Where top VCs are investing in fintech

Over the past several years, ‘fintech’ has quietly become the unsung darling of venture.

A rapidly swelling pool of new startups is taking aim at the large incumbent institutions, complex processes and outdated unfriendly interfaces that mar billion dollar financial services verticals, such as insurtech, consumer lending, personal finance, or otherwise.  

In just the past summer, the startup community saw a multitude of hundred-million dollar fintech fundraises. In 2018, fintech companies were the source of close to 1,300 venture deals worth over $15 billion in North America and Europe alone according to data from Pitchbook. Over the same period, KPMG estimates that over $52 billion in investment pour into fintech initiatives globally. 

With the non-stop stream of venture capital flowing into the never-ending list of spaces that fall under the ‘fintech’ umbrella, we asked 12 leading fintech VCs who work at firms that span early to growth stages to share where they see the most opportunity and how they see the market evolving over the long-term.

The participants touched on a number of key trends in the space, including rapid innovation in fintech infrastructure, fintech companies embedding themselves in specific verticals and platforms, rebundling and unbundling of financial services offerings, the rise of challenger banks and the state of fintech valuations into 2020.

Charles Birnbaum, Partner, Bessemer Venture Partners

The great ‘rebundling’ of fintech innovation is in full swing. The emerging consumer leaders in fintech — Chime, SoFi, Robinhood, Credit Karma, and Bessemer portfolio company Betterment — are moving quickly to increase their share of wallet with their valuable customers and become a one-stop-shop for people’s financial lives.

In 2020, we anticipate continued entrepreneurial activity and investor enthusiasm around the infrastructure and middleware layers within the fintech ecosystem that are enabling further rebundling and a rapid convergence of product themes and business models across the consumer fintech landscape.

Many players now look like potential challenger bank models more akin to what we have seen unfold in Europe the past few years. Within consumer fintech, we at Bessemer are more focused on demographically-specific product offerings that tap into underserved themes, whether that be the financial problems facing the aging population in the US or new models to serve the underbanked or underserved population of consumers and small businesses.

Ian Sigalow, Co-founder & Partner, Greycroft

What trends are you most excited in fintech from an investing perspective? 

I suspect that many enterprise software companies become fintech companies over time — collecting payments on behalf of customers and growing revenues as your customers grow. We have seen this trend in many industries over the past few years. Business owners generally prefer a model that moves IT expenditures from Operating Expenses into Cost of Goods Sold, because they can increase prices and pass their entire budget onto the customer.

On the consumer side, we have already made investments in branchless banking, insurance (auto, home, health, workers comp), cross-border payments, alternative investments, loyalty cards/services, and roboadvisor services. The companies we funded are already a few years old, and I think we will have some interesting follow-on activity there over the next few years. We have been picking spots where we think we have an unfair competitive advantage.

Our fintech portfolio is also more global than other sectors we invest in. This is because there are opportunities to achieve billion dollar outcomes in fintech, even in countries that are much smaller than the United States. That is not true in many other sectors.

We have also seen trends emerge in the US and move abroad. As an example we seeded Flutterwave, which is similar to Stripe, and they have expanded across Africa. We were also the lead investor in Yeahka, which is similar to Square in China. These products are heavily localized —tin for instance Yeahka is the largest processor of QR code payments in the world, but QR code payments are not popular in the US yet.

How much time are you spending on fintech right now? Is the market under-heated, over-heated, or just right?

Fintech is about a quarter of my time right now. We continue to see interesting new ideas and the valuations have been more or less consistent over time. The broader market doesn’t impact us very much because we tend to have a 10 year holding period.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t?

What top enterprise VCs are thinking, using data effectively, ethics, Light, and Flipkart

Top VCs on the changing landscape for enterprise startups

TechCrunch had our debut confab for enterprise types this week at Yerba Buena Center in SF, where we heard from Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, Apple VP Susan Prescott of Apple, and Microsoft Azure CTO Mark Russinovich. We were sold out, which perhaps isn’t all that surprising given the amount of interest in enterprise these days. Expect more events to come.

Our Silicon Valley editor Connie Loizos hosted a panel with leading enterprise VCs, and she selected the most interesting points from that conversation and from her calls with them for Extra Crunch members. Hear a bit from Jason Green of Emergence Capital, Rebecca Lynn of Canvas Ventures and Maha Ibrahim of Canaan Partners and what they are investing in these days.

And if you want to hear even more from Jason Green and yours truly, head over to TechCrunch’s VC podcast Equity, where we shot live from Yerba Buena along with host Kate Clark with a special focus on enterprise startups.

Maha Ibrahim: I feel like people are focusing too much on metrics and not as much on [the total addressable market]. We make money [when a startup strikes on a] huge, huge market.

But there’s [also] so much correlation between consumer and enterprise startups in that we want customers that love the product. We want customers that come back and come back and come back to us, without us having to pay for them to come back. So the equivalent in a consumer company would be me having to spend advertising dollars to acquire that customer again, as opposed to that customer just coming back because he or she loves what I’m doing. The same goes for the enterprise.

How early-stage startups can use data effectively

Silicon Valley may be obsessed with using data to improve startup outcomes, but the reality is quite a bit more nuanced. Koen Bok, co-founder of interactive design tool Framer, has put together an extensive guide here on how to to use data — and when not to.

Top VCs on the changing landscape for enterprise startups

Yesterday at TechCrunch’s Enterprise event in San Francisco, we sat down with three venture capitalists who spend a lot of their time thinking about enterprise startups. We wanted to ask what trends they are seeing, what concerns they might have about the state of the market, and of course, how startups might persuade them to write out a check.

We covered a lot of ground with the investors — Jason Green of Emergence Capital, Rebecca Lynn of Canvas Ventures, and Maha Ibrahim of Canaan Partners — who told us, among other things, that startups shouldn’t expect a big M&A event right now, that there’s no first-mover advantage in the enterprise realm, and why grit may be the quality that ends up keeping a startup afloat.

On the growth of enterprise startups:

Jason Green: When we started Emergence 15 years ago, we saw maybe a few hundred startups a year, and we funded about five or six. Today, we see over 1,000 a year; we probably do deep diligence on 25.

BuzzFeed CTO joins men’s health startup Ro

Ro, a two-year-old startup known for its online pharmacy of men’s health products, has named BuzzFeed’s Todd Levy its chief technology officer.

Levy first joined BuzzFeed in 2014 as the digital media company’s vice president of engineering; he was named CTO in 2016. Prior to BuzzFeed, Levy co-founded and led link management tool bit.ly. Levy begins his new role Wednesday, August 14.

We’ve reached out to BuzzFeed for comment.

Ro, valued at $500 million earlier this year, has raised $176 million in venture capital funding from Canaan Partners, FirstMark Capital, BoxGroup, Initialized Capital, General Catalyst, SignalFire and others. The fast-growing startup poised to enter the unicorn club in the next year represents an opportunity for Levy to get back in the business of early-stage startups.

The news comes months after BuzzFeed announced its largest layoffs to date. Despite having raised $500 million over the last decade, the site has struggled to find a path to profitability. BuzzFeed chairman Ken Lerer, a prolific media investor, stepped down this June.

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Former BuzzFeed CTO Todd Levy.

In an email announcement to staffers, Ro co-founder Saman Rahmanian said the new hire will help usher the business into a new phase of growth: “First and foremost, we needed a great team builder – someone who cares about team spirit not just the code,” Rahmanian wrote:

Given the high growth state of our business, we also needed a leader who has seen or led the scaling of an engineering team like ours into the next stage (from 30 engineers to 200). We also needed someone with a strong technology background who has gone through the ranks and is fluent in modern software architecture. And equally as important, we needed someone that was the right fit for Ro – someone who will provide strong mentorship, who is excited about a distributed team, and who will evangelize the engineering team inside the business as well as outside of Ro to attract top talent.

New York-based Ro was founded in 2017 and has quickly become a leader in the direct-to-consumer health and wellness movement. The company competes with Hims, another online service for health products, as well as NumanManual and Thirty Madison, which have raised capital recently.

Ro was started by a trio of entrepreneurs: Rob Schutz, the former vice president of growth at Bark&Co; Rahmanian, a co-founder of the WeWork-acquired business Managed by Q; and chief executive officer Zachariah Reitano, who previously co-founded a Y Combinator -backed startup called Shout.

The startup initially launched under the name Roman, which became its flagship brand when the business adopted the umbrella name Ro last year.

In a 2017 interview with TechCrunch’s Josh Constine, Reitano said he began experiencing ED at 17 years old: “I think in a good way I’ve become numb to the embarrassment,” he said. “I remember the embarrassment of having the condition with no solution, and that’s much worse than sharing the fact that I had it and was able to fix it myself.”

Roman offers men a $15 online doctor’s consultation and access to an instant prescription for Viagra, Cialis or generic drugs that can be filled at Roman’s in-house cloud pharmacy. The company also sells hair loss, cold sore medication and more under the Roman brand.

Ro also operates Zero and Rory, purveyors of a quit smoking kit and a line of women’s health products, respectively.

Four days left for early-bird tickets to TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019

We’re just one month away from TC Sessions: Enterprise, which takes place on September 5 at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. But you have only four days left to score an early-bird ticket and save yourself $100. Right now, you pay $249, but once the clock strikes 11:59 p.m. (PT) on August 9, the bird flies south and the price flies north. Get your early-bird ticket today and save.

Focused on the current and future state of enterprise software, this day-long conference offers tremendous value — even at full price. Considering the rate at which this $500 billion industry acquires startups — and how quickly it’s evolving — TC Sessions: Enterprise makes perfect sense for enterprise-minded founders, investors, CTOs, CIOs, engineers and MBA students (student tickets cost $75).

We’ve packed the conference with interviews, panel discussions, Q&As and breakout sessions. TechCrunch editors will dig deep to separate hype from reality as they explore crucial issues, complex technologies and investment trends with both industry giants and up-and-coming startups.

Here’s a sample of just some of what we have planned. You can also check out the agenda — and we might add a few surprises along the way.

Curious about the latest in enterprise investment? TechCrunch editor Connie Loizos will interview VCs Jason Green, founder and general partner at Emergence; Maha Ibrahim, general partner at Canaan Partners; and Rebecca Lynn, co-founder and general partner at Canvas Ventures. They’ll examine trends in early-stage enterprise investments and discuss different sectors and companies that have their attention.

Maybe you want to learn from a founder who’s been there and done that. Don’t miss Aaron Levie, Box co-founder, chairman and CEO, as he outlines what it took to travel the entire startup journey. He’ll also offer his take on the future of data platforms.

Want to cover more ground at TC Sessions: Enterprise? Take advantage of our group discount and bring the whole team. Buy four or more tickets at once and save 20%. Don’t forget: For every ticket you buy to TC Sessions: Enterprise, we’ll register you for a free Expo Only pass to TechCrunch Disrupt SF on October 2-4.

TC Sessions: Enterprise takes place on September 5, but your chance to save $100 ends in just four short days. Don’t wait — buy an early-bird ticket today, and we’ll see you in September!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Enterprise? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Early bird pricing ends next week for TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019

Here are five words you’ll never hear spring from the mouth of an early stage startupper. “I don’t mind paying more.” We feel you, and that’s why we’re letting you know that the price of admission to TC Sessions Enterprise 2019, which takes place on September 5, goes up next week.

Our $249 early-bird ticket price remains in play until 11:59 p.m. (PT) on August 9. Buy your ticket now and save $100.

Now that you’ve scored the best possible price, get ready to experience a full day focused on what’s around the corner for enterprise — the biggest and richest startup category in Silicon Valley. More than 1,000 attendees, including many of the industry’s top founders, CEOs, investors, and technologists will join TechCrunch’s editors on stage for interviews covering all the big enterprise topics – AI, the cloud, Kubernetes, data and security, marketing automation, event quantum computing, to name a few.

This conference features more than 20 sessions on the main stage plus separate Q&As with the speakers and breakout sessions. Check out the agenda here.

Just to peek at one session, TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos will interview three top VCs –  Jason Green (Emergence Capital), Maha Ibrahim (Canaan Partners) and Rebecca Lynn (Canvas Ventures) – in a session entitled Investing with an Eye to the Future: In an ever-changing technological landscape, it’s not easy for VCs to know what’s coming next and how to place their bets. Yet, it’s the job of investors to peer around the corner and find the next big thing, whether that’s in AI, serverless, blockchain, edge computing or other emerging technologies. Our panel will look at the challenges of enterprise investing, what they look for in enterprise startups and how they decide where to put their money.

Want to boost your ROI? Take advantage of our group discount — save 20 percent when you buy four or more tickets at once. And remember, for every ticket you buy to TC Sessions: Enterprise, we’ll register you for a free Expo Only pass to TechCrunch Disrupt SF on October 2-4.

TC Sessions: Enterprise takes place on September 5, but your chance to save $100 ends next week. No one enjoys paying more, so buy an early bird ticket today, cross it off your to-do list and enjoy your savings.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Emergence’s Jason Green joins TC Sessions: Enterprise this September

Picking winners from the herd of early-stage enterprise startups is challenging — so much competition, so many disruptive technologies, including mobile, cloud and AI. One investor who has consistently identified winners is Jason Green, founder and general partner at Emergence, and TechCrunch is very pleased to announce that he will join the investor panel at TC Sessions: Enterprise on September 5 at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. He will join two other highly accomplished VCs, Maha Ibrahim, general partner at Canaan Partners and Rebecca Lynn, co-founder and general partner at Canvas Ventures. They will join TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos to discuss important trends in early-stage enterprise investments as well as the sectors and companies that have their attention. Green will also join us for the investor Q&A in a separate session.

Jason Green founded Emergence in 2003 with the aim of “looking around the corner, identifying themes and aiming to win big in the long run.” The firm has made 162 investments, led 64 rounds and seen 29 exits to date. Among the firm’s wins are Zoom, Box, Sage Intacct, ServiceMax, Box and SuccessFactors. Emergence has raised $1.4 billion over six funds.

Green is also the founding chairman of the Kauffman Fellow Program and a founding member of Endeavor. He serves on the boards of BetterWorks, Drishti, GroundTruth, Lotame, Replicon and SalesLoft.

Come hear from Green and these other amazing investors at TC Sessions: Enterprise by booking your tickets today — $249 early-bird tickets are still on sale for the next two weeks before prices go up by $100. Book your tickets here.

Startups, get noticed with a demo table at the conference. Demo tables come with four tickets to the show and prime exhibition space for you to showcase your latest enterprise technology to some of the most influential people in the business. Book your $2,000 demo table right here.

Announcing the agenda for TC Sessions: Enterprise | San Francisco, September 5

TechCrunch Sessions is back! On September 5, we’re taking on the ferociously competitive field of enterprise software, and thrilled to announce our packed agenda, overflowing with some of the biggest names and most exciting startups in the enterprise industry. And you’re in luck, because $249 early-bird tickets are still on sale — make sure you book yours so you can enjoy all the agenda has to offer.

Throughout the day, you can expect to hear from industry experts and partake in discussions about the potential of new technologies like quantum computing and AI, how to deal with the onslaught of security threats, investing in early-stage startups and plenty more

We’ll be joined by some of the biggest names and the smartest and most prescient people in the industry, including Bill McDermott at SAP, Scott Farquhar at Atlassian, Julie Larson-Green at Qualtrics, Wendy Nather at Duo Security, Aaron Levie at Box and Andrew Ng at Landing AI.

Our agenda showcases some of the powerhouses in the space, but also plenty of smaller teams that are building and debunking fundamental technologies in the industry. We still have a few tricks up our sleeves and will be adding some new names to the agenda over the next month, so keep your eyes open. In the meantime, check out these agenda highlights:

AGENDA

Investing with an Eye to the Future
Jason Green (Emergence Capital), Maha Ibrahim (Canaan Partners) and Rebecca Lynn (Canvas Ventures)
9:35 AM – 10:00 AM

In an ever-changing technological landscape, it’s not easy for VCs to know what’s coming next and how to place their bets. Yet, it’s the job of investors to peer around the corner and find the next big thing, whether that’s in AI, serverless, blockchain, edge computing or other emerging technologies. Our panel will look at the challenges of enterprise investing, what they look for in enterprise startups and how they decide where to put their money.


Talking Shop
Scott Farquhar (Atlassian)
10:00 AM – 10:20 AM

With tools like Jira, Bitbucket and Confluence, few companies influence how developers work as much as Atlassian. The company’s co-founder and co-CEO Scott Farquhar will join us to talk about growing his company, how it is bringing its tools to enterprises and what the future of software development in and for the enterprise will look like.


Q&A with Investors 
10:20 AM – 10:50 AM

Your chance to ask questions of some of the greatest investors in enterprise.


Innovation Break: Deliver Innovation to the Enterprise
DJ Paoni (
SAP), Sanjay Poonen (VMware) and Shruti Tournatory (Sapphire Ventures)
10:20 AM – 10:40 AM

For startups, the appeal of enterprise clients is not surprising — signing even one or two customers can make an entire business, and it can take just a few hundred to build a $1 billion unicorn company. But while corporate counterparts increasingly look to the startup community for partnership opportunities, making the jump to enterprise sales is far more complicated than scaling up the strategy startups already use to sell to SMBs or consumers. Hear from leaders who have experienced successes and pitfalls through the process as they address how startups can adapt their strategy with the needs of the enterprise in mind. Sponsored by SAP.


Coming Soon!
10:40 AM – 11:00 AM


Box’s Enterprise Journey
Aaron Levie (Box)
11:15 AM – 11:35 AM

Box started life as a consumer file-storage company and transformed early on into a successful enterprise SaaS company, focused on content management in the cloud. Levie will talk about what it’s like to travel the entire startup journey — and what the future holds for data platforms.


Bringing the Cloud to the Enterprise
George Brady (Capital One), Byron Deeter (Bessemer Venture Partners) and a speaker to be announced
11:35 AM – 12:00 PM

Cloud computing may now seem like the default, but that’s far from true for most enterprises, which often still have tons of legacy software that runs in their own data centers. What does it mean to be all-in on the cloud, which is what Capital One recently accomplished. We’ll talk about how companies can make the move to the cloud easier, what not to do and how to develop a cloud strategy with an eye to the future.


Keeping the Enterprise Secure
Martin Casado (Andreessen Horowitz), Wendy Nather (Duo Security) and a speaker to be announced
1:00 PM – 1:25 PM

Enterprises face a litany of threats from both inside and outside the firewall. Now more than ever, companies — especially startups — have to put security first. From preventing data from leaking to keeping bad actors out of your network, enterprises have it tough. How can you secure the enterprise without slowing growth? We’ll discuss the role of a modern CSO and how to move fast… without breaking things.


Keeping an Enterprise Behemoth on Course
Bill McDermott (SAP)

1:25 PM – 1:45 PM

With over $166 billion is market cap, Germany-based SAP is one of the most valuable tech companies in the world today. Bill McDermott took the leadership in 2014, becoming the first American to hold this position. Since then, he has quickly grown the company, in part thanks to a number of $1 billion-plus acquisitions. We’ll talk to him about his approach to these acquisitions, his strategy for growing the company in a quickly changing market and the state of enterprise software in general.


How Kubernetes Changed Everything
Brendan Burns (Microsoft), Tim Hockin (Google Cloud), Craig McLuckie (VMware)
and Aparna Sinha (Google)
1:45 PM – 2:15 PM

You can’t go to an enterprise conference and not talk about Kubernetes, the incredibly popular open-source container orchestration project that was incubated at Google. For this panel, we brought together three of the founding members of the Kubernetes team and the current director of product management for the project at Google to talk about the past, present and future of the project and how it has changed how enterprises think about moving to the cloud and developing software.


Innovation Break: Data: Who Owns It
(SAP)

2:15 PM – 2:35 PM

Enterprises have historically competed by being closed entities, keeping a closed architecture and innovating internally. When applying this closed approach to the hottest new commodity, data, it simply does not work anymore. But as enterprises, startups and public institutions open themselves up, how open is too open? Hear from leaders who explore data ownership and the questions that need to be answered before the data floodgates are opened. Sponsored by SAP.


AI Stakes its Place in the Enterprise
Bindu Reddy (Reality Engines), Jocelyn Goldfein (Zetta Venture Partners)
and a speaker to be announced
2:35 PM – 3:00 PM

AI is becoming table stakes for enterprise software as companies increasingly build AI into their tools to help process data faster or make more efficient use of resources. Our panel will talk about the growing role of AI in enterprise for companies big and small.


Q&A with Founders
3:00 PM – 3:30 PM

Your chance to ask questions of some of the greatest startup minds in enterprise technology.


The Trials and Tribulations of Experience Management
Julie Larson-Green (Qualtrics), Peter Reinhardt (Segment) and a speaker to be announced
3:15 PM – 3:40 PM

As companies gather more data about their customers, it should theoretically improve the customer experience, buy myriad challenges face companies as they try to pull together information from a variety of vendors across disparate systems, both in the cloud and on prem. How do you pull together a coherent picture of your customers, while respecting their privacy and overcoming the technical challenges? We’ll ask a team of experts to find out.


Innovation Break: Identifying Overhyped Technology Trends
James Allworth (
Cloudflare), George Mathew (Kespry) and Max Wessel (SAP)
3:40 PM – 4:00 PM

For innovation-focused businesses, deciding which technology trends are worth immediate investment, which trends are worth keeping on the radar and which are simply buzzworthy can be a challenging gray area to navigate and may ultimately make or break the future of a business. Hear from these innovation juggernauts as they provide their divergent perspectives on today’s hottest trends, including Blockchain, 5G, AI, VR and more. Sponsored by SAP.


Fireside Chat
Andrew Ng (Landing AI)
4:00 PM – 4:20 PM

Few technologists have been more central to the development of AI in the enterprise than Andrew Ng . With Landing AI and the backing of many top venture firms, Ng has the foundation to develop and launch the AI companies he thinks will be winners. We will talk about where Ng expects to see AI’s biggest impacts across the enterprise.


The Quantum Enterprise
Jim Clarke (Intel), Jay Gambetta (IBM)
and Krysta Svore (Microsoft)
4:20 PM – 4:45 PM

While we’re still a few years away from having quantum computers that will fulfill the full promise of this technology, many companies are already starting to experiment with what’s available today. We’ll talk about what startups and enterprises should know about quantum computing today to prepare for tomorrow.


Overcoming the Data Glut
Benoit Dageville (Snowflake), Ali Ghodsi (Databricks) and a speaker to be announced
4:45 PM – 5:10 PM

There is certainly no shortage of data in the enterprise these days. The question is how do you process it and put it in shape to understand it and make better decisions? Our panel will discuss the challenges of data management and visualization in a shifting technological landscape where the term “big data” doesn’t begin to do the growing volume justice.


Early-bird tickets are on sale now for just $249. That’s a $100 savings before prices go up — book yours today.

Students, save big with our super discounted $75 ticket when you book here.

Are you a startup? Book a demo table package for just $2,000 (includes 4 tickets) — book here.

Journey launches its real-time group “Peloton For Meditation”

Sitting silently with your eyes closed isn’t fun but it’s good for you…so you probably don’t meditate as often as you’d like. In that sense it’s quite similar to exercise. But people do show up when prodded by the urgency and peer pressure of scheduled group cycling or aerobics classes. What’s still in the way is actually hauling your lazy butt to the gym, hence the rise of Peloton’s in-home stationary bike with attached screen streaming live and on-demand classes. My butt is particularly lazy, but I’ve done 80 Peloton rides in 4 months. The model works.

Now that model is coming to mindfulness with the launch of Journey LIVE, a subscription iOS app offering live 15-minute group meditation classes. With sessions starting most waking hours, instructors that interact with you directly, and a sense of herd mentality, you feel compelled to dedicate the time to clearing your thoughts. By video and voice, the teachers introduce different meditation theories and practices, guide you through, and answer questions you can type in. Each day, Journey also provides a newly recorded on-demand session in case you need a class on your own schedule.

“‘I tried Headspace’ or ‘I tried Calm’ . With a lot of the current meditation apps, people go on but they drop off very quickly” says Journey founder and CEO Stephen Sokoler. “It means that there’s an interest in meditating and having a better life but people fall off because meditating alone is hard, it’s confusing, it’s boring. Meditating with a live teacher who can connect with you and say your name, who makes you feel seen and heard makes huge difference.”

Journey subscriptions start at $19.99 per month after a week-long free trial. That feels a bit steep, but prices drop to $7.99 if paid annually with the launch discount, or you can dive in with a $399 lifetime pass. The challenge will be keeping users from abandoning meditation and then their subscription without resorting to growth hacking and annoying notifications that are antithetical to the whole concept. Journey has now raised a $2.4M seed round led by Canaan and joined by Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Betaworks, and more to get the company rolling.

Sokoler’s own journey could set an example of the possibilities of sticking with it. “Meditation changed my life. I was fortunate enough to move to Australia, find a book on Buddhism, and then I had the willpower to start practicing meditation every day” he tells me. “I lost 85 pounds. People ask me how I lost the weight and they expect me to say a diet like keto or Atkins, but it was because of the program I was in.” Suddenly able to sit quietly with himself, Sokoler didn’t need food to stay occupied or feel at ease.

The founder saw the need for new sources of happiness while working in employee rewards and recognition for 12 years. He built up a company that makes momentos for commemorating big business deals. Meditation proved to him the value of developing inner quiet, whether to inspire happiness, calm, focus, or deeper connections to other people and the world. Yet the popular meditation apps ignored thousands of years of tradition when meditation would be taught in groups that give a naturally ethereal activity more structure. He founded Journey in 2015 to bring meditation to corporate environments, but now is hoping to democratize access with the launch of Journey LIVE.

“You could think of it as a real-life meditation community or studio in the palm of your hand” Sokoler explains. Instructors greet you when you join a session in the Journey app and can give you a shout-out for practicing multiple days in a row. They help you concentrate on your breath while giving enough instruction to keep you from falling asleep. You can see or hide a list of screen names of other participants that make you feel less isolated and encourage you not to quit.

Finding a market amidst the popular on-demand meditation apps will be an uphill climb for Journey LIVE. While classes recorded a long time ago might not be as engaging, they’re convenient and can dig deep into certain styles and intentions. Calm and Headspace run around $12.99 per month, making them cheaper than Journey LIVE and potentially easier to scale.

But Sokoler says his app’s beta testing saw better retention than competitors. “If you’ve ever been to the New York Public Library, there’s so many books versus going to a local curated bookstore where something is right there for you. This is much more approachable, much more accessible” Sokoler tells me. “There’s a paradox of choice and having so many options makes it hard for people to stick with it and come back every single day.”

With our phones and Netflix erasing the downtime we used to rely on to give our brain a break or reflect on our day, life is starting to feel claustrophobic. We’re tense, anxious, and easily overwhelmed. Meditation could be the antidote. Unlike with cycling or weightlifting, you don’t need some expensive Peloton bike or Tonal home gym. What you need is consistency, and an impetus to slow down for fifteen minutes you could easily squander. We’re a tribal species, and Journey LIVE group classes could use camaraderie to lure us into the satisfying void of nirvana.

Luxury consignment e-tailer The RealReal to enter the unicorn club with new funding

The RealReal, an online retailer for authenticated luxury consignment, has authorized the sale of up to $70 million in new shares, per a Delaware stock authorization filing discovered by the Prime Unicorn Index. If the company raises the entire amount, it would reach a valuation of $1.06 billion, cementing its status as the newest e-commerce unicorn.

The filing doesn’t guarantee The RealReal will sell the full amount of authorized shares. The company declined to comment on its fundraising plans.

The RealReal is led by founder and chief executive officer Julie Wainwright (pictured), the former CEO of Pets.com, a company now synonymous with the dot-com bust. It has raised quite a bit of capital to date — a total of $288 million from venture capital and private equity backers, including Great Hill Partners, Sandbridge Capital, PWP Growth Equity, Industry Ventures, Greycroft Partners and Canaan Partners. Most recently, The RealReal closed a Series G financing of $115 million in July 2018 that valued the business at $745 million, per PitchBook.

The RealReal has recently expanded its brick-and-mortar footprint and added additional e-commerce fulfillment centers as demand increased for its supply of second-hand luxury items. Founded in 2011, the company operates eight luxury consignment offices, where customers can receive free valuations of their luxury items. The RealReal is headquartered in San Francisco.

In a conversation with TechCrunch in 2017, Wainwright confirmed the company’s intent to go public at some point. With this upcoming round, The RealReal would be well placed for a 2020 initial public offering.

“That’s the goal,” Wainwright said during the interview. “We really aren’t in the mood to sell the business, we’re in the mood to go public at some point in the future.”

The RealReal competes with fellow second-hand e-tailers ThredUp and Poshmark . The latter is gearing up for a fall IPO, according to The Wall Street Journal. The online marketplace has tapped Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to lead its offering after closing in on $150 million in revenue in 2018. ThredUp, another major player in the fashion retail market, hasn’t raised capital since 2015, but did begin opening physical stores in 2017 as part of its greater effort to compete with fellow venture-backed second-hand e-tailers.

The RealReal would also be the latest in a series of high-profile female-founded companies to gain unicorn status. Glossier tripled its valuation to $1.2 billion with a $100 million round earlier this year, followed by Rent the Runway, which attracted a $125 million investment at a $1 billion valuation, to name a few.