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It’s been less than two years since WeWork announced the acquisition of SEO and content marketing company Conductor — but those two years have been bumpy, to say the least. Briefly: Parent organization The We Company’s disastrous attempt to go public resulted in the ouster of CEO Adam Neumann, an indefinite delay of its IPO and reports that the company was weighing the sale of subsidiaries Meetup, Managed by Q and Conductor. So it’s no surprise that Conductor is, in fact, being sold — not to another company, but to its own CEO and co-founder Seth Besmertnik, COO Selina Eizik and investor Jason Finger (managing partner of The Finger Group and founder of Seamless). “We’re grateful for our time with WeWork, during which we’ve been able to invest aggressively in R&D, doubling the size of our team with world-class talent that helps our customers achieve success everyday,” Besmertnik said in a statement. “People don’t want to be advertised to or sold to anymore. Our solutions make it easier for brands to deliver marketing that is helpful and valuable. It’s marketing that consumers actually seek out.” The company also says that Conductor’s employees will be given a new category of stock that they’re calling founder-preferred shares, turning them into “250 employee co-founders” who can appoint a representative to the board of directors. This should give them a bigger stake and a bigger say in where Conductor goes from here. In fact, Besmertnik noted that pre-acquisition, the Conductor team (including himself) owned less than 10% of the company, while under the new structure, employees will own “more than four times what they did when we sold the company” — and combined with Besmertnik and Eizik’s shares, they have a majority stake. “Our ownership model is going to really create an even more committed and even more passionate group of people as we apply that to our mission and vision,” he told me. Conductor started out with a focus on helping marketers optimize their websites for search, then expanded with tools for creating the content that’s being found through search. Since its acquisition, the company has operated as a WeWork subsidiary, and it’s currently working with more than 400 enterprises including Visa, Casper and Slack. The financial terms were not disclosed, but Conductor says that as a result of the deal, it’s fully divested from The We Company. WeWork acquires SEO and marketing company Conductor

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Yesterday, at TechCrunch Berlin, we sat down with Sebastian Siemiatkowski, the cofounder and CEO of Klarna, a 15-year-old company that’s currently the most highly valued privately held fintech in Europe, following a $460 million investment that pegged the company’s worth at $5.5 billion back in August. (Asked yesterday to confirm that the company has raised $1.2 billion altogether from investors, Siemiatkowski joked — without confirming the amount — “It sounds like you know better than I do.”) Siemiatkowski had come to the event largely to take the wraps off a new tech hub in Berlin that will house 500 employees in product and engineering. But we were far more interested in discussing the future of the company, which is best known for providing instant credit to online shoppers at the point of checkout and is growing fast, with nearly 3,000 employees across 17 countries. Klarna has also begun competing more aggressively in the U.S.  —  as well as fending off a against a growing spate of competitors, from publicly traded AfterPay to Max Levchin’s Affirm to Sezzle. a company in Minneapolis that seemingly appeared from the blue a few years ago. Of course, the toughest competition of all may come from Amazon and Google, which are increasingly embedding their payment systems — Amazon Pay and and Google Pay — into their own massive platforms. We talked with Siemiatkowski about how Klarna survives as they gobble up more of the retail industry. We also asked about whether Amazon might be an acquirer, or whether Klarna might be eyeing an IPO in 2020 instead. You can check out our conversation below. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity. TC: The last time we sat down together was four years or so ago, when Klarna was best known for its checkout product. What are some of the ways in which the company has evolved since then? SS: There’s a massive opportunity. For consumers, when they shop online today, they have so many friction points. One of them might be the ability to get free credit without all the fees and things that people associate with credit cards. But there’s also other things like, where’s my package? When will it arrive? How do I do returns? Where are the best offers? Where are the best discounts? There’s a lot of things that people still struggle with. And so what we’re trying to do is create that super-smooth shopping experience, and the more problems we solve for these customers, the better, and the happier they are, and the more they’re going to use it. TC: Do you have any other financial products, like [longer-term] loans? SS: We do direct type of payments like that. And then, in some countries here in Europe, we’ve already launched a plastic card, as well. So you can use this like that. And then we also do this kind of Mint.com-like financial dashboard that shows you your spending habits, and all that kind of stuff. TC: You’re adding this hub in Berlin, but you’re already in Germany– SS: Yes, Germany is actually our largest market. In Germany, we have about 30 million users, which, you know, takes us about 10 million ahead of that American wallet thing [PayPal], which is quite cool. So Germany is a super important for us, but right now what’s exciting is the U.S., so right now we’re adding customers at a pace that will be about six million customers on an annual basis right now. So the U.S. is really taking off. TC: This instant credit product is still the biggest producer of revenue? SS: Yes. If you look at those two things going on here, first is that millennials, in the U.S. and U.K.,  they don’t have credit cards they have debit cards — 70% of millennials in the U.S. only have debit cards. But they’re still looking sometimes to get a cash flow ease. What’s good about our services is doesn’t cost a consumer anything, so it’s not like the old credit cards which were really expensive for users. It’s merchant-funded, so that allows the consumers to then sometimes be able to either ease their cash flow by paying in four installments, or try before they buy [meaning they can defer the payment for some period] and stuff like. People forget that people who have debit cards have much harder issues shopping online than people with credit cards, and that’s a big piece of what we’re solving for. TC: Do you always break the payments into four installments? Do you customize these plans? SS: Breaking [into] four [payments] is great and that’s one option. What we’ve seen is that consumers have different needs, so some people really like our try-before-you-buy product [where] you pay nothing at the time but then [pay] everything 30 days later when you receive the products. Sometimes, if it’s a bigger purchase, like you’re buying a sofa or something, you split it over 24 months of financing or something like that, which is kind of different. And sometimes people just want to pay for everything instantly. So we just want to make sure that people have all the options that they want. TC: How much can users spend? What’s the upper boundary? SS: I’m sure there is one but it’s really hard to answer because it’s very individual, on an individual basis. TC: And to be clear, you’re buying these from merchants at a discount? Is that how it works? SS: Basically, the merchant sets up with us, they pay us a merchant fee just like they do with PayPal or somebody else. Then we process the payments for them, and we take the full risk, and all the customer care and everything related to the transaction. TC: I’m assuming you’re not using your [venture funding] to do this. You have a bank charter in Sweden . . . SS: Yes, we’re a fully licensed bank and we have deposits to fund the balance sheet. So people in Germany can actually save with Klarna and get 1%, which doesn’t sound a lot, but it’s massively more than they get with any of the traditional banks in Germany. TC: What about interest fees and late fees? How do those work? SS: Basically, we keep them extremely low. There are sometimes if you’re late, there might be a late fee but but the whole purpose here is that it’s merchant-funded. So merchants pay for this, and the consumers get a much better product than the traditional credit card or other options. TC: What’s the default rate? SS: Super low. If look at overall Klarna, for all markets, it’s is less than 1%. TC: There is a competitor of yours, AfterPay, that was criticized last year because something like a quarter of its revenue was coming from late payments. What [is your revenue coming from]? SS: Most of it is coming from merchant fees, and late fees in general are never bigger than the losses that you’re making. But I think it’s definitely an important topic, where all the companies in this industry need to be very careful about how you set up your products. I think Klarna — maybe because we’ve been around longer than the competitor you’re referring to and because we’re five times their size in totality — maybe we have just come a little bit further in how we think about consumer value and making sure that fees are right and so forth. So those are important topics to keep an eye on. But I also think that what’s even more important is that you have this credit card industry, which in general has charged massive interest rates, a lot of late fees, and been not a very transparent and great industry. And I think, actually, the big opportunity is for people like us, and the one you refer to and others, to disrupt that industry. It’s the credit card industry that we’re going after. TC: Sure, and I’m not going to defend the credit card industry, but did you say what your interest fees are? SS: It depends on an individual basis, but it’s definitely lower than the average credit card fee. TC: Meanwhile, you’re charging merchants more than credit card companies, which you can do because you’re basically increasing their customers’ purchasing power. SS: Yes. If you look to some markets like Brazil and Turkey that’s kind of how the whole world work. So in a way,  that’s kind of the direction we’re heading in, because as a merchant, you’ll have more buying power than as a single individual consumer, so you’ll be able to negotiate better rates, and be able to offer these products at a better rate than this as a single individual [receives]. TC: Obviously you’ve heard concerns that, especially as we’re maybe heading into a recession, easy credit may be dangerous for consumers. Your technology can assess whether or not someone is a good credit risk and whether or not an attempted transaction is fraudulent, but you’re not really getting a picture of a customer’s other financial obligations or burdens.  SS: We do thorough credit checks. It depends because it’s hard to answer these questions when you’re active in 17 markets, because they’re all different. But it’s a definite obvious for us that we need to be able to assess people’s ability to pay, as well as their intent to pay . . . We’ve been doing this for 15 years, so we really learned how to identify that and do it in a, in a thoughtful and in a good way for the consumer. TC: A lot of competitors have sprung up in recent years. Why hasn’t there been more consolidation in the space? Is it too soon? SS: I think it might come eventually, but I do think again that there’s a lot of focus on these companies right now . . . and the point is that like, what we’re trying to do all of us, all these companies together, is really going after the trillion-dollar credit card industry  that hasn’t served customers well, that hasn’t, you know, and has been all about hiding fees and hasn’t been transparent and whose products and services are fairly poor quality. There’s a big opportunity to change how this whole [industry works] and that’s true for us and to some degree also true for [mobile-only banks] N26 and Monzo and all the banking disruptors. We’re all going after these big banks that haven’t really served their customers well. TC: It’s interesting that a lot of them are taking stakes in companies like yours. Visa made a strategic investment in Klarna in 2017. Why aren’t they pulling the trigger on more acquisitions? Is it a matter of them not knowing how to integrate these new technologies into their legacy systems but wanting at the same time to keep tabs on things? SS:  I genuinely think —  I’ve been doing this now for 15 years, which is kind of crazy; I was 23 when we started —  that the bank disruption is actually happening now and I’m one of the people who would never say that. I’m always like, ‘Oh, [something] is just a trend, it’s hype, it’s going to pass, it’s going to take longer than people expect.’ But I see it happening. Consumers are switching en masse to these new services. So what the legacy incumbents can do is [choose] from three options: transform themselves, which demands a very courageous CEO to really change a business like that; secondly, M&A; and third, go away and die as a company. So I do think that’s what you’re going to see in the market.  In general, if you look at the whole industry, you’re going to see a lot of investments in M&A activity going on, because that’s just how you defend yourself as as an incumbent versus disruption. TC: Have you been approached? SS: We get approached all the time, yeah. TC: I thought it was interesting that you announced in October that AWS is now your preferred cloud provider. I imagine that Amazon is an important partner for you. SS: Yes. TC: I’m wondering especially about Amazon given that Amazon and Google are now embedding payment systems into their platforms. How do and your rivals [compete against them]? SS:  I’m [someone who] believes that sticking to core is so important and so, like, what’s happening is we’ve seen a lot of like the big tech giants trying to kind of do more and more and more and more things. And I just think that’s very hard to do over time. The other thing we do at Klarna is try to consistently stay ahead. When we started 15 years ago, payments online was all about safety; that was the only thing people [cared about] because they felt unsafe shopping online. I think 2010 to 2020 has been about simplicity — one click. one click. one click, because Amazon really taught us that one click was important and everyone wants to do one click. The question is, what happens from 2020 to 2030? That’s what we’ve been thinking about. How do we stay ahead of the game? How do we innovate? How do we keep creating new services and improvements to consumers so that they feel that this is better than what’s out there right now. In my opinion, that really demands you to be passionate and in love with your business. And I think it’s hard for tech giants to be that at that scale. It’s easy to recognize what’s going on right now; it’s much harder [for them] to guess what’s going to happen five years from now. That’s really demand that passion and closeness to what you’re doing. TC: Talking about the future, I saw that you talk to the Financial Times this summer, and when they asked you about going public after all these years, you said that, “In many ways we have most of the things in place that we need. It’s more question of timing and focus.” So how is 2020 looking in terms of timing? SS: Yeah, I don’t know, maybe it could happen. It was kind of funny, because I was reading an interview with Michael Moritz, who’s on our board, and he was saying that we were going to stay private forever. So, I don’t know, it’s hard for me to know that what’s true anymore. People are reporting different things about Klarna. TC: You never do know what Michael Moritz is going to say. But if you were to go public, I assume it would be a U.S. listing. SS: I would assume so, too. TC: What do you make of this whole direct listing concept that your neighbor [in Stockholm, Spotify, pioneered]? SS: I think it’s wise. I mean Michael [Moritz] is a big proponent of it. I think it makes sense. I read all the arguments, and it looks interesting. TC: But you’re not raising money with direct listings — your existing shareholders are instead selling their shares on the open market — which sort of begs the question: will you be raising [another private round] of funding again? You raised a big round in summer. SS: We are in a very exciting phase right now, where the U.S. and U.K. is growing so fast for us. . . And we want to continue investing. We think the potential market in in the US is just massive . . .So we’ll we’ll see what happens, but I wouldn’t rule it out, that one thing that could happen is raise even more money to be investing even more in growth and product delivery, and new products and services, as well as sales and marketing in the US, TC: Of course, every time you raise money it impacts whether or not you’re profitable. Are you profitable now? Have you been? SS: Klarna has been profitable every year up until this year. TC: That giant fundraise [in summer] kind of threw you off. SS: Yeah, exactly.

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Business-to-business payments company Bill.com priced its IPO today at an above-range $22 per share. The firm, selling 9.82 million shares in its offering, will raise around $216 million at a roughly $1.6 billion valuation. The company’s IPO pricing comes during a modestly uncertain time for unprofitable companies looking to go public. Following the WeWork IPO mess, concerns rose that growth-oriented companies might struggle to drum up investor interest when going public. Bill.com’s offering makes it plain that not all loss-making companies are equal; the firm’s pricing journey indicates that its growth story resonated more with investors than concerns relating to its losses. The company had targeted a $16 to $18 per-share IPO price range. However, that range was raised to $19 to $21 per share yesterday, ahead of pricing. Financial history To understand what the Bill.com IPO means for startups, let’s remind ourselves of how much capital it raised while private itself, and how it performed financially. Bill.com raised $347.1 million while private across a host of Series and venture rounds, including $100 million in 2017 and $88 million in 2018. The Palo Alto-based company raised from Franklin Templeton, JP Morgan and Temasek during its late-stage private life. When it was younger, Bill.com raised capital from Emergence, DCM, Icon Ventures, Financial Partners Fund and Scale Venture Partners, among others. The company was valued, according to Crunchbase data, at precisely $1 billion on a post-money valuation following its 2018 investment. This makes its IPO a comfortably up transaction, adding value to even Bill.com’s most recently added private investors. Heading into its IPO, Bill.com posted both growing revenue and growing losses: Q3 revenue: $35.2 million, up 56.9% year-over-year Q3 net loss: $5.7 million, up 544.3 % year-over-year The firm’s net loss growth looks worse than it really is, given that it lost less than $1 million in its year-ago Q3; but investors looking for a path to profits may not have appreciated the direction or pace of its net results regardless of how small a base they were calculated from. An above-range pricing on a company that raised its pricing interval while losing more money than it did a year ago should allay concerns among private companies that the IPO window is closed. It is not, provided that your losses are slim as a percent of revenue and your growth is solid.

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If you want to win on Wall Street, Yahoo Finance is insufficient but Bloomberg Terminal costs a whopping $24,000 per year. That’s why Atom Finance built a free tool designed to democratize access to professional investor research. If Robinhood made it cost $0 to trade stocks, Atom Finance makes it cost $0 to know which to buy. Today Atom launches its mobile app with access to its financial modeling, portfolio tracking, news analysis, benchmarking, and discussion tools. It’s the consumerization of finance, similar to what we’ve seen in enterprise SAAS. “Investment research tools are too important to the financial well-being of consumers to lack the same cycles of product innovation and accessibility that we have experienced in other verticals” CEO Eric Shoykhet tells me. In its first press interview, Atom Finance today revealed to TechCrunch that it’s raised a $10.6 million Series A led by General Catalyst to build on its quiet $1.9 million seed round. The cash will help the startup eventually monetize by launching premium tiers with even more hardcore research tools. Atom Finance already has 100,000 users and $400 million in assets it’s helping steer since soft-launching in June. “Atom fundamentally changes the game for how financial news media and reporting is consumed. I could not live without it” says The Twenty Minute VC podcast founder and Atom investor Harry Stebbings. Individual investors are already at a disadvantage compared to big firms equipped with artificial intelligence, the priciest research, and legions of traders glued to the markets. Yet it’s becoming increasingly clear that investing is critical to long-term financial mobility, especially in an age of rampant student debt and automation threatening employment. “Our mission is two fold” Shoykhet says. “To modernize investment research tools through an intuitive platform that’s easily accessible across all devices, while democratizing access to institutional-quality investing tools that were once only available to Wall Street professionals.” Leveling The Trading Floor Shoykhet saw the gap between amateur and expert research platforms first hand as an investor at Blackstone and Governors Lane. Yet even the supposedly best-in-class software was lacking the usability we’ve come to expect from consumer mobile apps. Atom Finance claims that “for example, Bloomberg hasn’t made a significant change to its central product offering since 1982.” Atom Finance Team So a year ago, Shoykhet founded Atom Finance in Brooklyn to fill the void. Its web, iOS, and Android apps offer five products that combine to guide users’ investing decisions without drowning them in complexity: Sandbox – Instant financial modeling with pre-populated consensus projections that automatically update and are recalculated over time Portfolio – Track your linked investment accounts to monitor overarching stats, real-time profit and loss statements, and diversification X-Ray – A financial research search engine for compiling news, SEC filings, transcripts, and analysis Compare – Benchmarking tables for comparing companies and sectors Collaborate – Discussion boards and group chat for sharing insights with fellow investors “Our Sandbox feature allows users to create simple financial models directly within our platform, without having to export data to a spreadsheet” Shoykhet says. “This saves our users time and prevents them from having to manually refresh the inputs to their model when there is new information.” Shoykhet positions Atom Finance in the middle of the market, saying “Existing solutions are either too rudimentary for rigorous analysis (Yahoo Finance, Google Finance) or too expensive for individual investors (Bloomberg, CapIQ, Factset).” With both its free and forthcoming paid tiers, Atom hopes to undercut Sentieo, a more AI-focused financial research platform that charges $500 to $1000 per month and raised $19 million a year ago. Cheaper tools like BamSEC and WallMine are often limited to just pulling in earnings transcripts and filings. Robinhood has its own in-app research tools, which could make it a looming competitor or a potential acquirer for Atom Finance. Shoykhet admits his startup will face stiff competition from well-entrenched tools like Bloomberg. “Incumbent solutions have significant brand equity with our target market, and especially with professional investors. We will have to continue iterating and deliver an unmatched user experience to gain the trust/loyalty of these users” he says. Additionally, Atom Finance’s access to users’ sensitive data mean flawless privacy, security, and accuracy will be essential. The $12.5 million from General Catalyst, Greenoaks, Global Founders Capital, Untitled Investments, Day One Ventures, and a slew of angels gives Atom runway to rev up its freemium model.  Robinhood has found great success converting unpaid users to its subscription tier where they can borrow money to trade. By similarly starting out free, Atom’s 8-person team hailing from SoFi, Silver Lake, Blackstone, and Citi could build a giant funnel to feed its premium tiers. Fintech can feel dry and ruthlessly capitalistic at times. But Shoykhet insists he’s in it to equip a new generation with methods of wealth creation. “I think we’ve gone long enough without seeing real innovation in this space. We can’t be complacent with something so important. It’s crucial that we democratize access to these tools and educate consumers . . . to improve their investment well-being.”

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Space industry heavyweight Northrop Grumman has signed a costumer for the launch of its first OmegA rocket, a medium/heavy lift launch vehicle that it’s currently readying for flight with a target of spring 2021 for its first ever flight. OmegA will unlock additional payload capacity vs. the launch systems that Northrop Grumman has developed and flown previously, with the primary goal of being able to serve the interests of the company’s top customers – defence and national security agencies. OmegA’s development has been funded in part through U.S. government contracts, including a $792 million Launch Services Agreement it signed with the U.S. Air Force to finish the rocket’s design, as well as to furnish and prepare the launch sites from which it’ll take off. The first customer, however, won’t be the USAF, but will instead be Saturn Satellite Networks. This is a certification flight for the Air Force, in fact, but I’ll also care two of Saturn’s NationSats satellites to orbit. Commercial service is definitely part of the plan for what OmegA will seek to provide, on top of the work it’s going to do delivering national security payloads on behalf of the U.S. NationSats are intended to be smaller geostationary orbital satellites (ones that remain in a specific place above the Earth as it rotates) to serve the needs of smaller clients. They can range between around 1,300 lbs and 3,800 lbs, but OmegA can carry over 17,000 pounds to geostationary transfer orbit so even with two on board it’s not straining capacity of the launch system.

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GetYourGuide has made a name for itself as the startup that helped the stale idea of guided tours for travellers on its head. Tapping into the generation of consumers who think of travel not just as going somewhere, but having an “experience” (and, ideally, recording it for Insta-posterity), it has built a marketplace to connect them with people who will help guarantee that this is what they will get. It’s a concept that has helped it sell more than 25 million tickets, hit a $1 billion valuation, and raise hundreds of millions of dollars in VC funding. And the startup has grown quite a lot since passing the 25 million mark in May. “We’ve had 40 million travelers over the last 12 months. We’re the market leader in every European geography. We’re #2 in the U.S. and about to become #1,” co-founder and CEO Johannes Reck said at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. Now GetYourGuide is taking the next step in its strategy to expand its touchpoints with users, and grow and diversify its business in the process. The company is expanding its “Originals” business — its own in-house tour operation — into one-day tours and other longer journeys, with the aim of hitting 1 million sales of Originals this year. It will kick off the effort with a small number — between five and 10 — one-day tours in different exotic locations. Examples will include “dune-bashing in Dubai,” glacier excursions from Reykjavik, and trips to Bali’s “most instagrammable hidden spots.” GetYourGuide Originals have been working well. “We’ve had tremendous success, we have an average score of 4.8 [out of 5] compared to 4.4 for the other marketplace activities,” Reck said. Originals have a 40% higher repeat rate than other activities. “And we’re now extending it to day trips. For those who are not familiar with the travel experience, day trip is the single biggest vertical inside of experiences,” Reck said. Originals was launched a year and a half ago as a way for GetYourGuide to build its own tours — which it kicked off first with shorter walking tours — as a complement to the marketplace where it offers travellers a way of discovering and purchasing places on tours organised by third parties. Today it offers 23 different Originals in 17 cities like Paris, London, Berlin and Rome. Up to now, GYG has sold some 200,000 places on its Originals tours — which is actually a tiny proportion of business, when you consider that the number of tours booked through the platform has passed 25 million. The startup likes to describe its own Orignals as “like Netflix Originals, but in the real world!” And that analogy is true in a couple of ways. Not only does it give GYG more curatorial control on what is actually part of the tour, where it’s run, who guides it and more; but it gives the company potentially a bigger margin when it comes to making money off the effort, and means it does not have to negotiate with third parties on revenue share and other business details. That’s, of course, not considering the challenges of scaling in this way. Adding in more Originals and extending to transportation to get to the destination (and potentially staying overnight at some point) will mean taking on costs and organizational efforts, and risks, around more operational segments: making sure vehicles are safe and working, that hotels have clean sheets (and rooms), and more. More things can go wrong, and customers will have many more reasons to complain (or praise). It will be one of those moments when the startup will have to rethink what it’s core competency is, and whether it can deliver on that. On the other side, if it works, GYG will diversify its the business while finding new revenue streams. But the strategy to grow Originals is a logical next step for other reasons, too. The most important of these is probably competition: GYG may have been the pioneer of hipster travel experiences, but today it is by no means the only company focusing on this segment. Companies like Airbnb and TripAdvisor have tacked on tours and “Experiences” as a complement to their own offerings, as ways of extending their own consumer touchpoints beyond, respectively, booking a place to say or finding a cool place that popular with locals, or figure out what attractions to see. Get Your Guide needs to find ways of keeping existing and new users returning to its own platform, rather than simply tacking on its tour packages while organising other aspects of their vacation. The other is that, as Get Your Guide continues to break ground on changing the conversation around travel, building its own content rather than relying on others to fulfil its vision will become ever more essential, and paves the way for how the company will approach adding ever more components into the chain between your home and your destination.

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TechCrunch is running an end-of-year review for the European tech startup industry. We’d love your input on the feature! We’d like to know what particular topics really resonated with you in 2019 and what your predictions are for 2020. Fill in the survey here. Please give us your thoughts in the survey below. The more ‘raw’, unfiltered or ‘blunt’ your responses the better! Everything you write will be considered to be on the record, unless you specify something in particular. We’d like responses from founders and investors. * The Deadline is 11pm December 13* Alas, we cannot guarantee your contribution will be in the final articles (there will be more than one), but if you DON’T participate then you definitely won’t be. You can edit your responses. As “stimulus” here are some previous surveys we’ve run in cities/regions in Europe, but you do not have to follow these slavishly. These are just for ideas:Nordics, Paris, Berlin, London. * AGAIN: The Deadline is 11pm December 13* Fill in the survey here.

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Streaming services are popping up like weeds these days, but MUBI has been at it basically since streaming video first emerged as a business. Founded in 2007, MUBI focuses on curated, independent film from international artists and creators, and the company has recently further differentiated itself from its competitors by becoming a distributor and production house – while also going cash-flow positive-during its most recent quarter. The MUBI story is a rare example of a startup maintaining clear and consistent focus over a long, storied history and achieving sustainable growth in the process. MUBI CEO Efe Cakarel told me at Disrupt Berlin that the company will be cash-flow positive this quarter, and that its revenue has grown at a rate of 72% year-over-year for the past three years running. That’s a significant achievement and a rarity for just about any startup, but it’s particularly difficult and challenging in the context of the video streaming industry. It’s fairly standard practice among the larger players in the space to spend, spend and then spend some more. Netflix, for instance, expects to have spent around $15 billion on new content over the course of this past year, while Apple has spent over $6 billion on new shows and films. Despite swimming with deep-pocketed sharks, MUBI has not only seen a ton of growth over the years, but it has also branched out into original content itself, first by securing distribution rights and then later by getting into producing films and shows of its own. MUBI has been distributing films, including theatrical releases, and now it’s also joining up to produce its first films, including Farewell Amor, which was just selected to be part of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival; Port Authority, which had a debut at Cannes earlier this year; Maniac Cop, an original TV series from Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of Drive. The company has also made major expansions into Asia, including a launch in India with a dedicated service showcasing Indian cinema.

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Lidar startup Aeva has deepened its relationship with VW Group with a new investment from Porsche Automobili Holding SE, thanks to a next-generation sensor that is headed for the ID Buzz AV, an electric reboot of the automaker’s iconic bus that will be used as autonomous taxis. Aeva’s newest lidar product called Aeries has a 120 degree field-of-view — twice as much as its first product — and yet is half the size and uses less power. All of the components of the new lidar fit onto a single chip, an achievement that Aeva CEO Soroush Salehian said will cost $500 at scale, considerably cheaper than current sensors on the market. The companies didn’t disclose the investment amount from Porsche SE, only describing it as “significant.” It’s worth noting that this is the only lidar company that Porsche SE, a majority voting shareholder of the Volkswagen Group, has made to date. And it’s the latest company within the VW Group to take notice in Aeva, a startup founded more than two years ago by veterans of Apple and Nikon. The investment follows a deal announced in April by Audi subsidiary Autonomous Intelligent Driving, or AID. The unit, which falls under the VW Group, is using Aeva lidar sensors in a fleet of autonomous electric e-trons that were being tested in Munich. Aeva has developed what it describes as “4D lidar” that can measure distance as well as instant velocity without losing range, all while preventing interference from the sun or other sensors. Lidar, or light detection and ranging radar, measures distance. It’s considered by many as a critical and necessary sensor for autonomous vehicles. Traditional lidar sensors are able to determine distance by sending out high-power pulses of light outside the visible spectrum and then tracking how long it takes for each of those pulses to return. As they come back, the direction of, and distance to, whatever those pulses hit are recorded as a point and eventually forms a 3D map. The Aeries lidar sensor meets the final production requirements for autonomous driving robotaxis and large volume customers working on advanced driver assistance systems and will be available for use in development vehicles in first half of 2020, the company said. “It checks all the boxes and requirements in achieving high performance,” said Alex Hitzinger, senior vice president of autonomous driving at VW Group and CEO of VW Autonomy, an autonomous development unit created earlier this year. Specifically, Hitzinger pointed to the lidar sensor’s high resolution, long range and small size. “Also, Aeva’s lidar measures the velocity for every point which is a big deal for perception software and helps to significantly simplify the tasks perception like object classification for critical objects such as pedestrians at far distances,” Hitzinger said in an email to TechCrunch, adding that it’s the best solution on the market. Volkswagen is planning to launch an ID Buzz AV for robotaxi applications in 2022. The vehicle will be the base platform for the development of the automaker’s self-driving system that will enable VW Autonomy to scale AV technology across the VW Group brands of vehicles afterwards.

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Many companies realized that there was a huge opportunity when it comes to on-demand delivery of food and groceries. And apparently, too many companies as Glovo co-founder Sacha Michaud expects some consolidation in the space in the near future. At TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin, the General Manager of Northern, Central and Eastern Europe for Uber Eats Charity Safford and Glovo’s co-founder Sacha Michaud sat down with TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas to discuss all of the ups and downs that come with running a delivery service. And it’s clear that the conversation has shifted over the years from ‘look what you can order from your phone’ to ‘is it possible to turn a profit’. When asked directly about profitability, both companies said that it depends on the market. “It varies a lot country by country. We're profitable on a unit economics basis in some countries,” Safford said. “From an investor’s perspective — and I don't think it's just related to the gig economy or delivery — I think there's more scrutiny on tech companies full stop. It’s not just about growing, but they say ‘show me the route to profitability and tell me when you're going to be profitable,’” Michaud said. Michaud then said that Spain and Southern Europe are the best markets for Glovo. The company generates an operating profit in those markets. “Latin America will become operation profitable next year,” he added. Glovo wants to focus on markets where the company can be the leader or at least the second player. Recently, Just Eat and Takeaway.com have announced plans to merge and form a food delivery giant. But that could be just the first step. “I think there will be consolidation. Our vision is that we’re aiming for profitability. We want to be profitable and depend on ourselves, which would put us in a really nice position to be. We'd not depend on acquisitions or investments. And that's our focus over the next 12 to 18 months,” Michaud said. Glovo has had “conversations not about investments or acquisitions.” with Uber Eats . But the most pressing concern right now for food delivery companies right now is that delivery partners could be reclassified as employees in some markets. Both companies insist that couriers actually like flexibility. “It would be a big change for sure and that would be something that we would do, only if it was deemed necessary, because again we're hearing right now that that's not the way that the couriers would like to be classified,” Safford said. Watch the full interview below:

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Portify, the London fintech startup that offers an app and various financial products to help gig economy and other modern, flexible or “self-employed” workers better manage their finances, has raised £7 million in Series A funding. The round, which comes a year after the company raised £1.3 million in seed investment, is led by Redalpine (an early investor in N26, Taxfix, Finiata, amongst others), with participation from existing investors Kindred, and Entrepreneur First (EF). Founded in May 2017 by EF alumni Sho Sugihara (CEO) and Chris Butcher (CTO), Portify has set out to help address the financial volatility many modern works face, especially those who take part in flexible work or the so-called gig economy, or are self-employed in other sectors such as tradespeople or those in the creative industry. The startup offers a number of tailored financial products, accessible via its mobile app, in addition to using Open Banking to provide financial insights into your current financial status and income, and help with short and long-term financial planning. However, until recently, the go-to-market strategy was primarily a B2B2C play — via partnerships with various gig economy platforms, such as Deliveroo. That’s now expanded to B2C. “If you weren’t working for a select partner platform, you couldn’t access the app,” says Portify co-founder and CEO Sho Sugihara. “We did this because we wanted to make sure we were 100% focused on our target modern worker persona, and helping to financially include them. But once we started working closely with our initial users, we realised that while being modern workers, many of them also fell into the ‘credit invisible’/thin file segment, lacking access to basic financial products. “There are a variety of reasons why they are thin file, but the main causes for our users centre around having an unconventional, fluctuating earnings pattern, being a recent migrant to the U.K., or simply never having taken out other credit products before, due to not trusting them”. Sugihara says that while many thin file modern workers do work with gig or temporary staffing platforms, the fintech startup also saw that many do not, or they switch work platforms frequently with gaps in between. This includes sole traders or those in employment but temporarily looking to top up their incomes. “To make sure we fulfil our mission of financially including all thin file modern workers, we felt it important we make our app as accessible as possible,” he explains. “In practice, this means that users can download the app directly off app stores now”. Meanwhile, Portify says it will use the new funding to offer credit building and personal loans for “micro-business use”. It already launched credit services in the app earlier this year. “Our revolving credit line caps out at £250 today,” says Sugihara. “We plan to increase this amount to higher values for a select cohort of our users: £500-1,000. Many modern workers are essentially tiny businesses/sole traders and face issues that any SME would face, like fluctuating earnings and turnover. While there are many products out there serving cash flow issues for large SMEs, our modern worker segment is extremely underserved. They fall somewhere between a consumer and business in the eyes of incumbent financial institutions who don’t really know how best to serve them. We see a big opportunity there, and are going after it”. At the same time, Portify has begun working with the major credit bureaus to report the data produced by its app — with a user’s consent, of course — to help improve credit scores. “Being credit invisible is a big pain point for modern workers,” adds the Portify CEO. “Even if you have an above national average income from modern working and work 80 hour weeks, you can really struggle to get basic personal loans, let alone a mortgage, just because you’re not in full time employment and don’t fulfil the tick boxes set out by incumbent institutions. Our users have repeatedly asked for our help in solving this problem”.

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Good morning! Disrupt Berlin Day 2 begins now, and boy do we have a show for you! Today, we’ll hear from Justin Drake (Ethereum Foundation), Carolina Brochado (Softbank Investment Advisors) and Andrei Brasoveanu (Accel), Young Sohn (Samsung), and Matthew Prince (Cloudflare), live from the Main Stage. On the Extra Crunch stage, panelists will discuss important topics like How to Fit Blockchain into Your Startup Strategy and How to Raise Your First Euros. And, of course, we’ll see the Startup Battlefield Finals, where five startups (Gmelius, Hawa Dawa, Inovat, Scaled Robotics, and Stable) will pitch live in front of expert VC judges to take home the Disrupt Cup, $50,000 and eternal glory. While we wish that you were here, we’re pleased to be able to bring you a live stream of the entire day. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!

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French startup Yubo has raised a $12.3 million funding round led by Iris Capital and Idinvest Partners. Existing investors Alven, Sweet Capital and Village Global are also participating. The startup has managed to attract 25 million users over the years — there are currently tens of thousands of people signing up to the platform every day. Yubo is building a social media app for young people under 25 with one focus in particular on helping teenagers meeting new people and creating friendships. Compared to the most popular social media apps out there, Yubo isn’t focused on likes and followers. Instead, the app helps you build your own tiny little community of friends. Yubo wants to become a familiar place where you belong, even if high school sucks for instance. More details in my previous profile of the company: Yubo is a social network about socializing In addition to meeting new people, you can start conversations and create live video streams to hang out together. Each stream represents a micro-community of people interacting through both video and a live chat. Since 2015, Yubo users have sent each other 10 billion messages and started 30 million live video streams. Overall, the user base has generated 2 billion friendships. Soon, users will be able to turn on screensharing to show something on their phones. And at some point in 2020, Yubo should release Yubo Web in order to expand Yubo beyond your smartphone and enable new use cases, such as video game live-streaming. With today’s funding round, the company wants to attract users in new markets. Yubo is mostly active in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Nordic countries, Australia and France. Up next, the startup is going to focus on Japan and Brazil. The company plans to hire 35 new people. When it comes to business model, the company started monetizing its app in October 2018 with in-app purchases to unlock new features. In 2019, the startup has generated $10 million in revenue. Yubo will also use this funding round to improve safety. It’s a never-ending process, especially when there are young people using your platform. The company already partners with Yoti for age verification. Users will soon be able to create a blocklist of certain words to customize their experience. In addition to continuous work on flagging tools and live-stream moderation algorithms in order to detect inappropriate content, the company will also increase the size of its moderation team. The company has also put together a safety board with Alex Holmes, Annie Mullins, Travis Bright, Mick Moran, Dr. Richard Graham and Anne Collier.

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Jeff Bezos -founded Blue Origin has recorded another successful mission for its New Shepard sub-orbital launch vehicle, which is a key step as it readies the spacecraft for human spaceflight. This is also the sixth flight of this re-used booster, which is a record for Blue Origin in terms of relying on and recovering one of its rocket stages. This is the ninth time that Blue Origin has flown commercial payloads aboard New Shepard, and each launch moves it one step closer to demonstrating the system’s readiness for carrying crew on board. This launch carried experimental payloads that will be used for research, including materials used in student studies. It also had thousands of postcards on board written by students from around the world, which were submitted to the Club for the Future nonprofit set up by Blue Origin earlier this year to provide educational resources about space to schools and students. Blue Origin intends to fly paying space tourists aboard New Shepard eventually, along with other commercial astronauts making the trip for research and other missions. Up to six passengers can fit in Blue Origin’s capsule atop the New Shepard, but we don’t yet know when it’ll actually be carrying anyone on board, either for testing or for commercial flights.

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Today, on stage at TechCrunch Berlin, four of Atomico’s most senior partners took the stage together for the first time, flying into the city from London, Stockholm, and Geneva to talk about a wide range of issues. Among the many things we discussed the four —  including Sophia Bendz, Siraj Khaliq, Niall Wass, and Hiro Tamura — were direct listings, secondary investments, and the firm’s sweet spot, which, despite its global reach, largely remains on pan-European companies and largely startups needing Series A stage funding, to which Atomico typically writes checks of between $5 million and $15 million in exchange for an ownership stake of between 15 and 20 percent. The firm, which closed its current fund with a whopping $765 million in 2017, was also asked about whether a new, bigger fund will be announced in the near future (we’ve reportedly previously that a new fund is in the works), but Bendz dodged a bit, answering that we “don’t say more than at the time [other than that] we are always fundraising and [TechCrunch] will be the first to know when we have news on that [front].” Not last, we spent some time talking about the changing complexion of investors in Europe, where pension funds contributed just $902 million of the roughly $13 billion that investment firms in Europe raised last year, according to Atomico’s own research — and we discussed why more money came from outside of Europe to fund regional startups than within it. We’re zooming in on that part of the conversation for readers; if you missed our discussion and would like to check out other parts of it, you can find it below or read the transcript here. TC: It was surprising to read in your recent state of European tech report that pension funds don’t account for more of the money being raised by venture firms, that much more of the funding continues to come from family offices and high net-worth individuals. Is the problem structural? Is it cultural? HT: I think the world is waking up to the fact that European venture has comparative performance today with U.S. venture returns. There’s research in that area that’s relatively authoritative. As a function of that, yes, you’re right [that this an issue]. Pension funds in Europe have roughly $4 trillion under management, and a billion dollars [invested last year in venture firms] is a three-fold increase from the year before, so it is material. But as you say, if you think about the $4 trillion that they are managing, it could probably be put to good use deploying capital into venture capital funds that are looking to change the world in a positive way, because that is what impacts the pensioners who are behind that capital. [So] hopefully we’ll continue to see that trend because there’s more to do there. TC: Also interesting from your report is the fact that $13 billion from European VCs has been plugged into startups over the last year, which means two-thirds is coming from somewhere else. Where? SK: This is the way it should be. The companies that that we think should be coming from Europe — a lot of the ones we look to back — are by ambition global companies, And being global also means having investors from other regions, so it’s not a bad thing. I don’t think we should be as investors saying, ‘Well, the funding has to all come from here.’ I think it’s a sign of success that European companies are getting investments from Chinese investors, from U.S. investors, which is really what’s happening. HT: The universe of tech is expanding to involve many industries, so what’s naturally happening is that a lot of different types of venture capital, strategic, corporate, and individual [investors are]  all getting involved in what is actually happening.  I think that a reflection of where tech is going well, and has been going for the several years if not decades. TC: Are you seeing more money specifically coming from China because of the ongoing trade war between the coutry and the U.S.? SR: There’s an interesting point there, which is that [for] certain kinds of companies, particularly a lot of frontier, deep tech companies that are considered sensitive. Europe is kind of neutral ground, so we can get customers from the U.S., customers from China,  and there are examples like Graphcore, one of our portfolio companies, where you know this is tech that is not [saddled] with restrictions that might come with some ongoing spat, and that’s an advantage for us. TC: In the US, over the last 10 or 15, years, far more money from Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds has come into the U.S. Given that some of these regions don’t exactly have unimpeachable human rights records, there’s a lot of debate in the U.S. about whether or not founders and VCs should be taking their money. Do European startups care? Do European venture capital firms care? HS: I think so, not only [do they care] about what they’re doing in terms of what you know impact to the world, but what type of capital they are choosing, And more people who are becoming founders and entrepreneurs are clearly sensitive, and the people who are tackling big missions and big problems are clearly sensitive in terms of alignment with their investors. And I think that is something that will continue to be a trend that we see with the matching of the type of capital, the investor, and the entrepreneur. I think that will definitely be a continuing trend that we see. SR: We’re very selective with our [own] LPs. A lot of our LPs are pension funds, which is a really nice virtuous cycle. The pensioners are doing well off of the investment performance that we’re working hard to deliver. And then the founders can feel good about the fact that in many cases, you know, the majority of money may be [from] pensioners. TC: Your LPs are mostly pension funds? And family offices? And mainly European investors? SR: I don’t have the stats at hand but I’d say mainly European, yeah.

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Google today released its annual “Year in Search” data that takes a look back at some of the most notable searches of 2019. Specifically, Google looked at the biggest trends — meaning, search terms that saw the largest spikes in traffic over a sustained period in 2019 compared to 2018. In the U.S., Disney’s new streaming service “Disney Plus” was the biggest search trend of 2019, followed by Cameron Boyce, Nipsey Hussle, Hurricane Dorian, Antonio Brown, Luke Perry, Avengers: Endgame, Game of Thrones, iPhone 11, and Jussie Smollet. “Game of Thrones” was also the biggest U.S. TV show search trend of the year, followed by Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and “When They See Us,” then HBO’s “Chernobyl,” and Disney Plus’s “The Mandalorian.” On the global stage, Apple’s iPhone 11 was the fifth biggest trend of the year, one ahead of Game of Thrones (#6), but behind searches for “India vs South Africa,” which ranked No. 1. The rest of the list included (in order): Cameron Boyce (#2), Copa America (#3), Bangladesh vs India (#4), Avengers: Endgame (#7), Joker (#8), Notre Dame (#9), and ICC Cricket World Cup (#10). Tech companies’ influence on Google’s Top Trends could also be found in the music category, where “Old Town Road” was the top trending Song globally and in the U.S. in 2019. The Lil Nas X hit song went viral on TikTok this year after the rapper himself uploaded it to the platform back in December 2018. In addition to topping Google’s list, Lil Nas X was also the No. 1 artist on TikTok according to its own year-end round-up. Elsewhere, online and tech-influenced trends could be found under the “What is…?” category in Google’s top U.S. search trends. For example, the meme “Storm Area 51” which grew out of of a viral Facebook joke that turned into a real-world event led many this year to search “What is Area 51?” No. 2 was “What is a VSCO girl?” referring to the latest teen trend and meme whose name comes from the hipper-than-Instagram photo-editing app, VSCO. The VSCO girl dresses in oversized tees, Birkenstocks, wears her hair in a messy bun, and adorns herself with accessories like scrunchies, Burt’s Bees lip balm, puka shell chokers, and carries around a Hydro Flask water bottle. Also on the “What is…?” list were “momo” as in the “Momo Challenge,” (an artistic sculpture turned viral hoax) and “What is a boomer?,” referencing the latest teen insult for old people, “OK boomer.” The latter also became a huge TikTok meme. Various online cultures influenced Google’s top U.S. outfit trends, too, including the No. 1 outfit idea of Egirl, a popular demographic found on TikTok that’s a sort of emo subculture (or perhaps an emo-anime-goth variation), followed by Eboy, Soft girl (another TikTok subculture, this time with a hyper-cute aesthetic), and finally Biker shorts and VSCO girl. (If you don’t know which one you are, don’t worry — there’s a BuzzFeed quiz for that, of course.) Google’s top trends are mainly a reflection of pop culture for the year, Google did take a longer look back this year with its “Decade in Search” retrospective, where it highlights the music, movies and people who influenced culture over the past 10 years. The company put together a busy visualization of the decade in music through Year in Search, for example. It also points to some of the people who trended over the course of the decade, including Justin Bieber, Betty White, Lebron James, as well as long-lasting TV and movie trends, including “Toy Story”, “Iron Man,” and “The Walking Dead.” The full list of Google’s Global Top Trends, which can be filtered by country, is here.

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Fourteen startups presented on-stage today at Disrupt Berlin, giving live demos and rapid-fire presentations on their origin stories and business models, then answering questions from our expert judges. Now, with the help of those judges, we’ve narrowed the group down to five startups working on everything from productivity to air pollution. These finalists will be presenting again tomorrow (at 2pm Berlin time, viewable on the TechCrunch website or in-person at Disrupt) in front of a new set of judges. The winner will receive $50,000 and custody of the storied Disrupt Cup. Here are the finalists: Gmelius Gmelius is building a workspace platform that lives inside Gmail, allowing teams to get more bespoke tools without adding yet another piece of software to their repertoire. It slots into the Gmail workspace, adding a host of features like shared inboxes, a help desk, an account-management solution and automation tools. Read more about Gmelius here. Hawa Dawa Hawa Dawa combines data sources like satellites and dedicated air monitoring stations to build a granular heat map of air pollutants, selling this map to cities and companies as a subscription API. While the company notes it’s hardware agnostic, it does build its own IoT sensors for companies and cities that might not have existing air quality sensors in place. Read more about Hawa Dawa here. Inovat Inovat makes it much easier for travelers to get reimbursed for the value-added tax, through an app that employs optical character recognition and machine learning to interpret receipts, determine how much VAT you should be owed for your purchase, and prepare the requisite forms for submission online or to a customs officer. Read more about Inovat here. Scaled Robotics Scaled Robotics has designed a robot that can produce 3D progress maps of construction sites in minutes, precise enough to detect that a beam is just a centimeter or two off. Supervisors can then use the software to check things like which pieces are in place on which floor, whether they have been placed within the required tolerances, or if there are safety issues like too much detritus on the ground in work areas. Read more about Scaled Robotics here. Stable Stable offers a solution as simple as car insurance, designed to protect farmers around the world from pricing volatility. Through the startup, food buyers ranging from owners of a small smoothie shop to Coca-Cola employees can insure thousands of agricultural commodities, as well as packaging and energy products. Read more about Stable here.

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This week Gtmhub announced a $9 million Series A led by CRV. The investment was not a large round, even for an A. But the capital found its way into one of the fastest-growing SaaS companies that we’ve spoken with recently, which made it interesting all the same. And, the firm was willing to talk about its financial performance in some detail. The combination made its Series A impossible to ignore. TechCrunch caught up with Gtmhub’s CMO Seth Elliott this morning to learn more.  What it does Let’s start with OKRs. Objectives and key results, better known as OKRs, are a method for organizational planning. They are famous thanks to their roots in Google’s success, but have since broken free of the technology world and become a well-known planning method for corporations of all sizes and types. Gtmhub deals with them, providing software and services around OKR implementation, training and tracking. (If you an OKR neophyte, head here for a quick overview of what they are.) Making OKR software isn’t a differentiator in today’s market. Ally does it (it also raised capital recently), along with WorkBoard, Koan and Lattice, among others. Given the crowded market, Gtmhub stressed during our call how it thinks of itself as differentiated. The company has three things that it hopes will give it an edge in the market. The first is a focus on enterprise customers. According to Elliott, enterprise-sized clients are his company’s “bread and butter,” from a revenue perspective. Instead of starting with a small or mid-sized business target market and later targeting enterprise-scale customers, Gtmhub is going after the top-end of the market first. Second, the company’s software is designed to interface with external tooling, allowing for real-time OKR tracking as it ingests information to help teams vet how they are progressing against their goals. And, the firm is working on a marketplace where, over time, customers will be able to learn from existing OKR setups and leverage analytics setups that help with data importation and visibility. In its own words, Gtmhub is an OKR-centric software company, while “provid[ing] a long-term vision and the execution process necessary to bridge the strategy/execution gap,” according to Elliot. Notably, Gtmhub, despite its enterprise focus, is not abandoning smaller companies. According to Elliot, the startup is announcing a new, stripped-down, $1 per user per month plan next week called START, aimed at smaller firms. If START is an attempt to onboard companies when they are small so they can be upsold later, or if it is more a contra-competitor move, isn’t clear. But the new, cheap plan (priced at about 10% of other Gtmhub tiers) could shake up the OKR software space by making table-stakes features worth less than they were before. Gtmhub’s round Gtmhub is a distributed company, with offices in Denver, Sofia, Berlin and London for its roughly 60 workers. You might think, given its global footprint and number of employees, that the company had raised lots of capital to fund its operations. The opposite, as it turns out. The startup’s $9 million Series A dwarfs its preceding rounds, including about $3.2 million in seed capital raised over two rounds (one, two) in February of 2018. Aside from those checks and the new capital, all we know about Gtmhub’s fundraising history is that it picked up $100,000 in angel money in early 2017. All told, Gtmhub has raised just over $12 million to date, making its Series A about 73% of its known raised capital. That’s not the mark of a company built on burn. Of course, if Gtmhub kept a lid on its expenses by growing slowly, its parsimony might be more sin than virtue; after all, private companies backed with venture dollars are built for expansion. The opposite, as it turns out. Growth Elliot shared a number of notable metrics with TechCrunch that we’ve prepared for you below, in an ingestible format: ARR growth: Over 400% year-over-year (YoY) Gross margin: Above 90%, up from over 80% YoY ACV trends: +650% YoY Take a moment and square those results with how much capital Gtmhub raised and ask yourself if the performance matches the raise. It doesn’t. I suspect that Gtmhub could have raised a lot more money than it chose to, given its growth rate and other marks of financial health. But, after expanding to 60 people on less than $3.5 million in known venture, the company probably isn’t too unprofitable, and can do a lot with just $9 million. (Gtmhub could also raise more if it needed to, given its metrics.) With Gtmhub and Ally each flush with new cash, it’s going to be enjoyable to watch the OKR and OKR-empowered software space grow over the next few years. There will be eventual consolidation, right? Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

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A year ago, we asked some of the most prominent smart home device makers if they have given customer data to governments. The results were mixed. The big three smart home device makers — Amazon, Facebook and Google (which includes Nest) — all disclosed in their transparency reports if and when governments demand customer data. Apple said it didn’t need a report, as the data it collects was anonymized. As for the rest, none had published their government data-demand figures. In the year that’s past, the smart home market has grown rapidly, but the remaining device makers have made little to no progress on disclosing their figures. And in some cases, it got worse. Smart home and other internet-connected devices may be convenient and accessible, but they collect vast amounts of information on you and your home. Smart locks know when someone enters your house, and smart doorbells can capture their face. Smart TVs know which programs you watch and some smart speakers know what you’re interested in. Many smart devices collect data when they’re not in use — and some collect data points you may not even think about, like your wireless network information, for example — and send them back to the manufacturers, ostensibly to make the gadgets — and your home — smarter. Because the data is stored in the cloud by the devices manufacturers, law enforcement and government agencies can demand those companies turn over that data to solve crimes. But as the amount of data collection increases, companies are not being transparent about the data demands they receive. All we have are anecdotal reports — and there are plenty: Police obtained Amazon Echo data to help solve a murder; Fitbit turned over data that was used to charge a man with murder; Samsung helped catch a sex predator who watched child abuse imagery; Nest gave up surveillance footage to help jail gang members; and recent reporting on Amazon-owned Ring shows close links between the smart home device maker and law enforcement. Here’s what we found. Smart lock and doorbell maker August gave the exact same statement as last year, that it “does not currently have a transparency report and we have never received any National Security Letters or orders for user content or non-content information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).” But August spokesperson Stephanie Ng would not comment on the number of non-national security requests — subpoenas, warrants and court orders — that the company has received, only that it complies with “all laws” when it receives a legal demand. Roomba maker iRobot said, as it did last year, that it has “not received” any government demands for data. “iRobot does not plan to issue a transparency report at this time,” but it may consider publishing a report “should iRobot receive a government request for customer data.” Arlo, a former Netgear smart home division that spun out in 2018, did not respond to a request for comment. Netgear, which still has some smart home technology, said it does “not publicly disclose a transparency report.” Amazon-owned Ring, whose cooperation with law enforcement has drawn ire from lawmakers and faced questions over its ability to protect users’ privacy, said last year it planned to release a transparency report in the future, but did not say when. This time around, Ring spokesperson Yassi Shahmiri would not comment and stopped responding to repeated follow-up emails. Honeywell spokesperson Megan McGovern would not comment and referred questions to Resideo, the smart home division Honeywell spun out a year ago. Resideo’s Bruce Anderson did not comment. And just as last year, Samsung, a maker of smart devices and internet-connected televisions and other appliances, also did not respond to a request for comment. On the whole, the companies’ responses were largely the same as last year. But smart switch and sensor maker Ecobee, which last year promised to publish a transparency report “at the end of 2018,” did not follow through with its promise. When we asked why, Ecobee spokesperson Kristen Johnson did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Based on the best available data, August, iRobot, Ring and the rest of the smart home device makers have hundreds of millions of users and customers around the world, with the potential to give governments vast troves of data — and users and customers are none the wiser. Transparency reports may not be perfect, and some are less transparent than others. But if big companies — even after bruising headlines and claims of co-operation with surveillance states — disclose their figures, there’s little excuse for the smaller companies. This time around, some companies fared better than their rivals. But for anyone mindful of their privacy, you can — and should — expect better. Now even the FBI is warning about your smart TV’s security

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Facebook’s founding got the movie treatment with Aaron Sorkin’s “The Social Network.” The story of how Snapchat came to be will be a flagship series on the upcoming streaming service, Quibi. Today, Spotify is the latest startup to get its story told on screen — this time, as a new Netflix show. Netflix says it’s developing a scripted series inspired by the book “Spotify Untold” by business reports at Swedish Dagens Industri, Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud. The story will focus on Spotify’s founding and how it changed the way people listen to music over the past decade. “The founding tale of Spotify is a great example of how a local story can have a global impact,” said Tesha Crawford, Director of International Originals Northern Europe at Netflix. “We are really excited about bringing this success story to life and we look forward to continuing our great collaboration with director Per-Olav Sørensen and the team at Yellow Bird UK.” Banijay Group company, Yellow Bird UK, is also the production company behind the upcoming Netflix crime series “Young Wallander.” Yellow Bird UK will produce this new and yet-to-be-titled Spotify show and Per-Olav Sørensen will direct. Berna Levin (“Young Wallander,” “Hidden,” and “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”) will serve as executive producer. The series itself will center around Swedish tech entrepreneur, Daniel Ek, and his partner Martin Lorentzon, who created the free and legal music service at a time when music piracy was at its height. Netflix describes the show as one about “how hard convictions, unrelenting will, access, and big dreams can help small players challenge the status quo.” Netflix says the series will be available in both English and Swedish languages. “I’m thrilled to be making this timely and entertaining series for Netflix. The story of how a small band of Swedish tech industry insiders transformed music – how we listen to it and how it’s made – is truly a tale for our time. Not only is this a story about the way all our lives have changed in the last decade, it’s about the battle for cultural and financial influence in a globalized, digitized world,” says Berna Levin, Executive Producer, Yellow Bird. As Netflix’s announcement also notes, telling the story of a tech startup can be difficult because things move and change quickly. Spotify, after all, is still around and growing. It’s likely that by the time the show goes to air, it will have undergone many more transformations. “I am excited to bring the story of Sweden based Spotify to life on the screen. It is an ongoing fairytale in modern history about how Swedish wiz kids changed the music industry forever. The story is truly exciting and challenging,” added Per-Olav Sørensen. “Challenging because the Spotify story has not ended yet – it is still running with high speed and will probably change while we work on the project.” Netflix did not share a release date for the series.

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After last year’s stellar turnout of almost 1,000 Silicon Valley shakers and movers at our Winter Party, TechCrunch is returning with the 3rd Annual Winter Party in San Francisco on February 7. The party will feature tasty cocktails and canapés, party games and activities, plenty of photo ops, giveaways and some fun surprises. As you network your way across the sea of attendees, you’ll also get to check-out a handful of promising early-stage startups just waiting for their big break. The shindig will be held in the multi-level facility at Galvanize in San Francisco on Friday, February 7. While the venue is large, it won’t be able to hold all of Silicon Valley, so tickets are very limited and will be released on a rolling basis for $85 each. If you’re a startup and want to demo your product at this event, demo tables are available for purchase at $1,500 each. Demo tickets are limited too, so get yours before we sell out! More about the Winter Party: When? Friday, February 7, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Where? Galvanize, 44 Tehama St., San Francisco, CA 94105 How? Get tickets here for just $85 each. There are only a limited number of tickets for this event. Tickets will be released in batches, so if you don’t see any availability, stay tuned to TechCrunch for our next release (following us on Facebook or Twitter works great), as they sell out quickly. TechCrunch parties have a history of being the place you want to meet your future investor, acquirer or co-founder. And to top it all off, we’re going to give away some really great door prizes, like TC swag and tickets to Disrupt SF. Hope to see you all there! Our sponsors help make TechCrunch events happen. If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact our sponsorship team by filling out this form.

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The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here. 1. The iPhone’s new parental controls can limit who kids can call, text and FaceTime and when With the release of iOS 13.3, parents will for the first time be able to set limits over who kids can talk to and text with during certain hours of the day. These limits will apply across phone calls, Messages and FaceTime. In practice, this means parents could stop their child from texting friends late at night or during the school day. It also allows parents to manage the child’s iCloud contacts remotely. 2. Pear, whose seed-stage bets are followed closely, just raised $160 million for its third fund That’s more than twice the $75 million that the firm raised for its second fund in 2016 and triple the $50 million it raised for its debut fund back in 2013. 3. Uber guarantees space for skis and snowboards with Uber Ski feature Starting on December 17 in select cities, an Uber Ski icon will pop up on the app, allowing passengers to order a ride with confirmed extra space or a ski/snowboarding rack. Nundu Janakiram, Uber’s head of rider experience, said to expect more features like this. 4. Accel and Index back Tines, as the cybersecurity startup adds another $11M to its Series A Founded in February 2018 by ex-eBay, PayPal and DocuSign security engineer Eoin Hinchy, Tines automates many of the repetitive manual tasks faced by security analysts so they can focus on other high-priority work. 5. How Station F is boosting the French tech ecosystem Three years after unveiling Station F at Disrupt, its director, Roxanne Varza, came back to our stage to provide an update on the world’s biggest startup campus, where there are now 1,000 companies at work. 6. Hyperproof wants to make it easier to comply with GDPR and other regulations As companies try to figure out how to comply with regulations like GDPR, ISO or Sarbanes Oxley, Hyperproof is launching a new product to workflows that will allow them to gain compliance in a more organized way. 7. Introducing ‘Dear Sophie,’ an advice column for US-bound immigrant employees Dear Sophie is a collaborative forum hosted by Extra Crunch and curated by Sophie Alcorn, who is certified as a specialist attorney in immigration and nationality law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization.

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Shares of popular home exercise company Peloton are off 7% in regular trading today as the company continues to reel in the wake of an advertisement it released that went viral for the wrong reasons. The ad is to blame for Peloton being in the public eye for the wrong reasons, but can’t be framed for causing all the company’s recent stock price declines. Having a brand-centric company’s name drawn into controversy can have a larger impact on a momentum-focused stock than on, say, an industrials concern whose brand isn’t in the consumer eye. But it isn’t enough, on its own, to explain Peloton’s recent value erosion. Still, it does matter that Peloton is shedding value after it helped an already fit woman become slightly more fit while her husband slept in. That other brands have picked up on the ad segment (which also got a mention on Saturday Night Live) has helped keep the episode alive far longer than it might have on its own. History Peloton, a heavily backed company that raised nearly $1 billion while private, went public earlier this year worth $29 per share. Its post-IPO life was initially fraught, as the company’s losses were rising sharply alongside its revenue leading to investor unrest. For context, Peloton lost about four times as much in its fiscal year ending June 30, 2019 (a net loss of $195.6 million) compared to the preceding fiscal year ($47.9 million). As the market rejected the WeWork IPO and SmileDirectClub’s own losses seemed to push investors away from high-growth, high-loss companies, Peloton’s debut quickly slipped underwater as its shares closed under its IPO price. Then things got better. After Peloton reported its first earnings as a public company in early November, its share price recovered, cresting its IPO price and reaching $37 per share. Today the company is worth just a little over $30 per share, a sharp retread from its return to form. Why If the ad isn’t entirely to blame, why is Peloton losing value? Short interest is helping spook investors about the company’s future prospects recently, and, I would add, the company’s churn rate is rising. Regarding the short interest, you can read the report in question here, but it deals mainly with the possible challenge of lower-priced, third-party hardware being paired with Peloton’s lower-cost media option. This would undercut Peloton’s revenue twice, though consumers would still add to the company’s subscription revenue category in the scenario. The same group also points out that Peloton’s valuation per subscriber is higher than some market comps; how to weigh those concerns we leave to you. Turning to churn, observe the following data from Peloton’s recent earnings report: The table shows Peloton’s average churn rising from 0.50% to 0.90%. That’s up 80% in a single year. If that trend continues, some of the money that Peloton spent on sales and marketing in the calendar year 2019 will look a bit more expensive than it did at first; rising churn lowers the lifetime value of a subscriber, making marketing spend less efficient. Peloton shares are down, but remain far above its recent lows, and the company is still worth far more today ($8.5 billion) than it was as a private company ($4.1 billion). The ad, of course, hasn’t helped.

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In YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s quarterly letter last month, the exec said the company was working to develop a new harassment policy. Today, YouTube is sharing the results of those efforts with the release of an updated policy which now takes a stronger stance against threats and personal attacks, addresses toxic comments, and gets tougher on those with repeat violations. “Harassment hurts our community by making people less inclined to share their opinions and engage with each other. We heard this time and again from creators, including those who met with us during the development of this policy update,” wrote YouTube’s Matt Halprin, Vice President, Global Head of Trust & Safety, in an announcement. YouTube claims it will continue to be an open platform, as Wojcicki had earlier described it. However, it will not tolerate harassment, and is laying out several steps it believes will better protect YouTube creators and the community on that front. The company says it met with a range of experts to craft its new policy, including organizations that study online bullying, those who advocate on behalf of journalists, free speech proponents, and organizations from all sides of the political spectrum. The first change to the policy focuses on veiled threats. Before today, YouTube prohibited videos that explicitly threatened someone, revealed confidential personal information (aka “doxxing”), or encouraged people to harass someone. Now, it will expand this policy to include “veiled or implied threats,” as well. This includes threats that simulate violence toward an individual or use language that suggests physical violence could occur. Stricter stance on abusive language : prolonged attacks that insult a person’s intrinsic attributes such as race, physical traits, sexual orientation, religion or gender. Note this won’t affect our openness for a broad range of artistic expression and debate on important issues — YouTube Creators (@YTCreators) December 11, 2019 The new policy will also now prohibit language that “maliciously insults” someone based on their protected attributes — meaning things like their race, gender expression, sexual orientation, religion, or their physical traits. This is an area where YouTube has received much criticism, most recently with the Steven Crowder controversy, in which the conservative commentator repeatedly used racist and homophobic language to describe journalist Carlos Maza. YouTube demonetized the channel but said the videos weren’t in violation of its policies. It later said it would revisit its policies on the matter. YouTube’s decisions around its open nature were raised again this month after Wojcicki went on “60 Minutes” to defend the YouTuber platform’s policies.  As reporter Lesley Stahl rightly pointed out, YouTube operates in the private sector and therefore is not legally beholden to support the first amendment’s right to free speech. That means it can make up its own rules around what’s allowed on its platform and what’s not. Yet YouTube has over the years decided to design a platform where hateful content and disinformation can flourish, whether that’s white supremacists looking to indoctrinate others or conspiracy theorists peddling wacky ideas that have even translated into real-world violence, as with #pizzagate. Notably, YouTube says its policy will apply to everyone — including private individuals, YouTube creators, and even “public officials.” Contrast that with Twitter’s policy on this matter, which will leave up tweets from public officials that violate its rules, but places them behind a screen that users have to click through in order to read. Another big change involves tougher consequences for those whose videos don’t necessarily cross the line and break one of YouTube’s rules, but repeatedly “brush up against” its harassment policy. That is, any creators who regularly and repeatedly harass others in either their videos or in the comments will be suspended from YouTube’s Partner Program (YPP). This gives YouTube a way to deal with creators whose behavior isn’t appropriate or “brand-safe” for advertisers — and potentially allows YouTube to make calls on an individual basis, at times, based on how it chooses to interpret this rule. Removing the creator from YPP may be the first step, but if they continue to harass others, they may begin to receive strikes or see their channel terminated, YouTube says. Of course, YouTube has demonetized channels before as a punishment mechanism but this solidifies that action into a more formal policy What isn’t clear is how YouTube will specifically define and enforce its rules around these borderline channels. Will “tea” channels come under threat? Will creators who get involved with feuds ever be impacted? It’s unknown at this time, as these rules are open to interpretation. YouTube says it’s also now changing how it handles harassment taking place in the comments section. Both creators and viewers encounter harassment in the comments, which YouTube says not only impacts the person being targeted, but can have a chilling effect on the conversation. Comment Moderation: By year’s end, most channels will be enabled with a tool that automatically holds potentially inappropriate comments for review. You can always opt-out, but note that early adopters saw a 75% reduction in flagged comments on their channels. — YouTube Creators (@YTCreators) December 11, 2019 Last week, it turned on a new setting that holds potentially toxic comments for review by default across YouTube’s biggest channels. It now plans to roll out this setting as enabled by default to all channels by year-end. Creators can opt-out, if they choose, or they can ignore the held comments altogether if they don’t want to make a decision about their toxicity. YouTube says the early results from this feature are positive, as channels that enabled it saw a 75% reduction in user flags on comments. The company acknowledges that it will likely make decisions going forward that will be controversial, and reminds creators that an appeals process exists to request a second look for any actions they believe were made in error. “As we make these changes, it’s vitally important that YouTube remain a place where people can express a broad range of ideas, and we’ll continue to protect discussion on matters of public interest and artistic expression,” said Halprin. “We also believe these discussions can be had in ways that invite participation, and never make someone fear for their safety.” Policies like this sound good on paper, but enforcement is still YouTube’s biggest issue. YouTube has around 10,000 people focused on controversial content, but its decisions to date have seen it defining what’s “harmful” in the narrowest of ways. It’s unclear if this tightening of policies will actually impact what YouTube actually does, rather what it says it will do.      

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Mark your calendars and dust off your public-speaking skills. This year, there’s an exciting new opportunity at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI, which returns to UC Berkeley on March 3, 2020. We’ve added a pitch-off specifically for early-stage startups focused on AI or robotics. You heard right. In addition to a full day packed with speakers, breakout sessions and Q&As featuring the top names, leading minds and creative makers in robotics and AI, we’re upping the ante. We’ll choose 10 startups to pitch at a private event the night before the show opens. Here’s how it works. The first step: Apply to the pitch-off by February 1. TechCrunch editors will review all applications and select 10 startups to participate. We’ll notify the founders by February 15 — you’ll have plenty of time to hone your pitch. You’ll deliver your pitch at a private event, and your audience will consist of TechCrunch editors, main-stage speakers and industry experts. Our panel of VC judges will choose five teams as finalists, and they will pitch the next day on the main stage at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI. Talk about an unprecedented opportunity. Place your startup in front of the influential movers and shakers of these two world-changing industries — and get video coverage on TechCrunch, too. We expect attendance to meet or exceed last year’s, when 1,500 people attended the show and tens of thousands followed along online. Oh, and here’s one more pitch-off perk. Each of the 10 startup team finalists will receive two free tickets to attend TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 the next day. TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 takes place on March 3. Apply to the pitch-off here by February 1. Don’t want to pitch? That’s fine — but don’t miss this epic day-long event dedicated to exploring the latest technology, trends and investment strategies in robotics and AI. Get your early-bird ticket here and save $100. We’ll see you in Berkeley! Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Robotics & AI 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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