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Hello and welcome to this 109th day of 2022 – April 19 – which celebrates, among other things, National Garlic Day (nice try, Big Allium) and Bicycle Day, the anniversary of the discovery of LSD. Speaking of blasting off into space, check out Aria’s awesome Max Q newsletter, which collects all things space exploration on TechCrunch!
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Better.com times are not ahead: We’re back with another installment of “What’s happening over at Better.com?” From our previous episodes, you might remember that the digital mortgage company began performing layoffs in December, and not in the most empathetic of ways. Today, further decline in the mortgage market prompted Better to execute yet another round of layoffs in less than five months, cutting its original headcount in half. What’s different this time? Employees will receive “one-on-one” phone calls instead of learning about it on a Zoom call or via a paycheck.
- Brex wastes no time in going after what it wants: In other news from the fabulous Mary Ann, Brex took no time after saying it was getting into software before announcing its first splash with the acquisition of Pry Financials. Mary Ann calls paying $90 million for a 10-person company that only raised $4 million over its lifespan “a bold move,” yet with the number of customers it has in common, also seems like a good fit.
- What am I worth, part 1: That’s a difficult question right now as the market makes corrections and companies make their own corrections vis a vis their valuations. Alex looks at Databricks, a company perhaps on the cusp of going public, and opines about what it might mean if it’s worth less today than it was in 2021, and comes to the conclusion that an IPO can wait. You can read more about what startups are worth in the TechCrunch+ section below.
Startups and VC
We’ve got a slew of new venture funds for you today. In Japan, insurance company Tokio Marine launched a corporate venture fund. In LatAm, top SoftBank partners peeled off to found their own shop. And Australia’s Square Peg Capital is plowing $550 million into startups in Southeast Asia.
A little closer to home, Conductive Ventures closed a third fund to invest into nontraditional founders, and Baukunst raised its inaugural fund to invest in “creative technologists.” Evok Innovations is raising $300 million to tackle climate change from an industrial decarbonization angle. Meanwhile, Chipotle (yes, that Chipotle) gives other fast-food chains the runs (ahem) for their money with a $50 million venture fund to boost restaurant tech.
The cream of the crop:
- Like you, but in ones and zeroes: Unlearn.ai raised $50 million to give clinical trial participants a digital twin. Very ambitious, and incredibly cool.
- Crypto climb: Manish reports that the Indian crypto exchange CoinDCX grows two unicorn horns and a $2 billion valuation as it raises $135 million.
- Walk like a crustacean: Egyptian cloud kitchen provider The Food Lab raises $4.5 million to expand operations.
- Deez guts: Music streaming app Deezer is doing the SPAC marger thing, hitting the public markets with a $1.1 billion valuation. Though the company has a vanishingly small market share compared to Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, and the rest of the streaming services you’ve actually heard of before, it projects growth on the back of B2B partnerships.
- From air to alcohol: I wrote this piece, but I can’t for the life of me figure out whether turning CO2 into vodka is a raging gimmick or the future of CO2 capture.
What am I worth now?
Farmers don’t get embarrassed when the price of the corn drops; similarly, there’s no reason for startup founders to lose their joy because publicly traded tech stocks are taking a haircut.
Accepting a down round or a smaller seed check isn’t a sign of failure — as it says in the Bible: The rain falls on the just, and the unjust.
“While the market has quickly turned to favor the buyers, the good news is that it isn’t broken,” according to Jeremy Abelson and Jacob Sonnenberg of Irving Investors.
In a TC+ guest post, they share a calculator for using growth metrics and public market valuations that can help founding teams “triangulate to a more company-specific enterprise value.”
The numbers don’t lie — for all but a few strong contenders, the IPO window is now closed.
But if you have an idea for a product or service that might be valuable to others, spending your days working for someone else is a questionable choice, no matter what’s happening in the stock market.
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
We simply can’t get enough of cars in this publication, and a lot of you were enamored with the new Mercedes Benz SUV, so if you haven’t yet checked that out, drool away. Speaking of drool, Audi’s new concept car taps into Rolls Royce’s playbook, with rear-access doors leading to a private cocoon with reclining seats and a television screen. Meanwhile, Jaclyn gives some predictions for Tesla’s upcoming first-quarter earnings as we report the automaker is being investigated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Speaking of cars, Uber is among a number of public transportation entities that made the decision that its drivers were not obligated to mask up.
Now having a look around the world: Google opened its first production center in Nairobi for building “transformative” products for the continent. The U.S. government warned that a North Korean state-backed hacker group is targeting blockchain organizations with trojanized cryptocurrency. And 30 countries can now take advantage of Instagram Reels’ ability to create fundraisers and donate to nonprofits.
And more for your reading pleasure:
- Cute name alert: The union labor movement has arrived at one Apple retail store, and the organizers are calling themselves the Fruit Stand Workers United. In other Apple news, the company is using more recycled materials in its products.
- Bye-bye to Greenroom Creator Fund: Last week, we shared that Spotify was transitioning its live audio content, but that also means an end to the Greenroom Creator Fund.
- ‘Aquaman’ fans get their own ‘Minecraft’ version: That’s right, HBO Max is getting into gaming IP, and reports say Jason Momoa is close to signing on for a live-action “Minecraft” version of the “Aquaman” movie.