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Information Cascades – How Many Rational People Can Make Logical Decisions and Yet Still Create a Bubble

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When I say bubble, you likely conjure images of people speculating on real estate or stocks or tulips in your imagination. Like me, you might dismiss the folly of these bubbles as the collective action of a multitude of people who lose all rationality when bidding on these assets. But, as I learned from a recent interview with Brian Christian, bubbles can be created even when everyone acts rationally. This phenomenon is called an information cascade.

Here’s how it works. Suppose we have two opaque mason jars. One jar contains 2/3 red balls, 1/3 gray balls (majority-red). The other contains 2/3 gray balls and 1/3 red balls (majority-gray). I pick one of the two jars and place it before the a line of four people.

The first person steps up to draw a ball, and I instruct them,“Look at the color of the ball, but reveal the color to no one, and replace the ball. Given the color of the ball in your hand, share a guess of which jar is in front of you. Either majority-red or majority-gray.”

Suppose the first person pulls out a red ball. The first person should declare “majority-red,” since the odds are better that a red ball originate from the majority-red jar (66% vs 33%)

Suppose the second person also pulls out a red ball. She should also say “majority-red.”

Irrespective of the ball color the third person pulls, the third person will always say “majority-red.” If it’s a red ball, three red balls imply the majority-red jar. If it’s a gray ball, then it’s 2 reds and 1 gray, also imply a majority-red jar.

Every subsequent student is going to say majority-red, even if they are holding gray, because everyone before them will have said majority-red. This is the permanent and inevitable information cascade that can result when the first two balls are of the same color and everyone acts rationally. Read more about this theory and the math supporting it here.

Information cascades like these occur because we infer beliefs from others’ actions. If three acquirers are bidding $250M to acquire a seed stage company, a fourth acquirer may infer from other bidders’ actions that the business is worth a quarter of a billion dollars, even if the fourth acquirer’s financial model doesn’t support it. A bidding war ensues.

These auction pressure dynamics lead to ever higher prices for assets. If the house down the corner sold for $1M, and my house is newer and on a bigger lot, then it should be worth more than $1M. Startup X raised at $50M pre-money valuation with a revenue of $500k. Mine is worth the more because it generates $750k in revenue.

This continues ever higher until someone says “the jar is majority-blue.” That person, when attempting to dispel the fallacy of the bubble, acts irrationally. All the information in the market should lead her to another conclusion. But she begins to deflate the bubble by deciding the value of an asset based on her own information, her own models, her own assessment.

Information cascades don’t only happen in the financial markets. They also happen in meetings. Peter Drucker wrote the story of Alfred Sloan, the former CEO of GM, who entered a board meeting to discuss an important issue before the company. Sloan asked the opinions of his directors. When everyone agreed without comment, he immediately stopped the board meeting and said something along the lines of, “Since we’re all in agreement, it’s clear no one has considered the issue. Let us reconvene tomorrow after giving the matter appropriate thought.”

The obligation to dissent is the only way to combat information cascades.

Source: https://www.tomtunguz.com/information-cascades/

SaaS

Beat the early-bird deadline and save $100 on passes to TC Sessions: SaaS 2021

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Is it just us or has everyone’s calendar hit warp factor 9? We can’t believe there are only 34 days left before TC Sessions: SaaS 2021 kicks into high gear on October 27. If you don’t have your pass yet, the clock on early-bird savings is winding down fast. Time to bump that quick task to the top of your to-do list, folks.

Buy your early-bird pass to TC Sessions SaaS 2021 — and save yourself $100 — before the price expires on October 1 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Prepare for a full day focused on SaaS and its rapidly expanding ecosystem. We’re talking emerging trends, tips and advice that you can implement in your own startup — now, when you need it most — and world-class networking opportunities.

Check out the event agenda and start strategizing your day. We’re still adding more presentations, breakouts and interviews with the industry’s top minds, makers and investors. Stay current — sign up for updates here.

Data is the lifeblood of, well, just about everything but especially SaaS. You’ll find plenty of discussions on how to use, wrangle and share an exponential deluge of information — without getting mired. Take a peek at these three data-driven panels:

  • Data, Data Everywhere: As companies struggle to manage and share increasingly large amounts of data, it’s no wonder that Databricks, whose primary product is a data lake, was valued at a whopping $28 billion for its most recent funding round. We’re going to talk to CEO Ali Ghodsi about why his startup is so hot and what comes next.
  • Data Warehouse — The Foundation of the Modern Data Stack: The modern data stack is changing rapidly, with new technology emerging every day. Increasingly, though, architectures are being built around the data warehouse. In this panel discussion, Chandra Gangireddy (Allbirds), Ben Gotfredson (Snowflake), Adam Gross (formerly of Heroku) and Soumyadeb Mitra (RudderStack) will discuss why this new architecture has emerged, what specific technologies are driving the trend and what the data stack of the future looks like.
  • How Startups are Turning Data into Software Gold: The era of big data is behind us. Today’s leading SaaS startups are working with data, instead of merely fighting to help customers collect information. We’ll talk with leaders from three data-focused startups: Jenn Knight (AgentSync), Barr Moses (Monte Carlo) and Dan Wright (DataRobot). They’ll discuss how they’re forging new markets to get insight on the way today’s SaaS companies leverage data to build new companies, attack new problems and, of course, scale like mad.

There’s so much more happening at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021. Join and connect with your community and get your startup in front of the movers and shakers who can help you start, scale and succeed. Start by saving $100 — buy your early-bird pass before prices go up October 1 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: SaaS 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/24/beat-the-early-bird-deadline-and-save-100-on-passes-to-tc-sessions-saas-2021/

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Artificial Intelligence

Operations observability platform Avenue launches with $4M

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Avenue launched Friday to give operations their own tools to monitor teams, and is building a “command center” for this area of business that is often forgotten, co-founder and CEO Justin Bleuel told TechCrunch.

In addition to the launch the company is announcing $4 million in seed funding, led by Accel, with participation from Flexport and a group of individual investors from companies like Coinbase, Uber, Stripe and Thumbtack.

Bleuel and his co-founder, Jeff Barg, grew up building iOS apps together and then went their separate ways, Bleuel to Uber and Barg to Amazon. While at Uber, Bleuel was working on observability — passive or proactive monitoring — building a lot of the tools in-house to monitor the marketplace for data like rider experience.

Both saw an opening to build these tools themselves for operations teams, and Avenue was born. The technology enables business teams to set up alerts to observe when there is a problem with data, act on it correctly and improve how the overall team functions, think “Datadog or PagerDuty for operations teams,” Bleuel said.

“Data is now all centralized in data warehouses, so you can build on top of them in a way you could not before, like Fivetran, and activate off of it,” he added. “You used to have to build one-to-one alerts for each tool, but now we can actively direct them from the warehouse.”

Avenue dashboard. Image Credits: Avenue

The company, founded in 2020, came out of the Y Combinator winter 2021 cohort, and one of its early customers is food pickup service Snackpass, which is using Avenue to monitor uptime and receive notifications when restaurant partners, for example, have an ordering tablet battery die or lose Wi-Fi. Snackpass is able to contact the location and help them figure out why they went offline. As a result, the company was able to cut the percentage of offline stores in half, Bleuel said.

Avenue’s customer sweet spot is marketplace companies or warehouses for monitoring stock. However, the co-founders are also seeing their technology being used by other companies, like furniture delivery companies, to monitor for reliability or know their inventory levels. Customers are also packaging up reports and sharing them with other internal teams on how to improve operations.

The company intends to use the funding to build on its small team of three, especially in engineering to be able to go to market with new products, Barg said.

Avenue is working with more than 50 companies and since April has sent out over 200,000 alerts. The company’s model bills customers per alert per month, and the team is looking at a freemium model as well as enterprise levels.

Meanwhile, Amit Kumar, partner at Accel, said via email the firm is “very thesis-driven,” one of them being the modern data stack. Accel made early investments into companies like Airbyte, Monte Carlo and Privacer, and saw opportunity for new downstream applications based on the innovation, of which Avenue stood out.

The combination of Bleuel and Barg was “particularly compelling because of their fluency with the problem space” due to their backgrounds at Uber and Amazon and experiencing firsthand how “poorly served” operations teams are and how that can affect the overall business.

He believes the current approach of ops teams in the market today relies heavily on dashboarding, periodic sweeps and color-coded Excel sheets — a process that is “often inaccurate and disorganized.” At the same time, product engineers were flush with well-established tools around observability and incident response.

“Given the rise of ‘atoms’ startups powered by a cohort of ex-Uber and ex-Amazon operators, Justin and Jeff were uniquely positioned to find early design partners and customers among their peer networks,” Kumar added. “As ops teams become both increasingly commonplace and essential to business outcomes, I expect their processes to mature and benefit from similar tooling. This is the thesis behind Avenue, and early traction indicates that next-gen leading ops-heavy companies agree.”

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/24/operations-observability-platform-avenue-launches-with-4m/

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Real Estate

As inflation fears spike, 1build raises $14M to help construction firms optimize their cost estimates

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It’s an extraordinarily exhausting time to estimate costs in the construction industry. Lumber prices skyrocketed during the post-pandemic construction spree, only to come hurtling back down to Earth in recent weeks. Copper, concrete, and steel have also seen wild price swings as supply chain breakages, workers shortages, border restrictions and more plague price stability.

Construction is among the world’s largest industries, with firms planning and building projects valued at trillions of dollars at pretty much any time. Yet, it’s also one of the most archaic industries, with a heavy reliance on paper even as IT has increasingly filtered into more of the industry’s processes. Paper though can’t match the extreme volatility in materials and labor happening today, and that means construction firms need better and more real-time software tools to handle cost estimates.

1build has a bold vision to own not just cost estimating, but everything that it takes to get a building under construction. “We are going to occupy the whitespace niche of pre-construction — your planing, your estimating, up until you break ground on your building,” CEO and founder Dmitry Alexin said.

Alexin had been scouting around for startup ideas in the real estate sector in 2018 and 2019, having previously worked in finance. He worked briefly at a stealth startup in the space, where he “helped to select real estate with data science.” He discovered a problem when it came to modeling the development of a property though: it wasn’t easy to determine what could be built or how much it would cost. “I just assumed you can just use an API to figure out the cost to build,” he said.

That led him into the rabbit hole that is the math of the construction industry. He discovered “this analog industry … three times as large as ecommerce and still in this offline, non-digitized way to consume,” he said. He wanted to automate more of these processes, but even that ran into challenges. “When I was forming 1build, it was creating a data standard for the construction industry,” he explained. Eventually, he zeroed in on cost estimating.

Alexin is a solo founder, who has since built up a management team around him. He and a few early employees joined the YC Winter 2020 batch, where 1build was identified as one of TechCrunch’s 20 most exciting startups in the batch out of several hundred (the company was my selection).

The startup’s timing, though, was horrific. “COVID happened right as we were graduating,” Alexin said. The company suffered a “50% reduction in usage in the first 30 days.” The company was still small and it hunkered down, but then something surprising happened: the construction industry just zoomed forward as millions of people moved to new homes and offices with the rise of remote work.

The company raised a previously undisclosed $5.5 million seed round from Initialized Capital and kept building. It focused on building a single platform (that’s the “1build”) around all aspects of estimating costs and handling the planning phase of construction. It’s “almost an experience that feels like interacting a spreadsheet, but we pull in the latest materials rate, the latest labor rates,” Alexin said. From there, you can “develop your estimate yourself, line item by line item.” He says that integrating all construction planning in one location can massively save time and money, and is particularly valuable for smaller contractors and construction firms who don’t have the scaled-up planning teams of their larger brethren.

1build’s team, with CEO and founder Dmitry Alexin sitting in center of first row. Image Credits: 1build

Alexin said that subscription revenues have risen 7x in the past 10 months, and 10x since April when we talked a few weeks ago. That excitement led it to a quick, $14.5 million Series A led by Brent Baltimore at Greycroft. Alexin said that Baltimore has been engaged in construction tech for a long time, and said that “we felt that they were the one firm that understood what we are doing.”

The team, as is typical these days, is spread out, with the majority in the U.S. and others in Canada and Europe.

1build wants to be the one stop for the construction industry, and hopes that the industry standardizes on a universal set of data formats. “The more and more builders that adapt that, the more we can build into the product,” he said.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/22/1build-series-a/

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Fintech

Toast raises IPO price range, providing a Monday bump to fintech valuations

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U.S. technology unicorn Toast filed a new S-1 document this morning detailing a higher IPO price range for its shares. The more expensive range indicates that Toast may be worth more in its debut than it initially expected, a bullish sign for technology companies more broadly.

Toast’s rising valuation may provide a boon to two different subsectors of technology: software and fintech. The restaurant-focused Toast sells software on a recurring basis (SaaS) to restaurants while also providing financial technology solutions. And while it is best known as a software company that dabbles in hardware, Boston-based Toast generates the bulk of its aggregate top line from financial services.

Software revenues are valuable thanks to their high margins and recurring structure. Toast’s financial-services revenues, by contrast, are largely transaction-based and sport lower gross margins. The company’s IPO price, then, could help the private markets more fairly price startups offering their own blend of software-and-fintech incomes.

The so-called “vertical SaaS” model, in which startups build software tailored to one particular industry or another, has become a somewhat two-part business effort; many startups today are pursuing both the sale of software along with fintech revenues. Toast’s IPO, then, could operate as a bellwether of sorts for a host of startups.

To see Toast raise its range, therefore, got our eyebrows up. Let’s talk money.

Toast’s new IPO range

From a previous range of $30 to $33, Toast now expects to price its IPO between $34 and $36.

Toast now expects its IPO price to clear its previous upper-end guidance at the low end of its new range. That’s bullish — and indicative of a thus-far receptive market for the company’s equity.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/20/toast-raises-ipo-price-range-providing-a-monday-bump-to-fintech-valuations/

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