Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy news pertaining to startups and venture capital. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I profiled an e-commerce startup Part & Parcel. Before that, I wrote about Stripe’s grand plans .
Some startups build space ships that will one day send us all to Mars, others put their time and energy into improving 350 year old infrastructure.
Landline , the operator of a bus network in the Midwest, is one of the latest companies to raise venture capital. The business has closed a $3.85 million round led by Los Angeles firm Upfront Ventures, with participation from Mucker Capital and Matchstick Ventures. The company is actually based out of LA, too, but has completed its initial launch in Minnesota, where there’s greater demand for short-term bus travel.
Landline isn’t just a few buses with startup branding. Founder and chief executive officer David Sunde tells TechCrunch a ride on Landline is booked through its partner airline Sun Country Airlines. A traveler pays Sun Country one fixed price to get them from the bus pick-up point to their final destination. The goal is to help those who live far distances from airports save money and to make the experience of busing more enjoyable.
“It’s all meant to be at the level of reliability that you would expect from an air carrier,” Sunde tells TechCrunch. “We don’t want people who get on the bus to be surprised or upset — we want it to be a seamless experience … The perception of bus travel in the U.S. is negative. A big part of our mission is to get people comfortable on buses again as a viable alternative to air travel in certain markets.”
For those of you wondering, have these people ever heard of Greyhound? Landline says they wont compete with Greyhound because of the more than 100-year-old transportation business’s focus on long-haul trips. Landline will specifically focus on connecting those in rural communities to airports, particularly regions where there aren’t already bus routes that conveniently access the airport. Can’t say I’m particularly bullish on this one but the startup is very early and transportation is a massive market ripe for disruption.
“Our vision is completely integrated multi-modal travel,” Sunde added.
WeWork has delayed its IPO following questions surrounding its corporate governance and the ultimate value of the company. The co-working business says it expects to go public by the end of the year. Airbnb, for its part, filed a press release this week confirming its plans to go public in 2020 . We don’t know much about the company’s plans, but we wouldn’t be too surprised to see the home-sharing decacorn pursue a direct listing.
Postmates, the popular food delivery service, raised another $225 million at a valuation of $2.4 billion in a round led by the private equity firm GPI Capital this week. The financing brings Postmates’ total funding to nearly $1 billion. The company filed privately with the SEC for an IPO earlier this year. Sources familiar with the company’s exit plans say the business intends to publicly unveil its IPO prospectus this month .
To discuss the company’s journey to the public markets and the challenges ahead in the increasingly crowded food delivery space, Postmates co-founder and chief executive officer Bastian Lehmann will join us onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt on Friday October 4th. Don’t miss it.
- WordPress parent company Automattic secures $300M
- Stripe nabs another $250M at a $35B valuation
- Ginkgo Bioworks raises capital at a $4B valuation
- Vianai raises $50M seed to transform machine learning
- Built Robotics raises $33M for its self-driving construction equipment
- HappyOrNot nabs $25M for its customer satisfaction terminals
- Groww, an investment app for Indian millennials, raises $21M
- Online personal shopping service Lookiero gets $19M
- Indian startup Digi-Prex raises $5.5M seed
- @Thingtesting, a business that began as an Instagram, gets seed capital
A whole lot of VCs will be joining us at TechCrunch Disrupt.
We’ll have a16z general partners Chris Dixon, Angela Strange and Andrew Chen for insight into the firm’s latest activity. Seed investor Charles Hudson of Precursor Ventures and Redpoint Ventures general partner Annie Kadavy will show up to give founders tips on how to raise VC. Y Combinator’s Michael Seibel and Ali Rowghani will join us with advice on how to get accepted to their respected accelerator.
Plus, GV’s David Krane, Sequoia general partner Jess Lee, Floodgate’s Ann Miura-Ko, Aspect Ventures’ Theresia Gouw, Bessemer Venture Partners’ Tess Hatch, Forerunner Ventures’ Eurie Kim, Mithril Capital’s Ajay Royan and SOSV’s Arvind Gupta will be on deck to comment on the respective fields.
Disrupt SF runs October 2-4 at the Moscone Center in the heart of San Francisco. Passes are available here .
This week, the lovely Alex Wilhelm and I welcomed Kleiner Perkins’ Mamoon Hamid, known for his investments in Slack, Figma, Cameo and more, to riff on upcoming IPOs and debate the scalability of D2C brands. Listen to the episode here or watch us on YouTube.
Hello and welcome back to Equity , TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.
This week Kate and Alex were back at TechCrunch’s San Francisco headquarters to chat the news with Kleiner Perkin’s Mamoon Hamid . Hamid is best known as a former member of the Social Capital team, and for driving generational change at Kleiner Perkins, a decades-old venture capital firm.
While we were prepping our notes, Airbnb announced that it is indeed going public next year. The firm’s terse statement launched 1,000 blog posts ( here is one , here is another ), while instigating a few jokes. After all, the IPO market is hot now. Saying that you are going to try your best to get out next year isn’t incredibly impressive from a firm with as many billions as Airbnb is today. It’s also not at all surprising.
Still, it’s a near-promise. And that means eventually we’ll get to see what the popular home-sharing and accommodations company spends all its gross margin on. Moving along, we discussed the recent WeWork revelations. If you haven’t read the Wall Street Journal’s piece on the matter, you must. It is chock-full of colorful anecdotes with WeWork’s co-founder and CEO Adam Neumann front and center.
Next, we got into the news concerning a split at Aspect Ventures, which TechCrunch covered here . We had heard rumors about the split, first reported by The WSJ, for a few weeks now and were interested to discuss what drives these sort of shake-ups with our guest.
Scooting ahead, we turned to the early-stage market where quite a few of you, our lovely friends, have asked us to spend more time. So, we talked at length about D2C startups, including the new, and we think cool Thingtesting business . You can check out their Instagram, the focal point of their business, here . Despite enjoying Thingtesting, Kate and Mamoon are bearish on the D2C movement.
All that and we had a good time. Sorry about the lack of donut continuity in the video. We’re back next week with more, and we’ll see everyone at Disrupt in two weeks!
[Enquête Numerama] Ils s'appellent Billionaire Pronos, Wartz, Nico Pronos ou Thomas Lamasse. Ils promettent aux internautes de gagner beaucoup d'argent grâce à leurs conseils en paris sportifs. Mais faut-il se fier à eux ? [Lire la suite]
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The newest version of Snap’s Spectacles already has a 3D feature that lets you see the world with immersive filter effects , and now the company’s flagship app Snapchat is levelling up. Today the company announced a new 3D Camera Mode that will let users make and share images with diorama-like depth effects that move when you tilt your phone.
The 3D Camera Mode is available as of today for those using the iPhone X and above with an update of the Snapchat app, where the feature can be accessed via the camera mode, using the drop-down menu on the right. The pictures can also be viewed (but not created) on older and other phone models (including Android) as well.
Alongside the 3D Camera Mode, those creating pictures will also, naturally, be supplied with a new library of 3D effects, lenses and filters; and after you are finished making the images, you can also save them to your camera roll to use elsewhere as well.
The move into 3D is the latest salvo for Snapchat in what has been a long-term feature battle with Facebook, and specifically Instagram . We have long documented the history of how Snapchat has led the charge with new concepts in photo art on its app — from the very basic aspect of ephemeral images, through to the emergence of lenses and filters, and stories to build narratives of Snaps and videos — only to see Instagram (and to a lesser extent, Facebook itself) follow suit with the similar features.
The feature-copy situation is particularly a tough one for Snapchat, which still trails Instagram in overall users and once saw its growth slow massively after its rival implemented Stories. Snapchat most recently reported 203 million daily active users , while Instagram currently says its DAUs are over 500 million .
Lenses and photo effects overall still have a long way to go, though — not least because currently some 70% the company’s daily users turn to lenses to spice up their pictures, pointing to a very sticky feature that helps keep them on Snapchat overall. So Snapchat’s push to keep innovating (even if it gets copied) is commendable.
And in the moving target that is consumer taste, that model is likely to also get changed up with more recent competitive developments: specifically it will be worth watching how and if the rise of the popular music-based TikTok app will impact what features we see on these two older rivals.
Despite all that, ironically, with 3D, Facebook was actually ahead of the game, launching AI-based 3D images back in October 2018 . Up to now, it’s never extended that feature to Instagram. However, with Snapchat getting in on the action, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 3D show up on Insta, too.
To be clear, the 3D feature’s reliance on models of the iPhone X and newer cuts more legacy models of the iPhone out as a matter of necessity, since they are made using image and depth data that can be collected on the iPhone X’s front-facing lens.
On the other hand, you mind find it a strange oversight that the same feature is not showing up on its Android app — not least given that there are a fair number of high-end Android devices that can capture the same types of depth and other image data as the higher models of the iPhone.
Snapchat has had a history with Android. While it is a popular platform for mobile apps overall, at one point Snap had to redesign its Snapchat Android app because it was so slow and buggy , leading to plummeting users. Eventually it clawed some of that back , but it seems that for now, enough of its biggest users are on iOS that Snap continues to prioritise it when it comes to new features. It will be worth watching to see how long it takes Snap to extend this feature to Android. (We are asking.)
Facebook on Monday announced a number of updates aimed at video creators and publishers, during a session at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) taking place in Amsterdam. The updates involve changes to live video broadcasting, Facebook’s Watch Party, and Creator Studio, and they include enhancements to tools, expanded feature sets, and improved analytics, among other things.
The highlights include better ways to prep for and simulcast live broadcasts, ways to take better advantage of Watch Party events, new metrics to track video performance, and a much-anticipated option to schedule Instagram/IGTV content for up to six months’ in advance.
In terms of live video, Facebook says it listened to feedback from those who have been broadcasting live on its platform, and is now rolling out several highly-requested features to Facebook Pages (not Profiles.) The changes are an attempt to better accommodate professional broadcasters who want to use Facebook’s live broadcasting capabilities instead of or in addition to other platforms, like YouTube.
Through the Live API, publishers can now use a “rehearsal” feature to broadcast live only to Page admins and editors in order to test new production setups, interactive features, and show formats before going live to a full audience. QVC has tested this feature, as they broadcast live on Facebook for hundreds of hours per month, and have wanted to try out new workflows and formats.
Publishers will also be able to trim the beginning and end of a live video, and can live broadcast for as long as 8 hours — double the previous limit of 4 hours.
This latter capability has already been used by NASA, who broadcast an 8-hour long spacewalk, for example, and it also leaves room for broadcasting things like live sports, news events, and Twitch-like gaming broadcasts.
Most notably, perhaps, is that the company realizes live broadcasters need to serve their audiences outside of Facebook. Now, publishers will be able to use apps that let them stream to more than one streaming service at once, by simulcasting via the Live API.
Live video recently rolled out to Facebook Lite, as well, the company also noted.
Facebook additionally announced a few new updates for its co-watching feature, Watch Party, which include the ability for Pages to schedule a party in advance to build anticipation, support for “replays” that will let others enjoy the video after airing, the ability to tag business partners in branded content, and new analytics.
As for the latter, two new metrics are being added to Creator Studio: Minutes Viewed and Unique 60s Viewers (total number of unique users that watched at least 60 seconds in a Watch Party.) These complement existing metrics like reach and engagement.
The Live Commenting feature , which allows a host to go live in a Watch Party to share their own commentary, is also now globally available.
And wrapping all this up is an update to Creator Studio , which is what publishers use to post, manage, monetize and measure their content across both Facebook and Instagram.
The dashboard will soon add a new visualization layer in Loyalty Insights to help creators see which videos loyal fans want to see, by measuring which videos drive return viewers.
A new Distribution metric will score each video’s performance based on the Page’s historic average on a range of metrics, including: 1 Minute Views, Average Minutes Watched, and Retention. This feature, rolling out in the next few months, will offer an easy-to-read snapshot of a video’s performance.
Creator Studio will also now support 13 more languages for auto-captioning: Arabic, Chinese, German, Hindi, Italian, Malay, Russian, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Urdu, and Vietnamese. These are in addition to those languages already available, which included English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.
Instagram & IGTV Scheduling
And finally, publishers and creators will be able to publish and schedule their Instagram Feed and IGTV content for up to 6 months. In a few more months, Instagram Feed and IGTV drafting and editing will also become available, the company says.
This feature was already spotted in the wild before today’s announcement, and sent the social media management and influencer community abuzz. It also follows an update to the Instagram API last year to allow scheduling by third-party applications. However, a native feature is not as limited as some of those other options.
The feature is now open to all creators and publishers with Facebook Pages, whereas before some were seeing it labeled only as “coming soon” or were not able to get it working . Story scheduling is not yet included here, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see it added further down the road.