Airbnb, Automattic and Pinterest top rank of most acquisitive unicorns


This post is by Alex Wilhelm from TechCrunch


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It takes a lot more than a good idea and the right timing to build a billion-dollar company. Talent, focus, operational effectiveness and a healthy dose of luck are all components of a successful tech startup. Many of the most successful (or, at least, highest-valued) tech unicorns today didn’t get there alone.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) can be a major growth vector for rapidly scaling, highly valued technology companies. It’s a topic that we’ve covered off and on since the very first post on Crunchbase News in March 2017. Nearly two years later, we wanted to revisit that first post because things move quickly, and there is a new crop of

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Startups Weekly: Flexport, Clutter and SoftBank’s blood money


This post is by Kate Clark from TechCrunch


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The Wall Street Journal published a thought-provoking story this week, highlighting limited partners’ concerns with the SoftBank Vision Fund’s investment strategy. The fund’s “decision-making process is chaotic,” it’s over-paying for equity in top tech startups and it’s encouraging inflated valuations, sources told the WSJ.

The report emerged during a particularly busy time for the Vision Fund, which this week led two notable VC deals in Clutter and Flexport, as well as participated in DoorDash’s $400 million round; more on all those below. So given all this SoftBank news, let us remind you that given its $45 billion commitment, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the Vision Fund’s largest investor. Saudi Arabia is responsible for the planned killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Here’s what I’m wondering this week: Do CEOs of companies like Flexport and Clutter have a responsibility to address the source of their capital? Should they be

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Report: Zoom, the video conferencing company, may be a public company as early as April


This post is by Connie Loizos from TechCrunch


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The video conferencing company Zoom is aiming to file a public S-1 by the end of March, according to a new report in Business Insider that adds the company could go public as soon as April.

Business Insider reported last month that Zoom had filed confidentially with the SEC to go public, just months after Reuters reported that the San Jose, Calif.-based company had chosen investment bank Morgan Stanley to lead its eventual IPO.

We’ve reached out to the company for comment.

Zoom was valued at $1 billion when it raised its last funding in 2017 in the form of a $100 million check from Sequoia Capital. Reuters sources have said they expect the company to be valued at several billion dollars at the IPO.

The company, founded in 2011, has raised $145 million altogether, including from Emergence Capital and Horizons Ventures. Its earliest backers include Qualcomm Ventures, Yahoo

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Fortnite goes big on esports for 2019 with $100 million prize pool


This post is by Jordan Crook from TechCrunch


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Epic Games, maker of the ultra popular Battle Royale game Fortnite, is putting up another $100 million in prize cash for competitive tournaments in 2019.

The company made waves in the esports world last year, announcing a $100 million prize pool for the 2018 competitive year, dwarfing every other competitive title in one fell swoop.

This year, a significant portion of the $100 million will be awarded to participants of the first-ever Fortnite World Cup. Each of the 200 players who qualify and compete will walk away with at least $50,000, with the winner taking home $3 million.

The Fortnite World Cup will take place July 26 – 28 in New York City, offering $30 million total in prizes. One hundred of the top solo players will be invited, along with the top 50 duos teams.

So how do you get in on this?

Fortnite is holding weekly open online

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Pinstagram? Instagram code reveals Public Collections feature


This post is by Josh Constine from TechCrunch


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Instagram is threatening to attack Pinterest just as it files to go public the same way the Facebook-owned app did to Snapchat. Code buried in Instagram for Android shows the company has prototyped an option to create public “Collections” to which multiple users can contribute. Instagram launched private Collections two years ago to let you Save and organize your favorite feed posts. But by allowing users to make Collections public, Instagram would become a direct competitor to Pinterest.

Instagram public Collections could spark a new medium of content curation. People could use the feature to bundle together their favorite memes, travel destinations, fashion items or art. That could cut down on unconsented content stealing that’s caused backlash against meme “curators” like F*ckJerry by giving an alternative to screenshotting and reposting other people’s stuff. Instead of just representing yourself with your own content, you could express your identity through the things

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Orai raises $2.3M to make you a better speaker


This post is by Anthony Ha from TechCrunch


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Orai, a startup building communication coaching tools, is announcing that it’s raised $2.3 million in seed funding.

CEO Danish Dhamani said that he co-founded the company with Paritosh Gupta and Aasim Sani to address a need in his own life — the fact that he was “held back personally and professionally” by lackluster “communications skills and public speaking skills.”

Dhamani said he attended Toastmasters International meetings hoping to improve those skills, where he came to a surprising conclusion — that he could build an algorithm to analyze your speaking abilities and give tips on how to improve.

To be clear, Orai isn’t necessarily trying to replace groups like Toastmasters, or individual speaking coaches. However, Dhamani said the “status quo” involves a “one-to-one” approach, where a human coach gives feedback to one person. Orai, on the other hand, can coach “entire IT teams, entire student bodies.”

“I

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EF raises $115M new fund, aiming to create another 300-plus startups in the next three years


This post is by Steve O'Hear from TechCrunch


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Entrepreneur First (EF), the London-headquartered “talent investor” that recruits and backs individuals pre-team and pre-idea to enable them to found startups, has raised a new fund of its own to continue scaling globally.

The $115 million first close was led by a number of leading (mostly unnamed) institutional investors across the U.S., Europe and Asia, including new anchor LP Trusted Insight. A number of well-known European entrepreneurs also invested. They include Taavet Hinrikus (co-founder of TransferWise), Alex Chesterman (co-founder of Zoopla), and EF alumnus Rob Bishop (who co-founded Magic Pony Technology which was bought by Twitter for a reported $150m in 2016).

This new fund — which EF says is one the largest pre-seed funds ever raised – will enable the talent investor to back more than 2,200 individuals who join its various programs over the next three years. EF currently operates in Bangalore, Berlin, Hong

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Slack off. Send videos instead with $11M-funded Loom


This post is by Josh Constine from TechCrunch


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If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many emails can you replace with a video? As offices fragment into remote teams, work becomes more visual, and social media makes us more comfortable on camera, it’s time for collaboration to go beyond text. That’s the idea behind Loom, a fast-rising startup that equips enterprises with instant video messaging tools. In a click, you can film yourself or narrate a screenshare to get an idea across in a more vivid, personal way. Instead of scheduling a video call, employees can asynchronously discuss projects or give ‘stand-up’ updates without massive disruptions to their workflow.

In the 2.5 years since launch, Loom has signed up 1.1 million users from 18,000 companies. And that was just as a Chrome extension. Today Loom launches its PC and Mac apps that give it a dedicated presence in your digital workspace. Whether you’re

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IFTTT co-founder Linden Tibbets steps down as CEO, replaced by turnaround specialist Chris Kibarian


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After raising $24 million in funding led by Salesforce in April 2018, the startup IFTTT — which provides an API platform so that people can create short scripts for apps to work together — has announced that its co-founder Linden Tibbets has stepped down as CEO after 10 years leading the company. Chris Kibarian, who most recently was the CEO of Monster.com owner Randstad Digital Ventures, has taken on the role, and joined the board in the process. Tibbets, meanwhile, is staying on as IFTTT’s chief design officer.

Kibarian is a self-described turnaround specialist who has worked across a diverse set of businesses. In addition to restructuring Monster — a legacy from the first dot-com boom that was acquired for $429 million in 2016 — it got causes-based crowdfunding platform YouCaring into fighting form under its private equity owner. (YouCaring eventually bought Generosity.com from Indiegogo and then itself got 

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Thumbtack now offers benefits to independent contractors


This post is by Megan Rose Dickey from TechCrunch


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The gig economy has been under much scrutiny as of late due to the way it pays — or, skirts around paying — its independent contractors. Thumbtack, a platform for finding professionals to do anything from home maintenance do DJing a party, is now offering benefits to some of its independent contractors.

“In a time where it feels like all the stories are about some tug of war between labor and a platform, I hope what this highlights is that there are opportunities for working together and to find solutions that are in service of the broad set of pros and their needs,” Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta told TechCrunch ”

This is thanks to Thumbtack’s new pilot partnership with Alia, a portable benefits platform. Alia, which is a project of the National Domestic Workers Alliances Lab, works by enabling customers to contribute to their cleaner’s benefits. These benefits

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SendBird snags $52M Series B to expand messaging API tool


This post is by Ron Miller from TechCrunch


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SendBird, a San Francisco area startup, helps developers add messaging to their apps with a couple of lines of code. It’s an idea similar to Stripe for payments or Twilio for communications. Today, the company announced a $52 million Series B investment.

The round was led by Iconiq Capital. Existing investors Shasta Ventures, August Capital, Y Combinator, and Funders Club also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to over $70 million, according to Crunchbase. Y Combinator is contributing to this round and SendBird was actually a member of the 2016 winter class.

The company gives developers the ability to add messaging to their apps without a fuss.”We are a very flexible, fully customizable, white label messaging capability. We come with a fully managed infrastructure. So basically, you can log into any mobile applications or websites out there, and use our messaging capability,” company founder and CEO John

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Redis Labs raises a $60M Series E round


This post is by Frederic Lardinois from TechCrunch


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Redis Labs, a startup that offers commercial services around the Redis in-memory data store (and which counts Redis creator and lead developer Salvatore Sanfilippo among its employees), today announced that it has raised a $60 million Series E funding round led by private equity firm Francisco Partners.

The firm didn’t participate in any of Redis Labs’ previous rounds, but existing investors Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing, Bain Capital Ventures, Viola Ventures and Dell Technologies Capital all participated in this round.

In total, Redis Labs has now raised $146 million and the company plans to use the new funding to accelerate its go-to-market strategy and continue to invest in the Redis community and product development.

Current Redis Labs users include the likes of American Express, Staples, Microsoft, Mastercard and Atlassian . In total, the company now has over 8,500 customers. Because it’s pretty flexible, these customers use the service as

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Antescofo’s Metronaut adds an orchestra when you play music


This post is by Romain Dillet from TechCrunch


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Meet Metronaut, an app for smartphones and tablets that could change the way you play classical music. The startup behind the app, Antescofo, raised a $4.5 million funding round (€4 million) and has attracted 160,000 downloads.

Daphni and OneRagTime are leading the round, with Nobuyuki Idei, Yann LeCun, Sophie Gasperment and Thibault Viort also participating.

Metronaut lets you play a music instrument with a professional orchestra playing all the other instruments with you. It isn’t just an audio player — the app leverages your device microphone to listen to your music and adjust the tempo of the other instruments.

The startup has recorded professional musicians in a studio so that you can play the flute without hearing the flute coming out of your speakers or headphones.

And if you still need to practice, you can set your own tempo while you learn your part — nothing will be

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Litho is a finger-worn controller for augmented reality, IoT and other ‘spatial’ interactions


This post is by Steve O'Hear from TechCrunch


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I first encountered the founders of Litho, a new hardware and software startup developing a new finger-worn controller, at London’s Pitch@Palace last April. The event sees startups pitch in front of the British royal family and other esteemed guests, and naturally the company’s young founders, 24-year-old Nat Martin (CEO) and 25-year-old Charlie Bruce (CTO), were a little overawed by the occasion, just like many of the other founders pitching that day. However, perhaps unbeknown to them, Litho was also one of the more notable companies, not least because, as the saying goes, hardware is hard.

Fast forward to today and the young company is ready to show the world the first publicly available iteration of what it has been building: an innovative finger-worn device that provides control over various “spatial interactions” and should find applications ranging from AR and VR to the smart home and the control of other

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HiHello raises $2.5 million to finally fix contact management


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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HiHello, the latest startup to take aim at business cards with its own digital alternative, has now raised a $2.5 million seed round to continue its efforts in building a better contact management solution designed for the mobile era. The new financing was led by August Capital, K9 Ventures and TenOneTen Ventures, and will see Villi Iltchev from August Capital joining the HiHello board as a result.

The now six-month-old startup was dreamed up by K9 Ventures founder Manu Kumar, along with co-founder and Caltech and Columbia alum Hari Ravi. Notably, Kumar has been trying to solve the problem of contact management for years, having co-founded and sold his startup CardMunch to LinkedIn — a decision he later regretted, saying last year he was “still peeved” at LinkedIn for ruining and eventually killing the product. (LinkedIn later pawned off its ashes to Evernote.)

With HiHello, Kumar is giving

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Alan raises another $45 million for its health insurance product


This post is by Romain Dillet from TechCrunch


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Paris-based startup Alan has raised a Series B round of funding of $45 million (€40 million). Index Ventures is once again leading the round, with partners of DST Global also participating. The company had raised a $28 million funding round only ten months ago.

Alan is a software-as-a-service startup tackling a very specific industry — the health insurance market in France — and soon across Europe. The company wants to create a well-designed insurance product with transparent pricing and policies to make healthcare more accessible. And it isn’t just a marketplace — the startup has obtained an official health insurance license and is the first new health insurance company in France in 30 years.

In France, every employee is covered by the national healthcare system for basic reimbursements as well as a private insurance company for more expensive

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GoCardless raises $75M Series E for its recurring payments network and heads to America


This post is by Steve O'Hear from TechCrunch


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Compared to startups born into the frothy London fintech space as it exists today, 2011-founded GoCardless could well be considered a slow burner. However, in more recent years, the nearly 300 person company — headed up by co-founder and CEO Hiroki Takeuchi — has undoubtedly stepped on the gas in a bid to become the one stop shop globally for businesses that want to let customers pay via recurring bank payments.

A little over a year ago, GoCardless announced that it had raised $22.5 million in further funding, off the back of record annual growth in the U.K. and strong early traction in new markets. And today the fintech is disclosing another fresh injection of capital: $75 million in Series E funding, in part to fund new offices across EMEA, APAC and North America. In addition to its London HQ, the company already has sites in France, Australia

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How to read fiction to build a startup


This post is by Danny Crichton from TechCrunch


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“The book itself is a curious artefact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were 15, it will tell it to you again when you’re 50, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you’re reading a whole new book.”—Ursula K. Le Guin

Every year, Bill Gates goes off-grid, leaves friends and family behind, and spends two weeks holed up in a cabin reading books. His annual reading list rivals Oprah’s Book Club as

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Startups Weekly: Is Y Combinator’s latest cohort too big?


This post is by Kate Clark from TechCrunch


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Greetings from Chittorgarh, one of my stops on a two-week excursion through Goa and Rajasthan, India. I’ve been a little too busy exploring, photographing cows and monkeys and eating a lot of delicious food to keep up with *all* the tech news, but I’ve still got the highlights.

For starters, if you haven’t heard yet, TechCrunch launched Extra Crunch, a paid premium subscription offering full of amazing content. As part of Extra Crunch, we’ll be doing deep dives on select businesses, beginning with Patreon. Read Patreon’s founding story here and learn how two college roommates built the world’s leading creator platform. Plus, we’ve got insights on Patreon’s product, business strategy, competitors and more.

Sign up for Extra Crunch membership here.

On to other news…

Y Combinator’s latest batch of startups is huge

So huge the Silicon Valley accelerator had to move locations and set up two stages at

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Apple acquires talking Barbie voicetech startup PullString


This post is by Josh Constine from TechCrunch


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Apple has just bought up the talent it needs to make talking toys a part of Siri, HomePod, and its voice strategy. Apple has acquired PullString, also known as ToyTalk, according to Axios’ Dan Primack and Ina Fried. The company makes voice experience design tools, artificial intelligence to power those experiences, and toys like talking Barbie and Thomas The Tank Engine toys in partnership with Mattel. Founded in 2011 by former Pixar executives, PullString went on to raise $44 million.

Apple’s Siri is seen as lagging far behind Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, not only in voice recognition and utility, but also in terms of developer ecosystem. Google and Amazon has built platforms to distribute Skills from tons of voice app makers, including storytelling, quizzes, and other games for kids. If Apple wants to take a real shot at becoming the center of your connected living room with

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