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Sydney Thomas is coming to judge startups at Disrupt

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Before Precursor Ventures hired Sydney Thomas, the firm was running its operations out of founder Charles Hudson’s inbox, the investor recently recalled. Thomas was hired specifically to do the operational work of bringing a solo GP fund, with less than $5 million in committed capital, to a more organized place — and that’s exactly what Thomas has done. Which is why we’re honored to have Thomas, a celebrated investor, philanthropist, podcaster and community advocate, attend TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 as a judge for our Startup Battlefield competition.

A graduate of the Haas School of Business at Berkeley in 2016, Thomas is now cutting checks as a principal at Precursor, where she focuses her time on investing and supporting pre-seed companies democratizing access to products and services for what Thomas calls the “mass market economy”. Thomas also founded and hosts the “Be About It” podcast, where she profiles companies that fit the thesis. All of this complements a full extracurricular schedule that includes working on a list of investors committed to backing Black and LatinX founders called “The Interrupters” and serving on the Advisory Board of Invanti — a startup generator in the Midwest. In 2020, she was honored to receive the Champion of Justice Award from Esq. Apprentice, an Oakland-based nonprofit that creates alternative pathways to legal careers.

The Startup Battlefield competition has been the launchpad for hundreds of startups at Disrupt, including Dropbox, Cloudflare, Fitbit and more. If you are interested in throwing in your hat to compete, applications are open now! Thomas joins a number of other seasoned investors as a judge at the show. You should be there as well and can get your ticket to attend for less than $100 for a limited time. Get your pass today!

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/28/sydney-thomas-is-coming-to-judge-startups-at-disrupt/

Start Ups

Don’t wait for legislation banning NDAs: Write ethical policies now

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Companies across the United States should be closely following the California State Legislature hearings on the “Silenced No More Act,” which would prevent the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) to silence employees from speaking up about all forms of discrimination and harassment.

The legislation was introduced in response to the stunning claims brought forward by former Pinterest employees alleging a pattern of racial and gender discrimination, harassment and retaliation. They courageously called attention to the hypocrisy of Pinterest’s aspirational comments on social issues even though the company had required them to sign NDAs.

As attorneys who work with shareholders to hold companies accountable for this misconduct, these allegations have deeply impacted our work. They formed the basis of an ongoing shareholder derivative lawsuit that a state pension fund we represent brought against Pinterest’s board of directors and top executives for participating in and otherwise protecting powerful executives who are alleged to have discriminated against Pinterest employees.

Failure to recognize this necessity will lead to future corporate scandals as multiple accounts of the same type of misconduct in the workplace come to light.

The Silenced No More Act would extend existing laws that limit the use of NDAs. Such laws are important because NDAs are intended to protect executives by keeping their harassment, discrimination and retaliation under wraps. That NDAs chill the voices of employees who have already been victimized makes them even more toxic. NDAs cause women to fear reprisal from the company, sometimes even incorporating financial penalty clauses, long after their individual claims have been resolved.

The Silenced No More Act should pass swiftly and be a model for other states, but this is what all companies throughout the country should be doing on their own, rather than waiting for legislation to drag an ethical NDA policy out of them.

Failure to recognize this necessity will lead to future corporate scandals as multiple accounts of the same type of misconduct in the workplace come to light. It will continue to uphold an unsustainable corporate system where executives in positions of power assume they will be protected no matter how unlawful their behavior toward others in the workplace.

We have seen from our investigations the compounding impacts of NDAs and how they allow problems to fester over years.

The two of us, working with others and on behalf of Alphabet shareholders, were part of the team that led a groundbreaking $310 million settlement with the tech company that led to historic diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) reforms at the company. That settlement was the result of a shareholder derivative lawsuit where stockholders alleged that executives and board members violated their fiduciary duties by enabling a double standard that allowed executives to sexually harass and discriminate against women without consequence.

In that case, we believe Alphabet’s “culture of concealment” was driven in large part by the silencing effects of NDAs.

The duration of misconduct, enabled by NDAs, goes far beyond Alphabet and Pinterest. There is no shortage of #MeToo scandals at powerful companies, many with presences in California, that were exacerbated by muzzling NDAs. Weinstein Company, Wynn Resorts, NBC and 21st Century Fox are prominent examples of companies that first tried to keep allegations quiet through the use of NDAs and later faced a firestorm of allegations from former employees.

Fortunately, the landscape surrounding discrimination and harassment in the workplace is changing. Shareholders, workers, customers and other key business stakeholders are becoming more active in demanding that companies stop protecting harassers.

All of this should send a message to boards and C-suite executives that they must set the tone from the top and they are far better off being proactive than reactive. That means actively creating a company culture where DEI is a foundational component — not an afterthought. It also means intentionally prioritizing transparency and proactively doing away with policies that are antithetical to that goal, like NDAs that are intentionally designed to suppress the voices of employees.

The public and shareholders want to be associated with companies that do right by their employees. Business should recognize this change from a culture of compliance to one of equity and inclusion and embrace this new reality by stopping the practice of requiring complainants to enter into NDAs and fostering a culture of inclusion and accountability.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/05/13/dont-wait-for-legislation-banning-ndas-write-ethical-policies-now/

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Start Ups

The Briefing: Cyral Lands $26M For Cloud Security, Impress Raises $50M, And More

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Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

Subscribe to the Crunchbase Daily

Cyral lands $26M for cloud security

Milpitas, California-based Cyral, a security provider for data in the cloud, announced that it raised $26 million in new funding from existing and strategic investors.

The financing brings total capital raised to date to $41.1 million.

Funding rounds

Impress picks up $50M for orthodontics: Barcelona-based Impress, a developer of orthodontic technology that offers invisible aligners, raised $50 million in a Series A round led by CareCapital, an investor focused on the dental and oral care industry.

DeepScribe raises $5M for medical record-taking: DeepScribe, an AI-driven platform for medical record-taking, announced it has raised $5.3 million in a seed round led by Bee Partners.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

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Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-5-13-21/

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Blockchain

BRD’s Blockset unveils its white-label cryptocurrency wallet for banks and other enterprise clients

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Blockset, the blockchain infrastructure platform for enterprises by BRD, announced early access to its Wallet-as-a-Service today. The white-label solution gives clients, like financial institutions, the ability to launch wallets that have the same features as BRD’s own mobile cryptocurrency wallet, which now has about 7 million users with over $20 billion assets under protection.

Blockset’s clients include some of the largest ATM networks and Japanese investment bank (and BRD investor) SBI Holdings, CoinFlip, Welthee, CoinSwitch, Coinsquare and Wyre. BRD’s other investors include Ripple and it has raised $56 million in funding so far.

One of Blockset’s selling points is access to real-time data about several kinds of cryptocurrencies. This not only allows users to see how their assets are performing, but also enables institutions to perform compliance tasks, fraud detection, anti-money laundering and other important services. Blockset also claims that its multi-chain API has up to 99.999% uptime.

The platform currently supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Tezos, Hedera, Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV, and will add more chains based on customer demand.

Blockset already offered a white-label solution called WalletKit, before launching its current Wallet-as-a-Service with more features. BRD co-founder and CEO Adam Traidman compares its Wallet-as-a-Service to Google Maps, because both aggregate large amounts of constantly-changing data and can connect to other apps, while remaining user-friendly.

“The concept is really a result of learnings from working with our customers, tier one financial institutions, who need a couple things,” Traidman told TechCrunch. “Generally they want to custody crypto on behalf of their customers. For example, if you’re running an ETF, like a Bitcoin ETF, or if you’re offering customers buying and selling, you need a way to store the crypto, and you need a way to access the blockchain.”

“The Wallet-as-a-Service is the nomenclature we use to talk about the challenge that customers are facing, whereby blockchain is really complex,” he added. “There are three V’s that I talk about: variety, a lot of velocity because there’s a lot of transactions per second, and volume because there’s a lot of total aggregate data.”

Blockset also enables clients to add features like trading crypto or fiat or lending Bitcoin or Stablecoins to take advantage of high interest rates. Enterprises can develop and integrate their own solutions or work with Blockset’s partners.

Other companies that offer enterprise blockchain infrastructure include Bison Trails, which was recently acquired by Coinbase, and Galaxy Digital.

Blockset differentiates by focusing on real-time data. It looks at a smaller number of mainstream blockchains in order to ensure depth of information and speed.

“If you’re a financial institution, you can’t accept anything other than instant, accurate and highly-scalable kinds of data. Right down to the millisecond of latency is really important because it can give traders an advantage,” said Traidman.

In a press statement, Wyre chief executive officer Ioannis Giannaros said “Blockset is the clear industry leader in offering enterprise-grade SLAs [service-level agreements] that we require to guarantee high scalability, uptime and data integrity across multiple blockchains.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/05/13/brds-blockset-unveils-its-white-label-cryptocurrency-wallet-for-banks-and-other-enterprise-clients/

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Start Ups

Auto parts data platform PDM Automotive raises $4M after doubling revenue in 2020

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New funding: PDM Automotive, a 3-year-old company that runs an automotive product data platform for manufacturers and receivers, raised a $4 million round led by Fuse. The startup provides information on aftermarket automotive parts and other data to companies such as Walmart, Advance Auto Parts, Autozone, Amazon, and eBay. Large automotive parts companies also manage their catalog data with PDM.

The startup spun out of Velocity Automotive, an e-commerce leader in Europe for U.S. auto parts. PDM is led by founders Johannes Crepon and Philipp Crepon.

“The automotive aftermarket is antiquated when it comes to data exchange and procuring business,” Johannes said. “Our platform overarches several segments from data generation, data maintenance, data integration, and business connections. We make it easier to provide better data and streamline the exchange of data.”

The company’s revenue doubled in 2020. Johannes said the pandemic has helped drive demand with used car sales rising, an increase in accessory purchases, and supply chain issues all providing tailwinds. PDM has 20 employees and plans to hire.

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Source: https://www.geekwire.com/2021/auto-parts-data-platform-pdm-automotive-raises-4m-doubling-revenue-2020/

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