SoftBank-backed startup cracks under pressure to scale

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Our esteemed co-host Alex Wilhelm was out again this week, but Kate Clark was in the studio with the lovely TechCrunch editor Connie Loizos and Canvas Ventures’ general partner Rebecca Lynn. The wonderful Chris Gates is on vacation this week, so TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey sat in the producer’s chair. That made this episode extra special, as it was our first all-female group on the mics and behind the scenes.

First on the docket was news from StockX and Cameo. The buzzy startups both raised big rounds this week. The former, a sneaker resale marketplace, closed on $110 million at a $1 billion valuation, while the latter attracted $50 million at a reported $300 million valuation. Rebecca shared her thoughts on the rise of influencer marketing and how its made way for the success of mobile apps and websites like Cameo, which caters to celebrities and influencers.

Next up was Brandless. The direct-to-consumer business made headlines this week after a report from The Information outlined internal drama following a big investment from SoftBank in 2018. Amid the turmoil, detailed here and here, the business brought on a brand-new CEO, former Walmart chief operating officer John Rittenhouse. Whether he can meet SoftBank’s steep demands remains to be seen. The whole thing leaves us wondering: Do any of SoftBank’s portfolio companies regret taking the firm’s money?

Finally, we talked about WeWork’s latest acquisition. The co-working giant bought Waltz, a smartphone app and reader that allows users to enter different properties with a single credential. The deal will make it easier for WeWork’s enterprise clients, such as GE Healthcare and Microsoft, to manage their employees’ on-demand memberships to WeWork spaces. WeWork has been quite acquisitive in 2019. Will its M&A activity help it prepare for an IPO? And why the hell does it still have an all-male board? We have more questions than answers.

That’s all for now. See you next week.

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