In the wake of insurtech unicorn Root’s IPO, it felt safe to say that the big transactions for the insurance technology startup space were done for the year.
After all, 2020 had been a big one for the broad category, with insurtech marketplaces raising lots, rental insurance startup Lemonade going public, Root itself debuting even more recently on the back of its automotive insurance business, a big round to help Hippo keep building its homeowners company and more.
So let’s talk about why Metromile might be plying the public markets, and why Hippo may have have decided to pick up more cash. Hint: The reasons are related.
A market hungry for growth
The Lemonade IPO was a key moment for neoinsurance startups, a key part of the broader insurtech space. When the rental insurance provider went public, it helped set the tone for public exit valuations for companies of its type: fast-growing insurance companies with slick consumer brands, improving economics, a tech twist and stiff losses.
For the Roots and Metromiles and Hippos, it was an important moment.
So, when Lemonade raised its IPO range, and then traded sharply higher after its debut, it boded well for its private comps. Not that rental insurance and auto insurance or homeowners insurance are the same thing. They very most decidedly are not, but Lemonade’s IPO demonstrated that private investors were correct to bet generally on the collection of startups, because when they reached IPO-scale, they had something that public investors wanted.
Checkout wants to be Rapyd and Fast
Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture-capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. We’re back on this lovely Saturday with a bonus episode!
There is enough going on that to avoid failing to bring you stuff that we think matters, we are back yet again for more. This time around we are not talking Roblox, we’re talking about ecommerce, and a number of rounds — big and small — that have been raised in the space. Honest question: do y’all plan to release news on the same week? Are trends a social construct?
From Natasha, Grace, Danny, and your humble servant, here’s your run-down:
- Webflow raised $140 million in a round that it says it did not need. This is not a new thing. Some startups are doing well, and don’t burn much. So investors offer them more at a nice price. In this case $2.1 billion. (Webflow does no-code
- Checkout.com raised $450 million. The rich really do get richer. In this case the founders of Checkout.com, whose company is now worth around $15 billion Checkout.com does, you guessed, online checkout work. Which as Danny explains is complicated and critical.
- We also talked about this Bolt round, for context.
- And sticking to the ecommerce theme, Rapyd raised $300 million at around a $2.5 billion valuation. There is infinte money available for late-stage fintech.
- Early stage as well, it turns out, with Tradeswell raising $15.5 million to help businesses improve their net margins.
- Finally, ending with a chat on infrastructure, Nacelle closed an $18 million Series A.
And now we’re going back to bed.
Extra Crunch roundup: Antitrust jitters, SPAC odyssey, white-hot IPOs, more
Some time ago, I gave up on the idea of finding a thread that connects each story in the weekly Extra Crunch roundup; there are no unified theories of technology news.
The stories that left the deepest impression were related to two news pegs that dominated the week — Visa and Plaid calling off their $5.3 billion acquisition agreement, and sizzling-hot IPOs for Affirm and Poshmark.
Watching Plaid and Visa sing “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” in harmony after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to block their deal wasn’t shocking. But I was surprised to find myself editing an interview Alex Wilhelm conducted with Plaid CEO Zach Perret the next day in which the executive said growing the company on its own is “once again” the correct strategy.
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In an analysis for Extra Crunch, Managing Editor Danny Crichton suggested that federal regulators’ new interest in antitrust enforcement will affect valuations going forward. For example, Procter & Gamble and women’s beauty D2C brand Billie also called off their planned merger last week after the Federal Trade Commission raised objections in December.
Given the FTC’s moves last year to prevent Billie and Harry’s from being acquired, “it seems clear that U.S. antitrust authorities want broad competition for consumers in household goods,” Danny concluded, and I suspect that applies to Plaid as well.
In December, C3.ai, Doordash and Airbnb burst into the public markets to much acclaim. This week, used clothing marketplace Poshmark saw a 140% pop in its first day of trading and consumer-financing company Affirm “priced its IPO above its raised range at $49 per share,” reported Alex.
In a post titled “A theory about the current IPO market”, he identified eight key ingredients for brewing a debut with a big first-day pop, which includes “exist in a climate of near-zero interest rates” and “keep companies private longer.” Truly, words to live by!
Come back next week for more coverage of the public markets in The Exchange, an interview with Bustle CEO Bryan Goldberg where he shares his plans for taking the company public, a comprehensive post that will unpack the regulatory hurdles facing D2C consumer brands, and much more.
If you live in the U.S., enjoy your MLK Day holiday weekend, and wherever you are: Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch.
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
Rapid growth in 2020 reveals OKR software market’s untapped potential
After spending much of the week covering 2021’s frothy IPO market, Alex Wilhelm devoted this morning’s column to studying the OKR-focused software sector.
Measuring objectives and key results are core to every enterprise, perhaps more so these days since knowledge workers began working remotely in greater numbers last year.
A sign of the times: This week, enterprise orchestration SaaS platform Gtmhub announced that it raised a $30 million Series B.
To get a sense of how large the TAM is for OKR, Alex reached out to several companies and asked them to share new and historical growth metrics:
“Some OKR-focused startups didn’t get back to us, and some leaders wanted to share the best stuff off the record, which we grant at times for candor amongst startup executives,” he wrote.
5 consumer hardware VCs share their 2021 investment strategies
For our latest investor survey, Matt Burns interviewed five VCs who actively fund consumer electronics startups:
- Hans Tung, managing partner, GGV Capital
- Dayna Grayson, co-founder and general partner, Construct Capital
- Cyril Ebersweiler, general partner, SOSV
- Bilal Zuberi, partner, Lux Capital
- Rob Coneybeer, managing director, Shasta Ventures
“Consumer hardware has always been a tough market to crack, but the COVID-19 crisis made it even harder,” says Matt, noting that the pandemic fueled wide interest in fitness startups like Mirror, Peloton and Tonal.
Bonus: Many VCs listed the founders, investors and companies that are taking the lead in consumer hardware innovation.
A theory about the current IPO market
If you’re looking for insight into “why everything feels so damn silly this year” in the public markets, a post Alex wrote Thursday afternoon might offer some perspective.
As someone who pays close attention to late-stage venture markets, he’s identified eight factors that are pushing debuts for unicorns like Affirm and Poshmark into the stratosphere.
TL;DR? “Lots of demand, little supply, boom goes the price.”
Poshmark prices IPO above range as public markets continue to YOLO startups
Clothing resale marketplace Poshmark closed up more than 140% on its first trading day yesterday.
In Thursday’s edition of The Exchange, Alex noted that Poshmark boosted its valuation by selling 6.6 million shares at its IPO price, scooping up $277.2 million in the process.
Poshmark’s surge in trading is good news for its employees and stockholders, but it reflects poorly on “the venture-focused money people who we suppose know what they are talking about when it comes to equity in private companies,” he says.
Will startup valuations change given rising antitrust concerns?
This week, Visa announced it would drop its planned acquisition of Plaid after the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit to block it last fall.
Last week, Procter & Gamble called off its purchase of Billie, a women’s beauty products startup — in December, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission sued to block that deal, too.
Once upon a time, the U.S. government took an arm’s-length approach to enforcing antitrust laws, but the tide has turned, says Managing Editor Danny Crichton.
Going forward, “antitrust won’t kill acquisitions in general, but it could prevent the buyers with the highest reserve prices from entering the fray.”
Dear Sophie: What’s the new minimum salary required for H-1B visa applicants?
I’m a grad student currently working on F-1 STEM OPT. The company I work for has indicated it will sponsor me for an H-1B visa this year.
I hear the random H-1B lottery will be replaced with a new system that selects H-1B candidates based on their salaries.
How will this new process work?
— Positive in Palo Alto
Venture capitalists react to Visa-Plaid deal meltdown
After news broke that Visa’s $5.3 billion purchase of API startup Plaid fell apart, Alex Wilhelm and Ron Miller interviewed several investors to get their reactions:
- Anshu Sharma, co-founder and CEO, SkyflowAPI
- Amy Cheetham, principal, Costanoa Ventures
- Sheel Mohnot, co-founder, Better Tomorrow Ventures
- Lucas Timberlake, partner, Fintech Ventures
- Nico Berardi, founder and general partner, ANIMO Ventures
- Allen Miller, VC, Oak HC/FT
- Sri Muppidi, VC, Sierra Ventures
- Christian Lassonde, VC, Impression Ventures
Plaid CEO touts new ‘clarity’ after failed Visa acquisition
Alex Wilhelm interviewed Plaid CEO Zach Perret after the Visa acquisition was called off to learn more about his mindset and the company’s short-term plans.
Perret, who noted that the last few years have been a “roller coaster,” said the Visa deal was the right decision at the time, but going it alone is “once again” Plaid’s best way forward.
2021: A SPAC odyssey
In Tuesday’s edition of The Exchange, Alex Wilhelm took a closer look at blank-check offerings for digital asset marketplace Bakkt and personal finance platform SoFi.
To create a detailed analysis of the investor presentations for both offerings, he tried to answer two questions:
- Are special purpose acquisition companies a path to public markets for “potentially promising companies that lacked obvious, near-term growth stories?”
- Given the number of unicorns and the limited number of companies that can IPO at any given time, “maybe SPACS would help close the liquidity gap?”
Flexible VC: A new model for startups targeting profitability
12 ‘flexible VCs’ who operate where equity meets revenue share
Growth-stage startups in search of funding have a new option: “flexible VC” investors.
An amalgam of revenue-based investment and traditional VC, investors who fall into this category let entrepreneurs “access immediate risk capital while preserving exit, growth trajectory and ownership optionality.”
In a comprehensive explainer, fund managers David Teten and Jamie Finney present different investment structures so founders can get a clear sense of how flexible VC compares to other venture capital models. In a follow-up post, they share a list of a dozen active investors who offer funding via these nontraditional routes.
These 5 VCs have high hopes for cannabis in 2021
For some consumers, “cannabis has always been essential,” writes Matt Burns, but once local governments allowed dispensaries to remain open during the pandemic, it signaled a shift in the regulatory environment and investors took notice.
Matt asked five VCs about where they think the industry is heading in 2021 and what advice they’re offering their portfolio companies:
- Morgan Paxhia, managing director, Poseidon Investment Management
- Emily Paxhia, managing partner, Poseidon Investment Management
- Anthony Coniglio, CEO, NewLake Capital
- Matt Shalhoub, managing partner, Green Acre Capital
- Jerel Registre, managing director, Curio WMBE Fund
GitLab oversaw a $195 million secondary sale that values the company at $6 billion
The company’s impressive valuation comes after its most recent 2019 Series E in which it raised $268 million on a 2.75 billion valuation, an increase of $3.25 billion in under 18 months. Company co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij believes the increase is due to his company’s progress adding functionality to the platform.
“We believe the increase in valuation over the past year reflects the progress of our complete DevOps platform towards realizing a greater share of the growing, multi-billion dollar software development market,” he told TechCrunch.
While the startup has raised over $434 million, this round involved buying employee stock options, a move that allows the company’s workers to cash in some of their equity prior to going public. CNBC reported that the firms buying the stock included Alta Park, HMI Capital, OMERS Growth Equity, TCV and Verition.
The next logical step would appear to be IPO, something the company has never shied away from. In fact, it actually at one point included the proposed date of November 18, 2020 as a target IPO date on the company wiki. While they didn’t quite make that goal, Sijbrandij still sees the company going public at some point. He’s just not being so specific as in the past, suggesting that the company has plenty of runway left from the last funding round and can go public when the timing is right.
“We continue to believe that being a public company is an integral part of realizing our mission. As a public company, GitLab would benefit from enhanced brand awareness, access to capital, shareholder liquidity, autonomy and transparency,” he said.
He added, “That said, we want to maximize the outcome by selecting an opportune time. Our most recent capital raise was in 2019 and contributed to an already healthy balance sheet. A strong balance sheet and business model enables us to select a period that works best for realizing our long-term goals.”
GitLab has not only published IPO goals on its Wiki, but its entire company philosophy, goals and OKRs for everyone to see. Sijbrandij told TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm at a TechCrunch Disrupt panel in September that he believes that transparency helps attract and keep employees. It doesn’t hurt that the company was and remains a fully remote organization, even pre-COVID.
“We started [this level of] transparency to connect with the wider community around GitLab, but it turned out to be super beneficial for attracting great talent as well,” Sijbrandij told Wilhelm in September.
The company, which launched in 2014, offers a DevOps platform to help move applications through the programming lifecycle.
Update: The original headline of this story has been changed from ‘GitLab raises $195M in secondary funding on $6 billion valuation.’
Clothing rental service Armoire adapts to pandemic, raises cash from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Like many tech startups, when the pandemic hit the U.S., Armoire braced for impact.
Its clothing subscription rental business had its best month in February, but suddenly faced several headwinds. People no longer needed new clothes for the office or weekend get-togethers. Customers put their memberships on hold. The company cut staff and slashed marketing expenses.
But Armoire has bounced back, adapting to the economic crisis and finding new ways to grow its business. Investors like what they see — the 4-year-old Seattle company just landed $3.5 million in new funding from folks including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani, and several other notable backers.
Armoire made a few key moves over the past nine months to adapt as the fashion industry was flipped on its head.
It invested engineering resources into new community-driven discovery tools after seeing some of its members engage with each other in Armoire’s Facebook group. Armoire saw engagement metrics spike immediately, in part because it replaced in-person group shopping experiences.
That helped the company’s long-time members — those with at least nine months of membership — stick around.
“The reason we’re here is that our tenured customers held on,” said Armoire CEO Ambika Singh.
Armoire also adapted to customer needs. People didn’t need fancy cocktail dresses or nice suits as they spent more time at home, but they still wanted to try on new clothes.
“We’ve never carried a sweatshirt and leggings before, but we do now,” said Armoire CTO Tristan Rees.
The acceleration of online shopping due to the pandemic should provide a boost for Armoire. There is also increasing interest in the clothing rental model and personalized shopping experience. Online personal styling service Stitch Fix has seen shares surge this year as its revenue and customer base grows. Online clothing reseller Poshmark saw shares spike 140% this week on its first day of trading.
“As an investor, I’m betting on the idea that the way we consume is changing and that this is the team that will meet customers where they are while opening our eyes to things we didn’t know we needed,” said Elena Donio, a former Axiom and Concur executive who just increased her investment in Armoire.
Singh said she’s focused on helping Armoire become part of a “daily shopping habit” by using the rental model and new community features to its advantage.
“That daily shopping habit is independent of where she’s going and what she’s doing,” Singh said. “It’s this idea that every day you have a beautiful, really positive community to go visit and see how fun clothes are being worn.”
Rent the Runway, a direct competitor to Armoire, also went through changes last year by closing brick-and-mortar stores and laying off employees. But it also sees light on the horizon. CEO Jennifer Hyman told Fortune that the company has accelerated its path to profitability and she expects the fashion industry to have a big return later this year.
Armoire’s subscription starts at $79 per month for four items per month, and goes up to $249 per month for unlimited items. Members rent from hundreds of high-end brands and can purchase items at a discount. Armoire uses algorithms and professional stylists to help curate a selection of items for customers.
Rent the Runway made headlines in September after eliminating its unlimited rental option, citing an evolution in consumers’ relationship with fashion trends.
Armoire went the opposite way, expanding its unlimited plan. Singh said the company is now the leading option for unlimited clothing rental memberships and is seeing new customers come from Rent the Runway.
Armoire says it is committed to finding suppliers run by minorities and focus on sustainability — something that may be more top of mind for folks given recent news events.
“All of these things are resonating with our customer,” Singh said. “When she comes to a website, she’s looking to make sure that it’s reflective of the values that she’s trying to promote with spending her dollars.”
The company now employs 25 people, down from more than 60 last year. The most recent fundraising included $3.9 million that was converted to equity from a bridge note initiated in 2019. Total funding to date is north of $12 million.
“Ambika has done what the best technology companies have done to respond to the pandemic — focused on how to more effectively serve the needs of customers during this time through experiences enhanced by data and software,” said Tola Capital’s Sheila Gulati, who invested in Armoire as a personal investor. “She has also wisely found efficiencies to adapt through the pandemic and I would expect to see the business accelerate going forward.”
Other investors in this round include Jared Sine of the Match Group; inclusion expert & author Ruchika Tulshyan ;Heather Hardy of ZoomCare; and former EY Principal Sue Borgman.
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