Equity Shot: Pinterest and Zoom file to go public

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

What a Friday. This afternoon (mere hours after we released our regularly scheduled episode no less!), both Pinterest and Zoom dropped their public S-1 filings. So we rolled up our proverbial sleeves and ran through the numbers. If you want to follow along, the Pinterest S-1 is here, and the Zoom document is here.

Got it? Great. Pinterest’s long-awaited IPO filing paints a picture of a company cutting its losses while expanding its revenue. That’s the correct direction for both its top and bottom lines.

As Kate points out, it’s not in the same league as Lyft when it comes to scale, but it’s still quite large.

More than big enough to go public, whether it’s big enough to meet, let alone surpass its final private valuation ($12.3 billion) isn’t clear yet. Peeking through the numbers, Pinterest has been improving margins and accelerating growth, a surprisingly winsome brace of metrics for the decacorn.

Pinterest has raised a boatload of venture capital, about $1.5 billion since it was founded in 2010. Its IPO filing lists both early and late-stage investors, like Bessemer Venture Partners, FirstMark Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Fidelity and Valiant Capital Partners as key stakeholders. Interestingly, it doesn’t state the percent ownership of each of these entities, which isn’t something we’ve ever seen before.

Next, Zoom’s S-1 filing was more dark horse entrance than Katy Perry album drop, but the firm has a history of rapid growth (over 100 percent, yearly) and more recently, profit. Yes, the enterprise-facing video conferencing unicorn actually makes money!

In 2019, the year in which the market is bated on Uber’s debut, profit almost feels out of place. We know Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan, which helps. As Kate explains, this isn’t his first time as a founder. Nor is it his first major success. Yuan sold his last company, WebEx, for $3.2 billion to Cisco years ago then vowed never to sell Zoom (he wasn’t thrilled with how that WebEx acquisition turned out).

Should we have been that surprised to see a VC-backed tech company post a profit — no. But that tells you a little something about this bubble we live in, doesn’t it?

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

Lyft’s IPO is hot, YC Demo Day, two new unicorns and what’s Boy Brow?

  • There were some edit issues in the initial publishing of this week’s Equity episode that have been corrected. The player below will play the corrected episode.

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

This week Kate Clark and Alex Wilhelm took us through an IPO, a big round, 943 startup pitches, two new unicorns and some scooter news. A very 2019 mix, really.

Up first we took a peek at the latest from the Lyft IPO saga. Recall that Lyft is beating Uber to the public markets, and we can report that it’s having a good time doing so. The popular ride-hailing company, second-place by market share in its domestic market, is oversubscribed at an already healthy valuation. If the company will raise its price and the number of shares that it sells isn’t yet known, but early indications hint that Lyft timed its IPO well.

Next, we took a look at the recent OpenDoor round that has been long-rumored. Tipping the scales at $300 million, and valuing the home-buying-and-selling startup at $3.8 billion, the company’s latest equity event was a bit higher than expected. There are other players in its space, and the firm isn’t yet recession-tested. All the same, a Murderers’ Row of capital lined up for the latest round.

Moving on, Kate went to Y Combinator’s Demo Day and got a closer look at the accelerator’s latest batch. There were a ton of two-minute pitches, many of which sounded the same, but chances are we’ll see a few unicorns emerge from the bunch. And, interesting tidbit, some of the companies actually forwent Demo Day and raised capital before they could hit the stage!

Later, we discuss two new unicorns. This week’s unicorns had a theme and one that was new to Equity. This time, both the billion-dollar businesses mentioned on the show were founded by women. As Kate noted, there aren’t too many of those, so to see two in the same week is great.

Glossier, founded by Emily Weiss, brought in a $100 million Series D led by Sequoia Capital . The round values the beauty business at a whopping $1.2 billion, tripling the valuation it garnered with a $52 million Series C in 2018. As for Rent The Runway, a startup founded by Jen Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, it closed a $125 million round led by Franklin Templeton Investments and Bain Capital Ventures. This round values the company at $1 billion. Hyman took to Twitter to share some inspirational words on raising capital as a woman, a pregnant woman, in heels!

And finally, we took a look at a Parisian scooter tax. Mostly because Alex wanted to talk about Paris.

And that’s Equity for the week. We’ll see you soon!

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

Robotics process automation startup UiPath raising $400M at more than $7B valuation

UiPath, a robotics process automation platform targeting IT businesses, is raising more than $400 million in Series D funding from venture capital investors at a valuation north of $7 billion, sources have confirmed to TechCrunch following a report from Business Insider.

We’ve reached out to the company for comment.

UiPath, founded in 2005, has raised $409 million to date, meaning the new round of capital will double the total capital invested in the startup, as well as its valuation. Its $225 million Series C, raised just six months ago, valued the business at $3 billion, according to PitchBook. UiPath is backed by top-tier investors CapitalG and Sequoia Capital, which co-led its Series C, as well as Accel, Credo Ventures and Earlybird Venture Capital, among others.

The latest funding round is being led by a public institutional investor.

UiPath develops automated software workflows meant to facilitate the tedious, everyday tasks within business operations. RPA is probably a misnomer. It’s not necessarily a robot in the way we think of it today. It’s more like a highly sophisticated macro recorder or workflow automation tool, letting a computer handle a series of highly repeatable activities in a common workflow, like accounts payable.

For example, the process could start by scanning a check, then use OCR to read the payer and the amount, add that information to an Excel spreadsheet and send an email to a human to confirm it has been done. Humans still have a role, especially in processing exceptions, but it provides a way to bring a level of automation to legacy systems, which might not otherwise benefit from more modern tooling.

The company began raising private capital in 2015 and has since experienced rapid growth of its valuation and annual recurring revenue (ARR). UiPath garnered a $1.1 billion valuation with its Series B in March 2018, more than doubled it with its Series C and is again seeing a 2x increase in value with this latest round. This is a result of its swelling ARR.

The company says it went from $1 million to $100 million in annual recurring revenue in less than two years. With its Series C, it counted 1,800 enterprise customers and was adding six new customers a day. Sources tell TechCrunch that UiPath did 180 million in ARR last year and is on track to do $450 million in ARR in 2019.

Nigerian fintech startup OneFi acquires payment company Amplify

Lagos based online lending startup OneFi is buying Nigerian payment solutions company Amplify for an undisclosed amount.

OneFi will take over Amplify’s IP, team, and client network of over 1000 merchants to which Amplify provides payment processing services, OneFi CEO Chijioke Dozie told TechCrunch.

The move comes as fintech has become one of Africa’s most active investment sectors and startup acquisitions—which have been rare—are picking up across the continent.

The purchase of Amplify caps off a busy period for OneFi. Over the last seven months the Nigerian venture secured a $5 million lending facility from Lendable, announced a payment partnership with Visa, and became one of first (known) African startups to receive a global credit rating. OneFi is also dropping the name of its signature product, Paylater, and will simply go by OneFi (for now).

Collectively, these moves represent a pivot for OneFi away from operating primarily as a digital lender, toward becoming an online consumer finance platform.

“We’re not a bank but we’re offering more banking services…Customers are now coming to us not just for loans but for cheaper funds transfer, more convenient bill payment, and to know their credit scores,” said Dozie.

OneFi will add payment options for clients on social media apps including WhatsApp this quarter—something in which Amplify already holds a specialization and client base. Through its Visa partnership, OneFi will also offer clients virtual Visa wallets on mobile phones and start providing QR code payment options at supermarkets, on public transit, and across other POS points in Nigeria.

Founded in 2016 by Segun Adeyemi and Maxwell Obi, Amplify secured its first seed investment the same year from Pan-African incubator MEST Africa. The startup went on to scale as a payments gateway company for merchants and has partnered with banks, who offer its white label mTransfers social payment product.

Amplify has differentiated itself from Nigerian competitors Paystack and Flutterwave, by committing to payments on social media platforms, according to OneFi CEO Dozie. “We liked that and thought payments on social was something we wanted to offer to our customers,” he said.

With the acquisition, Amplify co-founder Maxwell Obi and the Amplify team will stay on under OneFi. Co-founder Segun Adeyemi won’t, however, and told TechCrunch he’s taking a break and will “likely start another company.”

OneFi’s purchase of Amplify adds to the tally of exits and acquisitions in African tech, which are less common than in other regional startup scenes. TechCrunch has covered several of recent, including Nigerian data-analytics company Terragon’s buy of Asian mobile ad firm Bizsense and Kenyan connectivity startup BRCK’s recent purchase of ISP Everylayer and its Nairobi subsidiary Surf.

These acquisition events, including OneFi’s purchase, bump up performance metrics around African tech startups. Though amounts aren’t undisclosed, the Amplify buy creates exits for MEST, Amplify’s founders, and its other investors. “I believe all the stakeholders, including MEST, are comfortable with the deal. Exits aren’t that commonplace in Africa, so this one feels like a standout moment for all involved,”

With the Amplify acquisition and pivot to broad-based online banking services in Nigeria, OneFi sets itself up to maneuver competitively across Africa’s massive fintech space—which has become infinitely more complex (and crowded) since the rise of Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile money product.

By a number of estimates, the continent’s 1.2 billion people include the largest share of the world’s unbanked and underbanked population. An improving smartphone and mobile-connectivity profile for Africa (see GSMA) turns that problem into an opportunity for mobile based financial solutions. Hundreds of startups are descending on this space, looking to offer scaleable solutions for the continent’s financial needs. By stats offered by Briter Bridges and a 2018 WeeTracker survey, fintech now receives the bulk of VC capital to African startups,

OneFi is looking to expand in Africa’s fintech markets and is considering Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Ghana and Egypt and Europe for Diaspora markets, Dozie said.

The startup is currently fundraising and looks to close a round by the second half of 2019. OnfeFi’s transparency with performance and financials through its credit rating is supporting that, according to Dozie.

There’s been sparse official or audited financial information to review from African startups—with the exception of e-commerce unicorn Jumia, whose numbers were previewed when lead investor Rocket Internet went public and in Jumia’s recent S-1, IPO filing (covered here).

OneFi gained a BB Stable rating from Global Credit Rating Co. and showed positive operating income before taxes of $5.1 million in 2017, according to GCR’s report. Though the startup is still a private company, OneFi looks to issue a 2018 financial report in the second half of 2019, according to Dozie.

Singapore fintech startup Instarem closes $41M Series C for global growth

Singapore’s Instarem, a fintech startup that helps banks and consumers send money overseas at lower cost, has closed a $41 million Series C financing round to go after global expansion opportunities.

The four-year-old company announced a first close of $20 million last November, and it has now doubled that tally (and a little extra) thanks to an additional capital injection led by Vertex Ventures’ global growth fund and South Korea’ Atinum Investment. Crypto company Ripple, which has partnered with Instarem for its xRapid product, also took part in the round, Instarem CEO Prajit Nanu confirmed to TechCrunch, although he declined to reveal the precise amount invested. More broadly, the round means that Instarem has now raised $59.5 million from investors to date.

The company specializes in moving money between countries in Asia in a similar way to TransferWise although, unlike TransferWise, its focus is on banks as customers rather than purely consumers. Today, it covers 50 countries and it has offices in Singapore, Mumbai, Lithuania, London and Seattle.

Instarem said it plans to spend the money on expansion into Latin America, where it will open a regional office, and double down on Asia by going after money licenses in countries like Japan and Indonesia. The company is also on the cusp of adding prepaid debit card capabilities, which will allow it to issue cards to consumers in 25 countries and more widely offer the option to its banking customers. That’s thanks to a deal with Visa .

Further down the line, the company continues to focus on an exit via IPO in 2021. That’s been a consistent talking point for Nanu, who has been fairly outspoken on his desire to take the company public. That’s included shunning acquisition offers. As TechCrunch revealed last year, Instarem declined a buyout offer from one of Southeast Asia’s tech unicorns. Commenting on the offer, Nanu said it simply “wasn’t the right timing for us.”

Targeting payday lenders, Branch adds pay-on-demand features for hourly workers

Branch, the scheduling and pay management app for hourly workers, has added a new pay-on-demand service called Pay, which is now available to anyone who downloads the Branch app.

It’s an attempt to provide a fee-based alternative to payday lending, where borrowers charge exorbitant rates to lenders on short-term loans or cash advances. Borrowers can often wind up paying anywhere from 200 percent to more than 3,000 percent on short-term payday loans.

The Pay service, which was previously only available to select users from a waitlist at companies like Dunkin’, Taco Bell and Target (which are Branch customers), is now available to anyone in the United States and gives anyone the opportunity to get paid for the hours they have worked in a given pay period.

Branch, which began its corporate life as Branch Messenger, started as a scheduling and shift management tool for large retailers, restaurants and other businesses with hourly workers. When the company added a wage-tracking service, it began to get a deeper insight into the financially precarious lives of its users, according to chief executive, Atif Siddiqi.

“We thought, if we can give them a portion of their paycheck in advance it would be a big advantage with their productivity,” Siddiqi says. 

The company is working with Plaid, the fintech unicorn that debuted five years ago at the TechCrunch Disrupt New York Hackathon, and Cross River Bank, the stealthy financial services provider backstopping almost every major fintech player in America.

“Opening Pay and instant access to earnings to all Branch users continues our mission of creating tools that empower the hourly employee and allow their work lives to meet the demands of their personal lives,” said Siddiqi, in a statement. “Our initial users have embraced this feature, and we look forward to offering Pay to all of our organic users to better engage employees and scale staffing more efficiently.”

Beta users of the Pay service have already averaged roughly 5.5 transactions per month and more than 20 percent higher shift coverage rates compared to non-users, according to the company. Pay isn’t a lending service, technically. It offers a free pay-within-two-days option for users to receive earned but uncollected wages before a scheduled payday.

For users, there’s no integration with a back-end payroll system. Anyone who wants to use Pay just needs to download the Branch app and enter their employer, debit card or payroll card, and bank account (if a user has one). Through its integration with Plaid, Branch has access to almost all U.S. banks and credit unions.

“A lot of these employees at some of these enterprises are unbanked so they get paid on a payroll card,” Siddiqi said. “It’s been a big differentiation for us in the market allowing us to give unbanked users access to the wages that they earn.”

Users on the app can instantly get a $150 cash advance and up to $500 per pay period, according to the company. The Pay service also comes with a wage tracker so employees can forecast their earnings based on their schedule and current wages, a shift-scheduling tool to pick up additional shifts and an overdraft security feature to hold off on repayment withdrawals if it would cause users to overdraw their accounts.

Branch doesn’t charge anything for users who are willing to wait two days to receive their cash, and charges $1.99 for instant deposits.

Siddiqi views the service as a loss leader to get users onto the Branch app and ultimately more enterprise customers onto its scheduling and payment management SaaS platform.

“The way we generate revenue is through our other modules. It’s very sticky… and our other modules complement this concept of Pay,” Siddiqi says. “By combining scheduling and pay we’re providing high rates of shift coverage… now people want to pick up undesirable shifts because they can get paid instantly for those shifts.”

Startups Weekly: Uber’s headline-grabbing week and sextech at SXSW

I spent the week at SXSW, Austin’s really, really huge technology, music, comedy and film festival. It’s my first year making the trek down here for the event, which I did to interview sextech entrepreneur Lora DiCarlo founder Lora Haddock, whose robotics innovation reward was infamously revoked at this year’s CES.

“I brush my teeth and I masturbate. It’s all normal,” she said, addressing the stigma surrounding female-focused pleasure tech. Haddock, during our chat, also announced the first-ever government grant for a sextech startup, a $99,637 funding for Lora DiCarlo from the state of Oregon. Lora DiCarlo plans to release its first product, the Osé, this fall.

Here’s what happened while I was wondering confused around Austin.

Uber, Uber, Uber

Uber dominated the news cycle this week; here’s the TL;DR. The ride-hailing company is probably, most likely going to unveil its S-1 next month and it’s tying up some loose ends ahead of its big IPO. Uber wants to raise roughly $1 billion at a valuation of between $5 billion and $10 billion for its autonomous vehicles unit — yes, the same one that was burning through $20 million per month. Waymo, similarly, is looking to raise outside capital for the first time for its AV efforts.

Top TPG dealmaker caught in college admissions scandal

Bill McGlashan, who built his career as a top investor at the private equity firm TPG, was fired (or maybe quit?) says the firm after he was caught up in what the Justice Department said is the largest college admissions scandal it has ever prosecuted. Even worse, McGlashan lead TPG’s social impact strategy under the Rise Fund brand, making the charges particularly damning.

Accel gets $2.5B

HotelTonight and Slack stakeholder Accel raised $2.525 billion, sources confirm to TechCrunch; $525 million for its fourteenth early-stage fund, $1.5 billion for its fifth growth fund and $500 million for its second Leaders Fund, or a dedicated pool of capital meant to help the firm strengthen its positions on particularly competitive bets. Plus, 137 Ventures announced its fourth fund with $210 million in committed capital. The firm provides liquidity to founders and early employees of “sustainable, fast-growing, private companies.” In essence, 137 Ventures buys shares directly from employees at unicorn tech companies, like Palantir,  Flexport and Airbnb.

Sam Altman

Last week, we reported Y Combinator president Sam Altman would be stepping down to focus on OpenAI. TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos questions whether he had a positive or negative influence on the accelerator during his presidency. Altman was part of the first YC startup class in 2005 and began working part-time as a YC partner in 2011. He was ultimately made the head of the organization five years ago.

Brian O’Malley’s HotelTonight win

Forerunner Ventures general partner Brian O’Malley went long on HotelTonight and it paid off. For your weekend reading, we thought you might enjoy an oral history from O’Malley about how he stumbled upon HotelTonight and remained connected to the company across its nine-year history.

Here’s your weekly reminder to send me tips, suggestions and more to [email protected] or @KateClarkTweets

Startup cash

VC shakeups 

In an announcement that shocked VC Twitter, Tiger Global announced that Lee Fixel, whom Bill Gurley once said is one of the smartest investors on the scene, is leaving the firm at the end of June. Scott Shleifer and Chase Coleman will continue as co-managers of the portfolios Fixel has overseen, with Shleifer taking over as its head. “Lee has been a driving force behind the expansion of Tiger Global’s private equity investing activities in the United States and India, and he has distinguished himself as a world-class investor across multiple sectors and stages,” the firm stated. And on the hiring front, Canvas Ventures is expanding its team of three general partners to four with the hiring of Mike Ghaffary, a former general partner at Social Capital.

Extra Crunch

Subscribers to TechCrunch’s premium content can learn which types of startups are most often profitable.

Y Combinator’s latest batch

YC demo days are coming up quick. The TechCrunch staff has been meeting with YC startups and documenting their journey through the startup accelerator. I spoke to YourChoice Therapeutics, a startup developing unisex, non-hormonal birth control, and Bottomless, which operates a direct-to-consumer coffee delivery service. TechCrunch’s Lucas Matney wrote about Jetpack Aviation, a YC startup, and its $380,000 flying motorcycle, and Adventurous, an augmented reality scavenger hunt crafted for families. TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey spoke to Ysplit, which wants to make it so you never have to owe anyone money ever again.

Listen to me talk

This week on Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines, Crunchbase News’ editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos discuss Uber’s IPO and Stash’s big round. Listen here.

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CXA, a health-focused digital insurance startup, raises $25M

CXA Group, a Singapore-based startup that helps make insurance more accessible and affordable, has raised $25 million for expansion in Asia and later into Europe and North America.

The startup takes a unique route to insurance. Rather than going to consumers directly, it taps corporations to offer their employees health flexible options. That’s to say that instead of rigid plans that force employees to use a certain gym or particular healthcare, a collection over 1,000 programs and options can be tailored to let employees pick what’s relevant or appealing to them. The ultimate goal is to bring value to employees to keep them healthier and lower the overall premiums for their employers.

“Our purpose is to empower personalized choices for better living for employees,” CXA founder and CEO Rosaline Koo told TechCrunch in an interview. “We use data and tech to recommend better choices.”

The company is primarily focused on China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia where it claims to works with 600 enterprises including Fortune 500 firms. The company has over 200 staff, and it has acquired two traditional insurance brokerages in China to help grow its footprint, gain requisite licenses and its logistics in areas such as health checkups.

We last wrote about CXA in 2017 when it raised a $25 million Series B, and this new Series C round takes it to $58 million from investors to date. Existing backers include B Capital, the BCG-backed fund from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, EDBI — the investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board — and early Go-Jek backer Openspace Ventures, and they are joined by a glut of big-name backers in this round.

Those new investors include a lot of corporates. There’s HSBC, Singtel Innov8 (of Singaporean telco Singtel), Telkom Indonesia MDI Ventures (of Indonesia telco Telkom), Sumitomo Corporation Equity Asia (Japanese trading firm) Muang Thai Fuchsia Ventures (Thailand-based insurance firm), Humanica (Thailand-based HR firm) and PE firm Heritas Venture Fund.

“There are additional insurance companies and strategic partners that we aren’t listing,” said Koo.

Rosaline Koo is founder and CEO of CXA Group

That’s a very deliberate selection of large corporates which is part of a new strategy to widen CXA audience.

The company had initially gone after massive firms — it claims to reach a collective 400,000 employees — but now the goal is to reach SMEs and non-Fortune 500 enterprises. To do that, it is using the reach and connections of larger service companies to reach their customers.

“We believe that banks and telcos can cross-sell insurance and banking services,” said Koo, who grew up in LA and counts benefits broker Mercer on her resume. “With demographic and work life event data, plus health data, we’re able to target the right banking and insurance services.

“We can help move them away from spamming,” she added. “Because we will have the right data to really target the right offering to the right person at the right time. No firm wants an agent sitting in their canteen bothering their staff, now it’s all digital and we’re moving insurance and banking into a new paradigm.”

The ultimate goal is to combat a health problem that Koo believes is only getting worse in the Asia Pacific region.

“Chronic disease comes here 10 years before anywhere else,” she said, citing an Emory research paper which concluded that chronic diseases in Asia are “rising at a rate that exceeds global increases.”

“There’s such a crying need for solutions, but companies can’t force the brokers to lower costs as employees are getting sick… double-digit increases are normal, but we think this approach can help drop them. We want to start changing the cost of healthcare in Asia, where it is an epidemic, using data and personalization at scale in a way to help the community,” Koo added.

Talking to Koo makes it very clear that she is focused on growing CXA’s reach in Asia this year, but further down the line, there are ambitions to expand to other parts of the world. Europe and North America, she said, may come in 2020.

Amun raises $4M to give stock-like buying options for crypto investors

Crypto represent a ‘border-less’ that anyone can own, but actually getting hold it isn’t easy for everyone. Amun, a company that wants to make buying crypto as easy as stock, has pulled in $4 million in funding to offer more established channels for crypto ownership.

The startup currently offers punters an ETP (exchange-traded product) on the Swiss Stock Exchange that pulls together five of the most popular crypto assets: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, XRP and Litecoin. ‘HODL’ — as it is called after ‘holding’ crypto rather than selling it (‘LOL’) — can be purchased just like any stock.

That five-crypto basket is just the start for Amun, which is developing ETPs for other crypto assets individually. The first one is for Bitcoin — ABTC — with others planned to come soon, you’d imagine the usual suspect such as Ethereum and co will follow. Indeed, Amun has licenses to the five crypto assets in HODL as well as EOS.

While the products are ETP and not covered by Collective Investment Schemes Act (CISA), they are protected in custody and by insurance. They are collateralized and backed by an identical amount of crypto assets.

Personally, I’ve been able to buy crypto — just base tokens like Bitcoin and Ethereum rather than company-specific ICO tokens — but it certainly true that it takes some learning. While, speaking for me and likely many others, exchange-based products aren’t easier to me, it does appeal to more institutionally-minded individuals or companies for whom holding an account with an exchange or a crypto wallet isn’t feasible. That’s the target that Amun has in mind, as well as outlier cases, too.

Amun CEO and co-founder Hany Rashwan told TechCrunch that growing up in Egypt, he saw the government ban Bitcoin despite the fact that it offered an alternative to the Egyptian pound, which saw its valuation tank massively in 2016. He believes that products like Amun allow anyone to take part in crypto even when they face local restrictions, as was the case in Egypt and other countries.

“We want to make investing in crypto as easy as buying a stock. Institutional investors around the world are looking for a secure, easy, and regulated way of accessing the crypto asset class. Amun’s products do that at a low price in one of the most reputable financial hubs in the world,” Rashwan told TechCrunch.

Investors share his optimism and those who took part in this round include Boost VC founder Adam Draper — son of outspoken pro-Bitcoin VC Tim Draper — Graham Tuckwell, founder of ETFS Capital who built ETF products for gold, and Greg Kidd, co-founder of investment firm Hard Yaka. Four undisclosed family offices also took part.

One reason for their optimism is the fact that Amun is developing technology that could, in theory, be licensed out to allow others to develop their own ETFs

“We invest a ton of resources in both our product development and underlying tech infrastructure. This allows us to come up with innovative but professional and safe ways of accessing the crypto asset class, as well as do all this on a tech platform that can be used by not just us, but any issuer that wishes to do the same as well,” Rashwan said.

“The world needs a company like Amun to make crypto as easy as buying a stock. Now that they were the first to do that, they can now provide the toolset and be the de-facto platform for anyone else looking to take their crypto assets/securities to the public markets,” Draper added.

Still, just giving people access doesn’t guarantee returns, that’s on the crypto market itself.

Last year was a dud across the board in terms of pricing as Bitcoin, for example, plummeted from a record high of nearly $20,000 at the end of 2017 to $3,930ish at the time of writing. Plenty in the industry are optimistic that will change as genuine value comes out of blockchain technology.

HODL itself debuted at $15.64 last November, today it is at $12.83

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

Startups Weekly: What’s up with YC? Plus, mobility layoffs and Airbnb’s grand plans

Where to begin… Netflix darling Marie Kondo is hitting up Sand Hill Road in search of $40 million to fund an ecommerce platform, Y Combinator is giving $150,000 to a startup building a $380,000 flying motorcycle (because why not) and Jibo, the social robot, is calling it quits, speaking to owners directly of its imminent shutdown.

It was a hectic week in unicorn land so, I’m just going to get right to the good stuff.

Changes at Y Combinator

Where to begin! Not only did the prolific accelerator announce long-time president Sam Altman would be making an exit, but TechCrunch scooped the firm’s decision to move its headquarters to San Francisco. Y Combinator is going through a number of changes, outlined here. Interestingly, sources tell TechCrunch that YC has no succession plans. We’re guessing that’s because Altman had already mostly transitioned away from the firm, with CEO Michael Seibel assuming his responsibilities. The question is, is Altman planning to launch a startup? Hmmmmm.

Airbnb’s a hotelier

As it gears up for an IPO, Airbnb is showing its mature side. In a bid to accelerate growth, the home-sharing unicorn is buying HotelTonight in a deal said to be valued at around $465 million. Accel, the storied venture capital firm, was the business’s first-ever investors and is now its largest stakeholder. Oughta be a nice return. We’re still wondering whether it’s a cash deal, a cash and stock deal or an all-stock deal. Let me know if you’ve got the deets.

Mobility cuts

Lyft is preparing for its imminent IPO by getting lean. The ride-hailing company is trimming 50 staff members in its scooters and bikes unit, reports TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden. The cuts are mostly impacting those who joined the company when it acquired the electric bike-sharing startup Motivate, a deal that closed about three months ago. I’ll point out that Lyft employs 5,000 people; these layoffs are about one percent of their total workforce. And while we’re on the topic of mobility layoffs, Mobike, the former Chinese bike-share unicorn, is closing down all international operations and putting its sole focus on China.

Munchery goes bankrupt

Several weeks after a sudden shutdown left customers and vendors in the lurch, meal-kit service Munchery has filed for bankruptcy. In the Chapter 11 filing, Munchery chief executive officer James Beriker cites increased competition, over-funding, aggressive expansion efforts and Blue Apron’s failed IPO as reasons for its demise. Here’s the story, complete with Munchery’s bankruptcy filing.

Funders fundraise

This week Precursor Ventures closed its sophomore pre-seed fund on $32 million, NEA filed to raise its largest venture fund yet ($3.6 billion), SoftBank raised $2 billion on a $5 billion target for a Latin America Fund, aMoon raised $660 million for Israeli healthcare deals and Coral Capital brought in $45 million to make early-stage investments in Japan.

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Startup cash

Sea is raising up to $1.5B
Grab confirms $1.46B investment from SoftBank’s Vision Fund
Music services company Kobalt is raising roughly $100M
Eargo raises $52M for virtually invisible, rechargeable hearing aids
Matterport raises $48M to ramp up its 3D imaging platform
Netflix star and tidying expert Marie Kondo is looking to raise $40M
Blueground raises $20M for flexible apartment rentals

Netflix star and tidying expert Marie Kondo

A16z gets even bigger

Andreessen Horowitz tapped David George as its newest general partner and its first top dealmaker focused on late-stage deals. George joins from General Atlantic, where he’d backed consumer internet, enterprise software and fintech startups as a principal since 2012. The firm’s swelling team is amongst the largest of any VC firm. Most partnerships consist of one to three top dealmakers and a few partners or principals. A16z breaks the mold with its ever-expanding team of GPs. We talked to George and a16z managing director Scott Kupor.

Worth reading

The Khashoggi murder isn’t stopping SoftBank’s Vision Fund, by TechCrunch’s Jon Russell and Jonathan Shieber.

SXSW

Stopping by SXSW? Meet TechCrunch’s writers at our annual Crunch By Crunch Fest party in Austin, Texas. RSVP here to join us on Sunday, March 10th from 1pm to 4pm at the Swan Dive at 615 Red River St. @ E. 7th St., just 3 blocks from the convention center. Hang out with TechCrunchers and fellow readers, enjoy free drinks and check out a live performance by electro-RnB musician Elderbrook.  And check out the full line-up of TechCrunch panels here. I will be discussing the double standard in sex tech with Lora Haddock, the CEO of Lora DiCarlo, on Thursday, March 14th at 2pm at the Fairmont Congressional A, 101 Red River.

Listen to me talk

This week on Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines, Crunchbase New’s editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I discuss Y Combinator’s new HQ, Chime’s big funding round and SoftBank’s new Latin America fund. Listen here.

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