Author: Connie Loizos

Domio just raised $12 million in Series A funding to build “apart hotels” across the U.S.

TECHCRUNCH Hotels can be pricey, and and travelers are often forced to leave their rooms for basic things, like food that doesn’t come from the minibar. Yet Airbnb accommodations, which have become the go-to alternative for travelers, can be highly inconsistent. Domio, a two-year-old, New York-based outfit, thinks there’s a third way: apartment hotels, or “apart hotels,” as the company is calling them. The idea is to build a brand that travelers recognize as upscale yet affordable, more tech friendly than boutique hotels, and features plenty of square footage, which it expects will appeal to both families as well as companies that send teams of employees to cities and want to do it more economically. Domio has a host of competitors, if you’ll forgive the pun. Marriott International earlier this year introduced a branded home-sharing business called Tribute Portfolio Homes wherein it says it vets, outfits and maintains homes of its choosing to hotel standards. And it is among a growing number of hotels to recognize that customers who stay in a hotel for a business trip or a family vacation might prefer a multi-bedroom apartment with hotel-like amenities. Property management companies have been raising funding left and right for the same reason. Among them: Sonder, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup offering “spaces built for travel and life” that, according to Crunchbase, has raised $135 million from investors, much of...

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Silicon Valley hoped the Khashoggi story would go away; instead, it may end an era

TECHCRUNCH It’s amazing how quickly things can change. Exactly a week ago, we wondered if Saudi Arabia’s money might finally become radioactive in light of the disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Almost no one who we reached for comment wanted to participate in the story, though behind the scenes, we heard the same things from different sources who have a vested interest in keeping the peace with the country and its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: There is no proof.  We’re waiting to see what happens. You’re naive if you think this is the only regime that both funds Silicon Valley and tortures its own people. I would rather scale my company using Saudi money then cap my opportunity by trying to ensure that my funding sources are pure. In fairness, Silicon Valley companies are used to getting away with a lot. Outrage over one perceived calamity often dissipates quickly as it’s replaced by another. No doubt a week ago, there was an expectation that the media would move on from the journalist who vanished inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey one October afternoon. Yet the Khashoggi story has not faded away. In stark contrast, it just became so graphic that to ignore it is no longer an option. Consider: according to a senior Turkish official who earlier today described details from audio recordings to the New York Times, almost immediately...

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Passport, a customer service company focused on shipping, has raised $3 million in seed funding from some notable names

TECHCRUNCH Founders building a brand today are largely relying on new infrastructure to do it, though they’re still heavily reliant on legacy carriers like FedEx and DHL when it comes to international shipping. In fact, prohibitively high prices, along with not a ton of support or tools, are a few reasons why more American products aren’t shipped abroad. Many startups especially decide it’s simply not worth it. Enter Passport, a 1.5-year-old. San Francisco-based startup that sees an opportunity to make it easier for brands to reach their far-flung customers and that has raised $3 million in seed funding toward that end. Among its backers is Resolute Ventures; Precursor Ventures; Product Hunt cofounder Ryan Hoover; Girlboss founder Sophia Amoruso; and April Underwood, the chief product officer of Slack. What piqued investors’ interest? The team, for starters, including cofounder and COO Aaron Schwartz, who previously founded his own e-commerce company (Modify Watches) and CEO Alex Yancher, who, among other things, cofounded a smart fridge kiosk company called Pantry that was acquired.  The two have some experience in moving packages from one point to another, as well as the pain of dealing with lost and delayed packages. The company is also “asset light,” which investors like to see. Indeed, the company is largely a customer service business focused on shipping. How it works: one of its customers — and these include Native Deodorants —...

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Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen has died at age 65

TECHCRUNCH Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen passed away this afternoon in Seattle at age 65, owing to complications relating to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Vulcan, the privately held company that Allen founded in 1986, three years after leaving Microsoft, released a statement that says it is “with deep sadness that we announce the death of our founder Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and noted technologist, philanthropist, community builder, conservationist, musician and supporter of the arts.” His sister, Jody Allen, a businesswoman and long the CEO of Vulcan, released a separate statement, writing that her brother “was a remarkable individual on every...

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A former Google+ UI designer suggests inept management played a role in the network’s demise (beyond Facebook’s impact)

TECHCRUNCH A lot of people leave their jobs because of bosses they can’t stand. Yet it’s seldom the case that a former employee publicly badmouths management after the fact. The obvious risk in doing so: future employers might not want to gamble on this person badmouthing them at a later date. That isn’t stopping Morgan Knutson, a UI designer who seven years ago, spent eight months at Google working on its recently shuttered social networking product Google+ and who, in light of the shutdown, decided to share on Twitter his personal experience with how “awful the project and exec...

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Sarah Friar, long the CFO of Square, is leaving to join the social network Nextdoor as its CEO

TECHCRUNCH Square’s CFO Sarah Friar is stepping down to become the CEO of Nextdoor, according to the payment company’s CEO, Jack Dorsey. In a statement issued a bit ago, he says of Friar that she “steered us through an IPO and helped build a growing ecosystem of businesses that will scale into the future.” Friar “leaves us having established a culture of entrepreneurship and discipline across the entire company. She has been an amazing leader, partner, and friend, and we are grateful for all she’s done for Square.” Nextdoor has since released its own statement about Friar, who will assume the position in December. Quoting the company’s cofounder and outgoing CEO Nirav Tolia, the statement reads: “Sarah is one of the most highly regarded executives in Silicon Valley with an exceptionally rare mix of proven business skills, and authentic heart and soul. . . From the very beginning of our CEO search, she has been the top choice, and the board of directors and I feel exceptionally fortunate and excited for her to lead Nextdoor moving forward.” The hire looks like a smart move by Nextdoor, the fast-growing social network that centers around neighborhoods and which, three months ago, announced that Tolia planned to step aside as soon as he found the right person to take Nextdoor “to the next level.” At the time, Tolia had said in an...

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Will MBS’s money ever become radioactive?

TECHCRUNCH Yesterday, a Saudi news outlet broke the news that such Silicon Valley big wheels as Marc Andreessen, Sam Altman, and Travis Kalanick are advisors to a $500 billion megacity project being built by the country, which has pitched it as a model of what future cities will look like. The announcement’s timing was not ideal for members of this 19-member list, who signed on to the project months ago in some cases. At the moment, there’s growing outrage over the weeklong disappearance of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who Turkish officials say was murdered last week in the...

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Divvy, an interesting new fractional home ownership startup, just raised a Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz

TECHCRUNCH Tech startups have found all kinds of ways to lend money to people who have either too little or not very good credit. The approach of a nearly two-year-old, 15-person San Francisco-based startup called Divvy Homes is among the more creative we’ve seen, even while we question (for now) whether it’s good for potential customers. How it works:  in Cleveland, Atlanta, and Memphis, where Zillow estimates that median home prices are $52,000, $82,00, and $242,000, respectively, Divvy will enable a person or family to select a home they’d like to someday own, then to buy that home with...

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