Author: Anna Escher

Silicon Valley’s year of reckoning

Tech companies have always branded themselves as the good guys. But 2018 was the year that the long-held belief that Silicon Valley is on the right side of progress and all things good was called into question by a critical mass. As startups grow bigger and richer, amassing more power and influence outside of the Valley, a reckoning has played out in government and business. Mission statements like “connecting the world” and “don’t be evil” no longer hold water. A look at a few of this year’s most impactful news themes underscore why; we’ve racked up too many examples to the contrary. Android co-creator Andy Rubin’s $90 million payout and sexual misconduct revealed Since the #MeToo movement opened the floodgates on the importance of fighting for gender equality and fair treatment of women and underrepresented minorities at a large scale, the tech industry was rightfully singled out as a microcosm for rampant misconduct. In October, a New York Times investigation detailed how Android co-creator Andy Rubin was paid out a $90 million exit package when he left Google in 2014. At the time, Google concealed that the executive had multiple relationships with Google staffers and that credible accounts of sexual misconduct had been filed against him during his time at the company. It was an all-too-familiar story recounting how women in tech aren’t safe at work and misbehaved executives are immune...

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Brazilian long term rentals service QuintoAndar raises $64M Series C

There’s quite a bit wrong with real estate in Brazil, according to QuintoAndar founder and CEO Gabriel Braga. Those seeking long term rentals in big Brazilian cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are throttled by bureaucratic policies that enforce outrageously expensive deposits, the requirement of local cosigners and sky-high insurance fees. On the supply side, amateur landlords are tunnel visioned on making money from transactions, creating a low quality of service and many wasted hours of apartment hunting for tenants. This is where QuintoAndar, a São Paulo-based rental marketplace, comes in. Now, the 600-person company has raised...

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Predictive sales tool People.ai racks up $30M Series B led by Andreessen Horowitz

Dirty data means bad business. Yet sales operations are still largely based on incomplete, manually entered activity logging done by sales reps. Anyone who’s worked in a sales role can attest to the wasted hours of task logging that managers require as part of their oversight. But what if a company could automatically track the steps employees took to land a deal, freeing up reps’ schedules to do their actual jobs? People.ai has raised $30 million to try to achieve just that. People.ai, a startup that tracks every communication touchpoint between sales teams and customers, wants to solve this...

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New wave founders are headed to Startup Battlefield Latin America

TechCrunch is thrilled to announce that Rappi co-founder Sebastian Mejia, Enjoie founder Ana McLaren and Konfío founder and CEO David Arana will be joining us on stage at Startup Battlefield Latin America for a panel about new wave startups coming out of the region. What does scaling a delivery startup out of Latin America look like? Where do you find the top engineering talent to build a marketplace app? What are the big opportunities for ecommerce and fintech companies? These are some of the ideas these three founders will speak to. Sebastián Mejia is a co-founder of Rappi, the on-demand delivery startup worth over $1 billion. Rappi initially began as a beverage delivery service, but has since expanded into groceries, meals, medicine and tech products to become a solution for last-mile delivery on demand. The company also has a popular cash withdrawl feature, and charges $1 per delivery. The Colombian startup has been backed by some of the world’s most prominent investors like Sequoia and Andreessen Horowitz. In fact, Rappi marked A16z’s first investment into Latin America in 2016. Now, thanks to a huge $200M round that closed in September 2018, Rappi is now worth over $1 billion. Mejia built his career working in the financial and tech sectors in New York before starting his path as an entrepreneur. He currently serves as the CSO and co-founder of Rappi. Ana McLaren is the Executive Director...

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Nubank’s David Vélez and Cristina Junquiera to speak at Startup Battlefield Latin America

TechCrunch is pleased to announce that Nubank co-founder Cristina Junqueira and co-founder/CEO David Vélez will join us in a fireside chat at Startup Battlefield Latin America on November 8 at the Tomie Ohtake Institute in São Paulo, Brazil. Nubank’s product is a no-fee credit card managed through a mobile app. Investors like Sequoia, Kaszek, Tiger Global and Goldman Sachs bet on the company’s potential to challenge Brazil’s big banks. The São Paulo-based company raised a total of $527.6M in funding over 8 rounds, making it the most recent business to reach unicorn status in the region. The fintech passed the milestone of 4 million credit card clients on its platform in May 2018, up from 3 million in late 2017. Fueled by mega rounds from Western players like Andreessen, Sequoia, Accel and SoftBank, venture investment into Latin America doubled in 2017, reaching an all time high of $1.1 billion. The cash flow continued as more than $600M was invested into Latin American companies in the first quarter of 2018. Market conditions like rapid smartphone adoption in highly-populated countries like Brazil and a growing demand for digital services position Latin America for a big tech breakout. Who better to speak to this trend and discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead for early stage companies in the region than one of the top-funded startups? Before founding Nubank in 2013, Vélez was a Partner at...

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Inside Planet Labs’ new satellite manufacturing site

Satellite imaging and analytics company Planet is taking the wraps off its new manufacturing space in San Francisco. Founded by ex-NASA employees, Planet is leveraging some of the $183 million in funding it’s amassed to expand. In the basement of a nondescript office building in the middle of Harrison street in San Francisco, Planet is hard at work building low-orbit satellites that take images of our changing planet, and now the aerospace imaging company more room to do so, claiming that the new facility is the most prolific satellite manufacturing spot in the world.  Inside the new 27,000 square foot...

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The top 10 startups from Y Combinator’s Demo Day S’18 Day 2

59 startups took the stage at Y Combinator’s Demo Day 2  and among the highlights were a company that helps developers manage in-app subscriptions; a service that lets you create animojis from real photos; and a surplus medical equipment reselling platform. Oh… and there was also a company that’s developed an entirely new kind of life form using e coli bacteria. So yeah, that’s happening. Based on some investor buzz and what caught TechCrunch’s eye, these are our picks from the second day of Y Combinator’s presentations. You can find the full list of companies that presented on Day 1 here, and our top picks from Day 1 here.  64-x With a founding team including some of the leading luminaries in the field of biologically inspired engineering (including George Church, Pamela Silver, and Jeffrey Way from Harvard’s Wyss Institute) 64-x is engineering organisms to function in otherwise inaccessible environments. Chief executive Alexis Rovner, herself a post-doctoral fellow at the Wyss Institute, and chief operating officer Ryan Gallagher, a former BCG Consultant, are looking to commercialize research from the Institute around accelerating and expanding the ability to produce functionalized proteins and sequence-defined polymers with diverse chemistries. Basically they’ve engineered a new life form that they want to use for novel kinds of bio-manufacturing. Why we liked it: These geniuses invented a new life form. CB Therapeutics Sher Butt, a former lab directory at Steep Hill,...

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Review: Cult of the Machine at the de Young

Let’s flash back to the Machine Age, the period in American history that gave us the assembly line, the first nonstop transcontinental flight, regular radio broadcasts, and the first robot capable of performing more than 20 movements. These technological advancements inspired a style of art called Precisionism, popularized by big names like Georgia O’Keefe, Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth. The Cult of the Machine exhibit at the de Young museum in San Francisco is a reflection of attitudes toward machines and robotics during the Machine Age, the period between the two world wars during which industrial efficiency was the reigning mantra. In an era where efficiency was seen as both beautiful and as a threat, there was an influx of art inspired by anxieties people had about the rise of industrial technology. The exhibit rehashes the “are machines a friend or foe to humans?” debate through a Precisionist lens with a thorough, possibly too thorough, collection. Curated by Emma Acker, the exhibit is predominantly Precisionist works. Precisionism is an early 20th century American modernist style that was born from artists who synthesized European cubism and futurism with the American vision of industrial, urban themes. We see smokestacks, factories, bridges and skyscrapers painted with geometric, smooth techniques. Technologists today have expressed concern about the takeover of robotics, decline in manufacturing jobs, losing control to AIs, biased algorithms and the loss of...

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