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The savage genius of SoftBank funding competitors

Venture capitalists aren’t supposed to make their portfolio companies battle to the death. There’s a long-standing but unofficial rule that investors shouldn’t fund multiple competitors in the same space. Conflicts of interest could arise, information about one startup’s strategy could be improperly shared with the other, and the companies could become suspicious of advice provided by their investors. That leads to problems down the line for VCs, as founders may avoid them if they fear the firm might fund their rival down the line. SoftBank shatters that norm with its juggernaut $100 billion Vision Fund plus its Innovation Fund. The investor hasn’t been shy about funding multiple sides of the same fight. The problem is that SoftBank’s power distorts the market...

Which public US universities graduate the most funded founders?

Joanna Glasner Contributor More posts by this contributor Big revenues, huge valuations and major losses: charting the era of the unicorn IPO Some reassuring data for those worried unicorns are wrecking the Bay Area A lot of students attend public universities to lessen the financial burden of higher education. At last tally, tuition and fees at American public colleges and universities averaged around $6,800 a year, per the federal government. That’s far below the $32,600 mean price tag for private, nonprofit institutions. Yet when it comes to public universities, the old adage “you get what you pay for” clearly does not apply. Leading public research universities in particular have a track record of turning out enviably knowledgeable and successful graduates. That includes a whole lot of...

Startups Weekly: VCs are drunk on beverage startups

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a newsletter published every Saturday that dives into the week’s most noteworthy venture deals, fundraises, M&A transactions and trends. Let’s take a quick moment to catch up. Last week, I wrote about an alternative to venture capital called revenue-based financing and before that, I jotted down some notes on one of VCs’ favorite spaces: cannabis tech. Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. This week, I want to share some thoughts — questions, rather — on beverages. Just as my inbox has been full of cannabis-related pitches, it’s also been packed with descriptions of new…drinks. Perhaps the most noted so far is Liquid Death,...

How to see another company’s growth tactics and try them yourself

Julian Shapiro Contributor Share on Twitter Julian Shapiro is the founder of BellCurve.com, a growth marketing agency that trains you to become a marketing professional. He also writes at Julian.com. More posts by this contributor How do you hire a great growth marketer? How do startups actually get their content marketing to work? Every company’s online acquisition strategy is out in the open. If you know where to look. This post shows you exactly where to look, and how to reverse engineer their growth tactics. Why is this important? Competitive analysis de-risks your own growth experiments: You find the best growth ideas to adopt and the worst ones to avoid. First, a warning: Your goal is not to repurpose another company’s hard work. That makes you a thief. Your goal is to identify other...

CoinBits launches as a passive investment app for bitcoin

Erik Finman is a twenty-something bitcoin maximalist as famous for his precocity as he is for his $12 bet on the currency a few years ago. Now, Finman, who built his first company while still in high school, is launching a new startup called CoinBits, which allows users to passively invest in bitcoin. The idea, according to Finman, is to democratize access to the currency by letting everyday folks invest nominal sums through well-known mechanisms like roundups on transactions made with a credit or debit card or through regular transactions from a customer’s savings or checking account to bitcoin through CoinBits. Every transaction also helps Finman’s own bitcoin holdings grow, and makes the young entrepreneur a little wealthier himself through his bitcoin holdings. Users can ma...

Livekick raises $3M to use live video for one-on-one training

Livekick, a startup that gives customers access to one-on-one personal training and yoga from their home (or hotel room, or elsewhere), is announcing that it has raised $3 million in seed funding. The company was founded by entrepreneur Yarden Tadmor and fitness expert Shayna Schmidt. Tadmor said that with all his travel for work, his fitness routine “really eroded,” so he contacted Schmidt and asked her to train him remotely — they’d connect via FaceTime, he’d mount his phone at the gym and she’d supervise his workout. “We trained this way for a while, and then we realized: Hey, this is something that other people can really benefit from,” Tadmor said. So with Livekick, users can sign up for one, two or three live, 30-minute sessions with a remote...

CFIUS Cometh: What this Obscure Agency Does and Why It Matters to Your Fund or Startup

Evan J. Zimmerman Contributor Evan J. Zimmerman is an entrepreneur, investor, and writer. He is the Chairman of Jovono and Chairman of the Clinton Health Access Initiative technology council. He is a partner and director in Mighty Mug/Mighty Products, Inc, and chairman of Brush Up Club, an innovative oral health company. On January 12, 2016, Grindr announced it had sold a 60% controlling stake in the company to Beijing Kunlun Tech, a Chinese gaming firm, valuing the company at $155 million. Champagne bottles were surely popped at the small-ish firm. Though not at a unicorn-level valuation, the 9-figure exit was still respectable and signaled a bright future for the gay hookup app. Indeed, two years later, Kunlun bought the rest of the firm at more than double the valuation and was planning...

Luckin leaves bitter aftertaste, now trading below IPO price

In the first few days following Luckin Coffee’s initial public offering, the stock chart for LK looked like a roller coaster. Now it’s looking more like a freefall. The Chinese Coffee chain successfully completed its highly anticipated offering roughly a week ago, raising over $550 million after pricing at $17 per share, the high end of its $15-$17 per share range. Luckin was met with a warm reception from the markets, with the stock skyrocketing roughly 20% to a greater than $5 billion market cap in its first day of trading. However, concerns over the company’s lofty valuation, major cash burn and uncertain path to profitability have caused the stock to nosedive since. Luckin has around 25% since closing its debut trading day at $20.38 per share, and 40% from its intraday peak of $25.96. ...

Why Luckin’s ultimate target may not be Starbucks

Starbucks plans to double its store count in China to 5,000 in 2021 and Luckin, a one-year-old coffee startup, is matching up by aiming to reach 4,500 by the end of this year. Luckin’s upsized $651 million flotation has brought American investors’ attention to this potential Starbucks rival in China, where the Seattle giant controlled over half of the coffee market as late as 2017. But as soon as you make your first purchase with Luckin, you realize its ultimate goal may not be to topple Starbucks. To get your caffeine intake from Luckin, the ordering process happens entirely on its app. First, you will decide how you want to fetch the drink: have it delivered within 30 minutes, pick it up at a nearby Luckin kiosk, or sit back and sip at one of its full-on cafes, or what it cal...

Nigeria’s Gokada raises $5.3M round for its motorcycle ride-hail biz

In many large cities across Africa, motorcycle taxis are as common as yellow cabs in New York. That includes Lagos, Nigeria, where ride-hail startup Gokada has raised a $5.3 million Series A round to grow its two-wheel transit business. Gokada has trained and on-boarded more than 1,000 motorcycles and their pilots on its app that connects commuters to moto-taxis and the company’s signature green, DOT– approved helmets. The startup has completed nearly 1 million rides since it was co-founded in 2018 by Fahim Saleh — a Bangladeshi entrepreneur who previously founded and exited Pathao, a motorcycle, bicycle and car transportation company. For Gokada’s Series A, Rise Capital led the investment, joined by Adventure Capital, IC Global Partners and Illinois-based First MidWest G...

Online bank Simple makes things harder by removing bill pay

With a growing number of challenger banks taking on the U.S. market, one of the original startup banks, Simple — now owned by BBVA — has taken the unusual step of removing a core banking feature: bill pay. The company claimed the feature was under-utilized and usage was trending downwards, which is why it decided to sunset the option to pay bills through its app. That decision, not surprisingly, has angered a number of customers who are taking to social media and online forums like Reddit, threatening to switch banks as a result. It’s likely true that fewer people today use bill pay than in the past. The feature is something of a holdover from an earlier era before electronic payment options and auto pay became as ubiquitous as they are now. And many customers may still h...

Lime’s founding CEO steps down as his co-founder takes control

In an all-hands meeting this afternoon, the scooter and bike-sharing phenom Lime announced co-founder and chief executive officer Toby Sun would transition out of the C-suite to focus on company culture and R&D. Brad Bao, a Lime co-founder and long-time Tencent executive, will assume chief responsibilities, Lime confirmed to TechCrunch. “Lime has experienced unprecedented growth in the global marketplace under the joint leadership of our co-founders Brad Bao and Toby Sun,” the company said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “Fortunately, Lime’s structure allows for our executive leadership to be multipurpose and we are making a few changes to our team today to seize the opportunity ahead of us.” Sun and Bao launched Lime together in late 2016. The San Mateo-based ...

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