Author: Connie Loizos

Orchid Labs is in the process of raising $125 million for its surveillance-free layer atop the internet

TECHCRUNCH Orchid Labs, a San Francisco-based startup that’s developing a a surveillance-free layer on top of the internet, has raised a bunch of funding, according to a newly processed SEC filing that shows the year-old startup has closed on $36.1 million. The money comes just five months after Orchid closed on a separate, $4.5 million in funding from investors, including Yes VC, cofounded by serial entrepreneurs Caterina Fake and Jyri Engeström. Others of its earliest backers include Andreessen Horowitz, DFJ, MetaStable, Compound, Box Group, Blockchain Capital, and Sequoia Capital, according to its site. The stated goal of the Orchid is to provide...

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Startup ecosystem report: China is rising while the U.S. is waning

TECHCRUNCH Startups are a gamble, but it’s possible to better understand why some thrive and many more die by looking at the ecosystems in which they operate. Such is the mission of eight-year-old Startup Genome, comprised of a group of researchers and entrepreneurs who, every year, interview thousands of founders and investors around the world to get a better handle on what’s changing in the regions where they operate, and what remains stubbornly the same. The larger objective is to figure out how to help more startups succeed, and the outfit — which this year surveyed 10,000 founders with the help of partners like Crunchbase and Dealroom — produced some data that should perhaps concern those in the U.S. To wit, China looks positioned to overtake U.S. dominance when it comes to numerous tech sectors. Consider: In 2014, just 14 percent of so-called unicorns were based in China. Between the start of last year through today, that percentage has shot up to 35 percent, while in the U.S., the number of homegrown unicorns has fallen from 61 percent to 41 percent of the overall global number. You could argue that investors are simply assigning China-based startups overly lofty valuations, as happened here in the U.S., and we partly believe that to be true. But China is also clearly “in it to win it,” based on a look at patents, with four...

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The making of a hardware founder

TECHCRUNCH Working in tech, it’s hard to avoid the many stories and congratulatory tweets about the latest company to close a funding round, and little wonder. It’s a milestone worth celebrating before getting back to work. Yet what’s happening in the trenches before those funding announcements roll out is often more instructive. How does one decide to make the leap in the first place? How do you mold a product or service into something that you can present to outsiders? How can you enlist people to help you when everyone you want to meet has more pressing demands on their time? These are questions that many new founders wrestle with, including Sarah McDevitt, a college basketball star turned hardware founder whose product she hopes to have in consumers’ hands by this holiday season – even while she’s acutely aware that a lot has to go right first. McDevitt didn’t anticipate being in this position five years ago when she was making a generous salary as a product manager at Microsoft, working a stone’s throw from where she’d grown up in Seattle. But like a lot of founders, McDevitt eventually felt compelled to start her now two-year-old company, Core Wellness, which aims to sell meditation experiences. We checked in with her this week about how far along she has gotten, the obstacles she wasn’t expecting, and where she goes from...

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Basis, a year-old startup that’s building a price-stable cryptocurrency, just raised $133 million from top investors

TECHCRUNCH If you own any Bitcoin, you’re probably in the habit of watching its price fluctuate wildly. What you aren’t doing is using your Bitcoin to buy things. It’s too valuable, not to mention unpredictable. Enter Basis, a year-old, 10-person, Hoboken, N.J.-based cryptocurrency startup at work on a “stable coin” whose elastic supply will ostensibly expand and contract to keep its value at about a dollar instead of all over the map. The company’s big idea: to develop a new token that people will actually use, instead of use to speculate. Investors apparently love what Basis is cooking up. The...

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This tiny ag tech company thinks it has figured out something its better-capitalized rivals haven’t

TECHCRUNCH In November,  we told you about Farmers Business Network, a social network for farmers that invites them to share their data, pool their know-how, and bargain more effectively for better pricing from manufacturing companies. At the time, FBN, as it’s known, had just closed on $110 million in new funding in a round that brought its funding to roughly $200 million altogether. That kind of financial backing might dissuade newcomers to the space, but a months-old startup called AgVend has just raised $1.75 million in seed funding on the premise that, well, FBN is doing it wrong. Specifically, AgVend’s...

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Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet just launched a venture firm

TECHCRUNCH In 2015, the fashion world was abuzz when Natalie Massenet, who founded the highly disruptive e-commerce fashion company Net-a-Porter, suddenly exited the scene weeks before a merger was sealed between NAP, as it is called, and Yoox, an Italy-based discount fashion e-tailer and e-commerce services company. According to an expose written soon afterward, Massenet left because she didn’t have much say in the matter. Luxury industry giant Compagnie Financière Richemont, which acquired a majority stake in Net-a-Porter back in 2010, didn’t give her one, despite that Massenet viewed the deal as greatly undervaluing NAP. (In January, Richemont spent...

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Background checks pay for Checkr, which just rang up $100 million in new funding

TECHCRUNCH Criminal records, driving records, employment verifications. Companies that use on-demand employees need to know that all the boxes have been checked before they send workers into the world on their behalf, and they often need those boxes checked quickly. A growing number of them use Checkr, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based company says that it now runs one million background checks per month for more than 10,000 customers, including, most newly, the car-share company Lyft, the insurance company AllState, and the staffing giant Adecco. Investors are betting many more customers will come aboard, too. This morning, Checkr is announcing...

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Tentrr is turning private land into glampgrounds, with the help of VCs

TECHCRUNCH If you’ve ever gone camping and found yourself thinking it kind of sucks, likely because you’re too close to other campers, you might be interested in learn about Tentrr, a three-year-old, 47-person company that’s promising to make it “dirt simple” to enjoy the great outdoors. How: by striking deals with private landowners who are willing to host semi-permanent campsites on their property. What do these look like? Picture elevated decks with Adirondack chairs, canvas expedition tents, wood picnic tables and sun showers, not to mention a fire pit, lanterns, dry food storage, cookware, a camping toilet and air mattresses...

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