-time-highs.

The market for digital goods expanding widely may depend heavily on further adoption among gaming giants and larger media organizations, but early-on there’s hope that digital-first creators can use these marketplace to connect more directly with fans and begin to bypass the massive platforms they depend on now.

There are still some early hiccups as the tech develops. While Ethereum has committed to moving from its energy-intensive proof-of-work standard to a more efficient proof-of-stake one eventually, the existing structure has been far from efficient, which has opened many of the early NFT artists to criticism surrounding climate change concerns and whether the stakeholders in crypto tokens should be prioritizing environmental worries over the specific challenges of certain proofs. In February, OpenSea announced support for more efficient Tezos-based NFTs.

A more nebulous challenge for marketplaces like OpenSea may be cutting through the noise of speculation and providing a marketplace for more users that are actually buying to own, an especially difficult proposition given the breakneck pace of growth for the digital currencies being used to purchase the digital goods themselves.