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And just like that, TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 has come to an end. I’m exhausted, but it’s hard not to feel optimistic for the future after spending three days hearing vulnerable thoughts from some of the brightest minds in tech, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins to comic-turned-creator Alexis Gay.
If I had to distill a singular takeaway from the hours of programming, demo floor and Startup Battlefield, it would be this: Disruption needs direction. We’re in the middle of unprecedented times, and while that’s been good news for some entrepreneurs (and bad news for very many), focus may be what leads us out of it.
The theme kept popping up in the panels that I hosted or tuned into. For example, when I bugged BBG Ventures’ Nisha Dua about how to best spend first-check capital, she kept homing in on the need for entrepreneurs to invest their north star, aka the most defensible and innovative part of their business, over flashier alternatives. When I bugged Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn about where his now-public company is going next, he drew a line that stopped right before disrupting the college degree. And of course, when I asked Reid Hoffman about how early-stage founders can better attract capital, he outlined why it’s important to have an opinion and stick by it — controversy preferred. Even Nth Cycle, the runner up of TC Battlefield, wants to revolutionize metals processing by complementing existing processes, not ignoring them altogether.
It was refreshing to hear grounded yet inventive perspectives throughout the week. For those who missed it, we’ll be publishing recaps of all panels over the next week. Here are some of my favorite panels so far:
- And the winner of Startup Battlefield at Disrupt 2021 is… Cellino
- How Ryan Reynolds has mastered authentic marketing
- WarnerMedia’s Andy Forssell discusses a fascinating first year for HBO Max
- Built by a refugee, Enlight’s edtech tool bets it can help students hope harder
- SEC Regional Director Erin Schneider talks SPACs, Coinbase and what startups could do better
And of course, check out our podcast about TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield, where we go behind the scenes and talk about the finalists.
Thanks to all of you that came out to learn, listen and support. As always, you can find me on Twitter @nmasc_. In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll get into bootstrapping and a crypto crackdown that you should probably be paying attention to.
Mailchimp’s sale sparked a conversation about bootstrapping, so my colleagues Anna Heim and Alex Wilhelm dug into what it means to skip capital and grow off of revenues (imagine!). In their latest collab, the duo explained what bootstrapping is like today — in a world of infinite APIs, well-trained techies and ample demand for better software services.
Here’s what to know: They argue that the money is reaching farther than it ever has in the past.
But startups that don’t need — or perhaps simply do not want — to raise expensive equity capital while scaling have more tools within arm’s reach than ever before. Revenue-based financing is now an established concept. Some companies are taking it even further. Pipe has built a marketplace where companies can sell revenue — or perhaps we should describe it as a marketplace where revenue can be traded. A more active market for the buying and selling of revenue should help with price discovery, perhaps resulting in more attractive prices for founders and a more liquid market for their future receipts; the more capital that founders can access by selling top line instead of shares, the more viable bootstrapping may prove.
- Latin America finds a champion in SoftBank Group International CEO Marcelo Claure
- Folio’s 24-year-old founder is bootstrapping a curated, online bookstore
- To sell or not to sell: Lessons from a bootstrapped CEO
China’s latest crackdown
China’s central bank said that all cryptocurrency-related transactions are illegal in the country and must be banned. The crackdown, within the world’s most populated nation, will limit internal, financial and payment companies from facilitating trading on their platforms, reports Manish Singh.
Here’s what to know, according to Singh: “Regulators in China have been weighing a ban on crypto mining for several years. But in recent quarters, several local firms have started to embrace crypto. Chinese app maker Meitu bought Bitcoin and Ether worth $40 million in March.” It’s unclear if this ban will be different from other tensions, or if the home of the largest crypto mining services will soon be chilled.
- Robinhood muscles deeper into Coinbase’s territory with new crypto wallet feature
- PayPal launches its ‘super app’ combining payments, savings, bill pay, crypto, shopping and more
- The casualties of China’s education crackdown
- The NFT on-ramp is still too steep
Thanks to all who attended TechCrunch Disrupt 2021. It was heartwarming to see such an engaged, disruptive and genuinely fun audience come out to our virtual stage. In classic TC fashion, though, one event done, another one to go!
Next up we’re going to have TechCrunch Sessions: SaaS 2021. It’s our debut event that is laser focused on software as a vertical, and given how booming the subsector is, the timing couldn’t be better. Buy discounted passes to the event and check out the agenda for a sneak peek at some announced speakers.