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Since launching the venture firm Backstage Capital in 2015, Arlan Hamilton has invested millions in more than 195 companies led by underrepresented founders, from a duo taking on auto insurance to a team rethinking how we virtually learn. Despite the breadth in the business, Hamilton says she is consistently asked two questions by her portfolio companies:
“Can you help us raise money? And, “Can you help us with hiring?”
While Hamilton’s fund is a response to the former, her latest bet — built by Hamilton herself — is a startup that explores the latter. Runner is a labor marketplace that connects startups with operations people looking for part-time work. It seeks to combat some of the largest tensions in early-stage startup building, such as deciding when it’s time to hire your first head of talent, or figuring out what to contract out, or what to build in-house when it comes to staffing. It’s launching with an explicit focus on operations roles.
“There are so many places you can go if you want to learn how to code or if you want to get a job as in the more technical side of things,” Hamilton says. “But where do you go right now if you want to be someone’s right hand, the COO, etc. … it’s sort of an afterthought for most [companies].”
Conceptually, Runner isn’t contrarian. Upwork and Fiverr have built solid businesses atop the freelancer economy. What’s different about the startup, though, is in who it targets — operations folks in tech — and how it employs them. Every “runner,” or part-time professional who is looking to get a new gig, is employed by the company under a W-2 classification. Around 200 runners are on the platform today.
And Hamilton tells TechCrunch the approach has attracted $1.5 million in pre-seed backing weeks before Runner is set to launch on the app store. For the entire story, including how one cohort of investors in the company is raising an interesting set of questions, read my story on TechCrunch: Arlan Hamilton wants to reroute how startups hire.
In the rest of this newsletter our heart will Flutter, and then it will ride the wild wave of crypto. We’ll also get into the latest in SEC filings and notes from my calls throughout the past week. As always, you can support me by sharing this newsletter, following me on Twitter or subscribing to my personal blog.
Deal of the week
As a result of its latest financing event, Flutterwave is now the highest valued startup in Africa. The cross-border payments platform beat out OPay and Chipper Cash with its savvy API approach.
Here’s why it’s important: Africa’s tech scene may see a whole lot of consolidation. As Tage Kene-Okafor reports, “in the future, Flutterwave will look at acquisitions that will further consolidate its authority in the fintech space. And as the payments giant continues to deepen its influence in the SMB and consumer fintech space, we can speculate that smaller startups — including those it has backed, like CinetPay — may become acquisition targets.”
- Existing investors double down on Ro at boosted $7 billion valuation
- Airbase teams up with Amex on corporate spend, raises a little capital from the giant
- Coast lands $27.5M from VC firms, slew of founders to provide expense management to fleet operators
- This UK startup got $9M so you’ll pay it to shrink your household bills
- Another huge funding round gives Veho room to deliver
Do you want your paycheck in crypto?
In our latest episode of Equity, we chatted through Deel’s recent launch, which gives businesses the option to run their payroll in crypto. As reported by our own Mary Ann Azevedo: “Specifically, companies that hold their money in USDC can make a payment directly to Deel via their Coinbase account to cover payroll and payments for their global team. Once the business has paid the money into Deel, contractors can withdraw in over 150 currencies, including crypto.”
Here’s why it’s important: This is yet another step in the mainstreamification — if that’s actually a word — of crypto. Also, India going back and forth in a matter of weeks is volatile, sure, but it’s also a signal that the asset is being taken seriously enough to have debate. Which is different from where it was just a few years ago.
When even a turbulent tide lifts all boats:
- For startups, the message is clear: Grow fast or die
- Stronghold launches $100M venture arm to invest in underrepresented founders and fintech
- Sardine’s algorithm helps crypto and fintech companies detect fraud
- India bans Garena Free Fire, 53 more China-linked apps
In the DMs
- Kapor Capital managed a first close for its third fund at $97.5 million, targeting a total of $125 million, as TechCrunch reported last year.
- Edtech investors are telling their “tier 2 and tier 3” portfolio companies to consider holding off on a next raise until they can improve metrics; suggesting that some of the buzziness has left the once-spotlighted sector.
- The latest thing every tech CEO is having nightmares about.
- Hopin CMO has resigned.
- Nothing else scoop-y from my end this week, other than my piece about Hopin’s layoffs. I’d love to work on a follow-up story, so if you are a current or former employee at Hopin, or just recently laid off at any tech company, contact me on e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Signal, a secure encrypted messaging app, at 925 609 4188. You can also direct message me on Twitter @nmasc_.
Across the week
We get to hang out in person! Soon! Techcrunch Early Stage 2022 is April 14, aka right around the corner, and it’s in San Francisco. Join us for a one-day founder summit featuring GV’s Terri Burns, Greylock’s Glen Evans and Felicis’ Aydin Senkut. The TC team has been fiending to get back in person, so don’t be surprised if panels are a little spicier than usual.
Here’s the full agenda, and grab your launch tickets here.
Also, Equity, the tech news podcast I co-host alongside Alex Wilhelm and Mary Ann Azevedo, is going live! Join us for a virtual, live recording of our show this upcoming Thursday, February 24th – tickets are free, puns will come at the cost of our producers’ sanity. Our bestie pod,
Found is also joining the live circuit, so listen to them endlessly to prepare.
Seen on TechCrunch
Meta axes head of global community development after he appears on video in underage sex sting
AI acquires the power to manipulate fusion, but wait, it’s actually good news
New York’s Thrive Capital closes its eighth fund with a whopping $3 billion
Still managing engineers remotely? Okay has a performance dashboard for that
When the founder becomes the story
Seen on TechCrunch+
Did venture capitalists undervalue startups for decades?
How to find a job as a scout for a VC firm
Unit’s Itai Damti explains how the company fundraises using culture and value
Dear Sophie: Should we seek a K-1 visa or marriage-based green card?
10 fintech investors discuss what they’re looking for and how to pitch them in Q1 2022
Until next time,