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Snoop Dogg’s Stakes In Klarna And Robinhood See Big Gains

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There are a few venture investor names that come to mind when thinking about backers of the most valuable fintech and media unicorns. Snoop Dogg is not usually among them.

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Perhaps that’s an oversight. At the end of a week that saw Klarna cement its status as Europe’s most valuable startup and Robinhood move closer to an IPO filing at a reported valuation of up to $40 billion, it seems timely to observe that Snoop is an investor in both. What’s more, he got in at valuations several multiples lower than current levels.

It’s rare that multiple ultra-successful venture investments are the result of mere coincidence. It takes a long time in the ecosystem to reach the apex. And while Snoop is best known as a rapper and entertainer, and to a lesser extent a cannabis investor, Crunchbase data shows he and his investment team have been cultivating a varied venture portfolio for some time.

Snoop is one of several rappers investing actively in startups. As some early investments are maturing into unicorns and decacorns, we thought it’d be interesting to take a closer look at his and fellow artists’ portfolios as they have evolved.

The hip-hop startup connection

First, we should note the culture of startup investment and celebrity have become increasingly intertwined in the past decade or so. Hip-hop and pop artists, in particular, have been active investors in the startup space, as we’ve chronicled before.

Robinhood is a particularly prominent rapper-backed unicorn. Rap and entertainment mogul Jay Z is also an investor in the zero-fee stock trading platform. The fast-growing fintech is part of a broad portfolio of startups that he, along with his entertainment company Roc Nation and venture subsidiary Arrive, have backed. One of them, music service Tidal, was acquired by Square this week for $297 million.

Hip hop artist Nasir Jones, or Nas, is also a Robinhood backer, as part of an extensive venture portfolio that dates back a decade. He co-founded a venture firm, Queensbridge Venture Partners, that was an early-stage investor in video doorbell maker Ring and pharma delivery startup PillPack (both acquired by Amazon in billion-dollar deals), as well as soon-to-be-public Coinbase.

The artists listed above represent only a handful of the pop and hip-hop stars active in the startup scene. In our look at this space a couple years ago, we identified 21 artists (see list) who participated in seed and venture deals.

Amassing a portfolio

What’s the startup and rapper connection? We’ve postulated that rap and startup entrepreneurship are both longshot career tracks that celebrate raw ambition and unabashed self-promotion. To make it, both also require an excellent grasp of what sells in the real world.

That’s where Snoop comes in. Basically anyone with a smidgeon of pop culture familiarity has heard of Snoop Dogg (born Calvin Broadus). The breadth of his entertainment and business portfolio are somewhat encyclopedic, with his Wikipedia entry alone running to 31 pages. Best known as a rapper, the 49-year-old LA native has sold over 35 million albums worldwide, acted in film and TV, co-hosted a show with Martha Stewart, emceed for pro wrestling, and the list goes on.

There’s also a fair amount of venture investing in there as well, including a mix of cannabis, consumer, gaming and fintech.

Of these areas, cannabis is the biggest by deal count, as one might expect from the co-founder of Casa Verde Capital, a marijuana-focused venture fund. The fund has made at least 22 known investments to date, per Crunchbase data. Notably, it took part in a $10 million Series A round for pot delivery service Eaze, which has gone on to secure over $200 million in venture funding at a post-money valuation of $650 million.

Snoop’s list of personal investments, per Crunchbase, includes at least eight companies. Besides the aforementioned Klarna and Robinhood (a 2014 investment), he was part of a 2014 Series B for Reddit, the online discussion hub recently valued at $6 billion. Most recently, the rapper helped back a 2020 venture round for Outstanding Foods, a Los Angeles plant-based snack food startup that markets pigless pork rinds.

All told, it’s been a lucrative career. In 2016 Forbes ranked Snoop as one of the 10 top-earning hip-hop acts of the decade. And that doesn’t include venture bets.

The cool factor

Notably for the startup space, while Snoop has been great at amassing wealth, he has also done so as a non-nerd. This is a stark contrast to the archetypal venture capitalist, a demographic known, among other things, for its love of the fleece vest.

While Snoop did don a bowtie, button down and sweater vest for a 2015 TechCrunch Disrupt appearance, one gets the impression this was worn with a hint of irony. (The underlying fashion statement being that if you’re cool enough, you can wear uncool clothes and they just make you cooler.) By the same token, his latest headline-generating gambit this week — leaving a gaming live-stream on while cussing — will assuredly have no dent on his celebrity cred.

Snoop Dogg

This kind of impenetrable cool is supremely attractive to startups, which are often founded by people with the kind of deep appreciation for the perks of popularity that only a high school nerd would understand. Thus founders and their backers commonly bring in celebrities to add a hipness factor that can’t be developed in-house.

Snoop’s longstanding and artfully curated celebrity brand — which has cultivated elements of rapper, gangster, pimp, fashion trendsetter, stoner and entertainer — seems to strike a particularly vibrant chord with the venture-backed startup crowd.

One of Snoop’s earlier forays in the startup promotion world was in 2010, when Zynga, then the hottest social gaming startup in town, hired the rapper to blow up an armored truck in the Nevada desert as a promotion for its Mafia Wars Las Vegas game franchise. More than 2 million viewers dialed in simultaneously for the stunt.

Klarna was also trading in on image two years ago when it inked a deal with Snoop granting him a “minor shareholder” stake in exchange for starring in its “Get Smoooth” promotional campaign. This culminated in a series of shorts also featuring afghan hounds, some enormous bejeweled bling, and an exceedingly long piece of toast. Since then, Klarna’s valuation has soared by roughly 6 times.

Offbeat and genius

Taken as a whole, Snoop’s portfolio can almost appear like a self-contained survival ecosystem. One could envision living an entire life within it: Consuming cannabis supplied by Eaze, pumping stock on Reddit, trading on Robinhood, vanquishing the munchies with pigless pork rinds, and paying with Klarna’s buy-now-pay-later option.

Really it has the elements of all industry-changing startup portfolios — kind of crazy and kind of genius. We often see startups fail because they have too much crazy and not enough genius. Or too much genius, and not enough crazy. Snoop’s portfolio, on the other hand, seems to have an ample dose of both.

Snoop Dogg Image via Flickr user TechCrunch under CC BY 2.0. Image has been cropped

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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

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Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/snoop-doggs-stakes-in-klarna-and-robinhood-see-big-gains/

Start Ups

After a $13 million fundraise, Chingari onboards Salman Khan as brand ambassador and investor

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  • Earlier this week, Chingari had raised $13 million in a funding round from mobile entertainment solution provider OnMobile.
  • Meanwhile, Actor Salman Khan has joined the startup as a brand ambassador and an investor.
  • The details of the investment were not disclosed.

After a $13 million fundraise, Homegrown short video app Chingari is again making news after announcing that it has onboarded actor Salman Khan as a brand ambassador and an investor. Although, the details of investment made by Salman Khan were not disclosed.

Earlier this week, Chingari had received $13 million (about Rs 95 crore) in a funding round from Bengaluru-based mobile entertainment solution provider OnMobile in exchange for a 10% stake. To date, the startup has raised over Rs 100 crore in its funding rounds.

Commenting on the development, Sumit Ghosh, co-founder & CEO, said, “This is a really significant partnership for Chingari, our ethos is to reach out to every state of Bharat and it’s our pleasure to have Salman Khan on board as one of our global brand ambassadors and investors.”

The founder believes that the association will help Chingari to scale greater heights in the near future. “We wanted a brand ambassador who is in tune with the pulse of the nation, and Salman Khan in many senses cut across all genres and geography and is the best choice to be the face of the brand,” said, Aditya Kothari, Co-Founder & CSO, Chingari.

Deepak Salvi, Co-Founder & COO, Chingari, said, “we believe that Salman’s mass appeal will help us attract more users onto the platform.”

Also Read: Chingari receives $13 million funding from telecom firm OnMobile

“This engagement with Chingari will give an opportunity to a lot of users to showcase their unseen talent and give way to the next set of digital stars in India,” said, Vikram Tanwar, co-founder of UBT, Khan’s talent management firm.

Speaking on the association with Chingari, Actor Salman Khan, said, “I like how Chingari has shaped in such a short span of time, into a platform for millions from rural to urban to showcase their unique talents and be seen by another million in no time.”

Chingari, which currently has 56 million users on its platform, has already partnered with Bengali streaming service Hoichoi and Ekta Kapoor’s AltBalaji to provide more content clips accessible to its users.

It counts iSeed, FJ Labs, Village Global, Republic Labs, AngelList India, and angels Jasminder Gulati, Guy Lelouch, Fabrice Grinda, and Brian Norgard as investors.

Follow IndianStartupNews on FacebookInstagramTwitter for the latest updates from the startup ecosystem.

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Source: https://indianstartupnews.com/news/after-a-13-million-fundraise-chingari-onboards-salman-khan-as-brand-ambassador-and-investor/

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Artificial Intelligence

Extra Crunch roundup: Tonal EC-1, Deliveroo’s rocky IPO, is Substack really worth $650M?

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For this morning’s column, Alex Wilhelm looked back on the last few months, “a busy season for technology exits” that followed a hot Q4 2020.

We’re seeing signs of an IPO market that may be cooling, but even so, “there are sufficient SPACs to take the entire recent Y Combinator class public,” he notes.

Once we factor in private equity firms with pockets full of money, it’s evident that late-stage companies have three solid choices for leveling up.

Seeking more insight into these liquidity options, Alex interviewed:

  • DigitalOcean CEO Yancey Spruill, whose company went public via IPO;
  • Latch CFO Garth Mitchell, who discussed his startup’s merger with real estate SPAC $TSIA;
  • Brian Cruver, founder and CEO of AlertMedia, which recently sold to a private equity firm.

After recapping their deals, each executive explains how their company determined which flashing red “EXIT” sign to follow. As Alex observed, “choosing which option is best from a buffet’s worth of possibilities is an interesting task.”

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch! Have a great weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist


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The Tonal EC-1

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman

On Tuesday, we published a four-part series on Tonal, a home fitness startup that has raised $200 million since it launched in 2018. The company’s patented hardware combines digital weights, coaching and AI in a wall-mounted system that sells for $2,995.

By any measure, it is poised for success — sales increased 800% between December 2019 and 2020, and by the end of this year, the company will have 60 retail locations. On Wednesday, Tonal reported a $250 million Series E that valued the company at $1.6 billion.

Our deep dive examines Tonal’s origins, product development timeline, its go-to-market strategy and other aspects that combined to spark investor interest and customer delight.

We call this format the “EC-1,” since these stories are as comprehensive and illuminating as the S-1 forms startups must file with the SEC before going public.

Here’s how the Tonal EC-1 breaks down:

We have more EC-1s in the works about other late-stage startups that are doing big things well and making news in the process.

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Embedded procurement will make every company its own marketplace

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Dear Sophie:

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Many organizations perceive data management as being akin to data governance, where responsibilities are centered around establishing controls and audit procedures, and things are viewed from a defensive lens.

That defensiveness is admittedly justified, particularly given the potential financial and reputational damages caused by data mismanagement and leakage.

Nonetheless, there’s an element of myopia here, and being excessively cautious can prevent organizations from realizing the benefits of data-driven collaboration, particularly when it comes to software and product development.

Bring CISOs into the C-suite to bake cybersecurity into company culture

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There’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding copyright issues, fraud and adult content, and legal implications are the crux of the NFT trend.

Whether a court would protect the receipt-holder’s ownership over a given file depends on a variety of factors. All of these concerns mean artists may need to lawyer up.

Viewing Cazoo’s proposed SPAC debut through Carvana’s windshield

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/02/extra-crunch-roundup-tonal-ec-1-deliveroos-rocky-ipo-is-substack-really-worth-650m/

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Start Ups

Want to take a road trip with Kevin Costner? Investors are betting you might

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Woody Sears has long been interested in storytelling. After spending several years in sales after nabbing an MBA from Pepperdine — and following the debut in 2007 of the first iPhone — he founded a storytelling app called Zuuka that built up a library of narrated and illustrated kids’ books for the iPhone and iPad.

Sears later sold that company to a small New York-based outfit called Cupcake Digital. But Sears, who is based in Santa Barbara, Calif., isn’t done with stories yet. Instead, he just raised $1.6 million in seed funding for his second and newest storytelling startup, HearHere, a subscription-based audio road-trip app that, with users’ permission, pushes information to them as they’re driving, giving them informational tidbits in three- to five-minute-long segments about their surroundings, including points of interest they might not have been aware of at all.

The idea is to surface the unknown or forgotten history of regions, which makes sense in a world where more people have returned to road trips and parents have grown desperate to pull their kids’ attention away from TikTok. In fact, Sears’s neighbor, Kevin Costner, liked the idea so much that he recently joined its five-person team as a cofounder and narrator and investor, along with Snap Inc., the law firm Cooley, Camping World CEO and reality TV star Marcus Lemonis, AAA, and numerous other individual investors, including from NextGen Venture Partners.

Because we, too, like history and road trips (and okay, fine, Kevin Costner), we talk with Sears and Costner earlier today to learn why they think they’ll succeed with HearHere when other content-rich geo-location based apps have fallen short of meaningful adoption.

Excerpts from that chat follow, edited lightly for length.

TC: You’re creating an audio map of the U.S., so how many stories do you have banked as we speak?

WS: We’re up to 5,500 stories across 22 states, and we’ll be nationwide by summer. The mission is to connect people to the places that they’re traveling through, lending people stories about the history, the natural wonders, and the colorful characters who’ve lived in that area. We also do stories about sports and music and provide local insights.

TC: That’s a lot of content to gather up, edit down, then record. What does the process look like? 

WS: At the end of the day, the content is king, and we take great care with these stories, producing them with a team of 22, researchers, writers, editors and narrators, most whom come from a travel journalism background. We really feel like we get the best end result through that team approach.

Eventually, we’ll open up to third-party content contributors, where we’re hosting both professional content and also user-generated content.

TC: Is there an AI component or will there be?

WS: We more see this as augmented reality in that these stories really do overlay the landscape and give you a different perspective while traveling. But AI and machine learning are things that we’ll incorporate as we start to move into foreign languages and better tailor the content for the end user.

TC: How do you prioritize which stories to tell as you’re building up this content library?

WS: The major historical markers are a big inspiration, but we’re looking for those lesser-known gems, too, and we look at travel patterns — the way that people move when they’re on leisure trips, meaning what interstate highways they’re taking and which scenic routes are most popular.

TC: How does the subscription piece work?

WS: You get five free free stories each month; for unlimited streaming, it’s $35.99 per year.

TC: Kevin, you must be approached a lot with startup ideas and investment opportunities. Why get so involved with this one?

KC: Obviously I’m story-oriented; that doesn’t come as a shock to anybody. But you’re right, a lot of ideas come to me.

Hearhere came through my wife, who said that Woody had something he wanted to talk about, and as she explained it to me, I got it, you know? That’s the shiny thing for me, storytelling and having the ability for a good story to come out, especially when it comes to our country.

So we had this meeting and he explained the concept to me, which is kind of equal to what I’d already been doing my whole life, which is stopping at the bronze plaques all over the country and reading about their historical significance —  those [moments] that kind of interrupt everybody’s trip except mine. [Laughs.] You know, [it’s] getting out and stretching my legs and reading a little history and dreaming while the rest of the people in the car are kind of moaning because we stopped our progress.

This is an extension of that for me, without getting out of the car, and with stories that can evolve and perhaps get longer. And I can become more involved in what I was driving past and the people in the car can maybe sense what it was that interested me enough to stop.

Image Credits: Hearhere

TC: You love history. 

KC: Hearhere is a lot more than history, but for me, it was the history [that I found so compelling]. And it’s how the foundation was set for me to become more involved in the company and understand it a lot better and then become somebody who wanted to be a part of the founding of it.

TC: AAA and Camping World are among the company’s strategic investors. How might they promote the app and what other partnerships have you struck to get Hearhere in front of people at the right time?

WS: Camping World also owns Good Sam Club, which is the largest organization of RV owners in the world, and AAA is a giant with 57 million members in the US, and they all see this as a way to fulfill something they’re aren’t currently doing for their audience; it’s making that bridge to digital, and we’re really excited to get this in front of their members and customers.

We also have partnerships with [the RV marketplaces] Outdoorsy and RVshare [and the RV rental and sales company] Cruise America. It’s a very hot market.

TC: There have been similar ideas. Caterina Fake’s Findery was an early app that aimed to help users discover much more about locations. Detour, a startup that provided walking audio tours of cities that was founded by Groupon cofounder Andrew Mason, seemed interesting but failed to take off with users. What makes you think this startup will click?

WS: I loved Detour. I ate up both of those.

I guess where I think [Detour] missed product market fit was the number of scenarios where you could use it and also, it was competing for people’s time. We chose to start with road trips because you have a captive audience; there’s only so much you can do when you’re driving in the car, unlike when you’re in a city, where there are all kind of options to explore its history, either through physical books or tour guides, and you had to carve out two hours of your time, and it’s easy to get distracted while you’re walking around.

We want to capture the places that are along the journey and lesser known and more untold and where people have the space to engage in it. Starting as short form helps. It’s also on-demand, so you don’t have to follow a pre-designated route. We’re not taking you on a specific tour, where you have to turn left or turn right.  We’re going to surface stories for you no matter what route you take.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/02/want-to-take-a-road-trip-with-kevin-costner-investors-are-betting-you-might/

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Start Ups

Seattle-area AI startup Darklight raises $5.1M to help companies automate cybersecurity tasks

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Darklight CEO Dan Wachtler. (Darklight Photo)

New funding: Seattle-area startup Darklight raised a $5.1 million round from undisclosed investors. Total funding to date is about $10 million.

The tech: Founded in 2014, Darklight’s software uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help automate workflow tasks. It will soon launch its first commercial cybersecurity product that automates the prioritization of vulnerability scanner results.

The 17-person startup is also working with the U.S. Army to help reduce cognitive burden on soldiers and analysts. The company’s technology traces its roots to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Leadership: Darklight is led by CEO Dan Wachtler, who previously CEO at IPSA International for more than 12 years and was president at root9B Holdings.

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Source: https://www.geekwire.com/2021/seattle-area-ai-startup-darklight-raises-5-1m-help-companies-automate-cybersecurity-tasks/

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