Groupon axes CEO and COO as company looks to mount a recovery during a crisis

While plenty of tech stocks have seen their market caps dive in the past month, Groupon has taken a harder hit than most. The company’s share price has dropped more than 70% in the past five weeks.

The reckoning came for Groupon’s leadership today with both CEO Rich Williams and COO Steve Krenzer ousted. In an announcement, Groupon shared that both execs would be pushed out of their roles and that Groupon’s President of North America Aaron Cooper would serve as interim CEO.

While the impact of COVID-19 on retail across the country will certainly further negatively affect Groupon moving forward, the company was in dire trouble weeks before the crisis fully took root stateside. Groupon took a beating on its Q4 earnings report, where it widely missed expectations and showcased seriously declining revenues.

The company’s board will be leading the search for a full-time chief executive. For the time being, Cooper will be tasked with the company through an undoubtedly rough period as many of its current and potential customers close up shop.

“The disruption created by the global pandemic, however, is significant, and our immediate goal is to help millions of Groupon merchants, customers and employees navigate the massive challenges they face,” interim CEO Aaron Cooper said in a statement.

Groupon’s stock was down a hair on the news, though it has seen some upward movement from its recent all-time low even as the rest of the market has tanked. One wonders whether investors believe that the entire market enduring a crisis could give the company an opportunity to take stock of its future or if they simply think they found the share price’s bottom.

Vimeo’s new app helps small businesses create professional social videos

Vimeo signaled last year its plans to move further into the social video creation and editing space with its acquisition of short-form video editor Magisto. Today, the company is unveiling the results of its work in the months following the deal’s close with the debut of Vimeo Create. The new app includes a set of video creation tools aimed at small businesses and marketers looking to tell their stories using social video, but who lack the resources, time or budget to invest in video production at the scale they need to compete.

With Vimeo Create, available on both the desktop and as an app, businesses choose from pre-made, professionally-designed video templates that can be customized to meet their needs. More advanced users could opt to start a new video from scratch, as an alternative.

The app includes a library of stock content to add to videos, including millions of HD video clips, photos, and commercially-licensed music tracks available for no extra fee, Vimeo says. Businesses can also customize their videos by selecting the colors, fonts, layouts, logos, text captions and calls-to-action they want to use.

The app then leverages A.I.-powered technology to turn the clips, photos, music, and text into a high-quality social video in minutes.

Vimeo Create also simplifies the process of designing videos for different social platforms, where aspect ratios (e.g., square, vertical, horizontal) and format requirements vary. After the video is finalized, users are able to publish across the web — including to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn — as a part of the Vimeo Create workflow.

The move into social video creation is part of Vimeo’s larger strategy of becoming a one-stop-shop for companies and individuals who publish videos online. The company has long since abandoned its plans to be a YouTube competitor, instead seeing the potential in the other side of the video market. Today, Vimeo makes money by offering tools and services to video creators both large and small. It has launched tools for uploading and livestreaming across social sites and updated its mobile app to include more features previously available only to desktop users, among other things.

Vimeo decision to prioritize social video resulted from its own research. The company found that only 22% of small business owners felt they were using enough video. The businesses complained that issues around time, cost and complexity were keeping them from going further. Nearly all (96%) of small business owners said they would create more video if all those friction points were removed.

The service was built using parts of Magisto’s backend and its A.I., but the overall app, feature set, content, user interface and integration into Vimeo’s tools were built from the ground-up, the company says.

The company hopes Vimeo Create will help it to grow its subscription revenue, as the service is offered as a part of Vimeo’s Pro, Business and Premium membership plans, instead of as a standalone paid or freemium app.

“Video is the most impactful medium we have today for human expression at scale, and businesses
need an online video strategy to reach their customers. But the research is clear: small business owners
and entrepreneurs don’t have the tools, time or budgets to make videos at the volume and quality
needed to compete,” said Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud, in a statement about the launch. “Vimeo Create levels the playing field. It’s a radically simple tool that shortens the distance from idea to execution, so more businesses can have a successful video strategy.”

Vimeo isn’t alone in addressing the social video needs of small businesses. Last fall, Facetune maker Lightricks launched a full suite of apps for small businesses to use for their social media marketing campaigns. There are also dozens of tools for video editing on the market, including those from incumbents, like Adobe and Apple, as well as from others like Magisto, Canva, PicsArt and many more that offer features craved by small business owners like templates, easy editing tools, access to stock content, and support one-click multiplatform publishing, among other things.

Vimeo first launched Vimeo Create into beta back in January, but today it’s available to all across web, iOS, and Android.

Sokowatch raises $14M to digitize Africa’s informal B2B supply-chain

Kenya based B2B e-commerce startup Sokowatch has raised $14 million in Series A funding toward its mission of revamping supply-chain markets for Africa’s informal retailers.

From Nairobi, the company has created a platform that connects merchants directly to local and multinational suppliers — such as Unilever and Proctor and Gamble — and digitizes orders, payments and delivery-logistics.

Since launching in 2016, and raising a $2 million seed round in 2018, Sokowatch has expanded within Kenya and into Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

With its Series A, the startup plans to broaden its client services — from working-capital to data-analytics — and target new African markets, according to CEO Daniel Yu.

Sokowatch also doesn’t rule out using its infrastructure to someday enter business-to-consumer online retail.

For the moment, the startup’s primary business focus is to reduce costs and increase profit margins for small merchants.

“We’re looking to build out the largest B2B e-commerce network across Africa,” Yu told TechCrunch on a call.

Informal retail is still king in Africa — even with the emergence of shopping malls and well-funded e-commerce ventures, such as Jumia.

The size and potential of the continent’s informal sector has captured the attention of economists and startups. GDP revisions in several African countries have revealed outdated statistical methods were missing billions of dollars in economic activity. And one estimate by The International Labor Organization places more than two-thirds of Sub-Saharan Africa’s non-agricultural employment in the informal economy.

On the number of shops in that space, a 2016 study by global consultancy PwC estimated 90% of sales in Africa’s major economies come through informal channels, such as markets and kiosks.

By Yu’s account, too many of Africa’s local merchants are sacrificing capital and incurring opportunity cost due to inefficient supply-chain.

Sokowatch is shifting that scenario, according to its CEO, and now serves over 15,000 small retailers across its operating areas.

“We…estimate that we save merchants at least 20% on supply-chain costs for the goods we supply,” said Yu.

Sokowatch AppSokowatch offers retailers an app to order products from its partner suppliers and maintains a fleet of vehicles, primarily three-wheel tuk tuks, for delivery.

“We handle all of our last-mile logistics exclusively ourselves,” said Yu.

The startup is also generating additional enterprise services. “As part of the product we are developing other tools for merchants to directly manage other aspects of their business, especially when it comes inventory and overall sales,” said Yu.

The data analytics Sokowatch creates for clients is also opening up working-capital solutions.

“We’ve been able to use that data to offer in-kind credit lines to many shops that can’t gain it from banks,” said Yu.

Quona Capital led Sokowatch’s $14 million Series A round, joined by Amplo, Breyer Capital, Vertex Ventures, Timon Capital and repeat investor 4DX Ventures.

Sokowatch Tuk TukThe startup joins other B2B oriented ventures that have drawn significant capital over the last 12 months.

Kenyan startup, and B2B food distributor, Twiga Foods raised $30 million in 2019 and announced it would expand to West Africa.

In August, Nigerian trucking logistics startup Kobo360 raised a $20 million Series A backed by Goldman Sachs. In November, East African on-demand delivery venture Lori Systems hauled in $30 million supported by Chinese investors and another Kenyan logistics company, Sendy, raised $20 million this January backed by Toyota.

Sokowatch wouldn’t name which countries in Sub-Saharan Africa it’s eyeing for expansion. The company’s CEO did confirm the startup could someday use the advantages of its platform to offer 3PL services or sell online directly to consumers in Africa.

“It’s within the power of our networks to do so” said Yu. “At the end of the day, we want to be the channel — both digital as well as physical — for transforming access to goods and services for these communities.”

Snap accelerator names its latest cohort

Yellow, the accelerator program launched by Snap in 2018, has selected ten companies to join its latest cohort.

The new batch of startups coming from across the U.S. and international cities like London, Mexico City, Seoul and Vilnius are building professional social networks for black professionals and blue collar workers, fashion labels, educational tools in augmented reality, kids entertainment, and an interactive entertainment production company.

The list of new companies include:

  • Brightly — an Oakland, Calif.-based media company angling to be the conscious consumer’s answer to Refinery29.
  • Charli Cohen — a London-based fashion and lifestyle brand.
  • Hardworkersa Cambridge, Mass.-based professional digital community built for blue-collar workers.
  • Mogul Millennial — this Dallas-based company is a digital media platform for black entrepreneurs and corporate leaders.
  • Nuggetverse — Los Angeles-based Nuggetverse is creating a children’s media business based on its marquee character, Tubby Nugget.
  • SketchAR — this Lithuanian company is developing an AI-based mobile app for teaching drawing using augmented reality.
  • Stipop — a Seoul-based sticker API developer with a library of over 100,000 stickers created by 5,000 artists.
  • TRASH — using this machine learning-based video editing toolkit, users can quickly create and edit high-quality, short-form video. The company is backed by none other than the National Science Foundation and based in Los Angeles.
  • Veam — another Seoul-based social networking company, Veam uses Airdrop as a way to create persistent chats with nearby users as a geolocated social network.
  • Wabisabi Design, Inc. — hailing from Mexico City, this startup makes mini games in augmented reality for brands and advertisers.

The latest cohort from Snap’s Yellow accelerator

Since launching the platform in 2018, startups from the Snap accelerator have gone on to acquisition (like Stop, Breathe, and Think, which was bought by Meredith Corp.) and to raise bigger rounds of funding (like the voiceover video production toolkit, MuzeTV, and the animation studio Toonstar).

Every company in the Yellow portfolio will receive $150,000 mentorship from industry veterans in and out of Snap, creative office space in Los Angeles and commercial support and partnerships — including Snapchat distribution.

“Building from the momentum of our first two Yellow programs, this new class approaches mobile creativity through the diverse lenses of augmented reality, platforms, commerce and media, yet each company has a clear vision to bring their products to life,” said Mike Su, Director of Yellow. “This class shows us that there’s no shortage of innovation at the intersection of creativity and technology, and we’re excited to be part of each company’s journey.”

New Early Stage speakers to talk fundraising strategies, growth marketing and PR

TC Early Stage SF goes down on April 28, and we are getting pretty damn excited about it!

The show will bring together 50+ experts across startup core competencies, such as fundraising, operations and marketing. We’ll hear from VCs on how to create the perfect pitch deck and how to identify the right investors for you. We’ll hear from lawyers on how to navigate the immigration process when hiring, and how to negotiate the cap table. And we’ll hear from growth hackers on how to build a high-performance SEO engine, and PR experts on how to tell your brand’s story.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Today, I’m pleased to announce four more breakout sessions.


Lo Toney

Toney is the founding managing partner of Plexo Capital, which was incubated and spun out from GV. Before Plexo, Toney was a partner with Comcast Ventures, where he led the Catalyst Fund, and then moved to GV where he focused on marketplace, mobile and consumer products. Toney also has operational experience, having served as the GM of Zynga Poker, the company’s largest franchise at the time.

Think Like a PM for VC Pitch Success

Your pitchdeck is not just a reflection of your business, it’s a product unto itself. Your startup’s success, and avoiding the end of your runway, depends on the conversion rate of that product. Hear from Plexo Capital founding partner Lo Toney about how thinking like a PM when crafting your pitch deck can produce outstanding results.


Krystina Rubino and Lindsay Piper Shaw

Shaw and Rubino are marketing consultants for Right Side Up, a growth marketing consultancy. Prior to Right Side Up, Shaw scaled podcast campaigns for brands like quip, Lyft and Texture, and has worked with brands like McDonald’s, Honda, ampm, and Tempur Sealy. Rubino has worked with companies across all stages and sizes, including Advil, DoorDash, P&G, Lyft and Stitch Fix.

Why You Need Podcasts in Your Growth Marketing Mix

Podcast advertising is widely viewed as a nascent medium, but smart companies know it can be a powerful channel in their marketing mix. Opportunity is ripe — get in early and you can own the medium, box out competitors and catapult your growth. Krystina Rubino and Lindsay Piper Shaw have launched and scaled successful podcast ad campaigns for early-stage startups and household name brands and will be sharing their strategies for companies to succeed in this often misunderstood channel.


Jake Saper

Jake Saper, the son of serial co-founders, has been obsessed with entrepreneurialism from a young age. His origin in venture capital started at Kleiner Perkins, and he moved on to become a partner at Emergence in 2014, where he became a Kauffman Fellow. He serves on the boards of Textio, Guru, Ironclad, DroneDeploy, and Vymo, and his self-described “nerdy love” of frameworks has only grown over the years.

When It Comes to Fundraising, Timing Is Everything

There are some shockingly common timing mistakes founders make that can turn an otherwise successful fundraise into a failure. We’ll talk through how to avoid them and how to sequence efforts from the time you close your seed to ensure you find the right partner (at the right price!) for Series A and beyond.


April Conyers

Conyers has been in the communications industry for 15 years, currently serving as the senior director of Corporate Communications at Postmates . Before Postmates, Conyers served as a VP at Brew PR, working with clients like Automattic, NetSuite, Oracle, Doctor on Demand and about.me. During that time, she also found herself on BI’s “The 50 Best Public Relations People In The Tech Industry In 2014” list.

The Media Is Misunderstood, But Your Company Shouldn’t Be

With the media industry in a state of flux, navigating the process of telling your story can be confusing and overwhelming. Hear from Postmates Senior Director of Corporate Communication April Conyers on how startups should think about PR, and how to get your message across in a hectic media landscape.


Early Stage SF goes down on April 28, with more than 50 breakout sessions to choose from. However, don’t worry about missing a breakout session, because transcripts from each will be available to show attendees. And most of the folks leading the breakout sessions have agreed to hang at the show for at least half the day and participate in CrunchMatch, TechCrunch’s great app to connect founders and investors based on shared interests.

Here’s the fine print. Each of the 50+ breakout sessions is limited to around 100 attendees. We expect a lot more attendees, of course, so signups for each session are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Buy your ticket today and you can sign up for the breakouts we are announcing today, as well as those already announced. Pass holders will also receive 24-hour advance notice before we announce the next batch. (And yes, you can “drop” a breakout session in favor of a new one, in the event there is a schedule conflict.)

So get your TC Early Stage: San Francisco pass today, and get the inside track on the sessions we announced today, as well as the ones to be announced in the coming weeks.

Possible sponsor? Hit us up right here.

4 factors to consider before entering international markets

As sales increase, most founders tend to double down on what already works to keep growing. But few consider expanding laterally — taking a business model or product that already works and bringing it to a new geographical market. After all, it can seem like a risky move at first, as customers often differ drastically culturally and socioeconomically across borders.

Despite their core differences, people around the world inevitably share many of the same pain points in their daily lives and while doing business. Sure, you might not be able to tap into your domestic relationships, keep your existing go-to-market strategy or even reuse your messaging while entering a new market. But that’s why expanding internationally is hard and something few founders can do well.

When I first started Deltapath, we focused primarily on the U.S. market. But since 2001, we’re now serving customers in 94 countries.

Each time my team expands to a new market, we consider four primary factors before we launch. These considerations will help you avoid costly hurdles and allow you to achieve the best results possible without having to reinvent the wheel with every new launch.

How do culture and market viability differ?

UK Council websites are letting citizens be profiled for ads, study shows

On the same day that a data ethics advisor to the UK government has urged action to regulate online targeting a study conducted by pro-privacy browser Brave has highlighted how Brits are being profiled by the behavioral ad industry when they visit their local Council’s website — perhaps seeking info on local services or guidance about benefits including potentially sensitive information related to addiction services or disabilities.

Brave found that nearly all UK Councils permit at least one company to learn about the behavior of people visiting their sites, finding that a full 409 Councils exposed some visitor data to private companies.

While many large councils (serving 300,000+ people) were found exposing site visitors to what Brave describes as “extensive tracking and data collection by private companies” — with the worst offenders, London’s Enfield and Sheffield City Councils, exposing visitors to 25 data collectors apiece.

Brave argues the findings represent a conservative illustration of how much commercial tracking and profiling of visitors is going on on public sector websites — a floor, rather than a ceiling — given it was only studying landing pages of Council sites without any user interaction, and could only pick up known trackers (nor could the study look at how data is passed between tracking and data brokering companies).

Nor is the first such study to warn that public sector websites are infested with for-profit adtech. A report last year by Cookiebot found users of public sector and government websites in the EU being tracked when they performed health-related searches — including queries related to HIV, mental health, pregnancy, alcoholism and cancer.

Brave’s study — which was carried out using the webxray tool — found that almost all (98%) of the Councils used Google systems, with the report noting that the tech giant owns all five of the top embedded elements loaded by Council websites, which it suggests gives the company a god-like view of how UK citizens are interacting with their local authorities online.

The analysis also found 198 of the Council websites use the real-time bidding (RTB) form of programmatic online advertising. This is notable because RTB is the subject of a number of data protection complaints across the European Union — including in the UK, where the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) itself has been warning the adtech industry for more than half a year that its current processes are in breach of data protection laws.

However the UK watchdog has preferred to bark softly in the industry’s general direction over its RTB problem, instead of taking any enforcement action — a response that’s been dubbed “disastrous” by privacy campaigners.

One of the smaller RTB players the report highlights — which calls itself the Council Advertising Network (CAN) — was found sharing people’s data from 34 Council websites with 22 companies, which could then be insecurely broadcasting it on to hundreds or more entities in the bid chain.

Slides from a CAN media pack refer to “budget conscious” direct marketing opportunities via the ability to target visitors to Council websites accessing pages about benefits, child care and free local activities; “disability” marketing opportunities via the ability to target visitors to Council websites accessing pages such as home care, blue badges and community and social services; and “key life stages” marketing  opportunities via the ability to target visitors to Council websites accessing pages related to moving home, having a baby, getting married or losing a loved one.

Brave’s report — while a clearly stated promotion for its own anti-tracking browser (given it’s a commercial player too) — should be seen in the context of the ICO’s ongoing failure to take enforcement action against RTB abuses. It’s therefore an attempt to increase pressure on the regulator to act by further illuminating a complex industry which has used a lack of transparency to shield massive rights abuses and continues to benefit from a lack of enforcement of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation.

And a low level of public understanding of how all the pieces in the adtech chain fit together and sum to a dysfunctional whole, where public services are turned against the citizens whose taxes fund them to track and target people for exploitative ads, likely contributes to discouraging sharper regulatory action.

But, as the saying goes, sunlight disinfects.

Asked what steps he would like the regulator to take, Brave’s chief policy officer, Dr Johnny Ryan, told TechCrunch: “I want the ICO to use its powers of enforcement to end the UK’s largest data breach. That data breach continues, and two years to the day after I first blew the whistle about RTB, Simon McDougall wrote a blog post accepting Google and the IAB’s empty gestures as acts of substance. It is time for the ICO to move this over to its enforcement team, and stop wasting time.”

We’re reached out to the ICO for a response to the report’s findings.

Customer feedback is a development opportunity

Online commerce accounted for nearly $518 billion in revenue in the United States alone last year. The growing number of online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay will command 40% of the global retail market in 2020. As the number of digital offerings — not only marketplaces but also online storefronts and company websites — available to consumers continues to grow, the primary challenge for any online platform lies in setting itself apart.

The central question for how to accomplish this: Where does differentiation matter most?

A customer’s ability to easily (and accurately) find a specific product or service with minimal barriers helps ensure they feel satisfied and confident with their choice of purchase. This ultimately becomes the differentiator that sets an online platform apart. It’s about coupling a stellar product with an exceptional experience. Often, that takes the form of simple, searchable access to a wide variety of products and services. Sometimes, it’s about surfacing a brand that meets an individual consumer’s needs or price point. In both cases, platforms are in a position to help customers avoid having to chase down a product or service through multiple clicks while offering a better way of comparing apples to apples.

To be successful, a company should adopt a consumer-first philosophy that informs its product ideation and development process. A successful consumer-first development resides in a company’s ability to expediently deliver fresh features that customers actually respond to, rather than prioritize the update that seems most profitable. The best way to inform both elements is to consistently collect and learn from customer feedback in a timely way — and sometimes, this will mean making decisions for the benefit of consumers versus what is in the best interest of companies.

Pantheon bets on WebOps as it charts a course to an IPO

It has been 10 years since Pantheon launched. At the time, it was mostly a hosting service for Drupal sites, but about six years ago, it added WordPress hosting to its lineup and raised more VC money as some of its competitors did the same. After its 2016 Series C round, things started quieting down, though the company has clear ambitions to become a public company in the next few years. To chat about those plans and the overall state of the business, I sat down with Pantheon co-founder and CEO Zack Rosen and new Pantheon board member Elissa Fink, former CMO of Tableau.

Maybe the biggest change at Pantheon is that when it launched, its team was almost solely focused on the developer experience. And while Pantheon was essentially a hosting service and offers personal plans, its focus was never on individuals who wanted a WordPress blog (which a lot of companies focused on, especially in the pre-Twitter days). Its efforts always revolved around businesses, large enterprises and the agencies that serve them.

“Back then, our overriding focus was really around the developer experience — the practitioner experience — of using our product,” Rosen explained. “And frankly, at the time, we actually really didn’t know what to call it. It really didn’t have a category, but we always felt it was something new.” He noted that over the last few years, Pantheon started talking to a lot of marketers and realized that the needs of these marketing leaders are driving this space.

Gauging email success, invite-only app launches and other growth tactics

We’ve aggregated many of the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this growth report.

This is how you stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Our community consists of 1,000 startup founders and VPs of growth from later-stage companies. We have 400 YC founders, plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo and Ritual.

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars, Slack group or marketing training program.

Without further ado, on to our community’s advice.

Remember, use ads to find the best copy

Insights from Matt Sornson of Clearbit

Sure, you could use surveys to ask customers which marketing copy they respond best to. But what people say is often different from what they do.