Startups Weekly: Oyo’s toxicity + A farewell

Welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups and venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week I wrote about the startups we lost in 2019. Before that, I noted the defining moments of VC in 2019.

Unfortunately, this will be my last newsletter, as I am leaving TechCrunch for a new opportunity. Don’t worry, Startups Weekly isn’t going anywhere. We’ll have a new writer taking over the weekly update soon enough; in the meantime, TechCrunch editor Henry Pickavet will be at the helm. You can still get in touch with me on Twitter @KateClarkTweets.

If you’re new here, you can subscribe to Startups Weekly here. Lots of good content will be coming your way in 2020.


India’s WeWork?

TechCrunch reporter Manish Singh penned an interesting piece on the state of Indian startups this week: As Indian startups raise record capital, losses are widening (Extra Crunch membership required). In it, he claims the financial performance of India’s largest startups are cause for concern. Gems like Flipkart, BigBasket and Paytm have lost a collective $3 billion in the last year.

“What is especially troublesome for startups is that there is no clear path for how they would ever generate big profits,” he writes. “Silicon Valley companies, for instance, have entered and expanded into India in recent years, investing billions of dollars in local operations, but yet, India has yet to make any substantial contribution to their bottom lines. If that wasn’t challenging enough, many Indian startups compete directly with Silicon Valley giants, which while impressive, is an expensive endeavor.”

Manish’s story came one day after The New York Times published an in-depth report on Oyo, a tech-enabled budget hotel chain and rising star in the Indian tech community. The NYT wrote that Oyo offers unlicensed rooms and has bribed police officials to deter trouble, among other toxic practices.

Whether Oyo, backed by billions from the SoftBank Vision Fund, will become India’s WeWork is the real cause for concern. India’s startup ecosystem is likely to face a number of barriers as it grows to compete with the likes of Silicon Valley.

Follow Manish here or on Twitter for more of TechCrunch’s growing India coverage.


Venture capital highlights (it’s been a slow week)


How to find the right reporter to pitch your startup

If you’ve still not subscribed to Extra Crunch, now is the time. Longtime TechCrunch reporter and editor Josh Constine is launching a new series to teach you how to pitch your startup. In it he will examine embargoes, exclusives, press kit visuals, interview questions and more. The first of many, How to find the right reporter to pitch your startup, is online now.

Subscribe to Extra Crunch here.


#EquityPod

tc equity podcast ios 2 1

Another week, another new episode of TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, Equity. This week, we discussed a few of 2019’s largest scandals, Peloton’s strange holiday ad and the controversy over at the luggage startup Away. Listen here and be sure to subscribe, too.

For anyone wondering about changes at Equity following my departure from TechCrunch, the lovely Alex Wilhelm (founding Equity co-host) will keep the show alive and, soon enough, there will be a brand new co-host in my place. Please keep supporting the show and be sure to recommend it to all your podcast-adoring friends.

Away, #PelotonGate, and predictions for 2020

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Kate and Alex and the ever-intrepid man behind the dials, Chris, took the time this week to dig into the two biggest stories from the end of 2019 and look into the future. But as you’ll quickly hear, there was news on the show. Kate Clark is moving on from Equity and TechCrunch to The Information. We wish her nothing but the best but it’s still a big blah to say goodbye all the same. (A big congrats to the folks at The Information, Kate’s tremendous.)

But we still had Kate this week, so here’s a short rundown of what we talked about as a team:

  • The Away fiasco: We’ve discussed Away on the show a number of times, but this time it wasn’t for something good. The company found itself in the midst of a media firestorm about how it treated its staff. The first story led to follow-on coverage, the earlier-than-internally-expected exit of the company’s CEO, and more. Also in the conversation was the question of whether CEOs who are women are held to higher standards than men. After all, overbearing male CEOs in startupland is a tale as old as startups themselves.
  • #Pelotongate: We couldn’t help but chat a bit about everyone’s favorite Christmas-time brand meltdown. And as Peloton was a 2019 IPO, it still fits in our private company wheelhouse. Or at least closely enough. Expect more eyes than usual on the exercise company’s next earnings report.

We then turned to predictions, taking a turn apiece to detail what we thought was coming up in 2020. Traditionally, Equity is somewhat poor at making predictions that actually come true, so we roped our producer in to help talk about the future. He is, after all, the person in the world who has listened to more Equity than anyone else in the world.

What’s ahead for Equity in our post-Kate future? We have a huge 2020 planned. We have new formats, new hosts, new guests and more coming your way. So don’t worry, Alex and Chris are still around and the show will go on! (Check TechCrunch.com next Monday for more.)

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

In the shadow of Amazon and Microsoft, Seattle startups are having a moment

Venture capital investment exploded across a number of geographies in 2019 despite the constant threat of an economic downturn.

San Francisco, of course, remains the startup epicenter of the world, shutting out all other geographies when it comes to capital invested. Still, other regions continue to grow, raking in more capital this year than ever.

In Utah, a new hotbed for startups, companies like Weave, Divvy and MX Technology raised a collective $370 million from private market investors. In the Northeast, New York City experienced record-breaking deal volume with median deal sizes climbing steadily. Boston is closing out the decade with at least 10 deals larger than $100 million announced this year alone. And in the lovely Pacific Northwest, home to tech heavyweights Amazon and Microsoft, Seattle is experiencing an uptick in VC interest in what could be a sign the town is finally reaching its full potential.

Seattle startups raised a total of $3.5 billion in VC funding across roughly 375 deals this year, according to data collected by PitchBook. That’s up from $3 billion in 2018 across 346 deals and a meager $1.7 billion in 2017 across 348 deals. Much of Seattle’s recent growth can be attributed to a few fast-growing businesses.

Convoy, the digital freight network that connects truckers with shippers, closed a $400 million round last month bringing its valuation to $2.75 billion. The deal was remarkable for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was the largest venture round for a Seattle-based company in a decade, PitchBook claims. And it pushed Convoy to the top of the list of the most valuable companies in the city, surpassing OfferUp, which raised a sizable Series D in 2018 at a $1.4 billion valuation.

Convoy has managed to attract a slew of high-profile investors, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and even U2’s Bono and the Edge. Since it was founded in 2015, the business has raised a total of more than $668 million.

Remitly, another Seattle-headquartered business, has helped bolster Seattle’s startup ecosystem. The fintech company focused on international money transfer raised a $135 million Series E led by Generation Investment Management, and $85 million in debt from Barclays, Bridge Bank, Goldman Sachs and Silicon Valley Bank earlier this year. Owl Rock Capital, Princeville Global,  Prudential Financial, Schroder & Co Bank AG and Top Tier Capital Partners, and previous investors DN Capital, Naspers’ PayU and Stripes Group also participated in the equity round, which valued Remitly at nearly $1 billion.

Up-and-coming startups, including co-working space provider The Riveter, real estate business Modus and same-day delivery service Dolly, have recently attracted investment too.

A number of other factors have contributed to Seattle’s long-awaited rise in venture activity. Top-performing companies like Stripe, Airbnb and Dropbox have established engineering offices in Seattle, as has Uber, Twitter, Facebook, Disney and many others. This, of course, has attracted copious engineers, a key ingredient to building a successful tech hub. Plus, the pipeline of engineers provided by the nearby University of Washington (shout-out to my alma mater) means there’s no shortage of brainiacs.

There’s long been plenty of smart people in Seattle, mostly working at Microsoft and Amazon, however. The issue has been a shortage of entrepreneurs, or those willing to exit a well-paying gig in favor of a risky venture. Fortunately for Seattle venture capitalists, new efforts have been made to entice corporate workers to the startup universe. Pioneer Square Labs, which I profiled earlier this year, is a prime example of this movement. On a mission to champion Seattle’s unique entrepreneurial DNA, Pioneer Square Labs cropped up in 2015 to create, launch and fund technology companies headquartered in the Pacific Northwest.

Boundless CEO Xiao Wang at TechCrunch Disrupt 2017

Operating under the startup studio model, PSL’s team of former founders and venture capitalists, including Rover and Mighty AI founder Greg Gottesman, collaborate to craft and incubate startup ideas, then recruit a founding CEO from their network of entrepreneurs to lead the business. Seattle is home to two of the most valuable businesses in the world, but it has not created as many founders as anticipated. PSL hopes that by removing some of the risk, it can encourage prospective founders, like Boundless CEO Xiao Wang, a former senior product manager at Amazon, to build.

“The studio model lends itself really well to people who are 99% there, thinking ‘damn, I want to start a company,’ ” PSL co-founder Ben Gilbert said in March. “These are people that are incredible entrepreneurs but if not for the studio as a catalyst, they may not have [left].”

Boundless is one of several successful PSL spin-outs. The business, which helps families navigate the convoluted green card process, raised a $7.8 million Series A led by Foundry Group earlier this year, with participation from existing investors Trilogy Equity Partners, PSL, Two Sigma Ventures and Founders’ Co-Op.

Years-old institutional funds like Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group have done their part to bolster the Seattle startup community too. Madrona raised a $100 million Acceleration Fund earlier this year, and although it plans to look beyond its backyard for its newest deals, the firm continues to be one of the largest supporters of Pacific Northwest upstarts. Founded in 1995, Madrona’s portfolio includes Amazon, Mighty AI, UiPath, Branch and more.

Voyager Capital, another Seattle-based VC, also raised another $100 million this year to invest in the PNW. Maveron, a venture capital fund co-founded by Starbucks mastermind Howard Schultz, closed on another $180 million to invest in early-stage consumer startups in May. And new efforts like Flying Fish Partners have been busy deploying capital to promising local companies.

There’s a lot more to say about all this. Like the growing role of deep-pocketed angel investors in Seattle have in expanding the startup ecosystem, or the non-local investors, like Silicon Valley’s best, who’ve funneled cash into Seattle’s talent. In short, Seattle deal activity is finally climbing thanks to top talent, new accelerator models and several refueled venture funds. Now we wait to see how the Seattle startup community leverages this growth period and what startups emerge on top.

Startups Weekly: 2019’s dead startups

Welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups and venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I wrote about the defining moments of VC in 2019. Before that, I noted some thoughts on U.S. VC activity in Europe.

Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to [email protected] or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you’re new, you can subscribe to Startups Weekly here.


2019’s lost startups

Startups perish for many reasons but there’s one constant: this is an incredibly difficult business. Launching a successful company isn’t just a matter of drive and finding the right people (though both, clearly, are important). Doing well in this business requires the stars to align perfectly on a billion different things.

A cursory look at this year’s batch of companies doesn’t find any story quite as spectacular as last year’s big Theranos flameout, which gave us a best-selling book, documentary, podcast series and upcoming Adam McKay/Jennifer Lawrence film. Some, like MoviePass, however, may have come close.

And for every Theranos, there are dozens of stories of hardworking founders with promising products that simply couldn’t make it to the finish line. There’s also room for debate about what is and isn’t a startup. For our purposes, we’re focusing here on independent startups, not digital initiatives from larger companies — though in at least one case, the startup was acquired by a larger company before shutting down.

So without further ado, here are some of the biggest and most fascinating startups that closed up shop in 2019. 


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2019’s 10 defining moments in venture capital

Every year, the tech industry experiences moments that serve as guideposts for future entrepreneurs and investors looking to profit from the wisdom of the past.

In 2017, Susan Fowler published her heroic blog post criticizing Uber for its culture of sexual harassment, helping spark the #MeToo movement within the tech industry; 2018 was the year of the scooter, in which venture capitalists raced to pour buckets of cash into startups like Bird, Lime and Spin, hoping consumer adoption of micro-mobility would make the rushed deals worth it.

These last twelve months have been replete with scandals, new and interesting upstarts, fallen CEOs and big fundraises. Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes finally got a court date, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son admitted defeat (see: “In the case of WeWork, I made a mistake”), venture capitalist Bill Gurley advocated for direct listings and denounced big banks’ underwriting skills, sperm storage startups battled for funding and Away’s dirty laundry was aired in an investigation conducted by The Verge.

The list of top moments and over-arching trends that defined this year is long. Below, I’ve noted what I think best represent the largest conversations that occurred in Silicon Valley this year, with a particular focus on venture capital, followed by honorable mentions. As always, you can email me ([email protected]) if you have thoughts, opposing opinions, strong feelings or relevant anecdotes.

SoftBank Group Corp. chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son speaks during a press conference on November 6, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

1. SoftBank admitted failure: We’ll get to WeWork in a moment, but first, let’s talk about its multi-billion-dollar backer. SoftBank announced its Vision Fund in 2016, holding its first major close a year later. Ultimately, the Japanese telecom giant raised roughly $100 billion to invest in technology startups across the globe, upending the venture capital model entirely with its ability to write $500 million checks at the flip of a switch. It was an ambitious plan and many were skeptical; as it turns out, that model doesn’t work too well. Not only has WeWork struggled despite billions in funding from SoftBank, several other of the firm’s bets have wavered under pressure. Most recently, SoftBank confirmed it was selling its stake in Wag, the dog-walking business back to the company, nearly two years after funneling a whopping $300 million in the then-three-year-old startup. Wag failed to accumulate value and was struck by scandal, leading to SoftBank’s exit. Why it matters: ditching one of its more high profile bets out of the monstrous Vision Fund wasn’t even the first time this year SoftBank admitted defeat. Once an unstoppable giant, SoftBank has been forced to return to reality after years of prolific dealmaking. No longer a leader in VC or even a threat to other top venture capitalists, SoftBank’s deal activity has become a cautionary tale. Here’s more on SoftBank’s other uncertain bets.

2. WeWork pulled its IPO. The biggest story of 2019 was WeWork. Another SoftBank portfolio, in fact the former star of its portfolio, WeWork filed to go public in 2019 and gave everyone full access to its financials in its IPO prospectus. In August, the business disclosed revenue of about $1.5 billion in the six months ending June 30 on losses of $905 million. The IPO was poised to become the second-largest offering of the year behind only Uber, but what happened instead was much different: WeWork scrapped its IPO after ousting its founding CEO Adam Neumann, whose eccentric personality, expensive habits, alleged drug use, desire to become Israel’s prime minister and other aspirations led to his well-publicized ouster. There’s a lot more to this story, click here for more coverage of the 2019 WeWork saga. Why it matters: WeWork’s unforgiving IPO prospectus painted a picture of a high-spending company with no path to profit in sight. For years, Silicon Valley (or New York, where WeWork is headquartered) has allowed high-growth companies to raise larger and larger rounds of venture capital, understanding that eventually their revenues would outgrow their expenses and they would achieve profitability. WeWork, however, and its fellow ‘unicorn,’ Uber, made it all the way to IPO without carving out a strategy of reaching profitability. These IPOs ignited a wide-reaching debate in the tech industry: does Wall Street care about profitability? Should startups prioritize profits? Many said yes. Meanwhile, the threat of a downturn had startups across industries cutting back and putting cash aside for a rainy day. For the first time in years, and as The New York Times put it, Silicon Valley began trying out a new mantra: make a profit.

3. A whole bunch of CEOs stepped down: Adam Neumann wasn’t the only high profile CEO to move on from their company this year. In a move tied to The Verge’s investigation, Away co-founder and CEO Steph Korey stepped down from the luggage company, instead becoming its executive chairman. Lime’s CEO Toby Sun stepped down, shifting to another role within the company. On the public end of the ecosystem, McDonald’s, REI, Rite Aid and many others replaced their leaders. According to CNBC, nearly 150 CEOs left their post in November alone, setting up 2019 to break records for CEO departures with nearly 1,500 recorded already. Why it matters: All of these departures were caused by varying factors. I will focus on WeWork and Away, which took center stage of the startups and venture capital universe. The recent Away debacle reinforces the role of the tech media and its ability to present well-reported facts to the public and enact significant change to business as a result. Similarly, much of Adam Neumann’s ouster came as a result of strong reporting from outlets like The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and more. From facilitating a toxic, cutthroat culture to paying millions in company dollars for an unnecessary private jet, Away and WeWork’s situations proved standards for startup CEOs has shifted. Whether that shift is here to stay is still up for debate.

4. The IPO market was unforgiving to unicorns: WeWork never made it to the stock markets, but Uber, another scandal-ridden unicorn, did. The company (NYSE: UBER), previously valued at $72 billion, priced its stock at $45 apiece in May for a valuation of $82.4 billion. It began trading at $42 apiece, only to close even lower at $41.57, or down 7.6% from its IPO price. Not stellar, in fact, quite bad for one of the largest venture-backed companies of all time. Uber, however, wasn’t the only one to struggle with its IPO and first few months on the stock market. Other companies like Lyft and Peloton had disappointing results this year confirming the damage inflated valuations can cause startups-turned-public companies. Though a rocky IPO doesn’t mark the end of a company, it does tell you a lot about Wall Street’s appetite for Silicon Valley’s top companies. Why it matters: 2019’s tech IPOs illustrated a disconnect between the public markets and venture capitalists, whose cash determines the value of these high-flying companies. Wall Street has realized these stocks, which NYT journalist Erin Griffith recently described as “Publicly Listed Unicorns Miserably Performing,” are far less magical than previously assumed. As a result, many companies, particularly consumer tech businesses, may delay planned offerings, waiting until the markets stabilize and become hungry again for big-dreaming tech companies.

Centaurs, centurions, centipedes: the $100M ARR CLUB

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week Kate was in SF, Alex was in Providence, and there was a mountain of news to shovel through. If you’re here because we mentioned linking to a certain story in the show notes, that’s here. For everyone else, let’s get into the agenda.

We kicked off with a look at three new venture funds. In order:

  • Tusk Ventures: Tusk’s new fund, worth $70 million, is an effective doubling of its prior fund’s $36 million size. The politically-savvy firm has put money into Coinbase, and other companies that deal with regulated industries.
  • Sapphire Ventures: SAP’s former corporate venture fund Sapphire Ventures announced a whopping $1.4 billion fundraise this week. Sapphire may be one of, or the most successful CVC spinouts to date.
  • Moxxie: Katie Jacobs Stanton, known for co-founding #ANGELS, just closed her debut fund on $25 million. Kate had chatted with her about her experience fundraising her very own fund, some of her previous investment and her plans for Moxxie Ventures so there was plenty to unpack here.

From there we turned the gender imbalance in the world of venture capital. This year, companies founded by women raised only 2.8% of capital. These not-so-stellar statistics are always worth digging into.

After we took a quick look at two different venture rounds, including ProdPerfect’s $13 million Series A and Pepper’s smaller $5.6 million round. ProdPerfect’s round was led by Anthos Capital (known for investing in Honey which sold for $4 billion). The company has $2 million in ARR and is growing quickly. Pepper, formed by former Snap denziens is working to help other startups lower their CAC costs in-channel. Smart.

And finally, Alex wanted to bring up his series on startups that reach the $100 million ARR threshold. A first piece looking into the idea led to a few more submissions. There seem to be enough companies to name the grouping with something nice. Centurion? Centipede? Centaur? We’re working on it.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

New media investment firm Attention Capital acquires Girlboss

Attention Capital, a new outfit that buys, builds and scales media brands, is acquiring Girlboss, the female-focused multi-media business founded by Sophia Amoruso, who will join the firm as a founder partner.

A spokesperson for Girlboss declined to disclose terms of the deal but said Attention Capital has acquired 100% of the business. Girlboss had raised $3.1 million in venture capital funding in 2017 from Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Today’s announcement represents Amoruso’s second exit, though her first M&A deal was more of a rescue operation. She previously founded and led the millennial retailer Nasty Gal, growing it from a small eBay store to a fashion giant that observed more than $300 million in sales at one point in time. Ultimately, Nasty Gal lost its way. Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2016 after raising $65 million over its 10 years of operation.

In 2017, the company was acquired for $20 million in February. Meanwhile, Amoruso was on to a new and similarly venture-backed business, one born out of the success of her book, #GIRLBOSS, which the company said has sold more than 500,000 copies since it was published in 2014.

“Girlboss is built on the idea of powering growth through community,” Girlboss chief executive officer Amoruso said in a statement. “The Girlboss movement’s viral success makes evident that women are more successful if they have access to each other and can share their experiences.”

Attention Capital, founded by media heavyweights Joe Marchese, Nick Bell and Ashlyn Gentry, seeks to acquire media and technology platforms that “properly measure and value attention and are positioned to exponentially benefit in a market correction of the attention economy.” The new firm plans to raise up to $500 million, according to earlier reporting by Axios. Attention Capital has previously acquired a majority stake in Tribeca Enterprises through a deal led by James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems.

“Girlboss is an internationally known brand that is redefining what it means to be entrepreneurial—it’s not just starting your own business, it’s taking a risk, looking for that next role, making a career switch and taking a step into the unknown,” Gentry, the former senior vice president of commercial growth and business strategy at Palantir, wrote in a statement. “Millions of women feel more comfortable going on this journey because they know they have Sophia and the global Girlboss community right there with them. The loyalty and passion that this brand captures makes it a massive market opportunity and at Attention Capital we’re looking forward to working with the team on Girlboss’s expansion.”

Startups Weekly: This year in startups

Welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups and venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I wrote about U.S. VC activity in Europe. Before that, I noted Chinese investor activity in Africa.

Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to [email protected] or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you’re new, you can subscribe to Startups Weekly here.


Hello from Berlin, where we’ve just wrapped our annual conference, TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. Top investors shared insight into European venture capital, well-known individuals and firms made announcements (large and small), and entrepreneurs pontificated about the future of startups in their respective regions.

As I spoke with various early-stage startup founders presenting at the event, chatted with U.S. and European venture capitalists and brain-stormed with my colleagues, I reflected on my last 12 months inside the tech bubble. Soon, I’ll be publishing an extended look at what I see as the 10 biggest themes in startups and VC in 2019. But for now, here’s a sneak peek at my top picks.

  1. SoftBank screw ups. From WeWork to Wag to Fair.com, SoftBank made headlines over and over again this yearfor all the wrong reasons.
  2. WeWork woes. SoftBank’s star portfolio company struggled the most. This was the biggest story of the year and its complete with drugs, private jets, burned cash and upset employees.
  3. CEO exodus. From Away co-founder Steph Korey to WeWork’s Adam Neumann, a whole lot of executives exited their posts this year.
  4. Unicorn IPO struggles. Uber, Lyft, Pinterest, Zoom and more unicorns went public this year. Some fared better than others.
  5. The fight for seed. There was more competition than ever at the earliest stage of venture capital. As a result, investors got creative, hired fresh faces, raised new funds and even gave founders lavish gifts.
  6. Y Combinator growth. Everyone’s favorite accelerator got a whole lot bigger this year. Not only did its cohorts swell, but its president, Sam Altman, stepped down and the firm cemented changes to its investment process.
  7. VCs + direct listings = <3. When venture capitalist weren’t busy gossiping about WeWork and SoftBank, they were debating a new and innovative path to the public markets: direct listings.
  8. Every startup is a bank. Brex raised hundreds of millions, Stripe launched a corporate card, credit card startup Deserve nabbed $50 million. 2019 was the year that consumer banking upstarts became the new e-scooter businesses.
  9. VC isn’t the only option. While VCs were going crazy for consumer financial services, companies like Clearbanc and Capital expanded to give founders alternatives to venture capital, like revenue-based financing and venture debt.
  10.   The diversity disaster persists. Women still only raise 2.8% of venture capital in the U.S., up from 2.2%. Enough said.

If you like this newsletter, you will definitely enjoy Equity, which brings the content of this newsletter to life — in podcast form! Join myself and Equity co-host Alex Wilhelm every Friday for a quick breakdown of the week’s biggest news in venture capital and startups.

This week, I sat down with Chris Mayo, head of primary markets at the London Stock Exchange, to discuss the rise of direct listings.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Equity Dive: Direct Listings

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

We have something special this week and it’s not just because Kate’s in Berlin for TechCrunch Disrupt Europe and Alex’s in the throes of a cross-country move! No, we’ve had this episode in the works for a while, and we’re excited to finally present our deep dive on direct listings with Chris Mayo, the head of primary markets at the London Stock Exchange.

If you’re unfamiliar with direct listings, no need for concern. Chris walks us through the basics and even the more complicated stuff. Before you jump in, here’s a quick refresher on the new and innovative method of going public: Direct listings allow companies to exit by listing to the market existing shares held by insiders, employees and investors directly, rather than the traditional method of issuing new shares. If you’re interested, we’ve written quite a bit on the subject like this, this, this and more.

As for Mayo, before landing at the London Stock Exchange in 2014, he was a consultant at EcoLogic Systems and a director of equity capital markets, Central and Eastern Europe.

Hope you enjoy our conversation. Thanks for stopping by once again.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

US VC investment in female founders hits all-time high

Venture capital investment in all-female founding teams hit $3.3 billion in 2019, representing 2.8% of capital invested across the entire U.S. startup ecosystem this year, according to the latest data collected by PitchBook.

While that number may seem insubstantial, it’s a step up from last year’s total. In 2018, venture capitalists struck 580 deals worth $3 billion — up from just $2.1 billion in 2017 — for all-female teams, or only 2.2% of all U.S. deal activity. So far, female-founded and mixed-gender teams have raised a total of $17.2 billion, with roughly three weeks remaining in 2019. That’s 11.5% of all venture capital investment, an increase from 10.6% last year, when those groups attracted $17 billion across some 2,000 deals.

Crunchbase, another organization focused on tracking and analyzing fundraising data, reported in October that $20 billion in global capital was invested in female-founded and female co-founded startups so far this year. Three percent of global venture dollar volume was funneled toward female teams, Crunchbase said, and 10% toward teams of women and men.

Despite efforts from female founders, venture capitalists and diversity advocates in Silicon Valley and beyond, female entrepreneurs continue to struggle to raise as much capital as their male counterparts. The lack of equity in VC is in part caused by the lack of women on the other side of the table; venture capital funds still employ very few women.

Although dozens of firms have made concerted efforts to diversify their ranks, fewer than 10% of decision-makers at U.S. VC firms are women, according to a 2019 Axios analysis, which determined just 105 investors out of 1,088 were female. While the study noted an increase from the previous year’s 8.93% and 2017’s 7%, it proved venture capital is still very much a male-dominated industry.

Carta, a venture-backed company that provides startups tools to manage their equity, released its second annual gender equity gap study last month, noting that male founders and employees still receive significantly more equity wealth than women. Men have 64% of all startup equity, according to Carta’s findings, and represent 80% of cap table millionaires. Carta used data from 320,000 employees, some 10,000 companies and 25,000 founders to determine these results, which paint a disappointing picture for women at startups.

Another venture-backed company, Tide, conducted its own study around female founders this year. The study focused on entrepreneurs in the U.K. and U.S., which both struggle with diversity in entrepreneurship. Tide determined that of the 403 degrees obtained from universities in the U.K. by female founders, roughly a quarter were from the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford, the country’s top schools. Of the American entrepreneurs included in the study, most went to Stanford University, MIT or Harvard University. The conclusion? Of the female founders who ultimately succeed in raising funding from private investors, most are graduates of elite universities, suggesting a certain socio-economic status. Of course, accessing capital is even more difficult for entrepreneurs who do not attend top universities and who therefore struggle to gain access to investor-friendly networks.

The diversity issue in VC expands beyond women. While several funds have cropped up with a mission to back female founders exclusively, including Female Founders Fund, BBG Ventures, Halogen Ventures, Jane VC, Cleo Capital, accelerator program Ready Set Raise or XFactor Ventures, minority entrepreneurs, including men of color, struggle to secure financing. And while companies like PitchBook and Crunchbase track gender, they do not track race, making it difficult to understand the size and scale of the race funding gap.

On a mission to close that gap, firms like Harlem Capital invest in minority entrepreneurs and organizations like BLCK VC seek to provide community for black venture investors. The New York-based team behind Harlem Capital announced a $40 million debut fundraise last month, one of the largest-ever pools of capital for a fund with a diversity mandate. Harlem, similar to BLCK VC, hopes to attract more minorities to venture capital, where the vast majority of deal makers are white or Asian men.

“You need diversity funds like ourselves to get this market anywhere close to parity,” Harlem Capital managing partner Jarrid Tingle told TechCrunch last month.

Other efforts focused on women in VC and technology include All Raise, which hired its first chief executive officer in Pam Kostka earlier this year. 2019 has been a banner year for the nonprofit organization focused on increasing representation across the entire tech ecosystem. Not only did it bring its first official leader and several employees, it announced new chapters in Los Angeles and Boston, launched a program called VC Cohorts and hosted its annual conference, several in-person and virtual fundraising workshops and networking sessions.

“Women are hungry for the support and guidance we provide,” All Raise’s Kostka told TechCrunch in October. “I think the movement is just gathering momentum.”

Large and growing “unicorn” startups founded by women have also helped move the needle this year, proving companies led by women can gain support from Silicon Valley’s elite. PitchBook notes Glossier and Rent the Runway, two companies founded and led by women, as examples of new entrants to the unicorn club (companies with valuations of $1 billion or larger).

Glossier landed a $100 million Series D led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from Tiger Global and Spark Capital in March. The round valued Emily Weiss’ business at a whopping $1.2 billion. News of Rent the Runway’s $125 million round led by Franklin Templeton Investments and Bain Capital Ventures came just a couple of days later. The deal valued the clothing rental company at $1 billion.

The newest data may indicate progress, but all-male teams still raised more than 85% of all U.S. venture capital dollars in 2019, while decision makers at venture capital firms were still more than 90% male. The venture capital industry, as it stands, is still a boy’s club.