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Today was the kickoff of Apple’s developer conference, WWDC, meaning that the TechCrunch crew was super busy all day and that we have an ocean of news from Cupertino for you to enjoy. But the startup market was just as busy, thankfully, with some fascinating funding rounds, acquisitions and more to parse through. Today we have something for everyone! — Alex
P.S. Including all of you interested in finance. Here’s a teardown of the Babylon Health SPAC deal. Enjoy!
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Apple’s keynote lucre: Apple’s keynote today was the usual affair of animation, on-screen text, musicals, and lots and lots of news. More below but iOS 15, SharePlay and iCloud+ are obvious standouts.
- The global chip shortage: The global chip shortage won’t lift until late next year, meaning that we’re likely going to see investment in new chip-fab capacity. Like the news today that Bosch opened a $1.2 billion chip manufacturing facility in Germany. Much like the AI market is cleaving along geopolitical fault lines, in time, more countries are going to want to have domestic chip-fab capabilities as a form of self-reliance.
- Paytm is going public: Noida, India-based Paytm, the most valuable startup in the country, will go public, it told employees recently. That’s good news for the company, we suppose, but also potentially big news for India’s larger startup and venture capital scene.
Startups and VC
- Astra buys Apollo Fusion: This is a fun one. Astra, a space launch upstart that is pursuing a SPAC-led IPO, is buying Apollo Fusion, which is focused on what TechCrunch described as “electric propulsion.” So not fusion, sadly, but electric propulsion is a key space technology that allows satellites, for example, to move around while in orbit. It can also be fuel-sipping to a degree, making it a tech that could help satellites and other heavenly bodies enjoy long service lives.
- Briq raises its construction-focused fintech service: The recent implosion of construction-unicorn Katerra is not stopping venture investment in its market. Today Briq, a startup that provides fintech solutions to construction companies, announced that Tiger Global has led a $30 million round into its business. Normally a $30 million check would give us a good feel for how big Briq’s revenue base is today. But with market scuttlebutt indicating that Tiger is content to pour capital into companies with diminutive revenues, it’s hard to say. Briq told TechCrunch that its annual recurring revenue grew by 200% in the last year.
- Mendel raises $18M to structure unstructured medical data: Every industry creates lots of data these days, but the medical industry sweats data like a first-time Peloton user. And, as you can imagine, most of the data that off-gases from the medical world is unstructured and generally a mess. Enter Mendel, which wants to organize, share and exchange medical data after it ingests and cleans it up. I dig it.
- Finally today, Lightspeed has acquired “e-commerce platform Ecwid for $500 million, and NuOrder, a B2B ordering platform servicing wholesales, brands and retailers, for $425 million.” The Canadian point-of-sale provider has been busy buying startups in recent years, part of a larger roll-up strategy that it expects will accrete into an enticing package of services. Or, as the company put it, the deals will help Lightspeed become “the common thread uniting merchants, suppliers and consumers.” That’s pretty heavy on the corporate-speak, but does speak to Lightspeed’s ambitions. I raise this particular set of deals because Lightspeed is not as well known as its scale might have you think.
The hidden benefits of adding a CTO to your board
Conventional wisdom says startup boards should include a few CEOs who are able to offer informed advice, but having a technical leader in the mix creates real upside, according to Abby Kearns, chief technology officer at Puppet.
Beyond their engineering experience, CTOs can help founders set realistic timelines, identify pain points and bring what Kearns calls “pragmatic empathy” to high-pressure situations.
“A CTO understands the nuts and bolts,” says Kearns.
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
As noted above, there’s a lot of Apple news to dig through, but we also have notes from Microsoft and Pinterest to parse. So let’s get done with WWDC and then dive into the rest.
Today’s Apple event generated oodles of coverage. Here’s what you need to know (products bolded to help you find what you need):
- TechCrunch’s liveblog of the event can be found here. It’s, as always, fun and fast and funny.
- Apple unveils iOS 15 with new features for FaceTime and better notifications
- Apple refines iOS 15 notifications with Focus, Summary features
- Apple introduces SharePlay for co-watching, streaming and screen sharing over FaceTime
- Apple announces FaceTime updates
- Apple’s Live Text lets you interact with text in your photos
- Apple Maps upgrade brings more detailed maps, transit features, AR view and more
- Apple (finally) updates its weather app with dynamic backgrounds, maps and way more data
- iPadOS 15 announced at WWDC, features improved multitasking and surprising Swift Playgrounds features
- Apple announces iCloud+ with privacy-focused features
- watchOS 8 brings new mindfulness features and respiratory tracking
- Apple unveils macOS 12 Monterey
- Apple unveils new iOS 15 privacy features at WWDC
- Apple is bringing Shortcuts to the Mac and starts transition from Automator
- Apple TV to support using HomePod Mini as speakers, among other updates
And there’s more to come. So, if that’s not enough from the Apple news column for you, keep your eyes on the site.
Elsewhere in BigTechLandia
Pinterest is finally rolling out the ability to save items into a shopping list. The general argument for the long-term value of Pinterest has been that, sure, it has ads, but it’s also essentially an e-commerce sleeping giant. Perhaps Big Pin wants to awaken a bit faster than we had expected.
To close, Microsoft is renaming Windows Virtual Desktop to Azure Virtual Desktop. Why the change? Because, loosely, there’s lots more demand for the product in a post-pandemic world than the one that came before it, and thus the ability to “set up a full virtual desktop environment from the Azure portal” using only “a few clicks,” as Frederic reported, could be a big deal.
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Speaking of events, keep an eye on the site for some Pittsburgh Spotlight-related news tomorrow.
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