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It’s Monday the 16th of May, and I’m back once again, like a renegade master. I’m fantastically over-caffeinated and at a standing desk today, so for the occasion, it’s a dancing desk. Because, I mean, you try to sit still while listening to this thumpin’ beat.
This week, I’m psyched to head out to Sessions: Mobility in San Mateo to get the full story on which cars will be driving themselves and which companies are driving into our hearts – or off the nearest cliff. Get your tickets now — we still have a few available.
In other news, I just re-read my contract, which states no superfluous obscenities are allowed, so rest assured that this newsletter only contains strictly necessary swearwords. Much love and sunbeams and such! – Haje
The Top 3
- Ack — moar layoffs: Natasha and Amanda break down the current constriction in startups with a roundup of layoffs over the past week, including an analysis of what happened at Section4, Carvana, Latch, DataRobot, and the hiring freezes at some of the tech stalwarts, including Meta, Twitter and Uber. They did a roundup last week, too, in case you missed that one. Meantime, Alex analyzes overall data from layoff tracker Layoffs.FYI.
- Trouble in Unicorn Town: Over on TC+, Alex considers how SaaS valuation multiples have taken a further dive, now clocking in at single digits. As he summarizes: “A startup that sold stock last year at a 50x ARR multiple would need to double and then double again before it would have a multiple that is similar to the current public-market standard.“
- Crypto? More like crypt-no: Anita reports how 30-year-old crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried takes a swipe at Bitcoin, saying it has no future as a payments network.
Startups and VC
Every now and again, startups raise money for missions that make me worry about the current timeline we are on. Today’s installment of that theme comes from the desk of Mr. Butcher, MBE, covering WeAre8’s crowdfunding campaign for a social media app where users are paid to watch apps. Sure, it makes sense to get some cash for your time, but also … just, ugh.
I loved this interview Aria did with high-flying (geddit …) startup Astra. It became the fastest company in history to reach orbit in November, six years after its founding, and its CEO says it’s aiming for daily launches sooner rather than later.
Developers, developers, developers:
- He Rose to the occasion: Kevin Rose is a partner at the VC firm True Ventures, but his latest project is an NFT startup called Proof Collective, which recently launched a much-hyped 10,000 NFT collection of pixelated owls. Lucas’ interview with the startup veteran is fascinating.
- The five-horned grocery unicorn: German Flink buys French Cajoo for around $93 million in a landmark deal valuing the latter at $5 billion, a big hike on Flink’s most recent valuation of $2.85 billion.
- The era of the horny bus: Mass transit made a rebound with the return of city life post-COVID 19, and Optibus is building tech to help it run more smoothly. It raised a Series D at a $1.3 billion valuation. Wowzahs.
- Where the food flows freely: Twiga told Annie it has begun producing horticultural produce like onions, tomatoes and watermelons on its 650 hectares of land, with an estimated output of 150,000 tons of fresh produce annually.
- Indie brands, Made in China: 404 is the HTTP error code for “page not found,” so I can only surmise that Body404 is a platform for people who can’t quite find their bodies. In any case, Rita reports it’s celebrating the diversity of Chinese indie brands.
- Charge it forward: Paypal alum trio Jeremy Jonker, Jay Ganatra and Mario Ruiz raised a $158 million fund, already investing in 11 companies out of its fund, Mary Ann reports.
- Spendin’ through the downturn: While last week was without a doubt the worst week for crypto asset performance in a very long time, that doesn’t seem to be stopping eFounders. The software-as-a-service startup studio is launching a new sub-studio called 3founders, Romain reports.
5 lessons from ‘Star Wars’ that can transform startup managers’ strategies and tactics
The “Star Wars” saga is based on a storytelling structure developed by Joseph Campbell, a writer and literary professor who conceived of “the hero’s journey.”
Consisting of 12 stages, his archetype calls for a protagonist who leaves ordinary life behind after hearing the call to adventure — you can imagine why it’s a popular metaphor among tech investors.
According to Touchdown Ventures President Scott Lenet, Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi offered five discrete lessons for founders and investors.
For example, “’I have a bad feeling about this’ is a recurring joke in the franchise — nearly every major character utters the line at one point or another,” writes Lenet.
“These are also words to live by for corporate and startup leaders, because they are an emblem of awareness and proactivity.”
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Big Tech Inc.
You may not be thinking “games” when you hear Hulu, but its newest partnership with Xbox is changing that – Lauren reported it just inked a new deal that gives U.S. Hulu subscribers three months of a PC Game Pass as its Friends with Benefits initiative. Amazing name aside, perhaps it’s time to brush off my gaming rig (who am I kidding; I ain’t got time to play games. Too busy tweeting about coffee and my slowly-circling-the-drain mental health).
After EU pressure, it looks like Apple might be inching itself closer to introducing Apple iPhone models with a USB-C port. As someone who has USB-C cables strewn around every surface, room, nook, and cranny of my house, that would work beautifully for me – but Apple has long resisted the pressure, so we’ll see what actually happens on that front. I’m sure Darrell will continue to keep us abreast of the shape of iPhone’s crevices.
- Excuse me, Robot, are you my Uber? Uber Eats is piloting autonomous deliveries with Serve and Motional. I just hope the robots also eat their vitamins, find love, and find some time for walks in the forest.
- I wrote this, I like this: Twitter is testing a new “Liked by Author” label that appears when the creator of a tweet likes your reply, Aisha reports.
- Da, da, da, say goodbye to your data: A new report from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties argues that a real-time bidding system is “the biggest data breach ever recorded.”
- All the things, all the places, all the time, on a street near you: Uber revealed a host of new platforms and features during its global product event. The new products span Uber’s ride-hail and delivery services and aim to increase ridership, open new lines of business, incentivize drivers to go electric and more, Rebecca reports.