Sunrun’s $3.2 billion Vivint Solar bid challenges Tesla’s energy ambitions

Tesla’s 2014 acquisition of SolarCity turned the electric vehicle manufacturer into the undisputed largest player in residential solar, but that lead has steadily eroded as its major competitor, Sunrun, surged ahead with more aggressive plans. Now with the $3.2 billion acquisition of the residential solar installation company Vivint Solar, Sunrun looks to solidify its place in the top spot.

From Tesla’s very early days Elon Musk has tried to define the company as an energy company rather than just a manufacturer of electric vehicles. When Tesla made its $2.6 billion bid for SolarCity the move was viewed as the culmination of the first phase of its “master plan,” which called for Tesla to “provide zero emission electric power generation options.”

Now that plan faces a major test from a publicly traded competitor that’s focused solely on providing residential solar power and the ability to lower costs for its panels through greater efficiencies of scale, according to analysts who track the solar energy sector.

Sunrun will be freaking big,” Joe Osha, an analyst at JMP Securities, told Bloomberg News. “They are clearly looking for ways to get scale and efficiency.”

Indeed, the combined companies will save roughly $90 million per year thanks to operational efficiencies, according to a statement from Sunrun. And the economies of scale will give the companies even more leverage when they contract with utilities on feeding power into the electric grid.

As Sunrun acknowledged in the announcement of its acquisition of the Blackstone-backed Vivint, the combined customer base of 500,000 homes represents over 3 gigawatts of solar assets. That figure still is only 3% penetration of the total market for residential solar in the United States.

Sunrun had already edged out Tesla for the top spot in residential solar installations, and together the two companies account for 75% of new residential solar leases each quarter, according to data from Bloomberg NEF.

“Americans want clean and resilient energy. Vivint Solar adds an important and high-quality sales channel that enables our combined company to reach more households and raise awareness about the benefits of home solar and batteries,” Sunrun CEO and co-founder Lynn Jurich said in a statement. “This transaction will increase our scale and grow our energy services network to help replace centralized, polluting power plants and accelerate the transition to a 100% clean energy future.”

Even as Sunrun’s $1.46 billion stock (and the assumption of about $1.8 billion in debt) creates a massive competitor to Tesla’s solar business, there’s an opportunity for Tesla to sell more batteries through its residential solar competitor.

Sunrun and Vivint will likely be pushing their customers to add energy storage to their solar installations, and that means using either Tesla’s Powerwall batteries or its own Brightbox batteries manufactured in partnership with LG Chem .

Investors have responded to Sunrun’s latest maneuver by pouring money into the stock. Sunrun’s shares were up more than $5 in midday trading.

Image Courtesy: Yahoo Finance

“Vivint Solar and Sunrun have long shared a common goal of bringing clean, affordable, resilient energy to homeowners,” said David Bywater, chief executive officer of Vivint Solar, in a statement. “Joining forces with Sunrun will allow us to reach a broader set of customers and accelerate the pace of clean energy adoption and grid modernization. We believe this transaction will create value for our customers, our shareholders, and our partners.”

African payment startup Chipper Cash raises $13.8M Series A

African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has closed a $13.8 million Series A funding round led by Deciens Capital and plans to hire 30 new staff globally.

The raise caps an event filled run for the San Francisco based payments company, founded two years ago by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled.

The two came to America for academics, met in Iowa while studying at Grinnell College and ventured out to Silicon Valley for stints in big tech: Facebook for Serunjogi and Flickr and Yahoo! for Moujaled.

The startup call beckoned and after launching Chipper Cash in 2018, the duo convinced 500 Startups and and Liquid 2 Ventures — co-founded by American football legend Joe Montana — to back their company with seed funds.

Two years and $22 million in total capital raised later, Chipper Cash offers its mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.

“We’re now at over one and a half million users and doing over a $100 million dollars a month in volume,” Serunjogi told TechCrunch on a call.

Chipper Cash does not release audited financial data, but does share internal performance accounting with investors. Deciens Capital and Raptor Group co-led the startup’s Series A financing, with repeat support from 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures .

Deciens Capital founder Dan Kimmerling confirmed the fund’s lead on the investment and review of Chipper Cash’s payment value and volume metrics.

Parallel to its P2P app, the startup also runs Chipper Checkout: a merchant-focused, fee-based mobile payment product that generates the revenue to support Chipper Cash’s free mobile-money business.

The company will use its latest round to hire up to 30 people across operations in San Francisco, Lagos, London, Nairobi and New York — according to Serunjogi.

Image Credits: Chipper Cash

Chipper Cash has already brought on a new compliance officer, Lisa Dawson, whose background includes stints with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and Citigroup’s anti-money laundering department.

“You know in the world we live in the AML side is very important so it’s an area that we want to invest in from the get go,” said Serunjogi.

He confirmed Dawson’s role aligned with getting Chipper Cash ready to meet regulatory requirements for new markets, but declined to name specific countries.

With the round announcement, Chipper Cash also revealed a corporate social responsibility component to its business. Related to current U.S. events, the startup has formed the Chipper Fund for Black Lives.

“We’ve been huge beneficiaries of the generosity and openness of this country and its entrepreneurial spirit,” explained Serunjogi. “But growing up in Africa, we’ve were able to navigate [the U.S.] without the traumas and baggage our African American friends have gone through living in America.”

The Chipper Fund for Black Lives will give 5 to 10 grants of $5,000 to $10,000. “The plan is to give that to…people or causes who are furthering social justice reforms,” said Serunjogi.

In Africa, Chipper Cash has placed itself in the continent’s major digital payments markets. As a sector, fintech has become Africa’s highest funded tech space, receiving the bulk of an estimated $2 billion in VC that went to startups in 2019.

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Those ventures, and a number of the continent’s established banks, are in a race to build market share through financial inclusion.

By several estimates — including The Global Findex Database — the continent is home to the largest percentage of the world’s unbanked population, with a sizable number of underbanked consumers and SMEs.

Increasingly, Nigeria has become the most significant fintech market in Africa, with the continent’s largest economy and population of 200 million.

Chipper Cash expanded there in 2019 and faces competition from a number of players, including local payments venture Paga. More recently, outside entrants have jumped into Nigeria’s fintech scene.

In 2019, Chinese investors put $220 million into OPay (owned by Opera) and PalmPay — two fledgling startups with plans to scale first in West Africa and then the broader continent.

Over the next several years, expect to see market events — such as fails, acquisitions, or IPOs — determine how well funded fintech startups, including Chipper Cash, fare in Africa’s fintech arena.

Meet News Break, the news app trending in America founded by a Chinese media veteran

TikTok isn’t the only new media app with Chinese background that’s making waves in the U.S. News Break, a news app founded by China’s media veteran Jeff Zheng with teams in Beijing, Shanghai, Seattle and Mountain View, has been sitting among the top three news apps in the U.S. App Store since March, according to third-party data from Sensor Tower.

Positioned as a news aggregator focused on local reporting, the platform surged to be the third-most downloaded U.S. iOS app across the board in mid-March.

The fledgling news app announced this week a substantial boost as it onboards Harry Shum as its board chairman. Shum is the former president of Microsoft AI and Research Group and played a key role in establishing the Microsoft Research Asia lab, which has trained a raft of China’s top AI talents including the founder of autonomous driving unicorn Momenta.

Former Microsoft executive Harry Shum joins News Break, a local news aggregator founded in the U.S. by a Chinese media veteran (Photo source: News Break)

News Break is staffed with other storied overseas Chinese tech bosses. Jeff Zheng, the founding chief executive, headed up Yahoo Labs in Beijing where he oversaw algorithm improvements in search, media, advertising and mobile. In 2011, he left Yahoo to launch Yidian Zixun, the Beijing-based startup seen early on as the main rival of Toutiao, the hit news app that made ByteDance a household name in China before Douyin emerged. Together with other algorithm-driven news apps, the duo changed the habits of hundreds of millions in China from consuming human-curated news to machine-recommended content with minimal human oversight.

News Break is Zheng’s effort to replicate Yidian Zixun’s success in foreign markets with his co-founder Ren Xuyang, a former Baidu executive. Founded in Silicon Valley in 2015, News Break now boasts 23 million monthly users with a growing network of over 10,000 content providers.

Screenshots of the News Break app (Source: News Break)

The type of personalized reading experience pioneered by Toutiao is now a default feature across media apps in the U.S., said (in Chinese) Vincent Wu, chief operating officer of News Break, at an event in Silicon Valley. To stand out from the crowd, the company serves up local news and happenings for readers, for Wu observed that America’s mainstream media focus overwhelmingly on national affairs and celebrity gossip, “news that’s irrelevant to my day-to-day.”

“Only high-quality, hyper-relevant local news can provide valuable information to readers,” he added.

ByteDance has tried exporting the Toutiao model through TopBuzz, but the overseas edition never achieved mainstream success and is reportedly looking for a buyer.

Other big names involved in News Break range from Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang who joined as the chief advisor as well as Wu, HuffPost’s former operations head.

Particle Media, the Delaware-registered operating entity of News Break, has raised over $20 million to date from investors including IDG Capital, ZhenFund and Ding Lei, the founder of Chinese online media and gaming giant NetEase.

How will coronavirus change the world? — Parlia launches to help you find out

Is Greta Thunberg a hypocrite?” Google that phrase and you will get thousands of results. It just goes to show that, to a large extent, the “Q&A” model is broken on the internet. Where once Yahoo Answers and Quora were considered the bright young things of Web 2.0’s “Read/Write Web”, today there is only the chaos of myriad search results. Let’s face it, many have tried to really crack Q&A (remember “Mahalo”?) but few ever got very far and most became zombie sites.

But look again and you will notice something. A site called Parlia sits at Number 3 on that search result for ‘Is Greta Thunberg a hypocrite’. But Parlia only launched (in stealth mode) in October last year.

So how can this be?

Well, this upstart in the Q&A space has now closed a Pre-seed round of funding from Bloomberg Beta, Tiny VC and others (amount undisclosed).

And as founder, and former journalist, Turi Monthe tells me, the idea here is Parlia will become an “encyclopedia of opinion.”

“We’re a wiki: mapping out all the perspectives on both the breaking stories and controversies of the day, as well as the big evergreen questions: does God exist? Is Messi really better than Ronaldo? The way we’re building is to also help fix today’s polarisation, outrage and information silo-ing,” he tells me.

While most Q&A sites are geared around X vs Y, and focused on rational debate, Parlia is trying to map ALL the opinions out there: flat earthers’ included. It’s aiming to be descriptive not prescriptive and is closer to a wiki, unlike Quora where the authors are often selling ‘something’ as well as themselves as experts.

The site is already on a tear. And also highly appropriate for this era.

Right now top subjects include “How to stay healthy during quarantine at home?” or “What are the effects of spending long periods in coronavirus isolation?” or “Will the coronavirus crisis bring society together?” The list goes on. Users see the arguments calmly, dispassionately laid out, alongside counter-arguments and all the other arguments and positions.

Says Munthe: “In 2016, I realized the age of political consensus was over. I watched as Britain spilt maybe a trillion words of argument in the build-up to the Brexit Referendum and thought: there are no more than a half-dozen reasons why people will vote either way.”

He realized that if there’s a finite number of arguments around something as huge and divisive as Brexit, then this would be true for everything. Thus, you could theoretically map the arguments around Gun Control, Abortion, responses to the Coronavirus, the threat of AI, and pretty much everything.

So why would anyone want to do that? It’s, of course, a good thing in itself and would help people understand what they think as well as help them understand how the rest of the world thinks.

Luckily, there is also a business model. It will potentially carry ads, sponsorships, membership, user donations. Another is data. If they get it right, they will have surfaced foundational information about the very ways we think.

Munthe thinks all the users will come through Search. “The media opportunity, we think, is 100M+ pageviews/month,” he says.

Munthe’s cofounder is J. Paul Neeley, former Professor of the Royal College of Art, and a Service Designer who’s worked with Unilever and the UK’s Cabinet Office. Munthe himself has been exploring the systemic issues of the media ecosystem for some time. From founding a small magazine in Lebanon, reporting in Iraq in 2003, then starting and exiting Demotix, to launching North Base Media (a media-focused VC).

The temptation, of course, is to allow bias to creep in return for commercial deals. But, says Menthe: “We will never work with political parties, and we will set up our own ethics advisory board. But that understanding should be of value to market researchers and institutions everywhere.”

So now you can find out how coronavirus will change the world?

Lyft shares rally 14% after it reports Q1 revenue growth of 23% to $955.7M

Fresh off of a large round of layoffs, Lyft reported its Q1 results this afternoon. The ride-hailing company disclosed that it generated revenue of $955.7 million in the first three months of 2020, up 23% from its year-ago Q1 revenue result of $776 million.

The company’s net loss of $398.1 million was also an improvement on its year-ago, IPO-impacted result. On an adjusted basis, Lyft lost $97.4 million, and its adjusted EBITDA result was a slightly better -$85.2 million. Lyft lost $1.31 per share in the quarter.

The company’s preceding guidance of around $1.06 billion in revenue and negative adjusted EBITDA of as much as $145 million now looks somewhat rosy in retrospect; investors’ final expectations for the company as detailed by Yahoo Finance included revenue of $897.9 million and a per-share loss of $0.64.

Investors rejoice

Shares of Lyft were up sharply in after-hours trading following its report. The firm’s revenue beat appeared to give investors hope that perhaps COVID-19 was not as impactful on its revenue as anticipated. Indeed, Lyft reported 3% more “active riders” in Q1 2020 than it saw in Q1 2019; revenue per active rider rose 19% YoY in the quarter. The combination of those two results led to its revenue gains.

Lyft cut nearly 1,000 employees last week, as many unicorns slashed staff levels in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic disruptions. The firm also furloughed hundreds more to control costs.

After Q1 2020 Lyft remained well-capitalized, with $2.7 billion of unrestricted cash, according to its release, compared to Q1 operating cash burn of around $207 million. The firm has enough cash, it would seem, to weather a COVID downturn of several quarters.

What Lyft says on its call about the end of Q1 and what it expects in Q2 and beyond will determine if it can hold onto its gains. Let’s see what the firm has to say.

Update: In its earnings call, the company said that demand will remain limited for a lengthy period, and that it is seeing demand fall as much as 75%. In the immediate aftermath of the shared notes, Lyft shares continue to rise and are up 18.1% as of the time of this update.

Flickr owner SmugMug emails subscribers with an urgent request: help us find more paying users

When in April of last year, the photo hosting service SmugMug acquired the photo-hosting service Flickr from Verizon’s digital media subsidiary, SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill said he was committed to breathing new life into the service, calling it “core to the entire fabric of the Internet.”

MacAskill didn’t reveal at the time how much SmugMug — which is itself an independent, family-owned operation  — paid for Flickr. But it seems now that SmugMug may have underestimated its carrying costs. In an email tonight to users of Flickr who pay roughly $50 annually for the service, MacAskill has basically asked them if they know anyone else who might be interested in a yearly subscription to Flickr, explaining that it “still needs your help. It’s still losing money.”

Adds MacAskill, in terms that Flickr fans will surely interpret as acutely worrying, SmugMug “cannot cannot continue to operate it at a loss as we’ve been doing.” (To sweeten the deal for new subscribers, SmugMug is offering 25% off a Flickr Pro account for those who visit this link and input the code 25in2019.)

This editor happens to be a Flickr Pro user and shudders to think how many photos I’d have to move if the service shuts down. At the same time, no one who uses the service can be terribly surprised by the development. Just months after SmugMug acquired Flickr, it curbed free use of the platform to 1,000 pictures per account holder. In fact, it threatened to actively delete the photos of users who did not sign up for a subscription if they exceeded that number.

Beyond its operating costs, SmugMug, like so many other companies, also found itself engulfed in controversy recently when the New York Times reported that millions of Flickr images dating back to its 2005 founding had been sucked into a facial-recognition database called MegaFace to “train a new generation of face-identification algorithms,” “track protesters, surveil terrorists, spot problem gamblers and spy on the public at large.”

Ben MacAskill, Don’s brother and the company’s COO, said at the time that the flaw “potentially impacts a very small number of our members today, and we are actively working to deploy an update as quickly as possible.” He also noted that the images that had been accessed pre-dated SmugMug’s involvement with Flickr by several years.

Either way, it sounds like Flickr’s future is very much up in the air again unless more people either subscribe to the service, or someone — or some outfit — swoops in to save the day with the capital required to keep it up and running.

Here’s the full text of Don MacAskill’s note to its customers:

Dear Flickr Pros,

First, and above all else: thank you. Thank you for being a part of our community. Thank you for caring about Flickr. Thank you for supporting Flickr. Thank you for being a Flickr Pro.

Two years ago, Flickr was losing tens of millions of dollars a year. Our company, SmugMug, stepped in to rescue it from being shut down and to save tens of billions of your precious photos from being erased.

Why? We’ve spent 17 years lovingly building our company into a thriving, family-owned and -operated business that cares deeply about photographers. SmugMug has always been the place for photographers to showcase their photography, and we’ve long admired how Flickr has been the community where they connect with each other. We couldn’t stand by and watch Flickr vanish.

So we took a big risk, stepped in, and saved Flickr. Together, we created the world’s largest photographer-focused community: a place where photographers can stand out and fit in.

And yet, Flickr—the world’s most-beloved, money-losing business—still needs your help.

We’ve been hard at work improving Flickr. We hired an excellent, large staff of Support Heroes who now deliver support with an average customer satisfaction rating of above 90%. We got rid of Yahoo’s login. We moved the platform and every photo to Amazon Web Services (AWS), the industry leader in cloud computing, and modernized its technology along the way. As a result, pages are already 20% faster and photos load 30% more quickly. Platform outages, including Pandas, are way down. Flickr continues to get faster and more stable, and important new features are being built once again.

Our work is never done, but we’ve made tremendous progress.

Flickr still needs your help. It’s still losing money. You, and hundreds of thousands of loyal Flickr members stepped up and joined Flickr Pro, for which we are eternally grateful. It’s losing a lot less money than it was. But it’s not yet making enough.

We need more Flickr Pro members if we want to keep the Flickr dream alive, and we need your help to share the story of Flickr.

We didn’t buy Flickr because we thought it was a cash cow. Unlike platforms like Facebook, we also didn’t buy it to invade your privacy and sell your data. We bought it because we love photographers, we love photography, and we believe Flickr deserves not only to live on but thrive. We think the world agrees; and we think the Flickr community does, too. But we cannot continue to operate it at a loss as we’ve been doing.

Flickr is the world’s largest photographer-focused community. It’s the world’s best way to find great photography and connect with amazing photographers. Flickr hosts some of the world’s most iconic, most priceless photos, freely available to the entire world. This community is home to more than 100 million accounts and tens of billions of photos. It serves billions of photos every single day. It’s huge. It’s a priceless treasure for the whole world. And it costs money to operate. Lots of money.

As you know, Flickr is the best value in photo sharing anywhere in the world. Flickr Pro members get ad-free browsing for themselves and their visitors, advanced stats, unlimited full-quality storage for all their photos, plus premium features and access to the world’s largest photographer-focused community.

Please, help us spread the word. Help us make Flickr thrive. Help us ensure Flickr has a bright future. Every Flickr Pro subscription goes directly to keeping Flickr alive and creating great new experiences for photographers like you. We are building lots of great things for the Flickr community, but we need your help. We can do this together.

We’re launching our end-of-year Pro subscription campaign on Thursday, December 26, but I want to give you a coupon code to share with friends, family, or anyone who shares your love of photography and community so they can enjoy the same 25% discount before the campaign starts.

We’ve gone to great lengths to optimize Flickr for cost savings wherever possible, but the increasing cost of operating this enormous community and continuing to invest in its future will require a small price increase early in the new year, so this is truly the very best time to help everyone upgrade to a Pro membership.

If you value Flickr finally being independent, built for photographers and by photographers, we need your help.
With gratitude,

Don MacAskill

Co-Founder, CEO & Chief Geek
SmugMug + Flickr

How startups close their first big sales

No matter what your startup sells or who you’re selling it to, companies that survive — and grow — need big customers and lots of them. But how do you land million-dollar deals with limited resources and no credibility?

In more than 20 years of building companies and products, I’ve learned that in the grand scheme of the startup lifecycle, while you scale your way through growth to eventual sustainability and success, acquiring your first customer is relatively easy. Any good salesperson can sell a good product to the prospect of their choice. Hell, any mediocre salesperson, even when they’re hawking complete crap, can get lucky once. Your first customer is a great signal, but it’s just a signal, not a savior.

What actually matters is what we learn from that first signal and all the signals that follow.

Aggregate value to target prospects

The process starts way before the first sales pitch. Your chances of closing your first big sale are going to be directly related to how well you’re targeting your prospective customers. So let’s begin with a discussion of aggregation and targeting.

All product and service sales come down to usage and aggregated value. It doesn’t matter if your target customer is a consumer or a business. It makes no difference if your price point is dollars or thousands of dollars. It doesn’t matter if your transaction is completely frictionless or requires a six-month hand-hold by your sales team.

If your customer is a consumer, they’re going to have limited usage with your product or service and the value needs to be tightly wound into that small usage window. If your customer is a business, they’re likely going to have multiple users and almost continuous usage of the product or service, so the value will be delivered over time.

So a “lot of customers” for your product or service might be 100, or it might be a million. Either way, you’re offering the same value per dollar based on usage. You’re aggregating that value into the sale, so you need to be targeting those customer prospects with the highest expected usage.

A classic rookie mistake made by most entrepreneurs is spraying and praying at large prospect audiences for the sake of their largeness alone, hoping that those shards of value surface for the right people at the right time.

Don’t do that. Instead, for B2C sales, you’re going to need some intelligence about your prospect list, which means more than Facebook ad demographics — it’s being able to predict the usage based on the source of the prospect. For B2B sales, you need to determine the optimum type of business to sell into: their size, their industry, their appetite for innovation, and anything else you can use to narrow your focus.

Figure out who is going to get the most aggregate value for their usage and target them.

Targeting customer prospects based on value aggregation is not only going to increase the chances of closing, it’s also going to dictate the near future in terms of the growth of your startup. A targeted, good customer is going to make your life a lot easier. A random, poor customer is going to fill your world with complaints, support requests, change requests, feature requests, and ultimately severe changes to your product roadmap.

Consolidate and find a champion

When you’re a startup, your customers are buying innovation. The tricky thing is, no one needs innovation. Rather, they need the derivatives of that innovation  —  time, simplification, throughput, security.

In order to close a big sale, in other words, the aggregation of many, many units of that usage and value, you’re going to have to consolidate that usage and find a champion of value on the customer side.

So the question becomes: Who benefits the most from the derivatives of innovation brought about by maximizing the usage of your product or service?

Don’t wait to plan your exit, even if it’s years away

Startup founders have a million things to worry about every day.

Finding product-market fit, great talent and and a sustainable plan for constant growth are top of mind, but perhaps most importantly, they need to keep the lights on, whether it’s by raising venture capital or managing cash flows while bootstrapping.

The flip side to thinking about fundraising and growth, however, is skipping ahead to the final chapter — whether that involves M&A, an IPO or perhaps a bankruptcy, eventually all startups come to an end.

Instead of thinking about an exit while in the final throes, founders need to strategically lay the groundwork, even if it is potentially years away. Here’s how.

On the Extra Crunch stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, we had a deep conversation on what founders should do to prepare for an exit with Jess Lee of Sequoia, who sold her startup Polyvore to TechCrunch parent company Yahoo; Justin Kan, who sold Twitch to Amazon and now runs legal startup Atrium; and Mike Marquez, the founding managing director of boutique investment bank Code Advisors.

The good news is that the primary requirement for exiting a startup is really the same work that a founder has to focus on: building a great business. “The best way to sell your company is to actually build a good company,” said Kan, since no acquirer is looking to buy damaged goods.

But even if you are building a solid business, that’s not nearly enough to get a transaction done some time down the line. One consistent piece of advice from the group was that founders should be thinking about an exit much more regularly, even if they are steadfastly opposed to one. That means identifying key relationships that will make an M&A possible and working to build and maintain those relationships.

“I thought about it too late,” Lee said about her time running Polyvore . “The same way you build relationships with investors, you should spend at least a little bit of time building relationships with partners who could become potential acquirers.”

Kan elaborated further. “I think that in the beginning, your responsibilities as a founder is just to find product-market fit [and] work on your product,” he said. “And then once you have a product that people want, you want to figure out how to get it in the hands of more people, and that’s when it starts to become really valuable to know everyone in your market and then adjacent markets.”

Far from being a completely separate task from the other duties of being a CEO, connecting with potential acquirers often has benefits for growing a company in the first place.

HuffPost is reportedly on the auction block

Late last night the Financial Times reported that HuffPost, arguably one of the crown jewels of Verizon Media Group’s remaining network of media properties (which includes TechCrunch), is up for sale.

Verizon has been shedding media properties in a retreat from the strategy that it had begun to execute with the acquisition of AOL for $4.4 billion back in 2015. Through the AOL deal, then-chief executive Tim Armstrong became the architect of the telecommunications company’s media and advertising strategy.

Armstrong’s vision was to roll up as much online real estate as he could while creating a high technology advertising architecture on the back-end that could better target consumers based on their media consumption (which the telecom company would also own).

The idea was to provide a broad-based competitor to the reach of ad platforms on Google and Facebook which were also targeting users based on their browsing history and interests. The benefit that Google and Facebook had was that they had a more holistic view of what consumers did online and they positioned themselves as a distribution channel between media companies and users — essentially redistributing their articles and videos and hoovering up the ad dollars that had previously gone to those media companies.

The multi-billion dollar land grab continued when Verizon paid $4.5 billion for Yahoo in 2017.

Now it appears that Verizon has a multi-billion dollar case of buyer’s remorse. Part of the billions that Verizon spent on Yahoo was for the early social network Tumblr, which Yahoo had acquired for $1.1 billion back in 2013.

Earlier this year Verizon unloaded Tumblr for the cost of a luxury Manhattan apartment. That $3 million sale was presaged by the significant fall from grace of other former high-flying media and tech properties.

Vice was once worth $5.7 billion at the height of the media investment bubble, but earlier this year Disney wrote down its stake in the company to virtually nothing.

At least Vice is emerging as a survivor. the company has rolled up Refinery29. Vox Media is also doing well in the new world of media. It bought Recode back in 2015 and recently acquired the publisher behind New York Magazine to expand its purview into paper publications and get its hands on the popular New York websites Intelligencer, The Cut, Vulture, and Grub Street.

Other publications like Hello Giggles, which was founded by the actress Zooey Deschanel, were sold to Time Magazine. High-fliers like Buzzfeed, HuffPost, Vice and Vox have all had to lay off staff in recent months.

It’s been a wild ride for HuffPost, which began in 2005 as a collection of celebrity bloggers brought together under the auspices of Arianna Huffington, from whom the site took its name.

AOL acquired The Huffington Post back in 2011 in a deal that was valued at $315 million less than a year after picking up TechCrunch for $25 million.

Verizon announced layoffs across its media properties at the beginning of the year. It cut roughly 7 percent of its staff — or around 800 jobs — including some at HuffPost.

In a statement to the Financial Times, Verizon said that it would not comment on rumors and speculation.

Neither Verizon Media nor HuffPost responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.

How you shouldn’t handle your data breach

So you’ve had a data breach. Don’t worry, it’s not just you. These days it happens to everyone, no matter how large or small your company is. It’s almost inevitable, some might say, and not a case of if but when.

A lot is already out of your control. Whether a hacker broke in and stole customer data or someone on staff left a cloud server exposed without a password, the incident alone is bad enough. But then you’ll also face a stream of headlines, flack from your customers, and endless tweets and social media posts. Trust will invariably suffer, your brand will hurt, and recovery seems like a million miles away.

But as breaches become more commonplace, few companies remember the actual incident itself — or even the number of users or customers affected. No matter what kind of security incident you’re thrown into, what happens afterward is how you will be remembered.

Get it right, you can save face. Get it wrong, and you’ll never live it down. Here’s what not to do when you have a data breach.

Don’t try to cover it up