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Hello, and “happy Friday junior,” as someone put in their email to me today. I hope it has been a productive Thursday for you. Haje is hanging with a bunch of robotics technology, so it’s just me and my trusty Lakeland Terrier companion delivering the juicy morsels of news goodness today. Please enjoy his Pitch Deck Teardown on Five Flute while he’s away. Sadly for this flute player, it’s not a flute maker. See you tomorrow! — Christine
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Data protection woes: Facebook has managed to avoid being shut down in Europe, but Natasha L writes that its parent, Meta, may be facing a suspension.
- Here and yonder: I wrote about wealth technology firm Farther, which brought in $15 million in funding to boost its valuation to $50 million. The company provides tools for financial advisors to expand their business, while also enabling users to do fun things like a “cash waterfall,” which means whenever you have the benefit of excess funds, you can designate where the overflow goes.
- Borrowing a little from Apple: Ivan writes that as Google continues to merge Duo and Meet, it is introducing a new feature that lets users watch YouTube and Spotify together.
Startups and VC
I enjoyed Dominic-Madori’s story today on supply chain technology company Stimulus, which raised a $2.5 million seed round. She writes that Stimulus offers a product “that helps businesses cut costs by avoiding mismatched suppliers while introducing diverse vendors to companies that might have overlooked them.”
Creating internal apps can be a huge time-suck for companies. Kyle introduces us to Superblocks, a company that developed a way for businesses to more easily custom-build their own.
- It’ll give you wings: Mike writes about the U.K.’s Enterprise Investment Scheme, which has created an “institutional angel fund” to enable smaller companies to get their first big funding break.
- Hand me that scalpel: Medical students often learn through doing, but in the age of surgical robots, their education is now moving in the direction of virtual reality. One such company is FundamentalVR, which raised $20 million to make simulations more real, Paul reports.
- From onboarding to offboarding: Over the past year, Kenyan B2B e-commerce platform Marketplace staffed up to onboard thousands of merchants, and Tage learned that the company laid off 9% of its staff after shifting focus.
- Present!: Natasha M’s latest TechCrunch+ story looks at if edtech is still a venture-backable industry. She spoke to seven investors in the space to find out more.
- Your food can be low-carbon, too: Just like we can see our carbon footprint, Kuri has developed an app that does the same for our food, Haje writes.
7 investors discuss why edtech startups must go back to basics to survive
Pre-pandemic, edtech was not an especially frothy sector: In 2019, these startups received approximately $7 billion in VC funding, according to Crunchbase. Last year, that figure rose to $20 billion after efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 impacted students of every age.
To learn more about how edtech is faring during the current downturn, Natasha Mascarenhas spoke to seven VCs about the advice they’re offering portfolio companies, where edtech is crossing over into other sectors, and how they prefer to be pitched:
- Ashley Bittner and Kate Ballinger, Firework Ventures
- Jan Lynn-Matern, founder and partner, Emerge Education
- Malvika Bhagwat and Kriti Bansal, Owl Ventures
- Jomayra Herrera, partner, Reach Capital
- Rebecca Kaden, general partner, Union Square Ventures
“I would say the past few years have been more of an anomaly, and we are getting back to a more sustainable pace,” said Reach Capital partner Jomayra Herrera.
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
Recent financial pressures have forced Rivian to take certain measures, including laying off 900 employees in July. Its second-quarter earnings are coming up later today, and Jaclyn shifts into gear with 3 things to watch for on Rivian’s Q2 earnings.
Xiaomi has a pair of new products brought to you by Brian and Ivan. The first is about its new humanoid robot that very much has me thinking of the “I, Robot” movie. The second is a foldable phone only available in China.
Speaking of phones, anyone nostalgic for their old Motorola Razr will want to check out the newest version. Brian has more.
- You’ll want to bite into this Apple: The consumer products giant is investing in some original podcasts that will be turned into Apple TV+ shows, Amanda reports.
- There’s an issue with your delivery: Commercial electric vehicle maker Arrival said it is slashing its production from 400 vans to just 20, Jaclyn writes.
- Proper protection: Meta is testing an end-to-end encryption feature for individual Messenger chats, Ivan writes.
- ICYMI: Rebecca wrote about Ralph Nader asking the NHTSA to recall Tesla’s “dangerous and irresponsible” FSD, and Aisha had two Disney items, one on Disney+ reaching $152.1 million subscribers, to which the company then said “hold my beer” to itself and announced it was raising the price of an ad-free subscription.