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Brightly raises $1M for eco-friendly e-commerce and content platform, following the Goop playbook

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Liza Moiseeva (left) and Laura Alexander Wittig, co-founders of Brightly. (Brightly Photo)

Laura Alexander Wittig and Liza Moiseeva have turned a simple podcast about sustainable living into a full blown platform for content, community, and online shopping.

The entrepreneurs are co-founders of Brightly, a Seattle startup that just reeled in $1 million to fuel its momentum.

They launched their Good Together podcast in 2019, partly as a way to see if their branding and voice around eco-conscious product recommendations and general life tips would resonate with “conscious customers” — and it did, quickly rising up the podcast charts.

The podcast also caught the attention of Snapchat, which accepted Wittig and Moiseeva into its Yellow Accelerator program this past February.

Brightly then took shape, building off the podcast and creating more content geared toward sustainable living. The company figured out a way to earn revenue by partnering with brands and featuring their products. Brightly also participated in the Seattle-based Female Founders Alliance accelerator, which opened up conversations with investors.

Its community grew rapidly last year, with millions of new followers across TikTok and Instagram channels. The company now reaches more than 250,000 women daily and has an ambassador program of more than 10,000 members who share ideas and recommendations on Brightly’s apps.

Now the startup is ready to step on the gas, with plans to grow its 5-person team and add an e-commerce arm later this year.

“Our main goal is to empower billions of conscious consumers to change the world through simple, everyday steps,” Wittig said.

In some ways, Brightly is following the blueprint laid out by Goop, the wellness and lifestyle brand founded by actress Gwyneth Paltrow that started as a weekly newsletter. Another similar example is Glossier co-founder Emily Weiss, whose cosmetics company originally started as a blog called Into the Goss.

“It’s a combination of community and content to drive commerce,” Wittig said. “This is the future of how companies are going to be built. Rather than chasing customers to come in your door, you can establish relationships before you even ask them to pull out their wallet.”

Wittig said the pandemic has made people think more deeply about what they buy and who they buy from, whether it’s the local restaurant down the street or an eco-friendly product manufacturer.

Brightly differentiates itself from other marketplaces or e-commerce giants such as Amazon with its curation and vetting process, Wittig said.

“It’s truly allowing people to see the story behind products and forming an emotional relationship with the product,” she noted.

Wittig previously worked at Amazon, Adobe, Sephora, and Google, where she helped lead a social impact program. Moiseeva was a co-founder and exec at GlobeIn, which sold a fair trade subscription box.

Wittig is based in Seattle while Moiseeva is in the Bay Area. Brightly will have a presence in Seattle but is “remote-first,” following a pandemic-driven trend of startups not tying themselves down to one physical location.

Investors in the round include Tacoma Venture Fund; Keeler Investments; and the Female Founders Alliance. Odile Roujol, the former Lancôme CEO, also invested through her firm FAB Ventures.

“I founded FAB Ventures to back purpose-driven entrepreneurs,” Roujol said in a statement. “I’m excited to put this capital to work backing Brightly’s female founders, building a vibrant community of GenZ and Millennials, and scaling conscious consumerism. We can all make a difference.”

Source: https://www.geekwire.com/2021/brightly-raises-1m-eco-friendly-e-commerce-content-platform-following-goop-playbook/

EdTech

A first look at Coursera’s S-1 filing

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After TechCrunch broke the news yesterday that Coursera was planning to file its S-1 today, the edtech company officially dropped the document Friday evening.

Coursera was last valued at $2.4 billion by the private markets, when it most recently raised a Series F round in October 2020 that was worth $130 million.

Coursera’s S-1 filing offers a glimpse into the finances of how an edtech company, accelerated by the pandemic, performed over the past year. It paints a picture of growth, albeit one that came at steep expense.

Revenue

In 2020, Coursera saw $293.5 million in revenue. That’s a roughly 59% increase from the year prior when the company recorded $184.4 million in top line. During that same period, Coursera posted a net loss of nearly $67 million, up 46% from the previous year’s $46.7 million net deficit.

Notably the company had roughly the same non-cash, share-based compensation expenses in both years. And even if we allow the company to judge its profitability on an adjusted EBITDA basis, Coursera’s losses still rose from 2019 to 2020, expanding from $26.9 million to $39.8 million.

To understand the difference between net losses and adjusted losses it’s worth unpacking the EBITDA acronym. Standing for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, EBITDA strips out some non-operating costs to give investors a possible better picture of the continuing health of a business, without getting caught up in accounting nuance. Adjusted EBITDA takes the concept one step further, also removing the non-cash cost of share-based compensation, and in an even more cheeky move, in this case also deducts “payroll tax expense related to stock-based activities” as well.

For our purposes, even when we grade Coursera’s profitability on a very polite curve it still winds up generating stiff losses. Indeed, the company’s adjusted EBITDA as a percentage of revenue — a way of determining profitability in contrast to revenue — barely improved from a 2019 result of -15% to -14% in 2020.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/03/05/a-first-look-at-courseras-s-1-filing/

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Coursera Files To Go Public After Online Learning’s Big Year

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Following a busy year for edtech, online learning platform Coursera has filed to go public.

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Coursera is backed by investors including The World Bank and EDBI. The investors set to receive the biggest payout from the IPO include New Enterprise Associates, G Squared, Kleiner Perkins and Future Fund.

As a private company, Coursera raised more than $443 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. It last raised a $130 million Series F led by NEA in July 2020.

Coursera reported $293.5 million in revenue in 2020, up 59 percent from $184.4 million in 2019. Its net loss also grew in that period from $46.7 million in 2019 to $66.8 million in 2020.

As of the end of 2020, the company has over 77 million registered learners on its platform. More than 4,000 academic institutions, 2,000 organizations and 300 government entities had used Coursera for student, employee and resident training, the company said in its S-1. 

Edtech in general has been a topic of discussion over the past year as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced distance learning on teachers and students. The company acknowledged how the pandemic “sharply increased the need for online learning beginning in 2020,” but also stated in its Risk Factors section that it couldn’t predict if the online learning trend would stick.

“Although we believe our business has also been positively impacted to some extent by several trends related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the increased need or willingness of businesses, governments, and educational institutions to adopt remote, online, and asynchronous learning and training, we cannot predict whether these trends will continue if and when the pandemic begins to subside, restrictions ease, and the risk and barriers associated with in-person learning and training decrease,” Coursera wrote.

It also acknowledged among its risk factors that, “while the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the market for online learning solutions, it is still less mature than the market for in-person learning and training, which many businesses currently utilize, and these businesses may be slow or unwilling to migrate from these legacy approaches.”

Coursera is one of the bigger names in the world of edtech, partnering with well-known institutions like Stanford University and Princeton University to offer courses such as Introduction to Logic, Machine Learning and Essentials of Palliative Care. 

One of its more interesting risk factors: Coursera acknowledged that the reputation of for-profit postsecondary institutions and the scrutiny they’re under could negatively impact its business, despite the company steering clear of them.

“Even though we do not market our solutions to these institutions, this negative media attention may nevertheless add to the skepticism about online higher education generally, including our solutions,” the company wrote.

Coursera is one of several venture-backed companies to file to go public in the past week. ThredUp, AppLovin, Compass and Vizio all filed S-1 registration documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week. 

Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are among the underwriters for Coursera’s IPO. The company has applied to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker COUR. 

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

While 2020 wasn’t a banner year for most things, that’s also true for M&A dealmaking in cybersecurity. However, last month saw some interesting…

While shares opened at $39, they slid throughout the day to close at $34.80, down 12 percent.

The company reported about $1.45 billion in revenue in 2020, up from $994.1 million in 2019.

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Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/coursera-files-to-go-public-after-online-learnings-big-year/

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Here’s Who’s Gone Public in 2021 (So Far)

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Another year, another list.

In past years, we’ve mostly covered venture-backed tech and tech-ish IPOs in this perennial list of startups going public. Occasionally, a direct listing here and there would make the list, but the vast majority of companies going public were doing so through a traditional IPO. This year looks like it will be a bit different, with the increasing popularity of SPACs and new rule changes making direct listings more favorable, now that companies can raise capital through that route. 

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So, we’ve adapted our ever-updated Here’s Who’s Gone Public list to fit more with the times, and are including both traditional IPOs and other methods of going public. So far this year, that means IPOs and SPACs. 

While SPACs are going public at a more frequent pace than traditional IPO companies, we’ve included only the ones that have completed a merger with a target company and begun trading as a combined company. 

This list will be updated regularly to keep up with the robust IPO and SPAC pipeline coming up this year, so be sure to check back.

Most recently updated: March 5, 2021

IPOs

Affirm

IPO date: Jan. 13, 2021
IPO price: $49
IPO valuation: $11.9 billion
Initial post-IPO arc: Positive

In the first venture-backed tech-ish IPO of the year, Affirm saw its stock price jump 100 percent on its first day of trading before closing out at $97.24. Affirm is  a big player in the increasingly-popular “buy now, pay later space,” which includes companies like AfterPay and Klarna. Since it went public in mid-January, the company’s stock has moved up and down, but overall its trajectory has been positive. Affirm’s stock closed at $105.55 on Feb. 18.

Poshmark

IPO date: Jan. 14, 2021
IPO price: $42
IPO valuation: $3 billion
Initial post-IPO arc: Negative

Poshmark’s stock price doubled pretty much right out of the gate, and ended up closing out its first day of trading up 140 percent. The company, which operates a marketplace for new and second-hand clothing and accessories, reached a valuation of $3 billion with its IPO, one of the first of this year. But since Poshmark’s public market debut, its stock has fallen quite a bit. The company’s stock closed at $68.39 on Feb. 18.

Playtika

IPO date: Jan. 15, 2021
IPO price: $27
IPO valuation: $11 billion
Initial post-IPO arc: Positive

Gaming is all the rage as people look to stay entertained at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The market response to Playtika reflects that. Playtika’s stock price since its mid-January debut has been mostly positive. The company’s stock closed at $32.56 on Feb. 18, still above its first day of trading close of $31.62. 

Qualtrics

IPO date: Jan. 28, 2021
IPO price: $30
IPO valuation: $15 billion
Initial post-IPO arc: Positive

Qualtrics’ IPO was significant for a couple different reasons. It wasn’t a traditional venture-backed tech company going public, but one that had already been acquired. After SAP acquired the company in 2018 before Qualtrics’ planned IPO, SAP ended up spinning it out in 2021. The IPO was also significant because it ended up being the largest IPO of a Utah-based company. Qualtrics’ public debut valued the company at $15 billion, and its stock price arc has been positive since. Qualtrics’ stock closed at $44.63 on Feb.18.

Bumble

IPO date: Feb. 11, 2021
IPO price: $43
IPO valuation: $8.2 billion
Initial post-IPO arc: Positive

Bumble’s IPO made founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd a billionaire and the youngest woman to take a company public. It was also a big deal for Texas’ tech scene, as the dating app is a homegrown Austin company. The company raised $2.15 billion through its IPO and its stock closed 64 percent above its IPO price on its first day of trading. Overall, its post-IPO arc since then has been positive, and its stock closed at $74 on Feb. 18.

Oscar Health

IPO date: March 3, 2021
IPO price: $39
IPO valuation: $7.9 billion
Initial post-IPO arc: Negative

As of this writing, Oscar Health has been a public company for less than three days. So, its negative post-IPO arc should be taken with a grain of salt — especially because the market in general dipped at the end of its first week of trading. That said, Oscar’s public market debut wasn’t like many of the venture-backed IPOs we’ve seen recently where the stock surges right out of the gate. The company initially set a price range of between $32 and $34 before increasing it to between $36 and $38, and pricing at $39. The company closed its first day of trading at $34.80, and its stock closed at $31 on Friday, March 5.

SPACs 

Clover Health

First day of trading: Jan. 8, 2021
SPAC proceeds: Up to $1.2 billion
SPAC valuation: $7 billion, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal
Initial stock price arc: Negative

Clover Health was the first VC-backed company to go public via a special purpose acquisition company, with Chamath Palihapitiya’s SPAC, Social Capital Hedosophia V, acquiring the company. The company’s stock since the merger was completed in early January has trended negatively since it started trading, though, with its stock closing at $10.83 on Feb.18.

Billtrust

First day of trading: Jan. 13, 2021
SPAC valuation: $1.3 billion
Initial stock price arc: Positive.

Payment cycle management platform Billtrust went public in mid-January after merging with South Mountain Merger Corp. The company  raised $115 million in funding while private and announced plans to go public via a SPAC in the fall. Since the company’s stock started trading, its initial arc has been positive. Billtrust’s stock closed at $18.80 on Feb. 18.

Hims and Hers Health

First day of trading: Jan. 21, 2021
SPAC proceeds: $280 million
SPAC valuation: $1.6 billion, according to Forbes
Initial stock price arc: Positive

Hims and Hers Health, which initially started out as a company aimed toward men’s health issues, went public after merging with special purpose acquisition company Oaktree Acquisitions Corp. The deal was among the first major VC-backed SPAC mergers to be completed in 2021, and raised proceeds of about $280 million. Since the combined company’s stock started trading, its stock price has been trending up and closed at $19.01 on Feb. 18.

ChargePoint Holdings

First day of trading: Feb. 26, 2021
SPAC proceeds: $450 million, according to Inside EVs.
Initial stock price arc: Negative

Companies in the electric vehicle space are evidently popular targets for SPACs, and ChargePoint is among them. The company, which is based in Campbell, California, went public by merging with special purpose acquisition company Switchback Energy Acquisition Corp. Since the company completed the merger on Feb. 26 and began trading (closing at $30.83 last week), its stock has fallen a bit, closing at $26.13 on Friday, March 5.

Metromile

First day of trading: Feb. 9, 2021
SPAC proceeds: Unclear
Initial stock price arc: Negative

Digital insurance platform Metromile went public by merging with blank-check company INSU Acquisition Corp. II. The company, which is backed by investors including Index Ventures and Future Fund, follows other insurtech companies like Lemonade and Root to the public market, though through a SPAC rather than a traditional IPO. The company’s stock has mostly trended down since then, closing at $10.45 on Friday, March 5.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

While 2020 wasn’t a banner year for most things, that’s also true for M&A dealmaking in cybersecurity. However, last month saw some interesting…

While shares opened at $39, they slid throughout the day to close at $34.80, down 12 percent.

The company reported about $1.45 billion in revenue in 2020, up from $994.1 million in 2019.

For many startup employees, it often seems like the only options for liquidating their shares and receiving a payout for their equity in a company is…

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Trade with the Official CFD Partners of AC Milan
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Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/heres-whos-gone-public-in-2021-so-far/

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How and when to hire your first product manager

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In the world of early-stage startups, job titles are often a formality. In reality, each employee may handle a dozen responsibilities outside their job description. The choose-your-own-adventure type of work style is part of the magic of startups and often why generalists thrive here.

However, as a company progresses and the team grows, there comes a time when a founder needs to carve out dedicated roles. Of these positions, product management might be one of the most elusive — and key — roles to fill.

Product management might be one of the most elusive — and key — roles to fill.

We spoke to startup founders and operators to get their thoughts about how and when they hired their first product manager. Some of the things we talked about were:

  •  Which traits to look for.
  •  Why it’s important to define the role before you look for your best fit.
  •  Whether your new hire needs to have a technical background.
  •  The best questions to ask in an interview.
  •  How to time your first hire and avoid overhiring.

Don’t hire for the CEO of a product

Let’s start by working backward. Product managers often graduate into a CEO role or leave a company to become a founder. Like founders, talented product managers have innate leadership skills and are able to effectively and clearly communicate. Similarly, both roles require a person who is a visionary when it comes to the product and execution.

David Blake was a product manager before he became a serial edtech founder who created Degreed, Learn In, and most recently, BookClub. He says that experience helped him launch the first prototype of Degreed and attract first clients.

“The must-have skill is the ability to put the team’s best wisdom in check and inform the product decisions with users and potential clients to inform what you are building,” he said. The person “must also be able to take the team’s mission and develop and sell that narrative to users and potential clients. That is how you blaze a new trail, balance risk, while avoiding building a ‘faster horse.”

The overlapping synergies between PMs and founders is part of the reason why the role is so confusing to define and hire for. Ken Norton, former director of product at Figma who recently left to solo advise and coach product managers, says companies can start by defining what PMs are not: The CEO of the product.

“It’s about not handing off the product responsibilities to somebody,” he said. “You want the founder and the CEO to continue to be the evangelist and visionary.” Instead, the role is more about day to day “blocking and tackling.” Norton wrote a piece more than 15 years ago about how to hire a product manager, and it’s still an essential read for anyone interested in the field.

Define the role and set your expectations

Product managers help translate all the jugglers within a startup to each other; connecting the engineer with marketing, design with business development and sales with all the above. The role at its core is hard to define, but at the same time is the necessary plumbing for any startup that wants to be high-growth and ambitious.

While a successful product manager is a strong generalist, they have to have the ability to understand and humanize technical processes. The best candidates, then, have some sort of technical experience as an engineer or otherwise.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/03/05/product-manager-hiring-for-startups/

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