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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for January 11, 2022! Today we have new venture funds, spyware news, Brex raising (again), and more. We’re back to 100% of last year’s startup and technology news pace, so we do hope you are rested up. It’s going to be a hectic, busy year. – Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Cybersecurity matters to democracy: Spyware built by the infamous NSO Group was “used to spy on three critics of the Polish government,” according to Citizen Lab, TechCrunch reports. The result of the allegations is that there are now questions regarding Poland’s 2019 parliamentary elections. This is not the last time we’ll see this sort of story around the world.
- Turo’s business roars back in 2021: Car-rental unicorn Turo has filed to go public, so TechCrunch dug into the numbers. The gist is that after a pretty flat 2020, Turo’s business posted strong growth and improved revenue quality during the first three quarters of 2021. We should get more updated numbers in time. (For you IPO fans out there, recall that HR software firm Justworks will debut later this week.)
- Brex confirms $300M raise: The race to control the corporate spend market was a key theme last year, and 2022 is starting on a similar note, with well-known market competitor Brex confirming that it raised nine figures in a Series D-2 round that values the former startup at $12.3 billion. We expect Ramp, Brex’s rival, to announce more capital by the time you read this brief, given how last year went.
Kicking off our startup coverage today, a few notes before we get into the individual bulletins. First, the SPAC boom has left the public market littered with formerly private companies that combined with blank-check entities and then lost half their value. SPACs failed to get enough private companies public last year to cut the number of unicorns, and the lackluster post-combination results add up to a general failure.
And Kleiner Perkins has joined a16z and Norwerst in announcing more than 10 figures worth of new capital. The venture capital firm, now in its 50th year, just closed $1.8 billion across two funds. Founders, that sound you just heard was the starting gun.
- Locket shoots to the top of app stores: Today Sarah Perez added me on a new social service, leading to us trading selfies and dog pics back and forth. The app? Locket, which is tearing up the mobile application charts. Read on for what it does and why it’s popular.
- In-orbit refueling: This story is the coolest. Darrell Etherington, our in-house space expert, writes that “Orbit Fab has teamed with Astroscale to provide on-orbit refueling services to the latter company’s geostationary servicing spacecraft.” This is a solution to a problem that most folks don’t think about. But if we want low-flying satellites to stay, well, afloat, they will at times need more fuel. And it looks like the tech to do so is getting close to maturity.
- Back Market puts more points on the board for France: French startups had a pretty good 2021, and Back Market is helping the country’s upstart tech scene start this year on solid footing. The company “operates a marketplace of refurbished electronics devices” and just closed a $510 million Series E that values it at $5.7 billion. Last year it raised $335 million, for reference.
- IVF tech is hot: If you haven’t had a chance to visit the shores of infertility, you might not be aware of just how complicated the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) process is. It’s complex. The good news for would-be parents is that startups like Fertilis, an Australian company, are raising capital to make the ordeal a bit more likely to result in a live birth.
- Novo proves that there is still capital in the market for neobanks: Sure, Chime has yet to go public, much to our chagrin, but a lack of exits in the neobanking space is not slowing investors down. Novo, a neobank aimed at SMBs, just closed $90 million at a $700 million valuation.
- StoreDot raises capital for super-fast battery charging: EVs are great, but they are still a bit slow to recharge. While gas-powered cars are not great for the air we breathe, they are incredibly good at onboarding fuel. StoreDot is busy closing a round that could be worth up to $80 million for like, very fast battery topping-up.
- Online tutoring is big business (outside of China): Sure, the Chinese government drop-kicked its domestic edtech market, but that doesn’t mean that tutoring is kaput as a business type around the world. Evidence of that? GoStudent just closed a $340 million Series D less than a year after it closed a $244 million Series C.
We’re low on time, but there was so much more: This African e-commerce company just closed a Series A, Mostly AI landed $25 million, and Qonto – also in the business banking space like Novo! – raised more than half a billion. It’s busy out there.
And just to squeeze in one more thing, Ron Miller has a great story up on a group that is helping women in tech thrive through mentorship.
Don’t trust averages: How to assess and strengthen the health of your business
Startups grow fast, and when you’re building one, it can be easy to lose track of what’s working — and what’s not.
One way to track how well your business is doing is to look at the big-picture numbers, but Karen Peacock, CEO of Intercom, has a warning: Averages can be dangerously misleading.
“If Jeff Bezos walks into a bar with 100 people, suddenly, on average, the net worth of each individual in that bar is over a billion dollars. Is that useful? Would that lead you to take the right actions? No — averages hide true insights.”
Peacock explains how founders can assess where their business’ strengths lie and where they need to work harder, including how to gauge revenue health and use customer segmentation to find “leaks in the bucket.”
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
- Apple to allow third-party payment options in South Korea: A change in the wind? Perhaps. News that Apple will change its in-app payment rules in South Korea – it didn’t have a choice – could lead other countries to similar rulings. For Apple, focused on preserving a large slice of the iOS economy for itself, it’s bad news.
- The EU sanctions itself over privacy errors: Here’s a fun one – insert the Spider-Man pointing at Spider-Man meme – the “European Union’s chief data protection supervisor has sanctioned the European Parliament for a series of breaches of the bloc’s data protection rules,” Natasha Lomas writes. At least they are consistent!
- And finally today, the Indian government will now own just under 36% of Vodafone Idea, “to save the third-largest telecom operator in the country from collapsing.” Wild!
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