Pax Labs’ Bharat Vasan is out as CEO

Bharat Vasan is no longer the Chief Executive Officer at Pax Labs, the consumer tech company that makes cannabis vaporizers. A source familiar with the situation said that the board of directors made the decision to remove Vasan from the CEO role. His last day was Friday.

We’ve reached out to Vasan for comment. Pax is declining to elaborate on what drove its decision.

Certainly, it’s a surprising move, given that Vasan was appointed the CEO of Pax not so long ago —  in February of 2018. Before that, he served as President and COO of August Home, which was acquired by Swedish lock maker Assa Abloy in 2017. Previous to that, Vasan was the cofounder of Basis, a fitness-based wearable company that was acquired by Intel in 2014 for $100 million.

Vasan also led the company in its most recent round this past April, in which it secured $420 million from Tiger Global Management, Tao Capital, and Prescott General Partners, among others. The post-money valuation for the company at the time was $1.7 billion.

Vasan is a veteran of consumer electronics, but Pax may be looking for a CEO that has more operational experience in cannabis.

After all, Pax is at an interesting intersection in its path, navigating an oft-changing regulatory landscape around cannabis. Moreover, the entire cannabis industry — and vaporizer industry —  is under a microscope in the wake of hundreds of reports of vape-related lung illness. The CDC says that there have been 380 cases of lung illness reported across 36 states, with six deaths. Most patients reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC.

Pax is currently on the hunt for a new chief executive. In the meantime, its general counsel, Lisa Sergi, who joined the company at the end of July, will be its interim CEO and president.

Sergi had this to say in a prepared statement:

PAX is uniquely positioned as a leader in the burgeoning cannabis industry, with a talented team, an iconic brand, quality products and the balance sheet to achieve our ambitious goals and continued growth trajectory. I am extremely excited and honored to have been entrusted to lead this extraordinary company.

Twenty and Mappen merge to help users hang out IRL

Today, social networks Twenty and Mappen are joining together in a merger under the Twenty brand.

From the beginning, Twenty’s goal has been to get young people off of their phones and out in the real world with their friends. Twenty connects users with their friend groups and lets them browse fun experiences, from concerts to sports games to movies, with an easy UI for coordinating a group and making it happen. In fact, Twenty has forged relationships with orgs like Live Nation, Endeavor, Roc Nation, and Tao, which collectively produce 10,000+ events a year with an audience of over 100 million fans.

Mappen, on the other hand, is a location-based social network that let users share what they were doing (and where they were doing it) with their friends. For example, users could give a status update using a Fortnite emoji tagged to their house, inviting friends to come over and play a few games.

The two companies have been in talks, and collaborating, for the past nine months looking for ways to bring the experiences together. Where Twenty has relationships with experience providers, Mappen had the audience of young people looking to connect with each other.

The end result is an all-stock deal that unifies the user experience under the Twenty brand name.

twenty

Though the announcement of the merged app didn’t go down until today, the two apps have been combined for a while and CEO Diesel Peltz says the new app has seen 33 percent month over month growth in new users. Hangouts have increased 50 percent from July to August. Peltz will lead the combined company as CEO.

For now, the new Twenty does not have a business model in place. However, the plan is to use the event partnerships to generate revenue as opposed to ads, which relies on eyeballs on screens.

“If the model is solely based on ads, you want the users to spend as much time on the platform as possible,” said Peltz. “We’re looking to create a different opportunity for people to access these experiences.”

Thus far, the combined Twenty has raised approximately $40 million from partners including Accel, Maveron, 500 Startups, Sound Ventures, as well as Roc Nation, Live Nation and Endeavor.

YC-backed Brave Care raises $5 million for pediatric urgent care clinics

Brave Care, the YC-backed urgent care clinic for kids, has today announced the close of a $5 million seed round of funding.

The company recently graduated out of the last batch of Y Combinator companies but sat out of demo day because the this round was already oversubscribed, according to cofounder Darius Monsef .

Investors that participated in the round include Sesame Street (via their partnership with VC Collaborative Fund), Greycroft, Refactor, and Fifty Years.

Portland-based Brave Care launched in July with the goal of creating a pediatric-focused urgent care clinic that could both serve companies and save them from spending thousands of dollars on visits to the emergency room.

In 2015, there were approximately 30 million pediatric emergency room visits in the United States — 96.7% of them were treat-and-release visits.

Brave Care wants to be there for parents and kids when the situation calls for something in between their regular doctor and the emergency room.

The facility was built specifically for children. The waiting rooms are kid-friendly, the instruments in the patient rooms are kid-sized, and the general philosophy behind Brave focuses on taking extra time to clarify the diagnosis and the treatment options clearly and patiently to parents.

The company also has plans to introduce a triage tool that walks parents through symptoms and helps them decide if they should head to an urgent care clinic or straight to the Emergency Room.

The funding will allow Brave to build out a new electronic health records system that would streamline check-in, communication with parents during and after a visit, and help physicians and nurses spend more time focused on the patient and less time typing out notes on their computers.

“We can’t build a tech-enabled health care business on someone else’s platform,” said Monsef.

Moreover, Brave will use the funding to open up new, more lightweight facilities in the Portland area that can act as spokes to the main hub facility, where the company has expensive but not oft-used equipment like an X-ray machine or a full-service lab.

YC-backed Brave Care raises $5 million for pediatric urgent care clinics

Brave Care, the YC-backed urgent care clinic for kids, has today announced the close of a $5 million seed round of funding.

The company recently graduated out of the last batch of Y Combinator companies but sat out of demo day because the this round was already oversubscribed, according to cofounder Darius Monsef .

Investors that participated in the round include Sesame Street (via their partnership with VC Collaborative Fund), Greycroft, Refactor, and Fifty Years.

Portland-based Brave Care launched in July with the goal of creating a pediatric-focused urgent care clinic that could both serve companies and save them from spending thousands of dollars on visits to the emergency room.

In 2015, there were approximately 30 million pediatric emergency room visits in the United States — 96.7% of them were treat-and-release visits.

Brave Care wants to be there for parents and kids when the situation calls for something in between their regular doctor and the emergency room.

The facility was built specifically for children. The waiting rooms are kid-friendly, the instruments in the patient rooms are kid-sized, and the general philosophy behind Brave focuses on taking extra time to clarify the diagnosis and the treatment options clearly and patiently to parents.

The company also has plans to introduce a triage tool that walks parents through symptoms and helps them decide if they should head to an urgent care clinic or straight to the Emergency Room.

The funding will allow Brave to build out a new electronic health records system that would streamline check-in, communication with parents during and after a visit, and help physicians and nurses spend more time focused on the patient and less time typing out notes on their computers.

“We can’t build a tech-enabled health care business on someone else’s platform,” said Monsef.

Moreover, Brave will use the funding to open up new, more lightweight facilities in the Portland area that can act as spokes to the main hub facility, where the company has expensive but not oft-used equipment like an X-ray machine or a full-service lab.

Ashton Kutcher, Ann Miura-Ko and Mamoon Hamid are coming to Disrupt!

The Disrupt Battlefield is one of the best parts of the conference. Twenty+ startups step on to the Disrupt Main Stage with a product, a pitch, and a dream. They have six minutes to convey how they’re going to fundamentally disrupt their industry, and six minutes of Q&A with world-renowned judges from the VC world.

Pride. Anxiety. Despair. Glory. Anything could happen on that stage, particularly with judges that are at the top of their game and can smell bull shit from a mile away.

This year, at Disrupt SF 2019, we’ll be joined by Ashton Kutcher, Ann Miura-Ko and Mamoon Hamid in the finals round of the Battlefield. And we couldn’t be more excited!

This won’t be Kutcher’s first time at Disrupt. He’s hung out with us a couple times before to discuss his investment strategy for Sound Ventures, and previously, A-Grade investments. This will be his first time as a Finals Judge for the Battlefield, however, and it’ll be fascinating to see the superstar investor work in real-time on the Main Stage.

Ann Miura-Ko, co-founding partner at Floodgate, will be returning as a Battlefield judge. Miura-Ko is a repeat member of the Forbes Midas List, the New York Times Top 20 Venture Capitalists Worldwide, and has been called the most powerful woman in startups. Her portfolio includes Lyft, which went public this year, as well as Refinery29, Xamarin and Thinkful.

Kleiner Perkins partner Mamoon Hamid will also be judging the Battlefield Finals. Hamid was a cofounder at Social Capital and a partner at US Venture Partners before joining Kleiner Perkins, and has invested in companies like Slack, Yammer, Box, and Figma.

We’re amped to have such amazing VCs join us for the final round of the Startup Battlefield competition. Join us at Disrupt SF, which runs October 2 to 4 at the Moscone Center. Tickets are still available at an early-bird rate, but that ends this week.

See you there!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is coming to Disrupt SF 2019

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is perhaps best known for his acting across films like “10 Things I Hate About You,” “500 Days of Summer” and “Snowden.” But times weren’t always peachy for Gordon-Levitt as a creative. After leaving the movie business to go to college, he realized the limits of the industry on his potential as a creative. He decided he wanted to take his creativity into his own hands and launched a message board where he’d post films, songs, etc.

But what started as a side hobby has turned into a production company in its own right, using technology to allow dozens of people to collaborate on a creative project. And, more importantly, it gives each contributor fair credit for their work, paying out individual creatives based on how much of their work was featured in the final product.

Obviously, it goes without saying that we’re thrilled to have Joseph Gordon-Levitt join us at TechCrunch Disrupt SF in October.

Far too rarely do we see creatives supported by the platforms where they post their work. With the current media landscape, and the ever-growing dominance of social media, the relationship between platform and creative is strained at best. And more importantly, it incentivizes all the wrong things.

From an interview in VentureBeat:

If what you’re going for is posting on YouTube, or Instagram, or platforms that monetize through the ad model, where they’re really just going for sheer volume and have the ability to manipulate people through ads, virality is the measure of success. And I think this is exactly at the heart of what’s interesting to me about doing [HitRecord]. I think if that is your measure of success, you’re going to undermine a lot of what’s actually meaningful and joyful about creativity. And I’m actually concerned for the human race’s creative spirit, because so much of our collective creativity is now destined for these platforms that are monetized by this sort of attention economy model. And it twists one’s understanding of one’s own creativity, and what the value of being creative is.

At Disrupt SF, we’ll discuss the growth of the HitRecord platform, plans for that fresh $6.4 million in Series A funding and how founders can seize this moment to provide collaborative tools that align creatives with the platforms they’re using.

Disrupt SF runs October 2 to October 4 at the Moscone Center in the heart of San Francisco. Tickets are available here.

Juul introduces new POS standards to restrict sales to minors

Juul Labs, the e-cigarette behemoth partially owned by Altria, has today announced a new POS age-verification system that it will require all Juul retailers to comply with by May 2021.

The Retail Access Control Standards program, or RACS for short, raises the standard for age-restricted POS systems, automatically locking the POS each time a Juul product is scanned until a valid, adult ID is scanned. The system also looks for bulk purchases (four four-count packs of Juul Pods is the legal limit for a single transaction) and locks when the fifth Juul Pod pack is scanned, automatically removing the fifth pack from the customer’s cart.

Thus far, more than 50 retail chains, which represents 40,000 outlets, have committed to switching over to RACS, with 7,000 stores in the process of switching now and 15,000 to have implemented the technology by 2019’s end. The deadline for switching over to the RACS system is May 2021, at which point Juul will only sell its products to RACS-compliant retailers.

The company recognizes that overhauling a POS can be costly and difficult, and is offering $100 million+ in incentives to retailers who switch over. For retailers with newer POS systems, the switch might only require a software update, while others may need to update their hardware, as well.

Now, the system isn’t foolproof. After an ID is scanned, all personal information is automatically deleted from the system, which means that bad actors/unauthorized resellers could amass a bulk amount of Juul products by visiting various stores or returning to the same store multiple times.

However, this is likely just the beginning for the RACS program, which for the first time gives Juul much more control around how their products move through the market, ultimately limiting the opportunity for Juul products to end up in the hands of minors.

Alongside the introduction of RACS, Juul is also expanding the Track & Trace program it piloted in April in the Houston area.

Track and Trace allows teachers, parents, law enforcement and otherwise responsible adults to log the serial number of confiscated Juul devices, giving Juul the information it needs to track that device through the supply chain and identify the store where it was sold.

Using Juul’s secret shopper program, the company can then specifically target those stores and shut down the illegal sale of Juul devices to minors.

Today, Track and Trace is expanding nationwide in the U.S.

While these are major steps in combating underage use of Juul products, the company itself admits that it believes youth vaping numbers will continue to rise.

From the release:

It is our expectation that this year’s survey, unfortunately, will likely show continued growth in youth use of vapor products in the U.S. If this turns out to be the case, it will be due in part to the fact that:

  • When this year’s NYTS data was collected, T21 laws were being passed in a dozen states but had not been implemented
  • Little to no category-wide actions have been taken as FDA is finalizing its guidance that, once implemented, should impose additional restrictions on the sale and marketing of certain flavored vapor products — actions that we voluntarily imposed on ourselves last November

In November 2018, Juul announced its Youth Prevention Plan ahead of the FDA’s crackdown on e-cig products. It included the ban of flavored Juul pod sales in convenience stores and other Juul-approved retailers, limiting the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol flavored pods to its online storefront. Juul says this represented 50 percent of its revenue at the time. The company also took down its Facebook and Instagram pages, and revamped its Twitter to ditch any promotional or marketing content from the platform.

Still, even with the many steps the company has taken to limit youth use of the product, one of Juul’s biggest obstacles is the sale of counterfeit and infringing products, which may include dangerous and/or unknown chemicals. The company hired former Apple employee Adrian Punderson to help lead the fight against counterfeits in February.

As of December 2018, Juul was reportedly valued at $38 billion, estimated to own more than 70 percent of the e-cig market.

Announcing the Disrupt SF 2019 agenda

Disrupt SF 2019 is set to be the biggest and best Disrupt yet. We’ve got a little something for everyone, including space chats with Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson and Blue Origin’s Bob Smith, a word from Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, a fireside chat with two of 2019’s big VC winners, Ann Muira-Ko and Theresia Gouw, as well as a rare chance to sit down with GV’s David Krane.

And that’s just a taste of what’s to come on the Disrupt Stage. The Extra Crunch stage will feature experienced operators giving practical, real world advice on how to launch, run, and grow a successful startup. Topics include how to raise your first dollars, how to be good at hiring, how to design a brand, and how to iterate a product, among many more.

And, of course, we can’t forget the Disrupt Battlefield competition, which will see one more startup crowned as the winner with $100K in cash and the Disrupt Cup to take home with them.

Tickets to the conference are available here. We hope to see you there!

So without any further ado, here’s a look at our 2019 Disrupt SF agenda.

(Editor’s Note: The agenda is subject to change.) 

Wednesday, October 2

Morning


Reigniting the Space Race with Bob Smith (Blue Origin)

Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith intends to return the U.S. to crewed spaceflight, with a goal of doing so this year with its first suborbital trips. Hopefully, we can also get Smith to tell us the ticket price for a trip, once it begins taking on paying customers. Disrupt Stage 

How to Build a Billion Dollar SaaS Company with Neeraj Agrawal (Battery Ventures), Whitney Bouck (HelloSign) and speaker to be announced

Growing your SaaS company to a billion dollars in revenue is no easy task. It takes patience, perseverance and a strong team. Often it doesn’t happen until well after a company has gone public. We will talk to three people who have experience working with SaaS startups and understand the unique challenges they face getting to a billion dollars and beyond. ExtraCrunch Stage 

Creating the Means of Production with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (HitRecord)

For far too long, creators have been users of platforms rather than running those platforms. With HitRecord, Joseph Gordon-Levitt changed that. JGL has been head down and hands-on with HitRecord, and we’ll hear from him about how to put the power back in creators’ hands. Disrupt  Stage

Could the U.S. Government Be Your Next Investor with Steve Isakowitz (The Aerospace Corporation) and speakers to be announced

No founder likes dilution, which is why the US government is becoming an increasingly popular source for early-stage, ambitious venture capital. Hear from VC leaders and founders who have navigated the process to discover your next source of non-dilutive capital. ExtraCrunch Stage

Getting to IPO with Aaron Levie (Box) and Jennifer Tejada (PagerDuty)

PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada led the company to a successful IPO earlier this year. She’ll join Box CEO Aaron Levie to talk about how these two companies charted their path to an IPO, the pros and cons of doing so, and life after ringing the bell on Wall Street. Disrupt  Stage

How to Evaluate Talent and Make Decisions with Ray Dalio (Bridgewater)

Ray Dalio knows a thing or two about building successful startups. As founder of the firm, Bridgewater, he helped build it into one of the most successful investment companies ever, managing a whopping $150 billion in assets. He recently wrote a book called Principles, and he’s coming to the TechCrunch Disrupt Extra Crunch stage in October to discuss the book and companion mobile app on how building a strong culture can lead to a flourishing startup. ExtraCrunch Stage

Setting the Pace for the Next Space Race with Marillyn Hewson (Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin has had roots in Silicon Valley going back decades. Today the aerospace giant has its hands in AI, autonomy, space exploration, and more. CEO Marillyn Hewson joins us to discuss returning to crewed spaceflight, investing in startups, and what comes next for America’s biggest defense contractor. Disrupt  Stage

Afternoon


Startup Battlefield Competition – Session 1

TechCrunch’s iconic startup competition is back, as entrepreneurs from around the world pitch expert judges and vie for the Battlefield Cup and $100,000. Disrupt Stage

How to Take a Digital Brand Offline with Rich Fulop (Brooklinen), James Reinhart (ThredUp), and Susan Tynan (Framebridge)

E-commerce has fundamentally changed the way we browse and buy physical goods. But even though online sales have taken a huge bite out of brick-and-mortar, it doesn’t mean that digital brands aren’t interested in the prospect of offline channels. Hear from three founders who have taken their own unique approach to launching a store. ExtraCrunch Stage

The Next Generation of Wireless with Hans Vestberg (Verizon)

Hear us interview our boss’s boss’s boss about the promise (and potential perils) of deploying 5G wireless technology.  Disrupt Stage

How to Hire at Breakneck Speed with Scott Cutler (StockX), Harj Taggar (TripleByte), and Liz Wessel (WayUp)

Nothing is better than striking product-market fit and suddenly finding a path to rapid, venture-scale growth. But as that growth accelerates, how do you create the conditions to rapidly find, attract, and hire the talent you need to reach unicorn status? Hear from some of the leading recruiters and services on how they have successfully scaled recruiting and avoided key pitfalls. ExtraCrunch Stage

‘The Fourth Big Wave’: Talking Crypto with Chris Dixon (Andreessen Horowitz)

If you care about understanding crypto and the ways it may well impact you sooner than you might imagine, you won’t want to miss this fireside chat with Andreessen Horowitz general partner Chris Dixon. Disrupt Stage 

How to be a Serial Founder with David Cancel (Drift) and Caterina Fake (YesVC)

So your first company worked out well. Let’s say you have the burning desire to do another one — what’s the right way to do it the next time around? Hear from frequent founders David Cancel (formerly Performable/Hubspot, Lookery, Ghostery, Compete) and Caterina Fake (Flickr, Hunch) on what they’ve done. ExtraCrunch Stage

Brex: Special Announcement 

Hear Brex CEO Henrique Dubugras announce news right from the Disrupt Stage. Disrupt Stage 

Building Sticky Products with Cal Henderson (Slack) and Megan Quinn (Spark Capital)

Slack co-founder Cal Henderson and Spark Capital general partner Megan Quinn will discuss what it takes to create a billion-dollar business and, in Slack’s case, list on the New York Stock Exchange in one of 2019’s most highly-anticipated exits. Disrupt Stage

How to Build a Subscription Product with Sandra Oh Lin (KiwiCo) and speakers to be announced

The direct-to-consumer landscape has exploded in the past year but the keys to making a subscription product indispensable are still up in the air as few have discovered a path to success. This chat with KiwiCo’s Sandra Oh Lin will address the constant struggles of getting a subscription service off the ground and retaining customers. ExtraCrunch Stage

Serving startups with Henrique Dubrugras (Brex) and Michele Romanow (Clearbanc)

CEOs of two of the fastest-growing startups, Brex co-founder Henrique Dubugras and Clearbanc co-founder Michele Romanow, come together to unpack new solutions for startups looking to raise capital and scale — quick. Disrupt Stage

Beefing Up with Patrick Brown (Impossible Foods)

Protein replacement for human consumption is going to be an $85 billion industry by 2030, according to UBS. Impossible Foods’ Patrick Brown will discuss how to build a business around removing animals from humanity’s food chain. Disrupt Stage 

Startup Battlefield Competition – Session 2

TechCrunch’s iconic startup competition is back, as entrepreneurs from around the world pitch expert judges and vie for the Battlefield Cup and $100,000. Disrupt Stage

Thursday, October 3

Morning


Robots and Returns with Frederic Moll (Johnson & Johnson) and Ajay Royan (Mithril Capital)

Frederic Moll is a pioneer in robotic surgical applications. Backed by Ajay Royan’s Mithril Capital he sold his last business to JNJ for $3 billion. Hear from these two industry leaders on the opportunities available in medical robotic field. Disrupt Stage

How to Raise My First Dollars with Russ Heddleston (DocSend), Charles Hudson (Precursor), and Annie Kadavy (Redpoint Ventures)

Venture funding may have boomed over the last decade, but the decisions around your initial funding are as tricky as ever. Hear how to take advantage of the current landscape from top Silicon Valley early-stage thinkers including pre-seed investor Charles Hudson of Precursor Ventures, early-stage investor Annie Kadavy of Redpoint Ventures, and Russ Heddleston, CEO of Docsend. ExtraCrunch Stage

Inside GV with David Krane (GV)

Gain insight into the inner workings of GV, the firm’s bold bets (Lime, Impossible Foods), recent wins (Uber, Slack) and how Krane views SoftBank from in an exclusive interview with David Krane, Google’s former director of global communications and public affairs and current CEO and managing partner of GV. Disrupt Stage

How to Build a Secure Startup without Slowing Growth with Heather Adkins (Google), Jennifer Sunshine Steffens (IOActive), and Dug Song (Duo) 

Leading security experts from Google, Duo, and IOActive discuss some of the challenges startups and enterprises face in security. How do companies navigate the litany of issues and threats without hampering growth? ExtraCrunch Stage

Beyond AI with Sam Altman (OpenAI) and Greg Brockman (OpenAI)

Fresh off a $1B cash commitment from Microsoft, OpenAI’s Sam Altman and Greg Brockman are joining us to talk about the company’s plans to bring about the age of artificial general intelligence. We’ll talk about whether that’s a good idea or not. Disrupt Stage

The Future of Flight with Sebastian Thrun (Kitty Hawk)

Sebastian Thrun — the scientist and inventor, educator and serial entrepreneur, Google moonshot factory chieftain and self-driving car architect — is coming back to Disrupt SF. This time, it’s to talk about his latest passion project: Kitty Hawk, the electric flying car company led by Thrun and backed by Google’s Larry Page. We’ll talk about the future of flight and how this startup aims to free people from traffic. Disrupt Stage

How to Build a Sex Tech Startup with Cyan Banister (Founders Fund), Cindy Gallop (MakeLoveNotPorn), and Lora Haddock (Lora DiCarlo)

As the old adage goes, sex sells. A panel of investors and founders will discuss the opportunities — and challenges — of building a successful sex tech startup, and how to capitalize on a market that’s projected to be worth more than $123 billion by 2026.  ExtraCrunch Stage

Scooting to a Multibillion-Dollar Valuation with Travis VanderZanden (Bird)

It’s a jungle out there in the scooter wars, but that didn’t stop Bird from being on an epic tear this year. Hear from Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden about what it took to hit a $2.5 billion valuation and what the company is doing to improve its unit economics. Disrupt Stage

Trophies, Twitch and T-shirts with Scooter Braun and Matthew Haag (100 Thieves)

100 Thieves is one of the few esports orgs to look to Silicon Valley for investment – and it’s paying off. Hear from former pro gamer and 100 Thieves CEO and founder Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag and 100 Thieves co-owner Scooter Braun on how they built a brand worth more than $130 million that turns fans into ambassadors. Disrupt Stage 

Afternoon


Startup Battlefield Competition – Session 3

TechCrunch’s iconic startup competition is back, as entrepreneurs from around the world pitch expert judges and vie for the Battlefield Cup and $100,000. Disrupt Stage 

When Spies Meet Startups with Admiral Mike Rogers and Nadav Zafrir (Team 8)

Since leaving the world of intelligence, former NSA director Adm. Mike Rogers and ex-Israeli cyber-intelligence chief Nadav Zafrir talk shop about what startups need to learn about security. Disrupt Stage

How to Build a Space Economy with Tess Hatch (Bessemer Venture Partners), Sara Spangelo (Swarm), and Adrian Steckel (OneWeb)

From thousand-satellite constellations to space tourism, orbit is a fresh and inspiring source of new startup ideas and evolutions of established ones. Swarm’s Sara Spangelo is taking on low-cost global connectivity and Bessemer Ventures’ Tess Hatch provides the perspective of investors looking to make bets like these happen. ExtraCrunch Stage 

Dominating Growth Markets with Bob van Dijk (Naspers)

Naspers is a quiet but massive conglomerate of ecommerce, media, gaming, and communications properties based in South Africa, not to mention a huge stake in Tencent. Hear from CEO Bob van Dijk about what Naspers believes is around the corner in these growth markets, and why we should or shouldn’t be concerned about an Amazon/Facebook/Google-dominated world. Disrupt Stage 

State of the Security Union with Jeanette Manfra (DHS)

In an ever-evolving cyber world, from election security to the supply chain, Homeland Security assistant director Jeanette Manfra discusses the threats we face today — and tomorrow. Disrupt Stage

How Do I Exit and What Happens Next with Justin Kan (Atrium), Jess Lee (Sequoia Capital) and Mike Marquez (CodeAdvisors)

Most good startup outcomes are acquisitions, and most good acquisitions happen because a buyer needs your company for a specific reason. Hear from Justin Kan (sold Twitch) and Jess Lee (sold Polyvore) plus top Silicon Valley banker Mike Marquez of Code Advisors about how to make them happen the right way. ExtraCrunch Stage

Modernizing Matrimony with Shan-Lyn Ma (Zola) 

In just over five years, Zola has managed to become the go-to service provider for couples planning their wedding. Hear from Zola founder Shan-Lyn Ma on raising upwards of $140 million and how to capitalize on the most important day of her users’ lives. Disrupt Stage

How to be a Positive Force in the Gig Economy with Derecka Mehrens (SV Rising) and Dan Teran (Managed by Q)

As gig workers continue to struggle with financial instability, inadequate labor protections and few alternatives, hear from leaders and companies that are now trying to figure out how to create an equitable, just, and sustainable economic system for gig workers. ExtraCrunch Stage 

How AVs will Shape Cities with Aicha Evans (Zoox) 

Aicha Evans, the CEO of self-driving vehicle startup Zoox, will talk about the future of cities and how the tech her company is developing will change the look, feel and function of cities. Disrupt Stage

How to Raise Capital without Talking to a VC with John Geiger (John Geiger Company) and Kathryn Petralia (Kabbage)

Raising venture investing is almost always a slog, but now there are a bevy of alternatives — many of which may not even require a slide deck and an uneasy coffee meeting with fleece-vest-wearing investors. Tune in to hear leading experts discuss how founders can raise VC without talking to VCs. ExtraCrunch Stage 

Startup Battlefield Competition – Session 4

TechCrunch’s iconic startup competition is back, as entrepreneurs from around the world pitch expert judges and vie for the Battlefield Cup and $100,000. Disrupt Stage 

Friday, October 4

Morning


The Business and Ethics of Real Tech Diversity with Tracy Chou (Block Party), Harry Glaser (Sisense), and Ellen Pao (Project Include)

There’s both a moral and a business imperative to building and fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce. Hear from Project Include’s Ellen Pao and Tracy Chou what it takes to get there, and from Harry Glaser, CEO of Sisense, how focusing on diversity has positively impacted his bottom line. Disrupt Stage

How to Iterate Your Product with Manik Gupta (Uber), Diya Jolly (Okta), and Robby Stein (Instagram)

Launching an MVP and finding early product-market fit are just the first steps in the journey to build a great startup. Learn from leading product thinkers from Instagram, Okta and Uber on how they expand, grow, and refine their products to increase their value without alienating existing users. ExtraCrunch Stage

The Grass Is Greener with Keith McCarty (Wayv) and Bharat Vasan (Pax Labs) 

The cannabis industry is projected to reach $50 billion in ten years. Keith McCarty and Bharat Vasan represent two of the biggest names in the market. Hear the duo talk about an industry with undeniable potential, but plenty of red tape to deal with, too. Disrupt Stage

How to Take a Hardware Company Public with James Park (FitBit) and Eric Friedman (Fitbit)

Ten years after launching their product at TechCrunch 50, Fitbit co-founders James Park and Eric Friedman join us to discuss the company’s ups and downs. ExtraCrunch Stage

The Evolution of Online Video with Neal Mohan (YouTube)

YouTube remains the most popular destination for online video, and the platform for the next generation of stars. At the same time, it faces challenges around its original content strategy, competition, hate speech, misinformation and more. Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan will join us to discuss where YouTube goes from here. Disrupt Stage

How to Build a Brand that Gets Attention with Brooke Hammerling (Brew PR), Chelsea Maclin (Bumble), and Ben Pham (Character)

Brooke Hammerling is the founder of one of the most iconic tech startup PR firms of the past decade, Brew PR, which was sold for $15 million in 2016. Chelsea Maclin is VP of Marketing at Bumble, one of the most recognizable brands in the app world today. And Ben Pham is the founder of Character, a brand design firm that’s worked with the likes of Oculus, Nike, DoorDash and Peets Coffee. The three will discuss how to think about brand design and what gets and keeps the attention of users.  ExtraCrunch Stage

Lyft, The RealReal and 2019’s IPO circus with Ann Miura-Ko (Floodgate) and Theresia Gouw (Aspect Ventures) 

Floodgate co-founding partner Ann Miura-Ko and Aspect Ventures co-founder Theresia Gouw will unpack the trends in venture capital that have dominated headlines in 2019 and dive deeper into two of this year’s most talked about IPOs. Disrupt Stage

The Ethics of Snipping DNA with CRISPR with Rachel Haurwitz (Caribou Biosciences)

Rachel Haurwitz is co-founder of Caribou Biosciences, a startup on the cutting edge of gene editing technologies — including animal and human DNA. She will chat with us about the ethical and scientific questions surrounding CRISPRing human embryos and what that could mean for the future of humanity. Disrupt Stage

Snap Stays Sticky with Evan Spiegel (Snap)

Snap’s 2018 was rocky and its 2017 wasn’t much better, but in the face of renewed user growth and accelerating revenues, Snap has been mounting a massive comeback on Wall Street this year. Hear from CEO Evan Spiegel about the company’s long-term prospects and its biggest existential threats. Disrupt Stage

Afternoon


Startup Battlefield Alumni Update

Battlefield startups from the past return to the stage to tell us what they’ve been up to since they competed for the Disrupt Cup. Disrupt Stage

Startup Battlefield: Final

TechCrunch’s iconic startup competition is back, as entrepreneurs from around the world pitch expert judges and vie for the Battlefield Cup and $100,000. Disrupt Stage

How to get into Y Combinator with Michael Seibel (Y Combinator)

The seed-stage venture firm has come to form its own startup economy over the years, with its network of companies and founders interconnecting across the tech industry and beyond. Find out how Y Combinator works today, and how you can become a part of it, in this discussion with CEO and partner Michael Seibel. ExtraCrunch Stage

Bucking Smartphone Stagnation with Carl Pei (OnePlus) 

OnePlus has maintained impressive growth even as global numbers smartphone sales have faltered. Co-founder Carl Pei will discuss how the company has managed to buck industry trends by catering to a devoted fanbase and offering an innovative alternative to Apple and Samsung. Disrupt Stage

Surviving the Smartphone with Cher Wang (HTC) 

No one knows the pain of slowing smartphone sales better than HTC. Co-founder and CEO Cher Wang will discuss how the company has maintained an industry-wide slow down and how technologies like blockchain and VR could hold the keys to the future. Disrupt Stage

How to Build a Better Banking Startup with Chris Britt (Chime) Omer Ismail (Goldman Sachs), and Angela Strange (Andreessen Horowitz)

Chris Britt, the chief executive of Chime, Goldman Sachs’ Omer Ismail, and Andreessen Horowitz’s Angela Strange know that money is what everyone wants. The problem is how to make it more accessible to everyone in the world. Hear them discuss how to build a better bank for everyone. ExtraCrunch Stage

Postmates’ Path Forward with Bastian Lehmann (Postmates)

Postmates co-founder and CEO Bastian Lehmann talks about the on-demand delivery company’s uncertain future, the challenges of navigating the public markets and saying goodbye to the cozy world of venture capital once and for all. Disrupt Stage

Browse Different with Gabriel Weinberg (DuckDuckGo) 

In 2019, the average adult spends the majority of their day staring at screens, with a good chunk of that spent browsing the web. Hear from DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg about how the company is looking to change the privacy dynamics of being on the web, and the challenges of competing with behemoths like Google. Disrupt Stage

Hackathon

Everybody loves a Hackathon! Hear from developers about what they built in 24 hours. ExtraCrunch Stage

Startup Battlefield’s Closing Awards Ceremony

Watch the crowning of the latest winner of Startup Battlefield. Disrupt Stage

Statespace picks up $2.5M to help gamers train

Gaming continues to grow in popularity, with esports revenue growing 23 percent from last year to top $1 billion in 2019.

But the metrics by which talent is evaluated in gaming, and the methods by which gamers can train to better hone their craft, are varied and at times non-existent. That’s where StateSpace, and specifically the company’s gaming arm Klutch, come into play.

In 2017, Statespace launched out of stealth with their first product, Aim Lab. Aim Lab is meant to mimic the physical rules of a game to give gamers a practice space where they can improve their skills. Moreover, Aim Lab identifies weaknesses in a player’s gameplay — one person might struggle with their visual acuity in the top left quadrant of the screen, while another might have trouble spotting or aiming at targets on the bottom right side of the screen — and allows gamers to focus in on their weaknesses to get better.

Today, the company has announced a $2.5 million seed funding round led by FirstMark Capital, with participation from Expa, Lux Capital and WndrCo. This brings the company’s total funding to $4 million.

Alongside growing Aim Lab, which is on track to soon reach 1 million users, one of the company’s main goals is to create a standardized metric by which gamers’ skills can be measured. In football, college athletes and NFL coaches have the Scouting Combine to make decisions around recruiting. This doesn’t necessarily take into account stats like yardage or touchdowns, but rather the raw skills of a player such as 40-yard sprint speed.

In fact, Statespace has partnered with the Pro Football Hall of Fame for ‘The Cognitive Combine’, becoming the official integrative medicine program cognitive assessment partner of the organization. Statespace wants to create a similar ‘combine’ for gaming.

The hope is that the company can offer this metric to publishers, colleges and esports orgs, giving them the ability to not only evaluate talent, but to better serve casual users through improved matchmaking and cheat detection.

“We want to go a level beyond your kill:death ratio,” said cofounder and CEO Dr. Wayne Mackey. Those metrics greatly depend on factors like who you’re playing with. You won’t always be matched against players who are on an even keel with you. So we want to look at fundamental skills like hand eye coordination, visual acuity, spatial processing skills, and working memory capacity.”

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Klutch has partnered with the National Championship Series as the official FPS training partner for 2019. NCS has majors for both CS:Go and Overwatch, two of the biggest competitive FPS games in the world. The company is also partnering with top Twitch streamers and Masterclass to create The Academy.

Academy users will be able to get advanced tutorials from streamers like KingGeorge (Rainbox Six Siege), SypherPK (Fortnite), Valkia (Overwatch), Drift0r (CoD), and Launders (CS:GO).

Obviously, gaming is a major part of Statespace’s business model. But the skeleton of the technology has a number of different applications, particularly in medicine. Statespace is currently in the research phase of rolling out an Aim Lab product that is specifically focused on helping people who have had strokes recover and rehabilitate.

Statespace wants to use the funding to build out the team and expand the Klutch Aim Lab platform beyond Steam to mobile and eventually console, with Xbox prioritized over PlayStation, as well as launching the Academy.

At Disrupt SF, learn how to take a digital brand offline from Brooklinen, Framebridge and thredUP

Over the past couple decades, retail has fundamentally changed. Amazon has swept in and devoured mom and pop stores, while incumbent brands face increased competition from a new crop of digital-first companies.

But not everything changes. People still want to see and feel the goods they’ll purchase, and most brands still see huge benefits from having a physical outpost.

At Disrupt SF 2019, we’ll hear from three founders and CEOs who have managed to not only build successful D2C brands, but also take those brands into the physical world.

So without any further ado, we’re delighted to announce that Brooklinen cofounder and CEO Rich Fulop, Framebridge founder and CEO Susan Tynan, and thredUP founder and CEO James Reinhart will join us at Disrupt SF 2019, which runs October 2 – October 4.

Brooklinen launched in 2014 with a straightforward value proposition: luxury sheets for a relatively affordable price. The company was founded by Rich and Vicki Fulop, a married couple, who have expanded the brand to encompass not only bed linens but towels, bath mats, and even loungewear. Through a combination of word of mouth and fantastic brand design, the products have grown in popularity over the years. But one of the real breakthroughs of the company was the decision to move forward with a physical space.

The Fulops thought carefully about timing, location, whether or not to hold inventory, how to design the space, and some of the other details that might seem like minutiae but that make a meaningful difference in the success of the store. We’re amped to hear more from Fulop about how he made these decisions and which ones worked out.

Framebridge, founded by Susan Tynan, launched in 2014 and has raised a whopping $82 million to dramatically simplify the process of getting things framed. Framebridge helps users visualize how their items will look in different style frames, and then sends shipping labels to the user. By letting users shop online, and centralizing the framing process in a single location, the company has been able to offer customers lower prices than traditional framers. Lower prices then translates to users getting more things framed.

Earlier this year, however, Framebridge shook things up with the introduction of two physical stores: one in Bethesda, MD and one in downtown Washington D.C. According to Tynan, average order volumes are 40 percent higher in store than they were online. Tynan brings a unique perspective to the panel in that the stores are built specifically to mimic the process of buying through Framebridge’s website, with the hope to turn physical buyers into online buyers. Plus, Framebridge operates two stores in very different markets, with one location in a concentrated metropolitan area and one in a more suburban neighborhood.

Meanwhile, thredUP founder and CEO James Reinhart has paved his own way in the offline retail world. The company claims to be the largest online marketplace for secondhand clothing, and is looking to take that same dominance into brick-and-mortar. But not without a certain level of calculation.

thredUP is using its troves of consumer behavior data to make decisions in offline, including the locations of the stores. The first store, for example, was launched in San Marcos, TX because the company has an unusually high concentration of shoppers in that area. Moreover, thredUP uses data about what types of clothing shoppers in a certain geographical area are interested in, and stock their stores accordingly. Plus, the company has built technology to let offline shoppers browse the entire online inventory based on the things they like in the stores.

Obviously, there is plenty to learn from these founders about all the finer points of taking a digital-first brand into the real world. We’re thrilled to have them all in the same room, and hope you’ll join us.

Disrupt SF runs October 2 – October 4 at the Moscone Center in the heart of San Francisco. Tickets are available here.

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