Ambitious Singapore startup Delegate wants to bring its event booking platform to the US

It’s not often that you hear about a startup from Singapore with ambitions to expand to the U.S, but that’s exactly the goal for event booking service Delegate.

Founded in August 2015, the company aims to be a one-stop shop for booking an event, that covers corporate and professional functions, celebrations like weddings and more personal events such as birthdays or get-togethers.

Beyond the essential step of securing a venue, Delegate’s platform covers a range of different needs that include: food and beverage, photography and videography, flowers and decor, entertainment such as bands, invitation and gifts, event staff, production equipment and transport.

“We saw a huge gap in the market,” co-founders Melissa Lou and Jacqueline Ye, who both worked in the event industry prior to starting Delegate, told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “There was no one resource for finding events and resources.”

The Delegate platform covers venue booking, catering, staffing, entertainment and more.

But, beyond being a booking platform for consumers, Delegate has a smart hook that attracts those on venue and event hosting side. In addition to helping them generate bookings via its sites, Delegate offers a subscription ‘Pro’ product that helps them manage daily operations, generate leads, collect bookings and handle collaborations with others in their supply chain.

There’s also an element of granularity with the consumer side of the business. Delegate has set up options to make the myriads of suppliers, venues and more navigable for less experienced customers. That includes a ‘deals’ section for, well, deals and an inspiration board for the planning process which is itself inspired by Pinterest’s visual approach.

Coming soon, the company hopes to add payment plans to help make it easier to pay for major events, as well as a new offering focused squarely on business users and API integrations for third-party services.

Lou and Ye started the business nearly four years ago with around 100 vendors thanks to their personal and business networks. Today, it claims 1,700 vendors and 70,000 users across Singapore and Hong Kong, its first expansion market.

Delegate co-founders Jacqueline Ye and Melissa Lou (left and right) want to expand their service to the U.S. market.

Already present in two of Asia’s top event locations, where average spend is among the highest for the region. But since those countries are limited in size — Singapore’s population is just shy of six million, Hong Kong’s is around seven million, it makes sense that Delegate is now looking for its next moves. Lou and Ye said they plan to launch the service in “key cities” in Australia and the U.S. to tap what they see as lucrative markets, while Korea and Taiwan are also on the radar closer to home in Asia.

“We see these markets as a good fit for us,” Lou explained. “They have a fair share of corporate events already and, in particular, Australia is a good country because we have a good network there.”

Entering the U.S. might sound implausible to some, but already soft launches of the platform in LA and Austin have drawn interest from over 100 vendors, the Delegate co-founders said. That’s without any major marketing push to either businesses or consumers, and it gives the company optimism. Already the U.S. is a listed location on their service but, for now, there are less than a dozen vendors and there’s no specific location.

Beyond early outreach, the company has raised funds for expansion. Last month, Delegate announced a $1 million pre-Series A round from an undisclosed family office (with apparent links to the event industry) and angel investors who founded Zopim, the Singapore-based startup that sold to Zendesk for around $30 million in 2014.

That network and Saas expertise is likely to help with those ambitious global expansion plans, although Lou and Ye said they aren’t planning to raise their Series A just yet. They say they plan to stretch their runway and keep their costs lean, a practice the founders say they have stuck to since bootstrapping without outside funding for the first year of the business. It’s unlikely bet for most startups in Southeast Asia, but if Delegate can gain even just a small foothold in the U.S, it would be a massive validation of its business model and niche, and no doubt precipitate that larger Series A round.

Spotify, eBay set standard for fertility benefits, study finds

The technology sector awards women and same-sex couples the most comprehensive fertility benefit packages, according to a survey by FertilityIQ, an online platform for fertility patients to review doctors and research treatments.

The company asked 30,000 in vitro fertilisation (IVF) patients across industries about their employers’ — or their spouse’s employer’s’ — 2019 fertility treatment policy, and allocated points based on their support for IVF procedures and egg freezing, among other services.

Silicon Valley semiconductor business Analog Devices and eBay led the ranking. The two companies offer employees unlimited IVF cycles with no pre-authorization requirement, meaning employees do not need permission from insurance providers before seeking certain medical services. Pre-authorization has historically impacted lesbian, gay or unpartnered employees from accessing care quickly or at all, FertilityIQ co-founder Jake Anderson explained

Spotify, Adobe, Lyft, Facebook and Pinterest were amongst the highest-ranked technology businesses, too.

“I think a lot of people see the tech sector as being unenlightened when it comes to family values but it’s still the sector that makes the fertility benefits the most widely acceptable,” Anderson, a former consumer internet investor at Sequoia Capital, told TechCrunch.

FertilityIQ’s fertility benefits survey results.

Despite an initial outpouring of skepticism, Facebook and Apple became leaders in the fertility benefit category when they began paying for their female employees to freeze their eggs in 2014. Since then, smaller firms have opted to beef up those benefits to stay competitive with their much larger and richer counterparts.

“The Lyfts, the Airbnbs and the Ubers of the world, who clearly need to compete for those companies for talent, have effectively matched those companies dollar-for-dollar despite a much smaller war-chest,” Anderson said. “These companies that are worth 1/1000th of these bigger companies are effectively going toe-to-toe to offer whatever women need.”

Anderson and his wife, FertilityIQ co-founder Deborah Anderson, noticed improved benefits in 2018 from companies implicated by the #MeToo movement, such as Vice Media, Under Armour and Uber.

“Silicon Valley is notorious for talent moving around on you but it’s probably not coincidental that some of the companies that were in the spotlight in the #MeToo movement have added really generous benefits,” Deborah Anderson told TechCrunch.

Uber, for example, now pays for its employees to complete two IVF cycles but still requires pre-authorization.

One in 7 Americans struggle with infertility and the rate of IVF procedures only continues to increase, with the latest data indicating a 15 percent year-over-year growth rate. IVF costs roughly $22,000 per cycle, per FertilityIQ’s survey, a cost which has similarly increased 15 percent since 2015.

That’s a whole lot of cash for a fertility patient to dole out. If companies foot the bill, they’ll have a better shot at retaining talent.

“Best we can tell, there is no question that employees that get this benefit and use it are more loyal and more likely to stick around,” Jake Anderson said. “The company that helps you build your family is the company that you remain committed to.”

Startups Weekly: Even Gwyneth Paltrow had a hard time raising VC

I spent the week in Malibu attending Upfront Ventures’ annual Upfront Summit, which brings together the likes of Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Washington, DC’s elite for a two-day networking session of sorts. Cameron Diaz was there for some reason, and Natalie Portman made an appearance. Stacey Abrams had a powerful Q&A session with Lisa Borders, the president and CEO of Time’s Up. Of course, Gwyneth Paltrow was there to talk up Goop, her venture-funded commerce and content engine.

“I had no idea what I was getting into but I am so fulfilled and on fire from this job,” Paltrow said onstage at the summit… “It’s a very different life than I used to have but I feel very lucky that I made this leap.” Speaking with Frederic Court, the founder of Felix Capital, Paltrow shed light on her fundraising process.

“When I set out to raise my Series A, it was very difficult,” she said. “It’s great to be Gwyneth Paltrow when you’re raising money because people take the meeting, but then you get a lot more rejections than you would if they didn’t want to take a selfie … People, understandably, were dubious about [this business]. It becomes easier when you have a thriving business and your unit economics looks good.”

In other news…

The actor stopped by the summit to promote his startup, HitRecord . I talked to him about his $6.4 million round and grand plans for the artist-collaboration platform.

Backed by GV, Sequoia, Floodgate and more, Clover Health confirmed to TechCrunch this week that it’s brought in another round of capital led by Greenoaks. The $500 million round is a vote of confidence for the business, which has experienced its fair share of well-publicized hiccups. More on that here. Plus, Clutter, the startup that provides on-demand moving and storage services, is raising at least $200 million from SoftBank, sources tell TechCrunch. The round is a big deal for the LA tech ecosystem, which, aside from Snap and Bird, has birthed few venture-backed unicorns.

Pinterest, the nine-year-old visual search engine, has hired Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase as lead underwriters for an IPO that’s planned for later this year. With $700 million in 2018 revenue, the company has raised some $1.5 billion at a $12 billion valuation from Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, Valiant Capital Partners, Wellington Management, Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners and more.

Kleiner Perkins went “back to the future” this week with the announcement of a $600 million fund. The firm’s 18th fund, it will invest at the seed, Series A and Series B stages. TCV, a backer of Peloton and Airbnb, closed a whopping $3 billion vehicle to invest in consumer internet, IT infrastructure and services startups. Partech has doubled its Africa VC fund to $143 million and opened a Nairobi office to complement its Dakar practice. And Sapphire Ventures has set aside $115 million for sports and entertainment bets.

The co-founder of Y Combinator will throw a sort of annual weekend getaway for nerds in picturesque Boulder, Colo. Called the YC 120, it will bring toget her 120 people for a couple of days in April to create connections. Read TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos’ interview with Altman here.

Consumer wellness business Hims has raised $100 million in an ongoing round at a $1 billion pre-money valuation. A growth-stage investor has led the round, with participation from existing investors (which include Forerunner Ventures, Founders Fund, Redpoint Ventures, SV Angel, 8VC and Maverick Capital) . Our sources declined to name the lead investor but said it was a “super big fund” that isn’t SoftBank and that hasn’t previously invested in Hims.

Five years after Andreessen Horowitz backed Oculus, it’s leading a $68 million Series A funding in Sandbox VR. TechCrunch’s Lucas Matney talked to a16z’s Andrew Chen and Floodgate’s Mike Maples about what sets Sandbox apart.

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In a new class-action lawsuit, a former Munchery facilities worker is claiming the startup owes him and 250 other employees 60 days’ wages. On top of that, another former employee says the CEO, James Beriker, was largely absent and is to blame for Munchery’s downfall. If you haven’t been keeping up on Munchery’s abrupt shutdown, here’s some good background.

Consolidation in the micromobility space has arrived — in Brazil, at least. Not long after Y Combinator-backed Grin merged its electric scooter business with Brazil-based Ride, it’s completing another merger, this time with Yellow, the bike-share startup based in Brazil that has also expressed its ambitions to get into electric scooters.

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm, TechCrunch’s Silicon Valley editor Connie Loizos and Jeff Clavier of Uncork Capital chat about $100 million rounds, Stripe’s mega valuation and Pinterest’s highly anticipated IPO.

Pinterest puts an IPO on its pinboard, hiring Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan to lead an offering this year

Pinterest, the 11-year-old, San Francisco-based site known for the photos its users post about everything from wedding to beauty to art world trends, has hired Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase as lead underwriters for an IPO that it’s planning to stage later this year.

Reuters first reported the news. TechCrunch sources have since confirmed the development. A Pinterest spokesperson declined to “comment on rumors and speculation” when asked this afternoon for more information.

Pinterest has raised roughly $1.5 billion over the years and was valued at $12 billion by its private investors during its last fundraising round in 2017. Notably, its backers include Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, among many other investment firms, both early and later-stage, like Valiant Capital Partners, Wellington Management, Andreessen Horowitz and Bessemer Venture Partners.

The company’s revenue last year was $700 million, more than double what the company generated in revenue in 2017.

It has 250 million monthly active users, compared with the 200 million monthly active users who were on the platform as of mid 2017.

Whether Pinterest has ever been profitable, we couldn’t learn this afternoon. But the company employs 1,600 people across 13 cities globally, including Chicago, London, Paris, São Paulo, Berlin, and Tokyo, and half its users now live outside the U.S., with the international market its fastest-growing segment.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, more than 80 percent of people access the service via its mobile app.

Assessing how Pinterest’s shares might be received by public market shareholders has become a favorite parlor game for Silicon Valley denizens. In a recent report, the outlet The Information posited that Pinterest’s offering could suffer because it’s a social media company that’s frequently lumped together with companies like Facebook and Twitter that have repeatedly raised concerns about users’ privacy and have faced a nearly year-long backlash as a result.

Yet Pinterest is far afield from what most users think of as social media and more akin to a visual search and discovery platform, with people looking for ideas and inspiration rather than to reach other people. So thinks venture capitalist Venky Ganesan of Menlo Ventures, who noted on a recent  TechCrunch podcast that “there are no Russian trolls” on Pinterest. More, he’d said, “I haven’t seen Pinterest sell [users’] data. They’re using data to [figure out] advertising on Pinterest; they aren’t brokering [that information] to others.”

Another potential concern for Pinterest is its reliance advertising, which is often the easiest expense for companies to slash when an economy begins to cool, as may be happening here in the U.S. Ads make up 100 percent of the company’s revenue. Here, too, however, Pinterest could prove more durable than some of its competitors. While brand-image driven advertising often gets cut when budgets tighten, direct response advertising often does even better in down markets, as companies seek out clearer returns on their investment, and much of Pinterest’s revenue is driven by direct response advertising. Users see, they click, and they buy. As Ganesan offered during that same podcast visit, “I’ve got three daughters at home, and they spend a lot of time on Pinterest, and they buy stuff.” (Ganesan isn’t an investor in the company; neither is the broader Menlo Ventures team.)

Pinterest could reportedly seek to raise up to $1.5 billion in an offering, according to past media reports. Whether it targets more or less, we’re likely to learn soon, but an IPO has been expected for some time, in part because the company is now getting up there in years as startups go, in part because of its continued growth, and in part because of some new hires that seemed to suggest the company has been gearing up to become publicly traded.

In November, for example, Pinterest brought aboard its first-ever chief marketing officer in Andréa Mallard, who joined the company from Athleta, Gap’s activewear brand, and who now oversees its global marketing and creative teams.

Roughly a year ago, Pinterest also recruited its first COO, hiring  Francoise Brougher, who was previously a  business lead at Square and a VP of SMB global sales and operations at Google before that.

In fact, unlike many of today’s buzziest companies, Pinterest seems to have retained almost all of the executives who work at the company with one notable exception, In late 2017, it parted ways with its then president, Tim Kendall, who’d been with Pinterest for more than five years at the time and who left to start his own health wellness company.

Startups Weekly: Will Trump ruin the unicorn IPOs of our dreams?

The government shutdown entered its 21st day on Friday, upping concerns of potentially long-lasting impacts on the U.S. stock market. Private market investors around the country applauded when Uber finally filed documents with the SEC to go public. Others were giddy to hear Lyft, Pinterest, Postmates and Slack (via a direct listing, according to the latest reports) were likely to IPO in 2019, too.

Unfortunately, floats that seemed imminent may not actually surface until the second half of 2019 — that is unless President Donald Trump and other political leaders are able to reach an agreement on the federal budget ASAP.  This week, we explored the government’s shutdown’s connection to tech IPOs, recounted the demise of a well-funded AR project and introduced readers to an AI-enabled self-checkout shopping cart.

1. Postmates gets pre-IPO cash

The company, an early entrant to the billion-dollar food delivery wars, raised what will likely be its last round of private capital. The $100 million cash infusion was led by BlackRock and valued Postmates at $1.85 billion, up from the $1.2 billion valuation it garnered with its unicorn round in 2018.

2. Uber’s IPO may not be as eye-popping as we expected

To be fair, I don’t think many of us really believed the ride-hailing giant could debut with a $120 billion initial market cap. And can speculate on Uber’s valuation for days (the latest reports estimate a $90 billion IPO), but ultimately Wall Street will determine just how high Uber will fly. For now, all we can do is sit and wait for the company to relinquish its S-1 to the masses.

3. Deal of the week

N26, a German fintech startup, raised $300 million in a round led by Insight Venture Partners at a $2.7 billion valuation. TechCrunch’s Romain Dillet spoke with co-founder and CEO Valentin Stalf about the company’s global investors, financials and what the future holds for N26.

4. On the market

Bird is in the process of raising an additional $300 million on a flat pre-money valuation of $2 billion. The e-scooter startup has already raised a ton of capital in a very short time and a fresh financing would come at a time when many investors are losing faith in scooter startups’ claims to be the solution to the problem of last-mile transportation, as companies in the space display poor unit economics, faulty batteries and a general air of undependability. Plus, Aurora, the developer of a full-stack self-driving software system for automobile manufacturers, is raising at least $500 million in equity funding at more than a $2 billion valuation in a round expected to be led by new investor Sequoia Capital.


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5. A unicorn’s deal downsizes

WeWork, a co-working giant backed with billions, had planned on securing a $16 billion investment from existing backer SoftBank . Well, that’s not exactly what happened. And, oh yeah, they rebranded.

6. A startup collapses

After 20 long years, augmented reality glasses pioneer ODG has been left with just a skeleton crew after acquisition deals from Facebook and Magic Leap fell through. Here’s a story of a startup with $58 million in venture capital backing that failed to deliver on its promises.

7. Data point

Seed activity for U.S. startups has declined for the fourth straight year, as median deal sizes increased at every stage of venture capital.

8. Meanwhile, in startup land…

This week edtech startup Emeritus, a U.S.-Indian company that partners with universities to offer digital courses, landed a $40 million Series C round led by Sequoia India. Badi, which uses an algorithm to help millennials find roommates, brought in a $30 million Series B led by Goodwater Capital. And Mr Jeff, an on-demand laundry service startup, bagged a $12 million Series A.

9. Finally, Meet Caper, the AI self-checkout shopping cart

The startup, which makes a shopping cart with a built-in barcode scanner and credit card swiper, has revealed a total of $3 million, including a $2.15 million seed round led by First Round Capital .

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With SEC workers offline, the government shutdown could screw IPO-ready companies

The government shutdown has entered into day 19, making it the second-longest shutdown in U.S. history. With President Donald Trump slamming his hands down on a table and storming out of negotiations with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer earlier today, a fast-approaching end feels unlikely.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are out of work as U.S. leaders struggle to reach a fair agreement on the federal budget, including employees of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission . The government agency, responsible for protecting investors and maintaining fair, orderly and efficient markets, shut down on December 27 and has just 285 of its 4,436 employees on the clock.

“Due to the ongoing federal government shutdown, the SEC is currently operating in accordance with the agency’s plan for operating during a shutdown,” the agency wrote on its website. “The SEC has staff available to respond to emergency situations involving market integrity and investor protection, including law enforcement.”

EDGAR, the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system that allows companies to electronically file crucial documents, including paperwork for initial public offerings, has remained up and running. That’s led to a “large and growing” backlog of filings, reports CNBC, that could cause a delay in several IPOs, as well as a lasting impact on the state of the IPO market in 2019.

Several major technology companies have taken steps toward early-2019 IPOs, all of which are at risk of a delay. A poor performing stock market is only adding fuel to the flames in a year that many had expected would bring record amounts of liquidity to investors via high-profile offerings. Uber, Lyft, Slack and Pinterest have all begun IPO prep, for example, with Uber chief executive officer Dara Khosrowshahi recently claiming turbulent public markets would not delay the ride-hailing company’s float.

“The good news is that we’ve got a strong balance sheet so we don’t need to go public this year,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s a desire [but] if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen. I’d be disappointed and I think our shareholders would be disappointed but the company would be just fine.”

He didn’t comment on the potential resonating effects of a government shutdown, per The WSJ. Uber and its largest U.S. competitor Lyft both filed confidentially with the SEC in December, just weeks before the shutdown began. During the shutdown, companies are still permitted to file confidentially, a method preferred by many companies as it allows them to refrain from disclosing key IPO details and financials to the public ahead of an exit.

Ultimately, tech’s most buzz-worthy unicorns will be the least affected by Trump and co.’s discordance. Well-funded businesses with strong balance sheets, as Khosrowshahi pointed out, have a safety net ready if IPO plans go awry. Smaller businesses, particularly those in need of an infusion of capital to continue operating, will bear the brunt of any IPO delays.

My product launch wishlist for Instagram, Twitter, Uber and more

‘Twas the night before Xmas, and all through the house, not a feature was stirring from the designer’s mouse . . . Not Twitter! Not Uber, Not Apple or Pinterest! On Facebook! On Snapchat! On Lyft or on Insta! . . . From the sidelines I ask you to flex your code’s might. Happy Xmas to all if you make these apps right.

Instagram

See More Like This – A button on feed posts that when tapped inserts a burst of similar posts before the timeline continues. Want to see more fashion, sunsets, selfies, food porn, pets, or Boomerangs? Instagram’s machine vision technology and metadata would gather them from people you follow and give you a dose. You shouldn’t have to work through search, hashtags, or the Explore page, nor permanently change your feed by following new accounts. Pinterest briefly had this feature (and should bring it back) but it’d work better on Insta.

Web DMs Instagram’s messaging feature has become the defacto place for sharing memes and trash talk about people’s photos, but it’s stuck on mobile. For all the college kids and entry-level office workers out there, this would make being stuck on laptops all day much more fun. Plus, youth culture truthsayer Taylor Lorenz wants Instagram web DMs too.

Upload Quality Indicator – Try to post a Story video or Boomerang from a crummy internet connection and they turn out a blurry mess. Instagram should warn us if our signal strength is low compared to what we usually have (since some places it’s always mediocre) and either recommend we wait for Wi-Fi, or post a low-res copy that’s replaced by the high-res version when possible.

Oh, and if new VP of product Vishal Shah is listening, I’d also like Bitmoji-style avatars and a better way to discover accounts that shows a selection of their recent posts plus their bio, instead of just one post and no context in Explore which is better for discovering content.

Twitter

DM Search – Ummm, this is pretty straightforward. It’s absurd that you can’t even search DMs by person, let alone keyword. Twitter knows messaging is a big thing on mobile right? And DMs are one of the most powerful ways to get in contact with mid-level public figures and journalists. PS: My DMs are open if you’ve got a news tip — @JoshConstine.

Unfollow Suggestions – Social networks are obsessed with getting us to follow more people, but do a terrible job of helping us clean up our feeds. With Twitter bringing back the option to see a chronological feed, we need unfollow suggestions more than ever. It should analyze who I follow but never click, fave, reply to, retweet, or even slow down to read and ask if I want to nix them. I asked for this 5 years ago and the problem has only gotten worse. Since people feel like their feeds are already overflowing, they’re stingy with following new people. That’s partly why you see accounts get only a handful of new followers when their tweets go viral and are seen by millions. I recently had a tweet with 1.7 million impressions and 18,000 Likes that drove just 11 follows. Yes I know that’s a self-own.

Analytics Benchmarks – If Twitter wants to improve conversation quality, it should teach us what works. Twitter offers analytics about each of your tweets, but not in context of your other posts. Did this drive more or fewer link clicks or follows than my typical tweet? That kind of info could guide users to create more compelling content.

Facebook

(Obviously we could get into Facebook’s myriad problems here. A less sensationalized feed that doesn’t reward exaggerated claims would top my list. Hopefully its plan to downrank “borderline content” that almost violates its policies will help when it rolls out.)

Batched Notifications – Facebook sends way too many notifications. Some are downright useless and should be eliminated. “14 friends responded to events happening tomorrow”? “Someone’s fundraiser is half way to its goal?” Get that shit out of here. But there are other notifications I want to see but that aren’t urgent nor crucial to know about individually. Facebook should let us decide to batch notifications so we’d only get one of a certain type every 12 or 24 hours, or only when a certain number of similar ones are triggered. I’d love a digest of posts to my Groups or Events from the past day rather than every time someone opens their mouth.

I so don’t care

Notifications In The “Time Well Spent” Feature – Facebook tells you how many minutes you spent on it each day over the past week and on average, but my total time on Facebook matters less to me than how often it interrupts my life with push notifications. The “Your Time On Facebook” feature should show how many notifications of each type I’ve received, which ones I actually opened, and let me turn off or batch the ones I want fewer of.

Oh, and for Will Cathcart, Facebook’s VP of apps, can I also get proper syncing so I don’t rewatch the same Stories on Instagram and Facebook, the ability to invite people to Events on mobile based on past invite lists of those I’ve hosted or attended, and the See More Like This feature I recommended for Instagram?

Uber/Lyft/Ridesharing

“Quiet Ride” Button – Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for small talk. Had a rough day, need to get work done, or want to just zone out? Ridesharing apps should offer a request for a quiet ride that if the driver accepts, you pay them an extra dollar (or get it free as a loyalty perk), and you get ferried to your destination without unnecessary conversation. I get that it’s a bit dehumanizing for the driver, but I’d bet some would happily take a little extra cash for their compliance.

“I Need More Time” Button – Sometimes you overestimate the ETA and suddenly your car is arriving before you’re ready to leave. Instead of cancelling and rebooking a few minutes later, frantically rushing so you don’t miss your window and get smacked with a no-show fee, or making the driver wait while they and the company aren’t getting paid, Uber, Lyft, and the rest should offer the “I Need More Time” button that simply rebooks you a car that’s a little further away.

Spotify/Music Streaming Apps

Scan My Collection – I wish I could just take photos of the album covers, spines, or even discs of my CD or record collection and have them instantly added to a playlist or folder. It’s kind of sad that after lifetimes of collecting physical music, most of it now sits on a shelf and we forget to play what we used to love. Music apps want more data on what we like, and it’s just sitting there gathering dust. There’s obviously some fun viral potential here too. Let me share what’s my most embarrassing CD. For me, it’s my dual copies of Limp Bizkit’s “Significant Other” because I played the first one so much it got scratched.

Friends Weekly Spotify ditched its in-app messaging, third-party app platform, and other ways to discover music so its playlists would decide what becomes a hit in order to exert leverage over the record labels to negotiate better deals. But music discovery is inherently social and the desktop little ticker of what friends are playing on doesn’t cut it. Spotify should let me choose to recommend my new favorite song or agree to let it share what I’ve recently played most, and put those into a Discover Weekly-style social playlist of what friends are listening to.

Snapchat

Growth – I’m sorry, I had to.

Bulk Export Memories – But seriously, Snapchat is shrinking. That’s worrisome because some users’ photos and videos are trapped on its Memories cloud hosting feature that’s supposed to help free up space on your phone. But there’s no bulk export option, meaning it could take hours of saving shots one at a time to your camera roll if you needed to get off of Snapchat, if for example it was shutting down, or got acquired, or you’re just bored of it.

Add-On Cameras – Snapchat’s Spectacles are actually pretty neat for recording first-person or underwater shots in a circular format. But otherwise they don’t do much more, and in some ways do much less, than your phone’s camera and are a long way from being a Magic Leap competitor. That’s why if Snapchat really wants to become a “Camera Company”, it should build sleek add-on cameras that augment our phone’s hardware. Snap previously explored selling a 360-camera but never launched one. A little Giroptic iO-style 360 lens that attaches to your phone’s charging port could let you capture a new kind of content that really makes people feel like they’re there with you. An Aukey Aura-style zoom lens attachment that easily fits in your pocket unlike a DSLR could also be a hit

iOS

Switch Wi-Fi/Bluetooth From Control Center – I thought the whole point of Control Center was one touch access, but I can only turn on or off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It’s silly having to dig into the Settings menu to switch to a different Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth device, especially as we interact with more and more of them. Control Center should unfurl a menu of networks or devices you can choose from.

Shoot GIFs – Live Photos are a clumsy proprietary format. Instagram’s Boomerang nailed what we want out of live action GIFs and we should be able to shoot them straight from the iOS camera and export them as actual GIFs that can be used across the web. Give us some extra GIF settings and iPhones could have a new reason for teens to choose them over Androids.

Gradual Alarms – Anyone else have a heart attack whenever they hear their phone’s Alarm Clock ringtone? I know I do because I leave my alarms on so loud that I’ll never miss them, but end up being rudely shocked awake. A setting that gradually increases the volume of the iOS Alarm Clock every 15 seconds or minute so I can be gently arisen unless I refuse to get up.

Maybe some of these apply to Android, but I wouldn’t know because I’m a filthy casual iPhoner. Send me your Android suggestions, as well as what else you want to see added to your favorite apps.

[Image Credit: Hanson Inc]

5 unicorns that will probably go public in 2019 (besides Uber and Lyft)

There’s been plenty of fanfare surrounding Uber and Lyft’s initial public offerings — slated for early 2019 — since the two companies filed confidential IPO paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in early December. On top of that, public and private investors have had plenty to say about Slack and Pinterest’s rumored 2019 IPOs but those aren’t the only “unicorn” exits we should expect to witness in the year ahead.

Using its proprietary company rating algorithm, data provider CB Insights ranked five billion dollar companies most likely to perform IPOs next year in its latest tech IPO report. The algorithm analyzes non-traditional public signals, including hiring activity, web traffic and mobile app data to make its predictions. These are the startups that topped their list.

 

Peloton

Peloton Co-Founder and CEO John Foley speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 on September 6, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch).

Peloton, dubbed the “Netflix of fitness,” has raised nearly $1 billion in venture capital funding in the six years since it was founded by John Foley, most recently raising $550 million at a $4 billion valuation. The manufacturer of tech-enabled exercise equipment is more than doubling in size every year and is “weirdly profitable,” an unusual characteristic for a venture-backed business of its age. Headquartered in New York, Peloton doesn’t have any public IPO plans, though Foley recently told The Wall Street Journal that 2019 “makes a lot of sense” for its stock market debut.

Select investors: L Catterton, True Ventures, Tiger Global

Cloudflare

Cloudflare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince appears on stage at the 2014 TechCrunch Disrupt Europe/London. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Cybersecurity unicorn Cloudflare is likely to transition to the public markets in the first half of 2019 in what is poised to be a strong year for IPOs in the security industry. The web performance and security platform is said to be preparing for an IPO at a potential valuation of more than $3.5 billion after last raising capital in 2015 at a $1.8 billion valuation. Since it was founded in 2009, the San Francisco-based company has raised just north of $250 million in VC funding. CrowdStrike, another security unicorn, is also on track to go public next year and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Illumio and Lookout make the jump to the public markets as well.

Select investors: Pelion Venture Partners, NEA, Venrock

Zoom

San Jose-based Zoom Video Communications has reportedly tapped Morgan Stanley to lead its upcoming IPO.

Zoom, a provider of video conferencing services, online meeting and group messaging tools that’s raised $160 million in VC cash to date, is eyeing a multi-billion IPO in 2019 and has reportedly hired Morgan Stanley to lead the offering. Founded in 2011, the company most recently brought in a $100 million Series D financing, entirely funded by Sequoia, at a $1 billion valuation in early 2017. Based in San Jose, Zoom is hoping to garner a valuation significantly larger than $1 billion when it IPOs, according to Reuters.

Select investors: Sequoia, Emergence Capital Partners, Horizons Ventures

Rubrik

Data management company Rubrik co-founder and CEO Bipul Sinha.

Data management company Rubrik has quietly made moves indicative of an impending IPO. The startup, which provides data backup and recovery services for businesses across cloud and on-premises environments, hired former Atlassian chief financial officer Murray Demo as its CFO earlier this year, as well as its first chief legal officer, Peter McGoff. Palo Alto-based Rubrik was valued at over of $1 billion with a $180 million funding round in 2017. The company has raised nearly $300 million to date.

Select investors: Lightspeed Venture Partners, Greylock, Khosla Ventures

Medallia

Medallia, a customer experience management platform that’s nearly two decades old, may finally become a public company in 2019. The San Mateo-based company, which has been rumored to be planning an IPO for several years, hired a new CEO this year and reported $250 million in GAAP revenue for the year ending Jan. 31, 2018, according to Forbes. Medallia hasn’t raised capital since 2015, when it secured a $150 million funding deal at a $1.2 billion valuation. It has raised a total of just over $250 million.

Select investor: Sequoia

Did unicorns like Lyft and Uber wait too long?

It was several years ago, at a tech conference in Laguna Beach, Ca., that the venture capitalist Bill Gurley issued one of what would become repeated warnings that startups were staying private too long. Comparing companies that refuse to go public to undergrads whose college careers extend several years past the point that they should, Gurley suggested they should be embarrassed, not proud, for keeping their shares in private hands. “Until you get liquid, you really haven’t accomplished anything,” Gurley said.

Whether Gurley was referring to Uber at the time, only he knows. Though this firm, Benchmark, eventually forced out Travis Kalanick, the cofounder and longtime CEO of Uber, the tipping point was seemingly not Kalanick’s determination to keep Uber privately held as long as possible but rather an investigation into sexual harassment investigations and the employee misconduct that was discovered in the process.

Either way, it’s looking increasingly like Gurley had a point. As you may have noticed if you care anything about the public markets, they took a nosedive today. In fact, they fell to new low for the year this afternoon, a reaction in part to the Federal Reserve’s decision earlier today to raise its benchmark overnight lending rate for the fourth time in 2018.

The Fed also signaled minimal rate hikes for next year — forecasting two rate hikes instead of three — but investors were apparently hoping for even better news.

It’s hard to blame them for seeking out more of a silver lining, given everything else that’s going on. Tech stocks are getting battered, with the FANG companies, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, and Google, down meaningfully from their share prices of six months ago. (Amazon has held up the best.) The economy of China —  the U.S.’s third largest export partner and its largest import partner —  is slowing sharply, which is expected to have an impact on the U.S. and the world economy. Add trade tensions into the mix, a sprinkling of uncertainty about regulations, a splash of a possible government shutdown, and the growing prospect that Donald Trump will be impeached, and you start to get the picture.

The market is scary suddenly, yet Uber and Lyft and Slack, among others, are now racing to dive into it. Why? Their venture backers will tell you it’s because the public markets recognize a strong growth company when they see it, and that each is finally positioned well to tell their story, aided by some dazzling metrics. But it seems just as likely that they see the window, which flew open this year, starting to swing back in the other direction. And if this month is any indicator, it could be hard to pry it open again, at least in the first quarter or two.

“The market is basically closed between now, and the start of a new year is always slow because companies don’t start roadshow [until the markets re-open],” says Kathleen Smith, a principal of Renaissance Capital and the manager of its IPO exchange traded fund. Pre-IPO companies like Uber are also waiting on their audits to close before they put any numbers in a public document, she notes. But it could be far from smooth sailing after that, suggests Smith. “In normal times, late, January and February and March become very active, but we aren’t in a typical market. I can predict from other times that we’ve seen a bear market like this that it will have an impact on IPO activity.”

It’s all part of a vicious cycle, Smith suggests. As public market shareholders begin to feel less affluent and more risk averse, they start redeeming their public market shares. That leaves fund managers who might otherwise gamble on new issuers with less capital to invest, and less flexibility. “Investors are just not going to want to take on any risk positions when market has [taken a turn for the worse],” says Smith.

If the markets are as crummy early next year as looks to be the case, it’s too bad, too sad for unicorn companies “They made choice to stay private and get capital,” says Smith. “I’ve stated many times that they should be getting while the getting is good. The pain can happen if money dries up, and it will dry up when the public market dries up.” 

That doesn’t mean the companies are doomed, of course, especially those that can show strong fundamentals.

For her part, Smith notes that what often happens in a downturn is for offerings to be heavily discounted. “Valuations will be chopped if the companies want investors to participate. They’ll have to be sure to make money.”

Even if they don’t get the prices that ambitious bankers might have discussed with them in recent months, they can always grow into the valuations their investors want to see. One need look no further than Facebook to remember why a bumpy offering doesn’t mean all that much longer term. “Just because a stock crashes below its IPO price isn’t a sign of a bubble,” says Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser. “You also have to keep in mind the dynamic of companies going public,” he says. “You expect IPOs to be overvalued. Investors in these companies are necessarily selling to the greatest fool.”

Still, there may be fewer fools willing to buy what they are selling than there might have been a year or two ago, and if those numbers really change, today’s unicorns will look like tomorrow’s donkeys. They’re certainly going to face more scrutiny than they might have had they moved sooner.

“Maybe we’ll roar into 2019 and all will be well,” says Lise Buyer, the founder of Class V Group, an advisory firm for IPOs. “But to the extent that investors will be more selective, they’ll look at path to profitability, and they’ll look at the valuations these companies took when they were private.” Then they’ll do their own math, suggests Buyer.

If the market is truly shifting, public market shareholders “won’t care what valuations companies achieved when they were private,” says Buyer. “They’ll only be willing to pay what they are willing to pay.”

Report: Pinterest may go public as soon as April

Pinterest may follow Lyft and Uber to the public markets in the first half of 2019, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

The visual search engine and shopping tool is expected to tap underwriters in January and complete an initial public offering as soon as April. The company was valued at just over $12 billion with its last private fundraise, a $150 million round in mid-2017, and is on pace to bring in $700 million in revenue this year.

The company, founded in 2008 by Ben Silbermann (pictured), is also in talks to secure a $500 million credit line, per the report, not an uncommon move for a pre-IPO giant like Pinterest.

To date, the company has raised nearly $1.5 billion from key stakeholders such as Bessemer Venture Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, FirstMark Capital, Fidelity and SV Angel.

Pinterest recently reached 250 million monthly active users, up from 200 million in 2017.

This year, it launched several new features to make it easier for passive Pinterest users to actually buy products on the platform and introduced the following tab, where users could view only the content from brands and people they follow. It also added the Pinterest Propel program as part of an effort to create more local content for its users and it implemented full-screen video ads to beef up its advertising options — an area where it competes directly with Facebook and Google.

2019 is poised to be a banner year for venture-backed IPOs. Both Uber and Lyft are in IPO registration, filing privately to go public within hours of each other earlier this month, and Slack, too, has reportedly hired Goldman Sachs to lead its 2019 float.

Pinterest didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.