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Announcing the Early Stage Pitch-Off judges

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TechCrunch Early Stage Part Two is set to take place July 8th and 9th. You can still shoot your shot to pitch to an amazing panel of judges and thousands of TC viewers. TechCrunch editors will select 10 founders from around the world to pitch on stage July 9th. Apply here.

Startups will have five minutes to pitch their companies, business models and innovative ideas — followed by a Q&A with our superb panel of judges. The winner will get a feature article on TechCrunch.com, one-year free subscription to Extra Crunch and a complimentary Founder Pass to TechCrunch Disrupt this fall.

TechCrunch Early Stage Part Two is set to be a game-changer for founders looking to take their startups to the next level. At this two-day virtual event, early-stage founders can take part in highly interactive group sessions with top investors and ecosystem experts, in fields ranging from fundraising and marketplace positioning, to growth marketing and content development.

Without further ado, here are your judges for the Early Stage Pitch-Off:

Ben Sun, Primary Venture Partners

Image Credits: Primary Venture Partners

Ben is a co-founder and general partner at Primary Venture Partners. He has been a serial entrepreneur and investor as a co-founder of LaunchTime, an incubator and investor in early-stage tech startups and as a co-founder of Community Connect, which was one of the first social networking companies. Ben focuses his investing activities on primarily consumer-facing companies. His previous investments include Coupang, Jet.com, MakeSpace, Ollie, Mirror, Slice, Bounce Exchange, Selfmade, Shoptalk and Penrose Hill. Ben has been active in the NYC tech community for almost 20 years. Prior to working as an entrepreneur and investor, Ben worked at Merrill Lynch in the Technology Investment Banking Group. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Economics.

Leah Solivan, Fuel Capital

Image Credits: Leah Solivan

Leah Solivan is general partner at Fuel Capital, where she invests in early-stage companies across consumer technology, hardware, marketplaces and retail. She’s passionate about supporting teams who are taking on world-changing ideas. Leah relates so well to founders because she is one herself. She created one of the most widely recognized consumer brands of the past decade with TaskRabbit. As TaskRabbit’s CEO for eight years, Leah scaled the company to 44 cities and raised more than $50 million. In 2016, Leah transitioned into the role of executive chairwoman and in 2017, TaskRabbit was acquired by IKEA.

Shardul Shah, Index Ventures

Image Credits: Index Ventures

Shardul joined Index in 2008. He focuses on security, cloud infrastructure and enterprise software investments. He is a director of Attack IQ, Brightback, Castle Intelligence, Datadog (Nasdaq:DDOG), Expel, Gatsby and Wiz.io. Shardul was previously a director of Adallom (Microsoft), SourceClear (CA Technologies), Koality (Docker), Lacoon (Check Point), Base (Zendesk) and an investor in Duo Security (Cisco). After graduating from the University of Chicago, Shardul worked with Summit Partners where he focused on healthcare and internet technologies.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/07/announcing-the-early-stage-pitch-off-judges-2/

Start Ups

U.S lawmakers introduce bills to Undo big tech’s monopoly – Top Tech News

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Top Trending news from the world of technology….

1)

U.S lawmakers introduce bills to Undo big tech’s monopoly

In order to challenge & undo big tech’s monopoly, U.S lawmakers introduced not one but five bipartisan bills in the U.S congress on Friday. If these bills are passed and become acts then it will deep ramifications on the way big tech companies operate. Big tech companies include companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Facebook. To know more about this news, click here.

2)

Chinese Rover Zhurong Takes a historic selfie

China’s first ever rover on the red planet has probably done something that NASA’s rover has not done so far. Take a beautiful selfie on a Red Planet. Yes, Chinese Rover Zhurong has pulled off this unique act. By doing so, it has become the first rover to take a selfie on the red planet.

3)

Facebook makes another acquisition in the VR space

It is no secret that for several years Facebook has been investing quite heavily in the VR & AR space. Keeping up with this strategy, the social media giant has just acquired VR shooter game development studio. The name of the acquired company is BIG Box VR. Facebook hasn’t shed light on terms of the deal.

4)

Romania bans Huawei

Image Credits: Flickr Flavio Sartori

Romania has become the latest country to impose ban on Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei in participating in 5G trail. On Friday, Romanian President Klaus lohannis signed  a bill that call for ban on the Chinese company on security grounds. According to reports, this controversial bill has the backing of Washington Dc.

5)

Amazon will overtake Walmart by 2022

Image Credits: Flickr Алексей М

A JP Morgan survey has claimed that Amazon is on track to overtake Walmart to become America’s largest retailer by 2022. The report claims that Amazon’s GMV is already growing faster than the industry rate and this is sufficient to surpass Walmart by next two years.  Amazon is already the America’s largest  online retailer.

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Source: https://www.techpluto.com/u-s-lawmakers-introduce-bills-to-undo-big-techs-monopoly-top-tech-news/

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Start Ups

Facebook acquires Seattle virtual reality gaming company BigBox VR, makers of Population: One

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Big Box VR co-founders Chia Chin Lee (left) and Gabe Brown. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

Seattle startup BigBox VR, the company behind multiplayer virtual reality game POPULATION: ONE, has been acquired by Facebook.

Facebook was drawn to BigBox due to the popularity of POP: ONE, which has been one of the top-performing titles on the Oculus platform since it launched last year and racked up $10 million in revenue within a few months. Facebook and its VR-focused subsidiary Oculus plan to help BigBox accelerate its vision for the game and also other projects.

“We continue to invest in content that fosters social connection, and we believe POP: ONE delivers this experience to the VR community in spades within a super fun gaming experience,” Mike Verdu, vice president of content for Facebook Reality Labs, wrote in a blog post.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

This is Facebook’s third acquisition of a Seattle-area company — others include Rel8tion (2011) and Atlas Solutions (2013) — and represents another VR studio swooped up by the tech giant, adding to its purchases of Downpour Interactive, Ready at Dawn, Sanzaru Games, and Beat Games.

Facebook already has a large presence in the Seattle area with more than 7,000 employees. It has two Facebook Reality Labs offices in the region.

Founded in 2016, BigBox is led by co-founders Chia Chin Lee, a game industry vet who led teams at Sony and Disney, and Gabe Brown, who met Chin Lee while the two built a popular Facebook game — Marvel: Avengers Alliance — at Disney’s Seattle-area gaming studio.

POP: ONE borrows mechanics from popular battle royale games such as Fortnite or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds that have been immensely popular among PC and console gamers over the past several years. It is unique given the game is built for virtual reality, allowing gamers to climb, fly, and shoot as if they were actually doing so in real life.

BigBox previously had a partnership with Oculus Studios. It plans to continue supporting non-Oculus platforms including SteamVR headsets such as HTC Vive and Valve Index, and POP:ONE will receive regular updates, according to a blog post.

“We are fully focused on POPULATION: ONE! We have a lot planned, but we’re not ready to share details yet,” the blog post reads.

BigBox has around 30 employees, according to LinkedIn. The entire team will join Oculus Studios, including the founders.

“BigBox VR may be small, but they are a mighty, nimble team of game industry vets who seamlessly nail the game development duality of craft and data-driven live service,” Verdu wrote in his post.

The company raised one investment round, reeling in $5 million three years ago in a seed round led by Bay Area venture capital firm Shasta Ventures that included participation from GSR Ventures and PSL Ventures.

BigBox’s first title was Smashbox Arena, a team-based action VR game once described as a “Counter-Strike meets Mario Kart” experience. It served as a test of sorts to see how online multiplayer would work in virtual reality.

Virtual and augmented reality have not yet reached mainstream as some predicted but large tech companies such as Facebook and Apple continue investing in the technology, and investors keep making bets.

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Source: https://www.geekwire.com/2021/facebook-acquires-seattle-virtual-reality-gaming-company-bigbox-vr-makers-population-one/

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Aerospace

The air taxi market prepares to take flight

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Twelve years ago, Joby Aviation consisted of a team of seven engineers working out of founder JoeBen Bevirt’s ranch in the Santa Cruz mountains. Today, the startup has swelled to 800 people and a $6.6 billion valuation, ranking itself as the highest-valued electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) company in the industry.

As in any disruptive industry, the forecast may be cloudier than the rosy picture painted by passionate founders and investors.

It’s not the only air taxi company to reach unicorn status. The field is now dotted with new or soon-to-be publicly traded companies courtesy of mergers and special purpose acquisition companies. Partnerships with major automakers and airlines are on the rise, and CEOs have promised commercialization as early as 2024.

As in any disruptive industry, the forecast may be cloudier than the rosy picture painted by passionate founders and investors. A quick peek at comments and posts on LinkedIn reveals squabbles among industry insiders and analysts about when this emerging technology will truly take off and which companies will come out ahead.

Other disagreements have higher stakes. Wisk Aero filed a lawsuit against Archer Aviation alleging trade secret misappropriation. Meanwhile, valuations for companies that have no revenue yet to speak of — and may not for the foreseeable future — are skyrocketing.

Electric air mobility is gaining elevation. But there’s going to be some turbulence ahead.

Big goals and bigger expenses

Taking an eVTOL from design through to manufacturing and certification will likely cost about $1 billion, Mark Moore, then-head of Uber Elevate, estimated in April 2020 during a conference held by the Air Force’s Agility Prime program.

That means in some sense, the companies that will come out on top will likely be the ones that have managed to raise enough money to pay for all the expenses associated with engineering, certification, manufacturing and infrastructure.

“The startups that have successfully raised or that will be able to raise significant amounts of capital to get them through the certification process … that’s the number one thing that’s going to separate the strong from the weak,” Asad Hussain, a senior analyst in mobility technology at PitchBook, told TechCrunch. “There’s over 100 startups in the space. Not all of them are going to be able to do that.”

Just consider some of the expenses accrued by the biggest eVTOLs last year: Joby Aviation spent a whopping $108 million on research and development, a $30 million increase from 2019. Archer spent $21 million in R&D in 2020, according to regulatory filings. Meanwhile, Joby’s net loss last year was $114.2 million and Archer’s was $24.8 million, though, of course, neither company has brought a product to market yet. Operating expenses will likely only continue to grow into the future as companies enter into manufacturing and deployment phases.

What that means for the future of the industry is likely two things: more SPAC deals and more acquisitions.

Mobility companies, including those working on electrified transport, are often pre-revenue and have capitally intensive business models — a combination that can make it difficult to find buyers in a traditional IPO. SPACs have become increasingly popular as a shorter, less expensive path to becoming a public company. SPACs have also historically received less scrutiny than IPOs. Should the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission start to take a closer look at SPAC mergers in the future, it may impair the ability of other air taxi companies to go public this way, Hussain said.

That means market consolidation is nearly guaranteed, as smaller companies may find it more advantageous to sell than continue to raise more capital. It’s already begun: At the end of April, eVTOL developer Astro Aerospace announced the acquisition of Horizon Aircraft.

Horizon cited “greater access to capital” as one of the many benefits of the transaction, and other companies will likely find the buy or sell route to be the most beneficial on the road to commercialization. And just last week, British eVTOL Vertical Aerospace, which has an order for 150 aircraft from Virgin Atlantic, said it would go public via a merger with Broadstone Acquisition Corp. at an equity value of around $2.2 billion.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/11/the-air-taxi-market-prepares-to-take-flight/

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Fintech

Extra Crunch roundup: EU insurtech, 30 years of ‘Crossing the Chasm,’ embedded finance’s endgame

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This morning, Anna Heim and Alex Wilhelm dug into the EU insurtech market, interviewing European VCs and collating the biggest recent rounds to take the temperature of the waters across the pond:

  • Alex Timm, CEO, Root
  • Dan Preston, CEO, MetroMile
  • Luca Bocchio, partner, Accel
  • Florian Graillot, investor, Astorya.vc
  • Stephen Brittain, director and founder, Insurtech Gateway

Several European-based insurtech startups entered unicorn territory this year, such as Bought By Many, which offers pet insurance; London-based Zego; and Alan, a French startup that raised a $220 million round.

According to Brittain, EU startups in this sector are “still at the very early stages of innovation,” having only shown “a fraction of what’s possible” in a market that is “as large as banking.” Interestingly, he predicted that AI will play a larger role in the future as companies deploy it for fraud detection, improved customer experiences and processing claims more quickly.

“We are fully expecting the next generation of AI-driven business to unlock real-time risk analysis, pricing and claims resolution in the next few years,” he said.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch; I hope you have a safe, relaxing weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

What do these 4 IPOs tell us about the state of the market?

Earlier this week, The Exchange assessed the looming Monday.com IPO before reading the tea leaves about that flotation and three others to sum up the overall state of the market.

So what do the Marqeta, Monday.com, Zeta Global and 1stDibs debuts tell us? We may have been too conservative.

Toast’s Aman Narang and BVP’s Kent Bennett on how customer obsession is everything

Image Credits: Bessemer Venture Partners / Toast

On a recent episode of Extra Crunch Live, we spoke to Toast founder Aman Narang and Kent Bennett of Bessemer Venture Partners about how they came together for a deal, what makes the difference for both founders and investors when fundraising, and the biggest lessons they’ve learned so far.

The episode also featured the Extra Crunch Live Pitch-Off, where audience members pitched their products to Bennett and Narang and received live feedback.

Extra Crunch Live is open to everyone each Wednesday at 3 p.m. EDT/noon PDT, but only Extra Crunch members are able to stream these sessions afterward and watch previous shows on-demand in our episode library.

AI startup investment is on pace for a record year

Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim solicited feedback from investors to get a temperature on the market for AI startup investments.

“The startup investing market is crowded, expensive and rapid-fire today as venture capitalists work to preempt one another, hoping to deploy funds into hot companies before their competitors,” they write. “The AI startup market may be even hotter than the average technology niche.”

But that’s not surprising. The Exchange was on it.

“In the wake of the Microsoft-Nuance deal, The Exchange reported that it would be reasonable to anticipate an even more active and competitive market for AI-powered startups,” Alex and Anna note. “Our thesis was that after Redmond dropped nearly $20 billion for the AI company, investors would have a fresh incentive to invest in upstarts with an AI focus or strong AI component; exits, especially large transactions, have a way of spurring investor interest in related companies.”

Their expectation is coming true: Investors reported a fierce market for AI startups.

Dear Sophie: What is a diversity green card and how do I apply for one?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

I started a tech company about two years ago, and ever since I’ve dreamed of expanding my company in the United States.

I would love to have a green card. Someone mentioned that I should apply for a diversity green card. Would you please provide me with more details about it and how to apply?

— Technical in Tanzania

How to start a company in 4 days

Turtle (real) with a rocket on the back, a match (real flame) is about to ignite it. No turtles were harmed in the making of this stock image.

Image Credits: MediaProduction (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Pulley founder and three-time YC alum Yin Wu offers a tactical guide to getting a startup running in four days. Yes, just four days.

“The logistics of setting up a startup should be simple, because over the long run, complicated equity setups and cap tables cost more money in legal fees and administration time,” Wu notes.

Read on for guidance on how to get your business going in less than a week.

Health clouds are set to play a key role in healthcare innovation

Health clouds are important for innovation in healthcare

Image Credits: Natali_Mis / Getty Images

Innovaccer founder and CEO Abhinav Shashank and CTO Mike Sutten write in a guest column that the U.S. healthcare industry is in the middle of a massive transformation.

This shift, they write, “is being stimulated by federal mandates, technological innovation, and the need to improve clinical outcomes and communication between providers, patients and payers.”

Improving healthcare now means we need to process tremendous amounts of healthcare data. How do we do it? The cloud, which “plays a pivotal role in meeting the current needs of healthcare organizations.”

What SOSV’s Climate Tech 100 tells founders about investors in the space

Climate tech presents a trillion-dollar opportunity

Image Credits: MrJub / Getty Images

SOSV’s Benjamin Joffe and Meghan Hind round up a “who’s who” from the venture capital firm’s SOSV Climate Tech 100, a list of the best startups addressing climate change that SOSV has supported from the very beginning.

“What can founders learn from the list about climate tech investors? In other words, who invested in the Climate Tech 100?” they ask.

The fintech endgame: New supercompanies combine the best of software and financials

Image Credits: Donald Iain Smith (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Now that we can transact from anywhere, a new, hybrid class of software companies with embedded financial services are scooping up consumers — and investors are following the action.

Using data from a Battery Ventures report about “the intersection of software and financial services,” this post examines why these companies can be so hard to value and offers a framework for better understanding their business models and investor appeal.

After 30 years, ‘Crossing the Chasm’ is due for a refresh

Hoover Dam area, Mike O'Callaghan, Pat Tillman bridge.

Image Credits: Grant Faint (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Geoffrey Moore’s “Chasm,” a framework for marketing technology products that has been one of the canonical foundational concepts to product-market fit for three decades, needs a bit of an upgrade, Flybridge Capital’s Jeff Bussgang writes.

“I have been reflecting on why it is that we venture capitalists and founders keep making the same mistake over and over again — a mistake that has become even more glaring in recent years,” he writes.

Bussgang goes on to consider the Chasm — and propose tweaks for thinking about market size in the modern era.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/11/extra-crunch-roundup-eu-insurtech-30-years-of-crossing-the-chasm-embedded-finances-endgame/

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