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Hear Startup Alley companies pitch expert VC judges on the next episode of Extra Crunch Live

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We know how much you love a good startup pitch-off. Who doesn’t? It combines the thrill of live, high-stakes entertainment with learning about the hottest new thing. Plus, you get to hear feedback from some of the smartest folks in the industry, thus learning how to absolutely crush it at your next pitch meeting with a VC.

With all that in mind, we’re introducing a special summer edition of Extra Crunch Live that’s all pitch-off, all the time.

On August 4, Extra Crunch Live will feature startups exhibiting in the Startup Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 in September. Those startups will pitch their products/businesses to a pair of expert VC judges, who will then give their live feedback.

Extra Crunch Live is usually a combination of an interview with a founder/investor duo and an audience pitch-off. But as it’s summer, and Disrupt is right around the corner, we thought it would be fun to bring you even more pitches and even more feedback.

On August 4, our expert VC judges will be Edith Yeung from Race Capital and Laela Sturdy of CapitalG. Register here for free!

Edith Yeung started out as an investor at 500 Startups and is now a general partner at Race Capital. She’s an expert on both the China and Silicon Valley investment landscape and has made more than 50 investments, with a portfolio that includes 50 startups, including Lightyear/Stellar (valued $1.2 billion), Silk Labs (acquired by Apple), Chirp (acquired by Apple), Fleksy (acquired by Pinterest), Human (acquired by Mapbox), Solana, Oasis Labs, Nebulas, Hooked, DayDayCook, AISense and many more.

Laela Sturdy is a 10x unicorn operator-turned-investor whose investments are worth nearly $200 billion. She joined CapitalG, the investment arm of Alphabet, in 2013, and her portfolio includes Stripe, UiPath, Duolingo, Gusto, Webflow and Unqork, among many others.

As a special thank you, all attendees of this episode of Extra Crunch Live will be entered into a random drawing for a chance to win one of three free tickets to TechCrunch Disrupt 2021. Following the event, we’ll randomly select three winners and send details on how to redeem their passes. Do you need to submit any additional information to enter the drawing? Nope. All you need to do is register for Extra Crunch Live by clicking here and attend the event on August 4.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/23/hear-startup-alley-companies-pitch-expert-vc-judges-on-the-next-episode-of-extra-crunch-live/

Startups

Simple Hacks Startups Can Use To Reduce Business Costs

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Working a 9 to 5 job is not everyone’s idea of a perfect life; some people prefer to use the innovative ideas that pop up into their brains to become their own boss. They want to free themselves from the shackles of corporate work to do something they are passionate about. Yet, no matter how optimistic a person is, they still have to admit that starting a new business is a considerable risk. Entrepreneurs have to face numerous challenges and cross many hurdles in the initial years of their business. One of the toughest hurdles that people face in the path of entrepreneurship is cash flow management.

Cash flow management is the process of keeping track of the money that goes in and out of your business. It is a factor that dictates almost every business operation. For this reason, keeping track of cash flow is necessary to keep the company from going bankrupt.

The problem many young entrepreneurs face is that they cannot manage the company’s cash flow due to budgeting problems and overspending on unnecessary factors. This can prove fatal for a startup with limited capital. Thus, the first and the best course of action is to take every step possible to reduce the startup’s costs so that money can be reinvested into the business. Some tips to minimize startup costs are:

  1. Lower the office space costs

Instead of putting an offer for that luxurious office space, it is better to settle for something affordable. You don’t need extra storage space and huge meetings room in the initial days. In fact, most entrepreneurs prefer to set up a home office. It gives them the time to establish their business and gather enough funds to afford a proper office space. Even in a country like Taiwan, where the government is focusing on empowering small businesses. Most entrepreneurs prefer to set up a home office or a co-working space. If the need arises, they simply rent a meeting room in Taiwan; this way, they can cut down business costs while still wowing their clients with a professional atmosphere and space.

  1. Digitalize 

Companies are starting to realize how much cash goes to waste due to paper documentation. By simply ditching the paperwork and digitalizing everything, you increase productivity and cut costs simultaneously. You won’t have to pay for all the paper and stationery for your office. On top of that, you won’t have to arrange for storage spaces to keep all the bulky files and documents. Therefore, going digital would mean that you are cutting costs for yourself and reducing paper waste. It will be like doing yourself and the environment a favor.

  1. Outsource work 

It may feel good to hire a team of experts at the start, but you may very well be biting off more than what you can chew. The hiring procedure is not cheap, and people don’t work for free. The only way you can convince favorable candidates to join a newly established company is by offering a handsome salary and additional benefits. Also, you will have to manage the running costs of having full-time employees like renting a space, paying for electricity to keep the lights and monitors on, and more. With full-time employees, you will have to pay salaries even when there is no new project or work to be done. However, there is a way to cut these major costs and simply pay for their services when required. You can outsource work during the early months or years of your business. It will help you save money without having to compromise on the work quality.

There are many recruitment websites today that can help you find the best freelancers and consultants for the job. You can check the ratings and reviews they have received to determine the quality of their work and their professional attitude. If their service charges fall within your budget, then you can hire them on a contractual basis.

  1. Buy used equipment 

Although it is tempting to secure the latest equipment and devices for your office, it is more crucial to keep an eye on your funds. A more straightforward method to buy all the necessities while going easy on your budget is to buy used or refurbished equipment. Just make sure to test and check each unit thoroughly before buying it, and always buy units from a reputable provider. After all, there is absolutey no point in buying cheap if you have to spend a significant amount on maintenance and repair.

  1. Leverage technology 

Using technology can significantly increase productivity and work efficiency levels. Yet perhaps its biggest advantage is that it significantly reduces costs. By automating your systems, you can reduce the time needed to complete a specific job and decrease the chances of human errors to prevent costly mistakes and project delays. Some technologies that can help you increase productivity and reduce costs are:

Customer relationship management software: You can manage customer interactions, customer data, and sales flow through a simple application, which will allow you to reduce the number of staff required to address these aspects.

Webinars: Training your employees is integral to the smooth running and productivity of a business, but arranging seminars and workshops cost a heavy dime. Instead, you can switch to webinars to eliminate the cost of the venue, food, transport, etc. You will be able to save you a lot of money without sacrificing on essential employee training.

Cloud computing: Cloud computing tools allow you to store massive amounts of data, which can be accessed at any time from anywhere by simply using a device. All you need are the credentials. Therefore, you don’t need to waste your hard-earned money on paper, computer hard drives, or storage. Instead, you can cut the costs by simply shifting to cloud computing.

Conclusion

Reducing startup costs can have a significant and positive impact on your company. While the steps we mentioned can help you cut down major business expenses, you still need to keep an eye on the cash flow. Analyze every sale and purchase your company makes, so you can avidly find ways to cut costs regularly. Doing so will help you increase business profits and reach the break-even point sooner. Also, cutting costs will allow you to invest in your business plan and polish your products and services.

Therefore, we recommend following these strategies to reduce costs without compromising your business ideas and workflow. As your business grows, your budget will also grow, leaving you with room to accommodate all the luxuries you had to compromise on in the beginning.

However, this doesn’t mean you should splurge; do spend on upgrades and improvements, but keep in mind that the most successful businesses in the world are those who pursue profit maximization.

Source:Plato Data Intelligence

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Blockchain

For the love of the loot: Blockchain, the metaverse and gaming’s blind spot

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The speed at which gaming has proliferated is matched only by the pace of new buzzwords inundating the ecosystem. Marketers and decision makers, already suffering from FOMO about opportunities within gaming, have latched onto buzzy trends like the applications of blockchain in gaming and the “metaverse” in an effort to get ahead of the trend rather than constantly play catch-up.

The allure is obvious, as the relationship between the blockchain, metaverse, and gaming makes sense. Gaming has always been on the forefront of digital ownership (one can credit gaming platform Steam for normalizing the concept for games, and arguably other media such as movies), and most agreed upon visions of the metaverse rely upon virtual environments common in games with decentralized digital ownership.

Whatever your opinion of either, I believe they both have an interrelated future in gaming. However, the success or relevance of either of these buzzy topics is dependent upon a crucial step that is being skipped at this point.

Let’s start with the example of blockchain and, more specifically, NFTs. Collecting items of varying rarities and often random distribution form some of the core “loops” in many games (i.e. kill monster, get better weapon, kill tougher monster, get even better weapon, etc.), and collecting “skins” (e.g. different outfits/permutation of game character) is one of the most embraced paradigms of micro-transactions in games.

The way NFTs are currently being discussed in relation to gaming are very much in danger of falling into this very trap: Killing the core gameplay loop via a financial fast track.

Now, NFTs are positioned to be a natural fit with various rare items having permanent, trackable, and open value. Recent releases such as “Loot (for Adventurers)” have introduced a novel approach wherein the NFTs are simply descriptions of fantasy-inspired gear and offered in a way that other creators can use them as tools to build worlds around. It’s not hard to imagine a game built around NFT items, à la Loot.

But that’s been done before… kind of. Developers of games with a “loot loop” like the one described above have long had a problem with “farmers”, who acquire game currencies and items to sell to players for real money, against the terms of service of the game. The solution was to implement in-game “auction houses” where players could instead use real money to purchase items from one another.

Unfortunately, this had an unwanted side-effect. As noted by renowned game psychologist Jamie Madigan, our brains are evolved to pay special attention to rewards that are both unexpected and beneficial. When much of the joy in some games comes from an unexpected or randomized reward, being able to easily acquire a known reward with real money robbed the game of what made it fun.

The way NFTs are currently being discussed in relation to gaming are very much in danger of falling into this very trap: Killing the core gameplay loop via a financial fast track. The most extreme examples of this phenomena commit the biggest cardinal sin in gaming — a game that is “pay to win,” where a player with a big bankroll can acquire a material advantage in a competitive game.

Blockchain games such as Axie Infinity have rapidly increased enthusiasm around the concept of “play to earn,” where players can potentially earn money by selling tokenized resources or characters earned within a blockchain game environment. If this sounds like a scenario that can come dangerously close to “pay to win,” that’s because it is.

What is less clear is whether it matters in this context. Does anyone care enough about the core game itself rather than the potential market value of NFTs or earning potential through playing? More fundamentally, if real-world earnings are the point, is it truly a game or just a gamified micro-economy, where “farming” as described above is not an illicit activity, but rather the core game mechanic?

The technology culture around blockchain has elevated solving for very hard problems that very few people care about. The solution (like many problems in tech) involves reevaluation from a more humanist approach. In the case of gaming, there are some fundamental gameplay and game psychology issues to be tackled before these technologies can gain mainstream traction.

We can turn to the metaverse for a related example. Even if you aren’t particularly interested in gaming, you’ve almost certainly heard of the concept after Mark Zuckerberg staked the future of Facebook upon it. For all the excitement, the fundamental issue is that it simply doesn’t exist, and the closest analogs are massive digital game spaces (such as Fortnite) or sandboxes (such as Roblox). Yet, many brands and marketers who haven’t really done the work to understand gaming are trying to fast-track to an opportunity that isn’t likely to materialize for a long time.

Gaming can be seen as the training wheels for the metaverse — the ways we communicate within, navigate, and think about virtual spaces are all based upon mechanics and systems with foundations in gaming. I’d go so far as to predict the first adopters of any “metaverse” will indeed be gamers who have honed these skills and find themselves comfortable within virtual environments.

By now, you might be seeing a pattern: We’re far more interested in the “future” applications of gaming without having much of a perspective on the “now” of gaming. Game scholarship has proliferated since the early aughts due to a recognition of how games were influencing thought in fields ranging from sociology to medicine, and yet the business world hasn’t paid it much attention until recently.

The result is that marketers and decision makers are doing what they do best (chasing the next big thing) without the usual history of why said thing should be big, or what to do with it when they get there. The growth of gaming has yielded an immense opportunity, but the sophistication of the conversations around these possibilities remains stunted, due in part to our misdirected attention.

There is no “pay to win” fast track out of this blind spot. We have to put in the work to win.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/16/for-the-love-of-the-loot-blockchain-the-metaverse-and-gamings-blind-spot/

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Startups

Fiberplane nabs € 7.5M seed to bring Google Docs-like collaboration to incident response

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Fiberplane, an Amsterdam-based early stage startup that is building collaborative notebooks for SREs (site reliability engineers)  to collaborate around an incident in a similar manner to group editing in a Google Doc, announced a ​​€ 7.5M (approximately $8.8 million USD) seed round today.

The round was co-led by Crane Venture Partners and Notion Capital with participation from Northzone, System.One and Basecase Capital.

Micha Hernandez van Leuffen (known as Mies) is founder and CEO at Fiberplane. When his previous startup, Werker was sold to Oracle in 2017, Hernandez van Leuffen became part of a much larger company where he saw people struggling to deal with outages (which happen at every company).

“We were always going back and forth between metrics, logs and traces, what I always call this sort of treasure hunt, and figuring out what was the underlying root cause of an outage or downtime,” Hernandez van Leuffen told me.

He said that this experience led to a couple of key insights about incident response: First, you needed a centralized place to pull all the incident data together, and secondly that as a distributed team managing a distributed system you needed to collaborate in real time, often across different time zones.

When he left Oracle in August 2020, he began thinking about the idea of giving DevOps teams and SREs the same kind of group editing capabilities that other teams inside an organization have with tools like Google Docs or Notion and an idea for his new company began to take shape.

What he created with Fiberplane is a collaborative notebook for SRE’s to pull in the various data types and begin to work together to resolve the incident, while having a natural audit trail of what happened and how they resolved the issue. Different people can participate in this notebook, just as multiple people can edit a Google Doc, fulfilling that original vision.

Fiberplane incident response notebook with various types of data about the incident.

Fiberplane collaborative notebook example with multiple people involved. Image Credit: Fiberplane

He doesn’t plan to stop there though. The longer term vision is an operational platform for SREs and DevOps teams to deal with every aspect of an outage. “This is our starting point, but we are planning to expand from there as more I would say an SRE workbench, where you’re also able to command and control your infrastructure,” he said.

Today the company has 13 employees and is growing, and as they do, they are exploring ways to make sure they are building a diverse company, looking at concrete strategies to find more diverse candidates.

“To hire diversely, we’re re-examining our top of the funnel processes. Our efforts include posting our jobs in communities of underrepresented people, running our job descriptions through a gender decoder and facilitating a larger time frame for jobs to remain open,” Elena Boroda, marketing manager at Fiberplane said.

While Hernandez van Leuffen is based in Amsterdam, the company has been hiring people in the UK, Berlin, Copenhagen and the US, he said. The plan is to have Amsterdam as a central hub when offices reopen as the majority of employees are located there.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/16/fiberplane-nabs-e-7-5m-seed-to-bring-google-docs-like-collaboration-to-incident-response/

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Startups

Don’t miss the Startup Alley Crawls at Disrupt next week

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It’s coming down to the wire folks. TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 — our flagship global event — takes over the internet on September 21-23. More than 10,000 people will attend to learn about the latest tech and investment trends from iconic leaders, founders and VCs. They’ll network and connect to build game-changing startups.

Time to get on board: It costs less than $100 to attend TechCrunch Disrupt until this Monday. Purchase your pass now to save yourself some money. You can check out the Disrupt agenda here and then go grab your ticket.

The heart of every Disrupt — even our virtual incarnations — is Startup Alley. It’s where hundreds of innovative startups exhibit their products, platforms and services. It’s where investors look for portfolio potential, founders find new customers, tech journalists hunt for stories and everyone finds inspiration.

We’ve created a special series of events to focus on the wide range of talent in Startup Alley. It’s the Startup Alley Crawl — think pub crawl without the remorse. We group exhibitors in Startup Alley by business category, and each business category will have its own dedicated, hour-long crawl.

You might even see some of these exhibitors interviewed live during a Disrupt Desk segment. Sit back in the comfort of your secure, undisclosed location and tune in to learn more about what these companies have to offer.

All Startup Alley exhibitors have their own virtual booth where you can check out their pitch deck, strike up a conversation, schedule a product demo or connect with them via CrunchMatch to set up 1:1 video meetings.

Here’s what Jessica McLean, the director of marketing and communications for Infinite-Compute, a Startup Alley exhibitor at Disrupt 2020, had to say about networking during a virtual conference:

The virtual platform made networking easy. We sent quick introductions, scheduled meetings with investors and other smart people who could add value to our company. A person we connected with at Disrupt is currently helping us with marketing, which is fantastic.

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 takes place on September 21-30. If you haven’t done so yet, buy your pass now. Pop some corn, pop a pint and join the Startup Alley Crawl — and check out all the other exhibitors, too. You never know what opportunities are waiting there just for you.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/16/dont-miss-the-startup-alley-crawls-at-techcrunch-disrupt-2021/

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