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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for October 19, 2021! We are just over a week away from our SaaS event, which means that we’re deep into prep territory. I just got off a call for this panel that I am particularly excited about, for example. The trick will be cutting down my question list until it fits into the 30 minutes available.
In other TechCrunch news, we have a huge dive into Automattic, the company behind WordPress that also owns Tumblr, which our former parent company (Verizon Media) used to own before our parent company’s parent company (Verizon) sold us and we became Yahoo. It’s very complicated, but the Automattic TC-1 is amazing. Enjoy! – Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Google drops new hardware, software: On the heels of Apple’s event yesterday, Google got in on the hardware action today. If you want smartphone news, we have your back. If you want notes on Pixel Pass, we got it. Want more on the newly released Android 12? Here you go. Hell, there’s even an AI angle.
- Chinese venture capital posts epic quarter: In light of regulatory tumult as the Chinese government makes strident changes to its technology landscape, economy and culture, you would have been forgiven for expecting venture investors to slow their roll when it came to startups in the country. But, no, that’s precisely and exactly not what happened. So we dug in.
- A massive ‘stalkerware’ leak puts the phone data of thousands at risk: The latest from our own Zack Whittaker isn’t good news, but it is very important news all the same. Per our cybersecurity expert, all sorts of personal information can “be pulled from a person’s phone because of a security issue in widely used consumer-grade spyware.”
What is a startup? Recently there was fresh debate on this evergreen topic on Twitter. Perhaps we should just say that any company that has raised $50 million is no longer a startup? It’s something else? Something between a startup and a unicorn?
I bring all that up because I have no idea what to call Instacart. Not really. It just dropped $350 million to buy a different startup — part of a deeper move into the technology powering physical retail — but perhaps both companies were not startups? Something to ponder. (Feel free to respond to this email with what you consider the “no longer a startup” line, if you want. I will see it.)
- OK, but surely companies that raise $1 billion rounds are not startups? That would make Gorillas not a startup. Yes, the Berlin-based on-demand grocery delivery and dark store operator just raised nearly a flat-billion in a single round, valuing the company at just over $2 billion. Given the somewhat modest valuation figure next to the raise amount, we have questions, but the investment is still net-bullish for the current boom in grocery delivery startup activity that we’ve seen.
- BluePallet proves that there are infinite spaces for tech startups to build: Per our own Mary Ann Azevedo, BluePallet is an “online marketplace connecting manufacturers with the chemical industry,” and just raised $5 million. Think about all the other industries that could use better links to manufacturers. I mean, there’s at least another few dozen vertical SaaS plays there, right?
- ITaaS: If you are familiar with Justworks’ HR efforts, you will understand Electric. It’s Justworks for IT. Justworks, in case you are not familiar, does HR stuff for other companies. Electric does that for IT, and it just raised $90 million.
- Figma cuts price of its whiteboard tool: Figma is best known for its design software, but the company has also built a whiteboard tool called FigJam. It competes with Mural, we reckon. Regardless, Figma wants more folks to use it, so it’s cutting the price. Given that we tend to see software prices move the other direction, this stood out to us. Jordan Crook, who covered the news item, connected it to a larger product expansion narrative forming at Figma.
- AIaaS: A startup called Mage wants to offer AI tooling that product teams can use, without having to go beg for help from scarce data science resources. And the company just landed $6.3 million for its efforts. Mage fits into the software theme we’ve been tracking for some time of tech products working to help non-developers be able to do more on their own.
- Wonolo proves that building for regulars can be big business: While it’s in vogue to build software tooling for rarified fields, everyone needs a little help. Wonolo is proof that you can build for non-engineers, say, and still do well. The company, which focuses on helping hourly workers book jobs, just raised nine figures.
- And because their team asked nicely, Carly Page covered the recent SOC Prime round for us. The Boston-based startup working in the threat detection market just raised $11 million.
How our startup boosted productivity with ‘get s*** done’ day
One day every other week, Travelpayouts’ “employees define clear-cut goals and receive specific, usually non-trivial, tasks with little to no communication involved,” writes Travelpayouts head Ivan Baidin.
Getting S*** Done Day allowed the team to address “sidelined” projects that may have seemed like small potatoes: rebuilding lifecycle emails, improving analytics and optimizing working hours.
Completing each of these “eternally postponed” tasks created incremental gains, says Baidin. “That is something we value a lot.”
This article contains strategic, actionable advice for implementing a GSDD program that includes the lessons learned as they identified problems with the experiment. It’s a classic TechCrunch+ “how-to.”
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
The best take from Apple’s event yesterday had nothing to do with laptops or chips. It dealt with Siri and Apple Music. Who would have guessed?
- Surveillance to go? TechCrunch has a review up of the Facebook Portal Go, if that is your sort of thing.
- Good news: Brands are going to be all over AR. By the time you and I really start to use augmented reality products, brands are going to be there. And Snap is going to help them, it turns out. The social giant is building a global studio to get — I presume — dick pills and car insurance companies into the metaverse.
- And, to close us off, the American parliament’s upper chamber wants two teams picked for future moon landings. Hell yeah. Space is cool.
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