The slow-burn standardization of venture capital


A frosted cake with candles that are being blown upon, as if someone just out of frame were making a wish.
Image Credits: Myron Jay Dorf (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced take on this week’s startup news and trends by Senior Reporter and Equity co-host Natasha Mascarenhas. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

It took me a while, but I’m realizing that my startup love language is discussing any attempts to standardize the opaque and often informal world of venture capital. The clear tension is what entices me: How do you automate a process such as writing checks, which requires human buy-in and the art of trust in a way that leaves both parties happy.

There are funds that invest entirely based on data. Or tools that help startups see all their financing options at the drop of a profile. Or, as I covered this week, a tool for startups that lets companies simultaneously blast out the same application — or pitch — to multiple angel and pre-seed investors.

The tool, started by pre-seed firm Afore Capital, is based on Common App, which sends one application to multiple colleges and universities. Afore’s take on the idea is to help founders rapidly pitch expert investors while also helping those investors get differentiated deal flow on a consistent basis. While it appears to be a low-stakes instrument — free for both parties to use — ease can sometimes come with a side of questions. Is Afore being too altruistic and sharing its intel? Does a blast offer the same signal as a warm intro?

Afore general partner Anamitra Banerji thinks that a funding-focused version of Common App will solve a classic conundrum: What happens when a startup isn’t a fit for your firm but is still a smart company that may make sense for your climate-focused emerging fund manager friend? Sometimes, those smart companies get lost in the cracks — think about the number of companies that don’t get into Y Combinator by a razor-thin margin — instead of being passed on to another firm.

Originally, Afore was thinking about sending companies that didn’t make it to its accelerator program to its network of outside investors. But Banerji said that now Afore sends startup applications to the network as soon as they submit, meaning that Afore sees it at the same time as other pre-seed investors.

“We’re taking the risk of exposing it to everyone else in the group and maybe losing the deal and allocation and things like that … but that kind of demonstrates to them, to us, that we’re not only sending them things we have passed on,” Banerji said.

You can read my whole piece on TechCrunch+: “Is it time for a Common App for startup founders?” DM me on Twitter or Instagram if you want a discount code for TC+.

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll talk about Carta, investor’s secret workflows and when the Kardashian strategy doesn’t quite work.

Lawsuit and layoffs at Carta

Carta is suing Jerry Talton, its former CTO, alleging that he sent and received “sexually explicit, offensive, discriminatory and harassing messages with at least nine women including during work hours and on Carta’s systems.”

Here’s why this is important: The lawsuit isn’t the only sign that Carta may be dealing with internal strife. The company confirmed that it had to lay off 10% of its staff in its second known workforce reduction over the pandemic.

It doesn’t help that several users of Carta’s services, which range from cap table management to fund administration, have been less than impressed by the platform in the recent months. TechCrunch spoke to a fund manager who was transitioning away from the platform and who claims that his team had four different account managers in a less than two years, which “certainly didn’t help with continuity and understanding of our fund and needs.”

Image Credits: Carta


FTX’s infamous founder and former chief executive Sam Bankman-Fried started a Substack this week. As my colleague Mary Ann Azevedo noted, it’s “a very unusual move for someone who was recently arrested and is facing eight counts of U.S. criminal charges.”

Here’s why it’s important: As we discussed on Equity, the Kardashian method of distraction is not going to work for this former billionaire. There’s a weird sentiment around SBF’s actions lately, whether it’s calling him smart for pleading not guilty or laughing at his Substack. that adds levity to a situation that ultimately should be taken quite seriously.

Him starting a Substack is no different; we’re all talking about it, thinking about him sidestepping his lawyer. But what if this isn’t as radical as we think? What if SBF sees that his noisy, outward conversation gets noticed, covered and amplified every time he speaks up, just because no one else has before? It’s a distraction; one that we may see more of until his expected trial in October.

NEW YORK, US - JANUARY 03: Former FTX CEO and founder Sam Bankman-Fried arrives at Manhattan Federal Court in New York City on January 03, 2023. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Image Credits: Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

The follow up

You’ve probably been reading a lot about ChatGPT, OpenAI’s artificial intelligence tool that achieved virality with its savvy messaging ability. The tool, recently made available to the general public, is smart enough to answer serious and silly questions about profound topics, which has landed it in debates led by writers, educators, artists and more.

But beyond the initial excitement around the tool, I wanted to follow up on if it is actually making its way into people’s workflows. So, I dug into how investors are using ChatGPT in a piece for TC+ with Kyle Wiggers and Christine Hall.

Here’s why it’s important: Some investors expressed that ChatGPT could be used for fact-checking purposes around market-size claims or growth potential; at the same time, so could Google. The argument for AI, of course, would be that the content would be original and perhaps more targeted toward someone’s exact questions, while a general Google search may require extra digging and piecing different articles together.

As a nod toward the beginning of this newsletter, ChatGPT could be looked at as yet another way that venture tries to automate itself. It just depends on if investors think it is smart enough to reject startups, or if feedback is valued as the key currency of network building.

Artificial Intelligence - Chatbot concept
Image Credits: Carol Yepes / Getty Images

Talking points

A non-exhaustive list of other news to note this week:

Seen on TechCrunch

Dungeons & Dragons content creators are fighting to protect their livelihoods

Tesla keeps slashing prices, this time by as much as 20%

Will what happened at CES, stay at CES?

Our obsession with pets means startups aimed at vets are booming, as Digitail shows

Third-party Twitter apps are facing issues, users say

Seen on TechCrunch+

You’re not going to grow into your 2021 valuation

Pitch Deck Teardown: Mint House’s $35M Series B deck

Why Africa had no unicorns last year despite record fundraising haul

Web3 could help fashion become more sustainable

Pittsburgh’s AI expertise may give rise to an already growing startup market

With that, I’m off to enjoy a weekend in Providence with some old friends. New England, how I missed you, your indulgently cozy weather and nostalgic streets.

Chat soon,


More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

8 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

10 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android