This serial founder is taking on Carta with cap table management software she says is better for founders

Yin Wu has cofounded several companies since graduating from Stanford in 2011, including a computer vision company called Double Labs that sold to Microsoft, where she stayed on for a couple of years as a software engineer. In fact, it was only after that sale she she says she “actually understood all of the nuances with a company’s cap table.”

Her newest company, Pulley, a 14-month-old, Mountain View, Ca.-based maker of cap table management software aims to solve that same problem and has so far raised $10 million toward that end led by the payments company Stripe, with participation from Caffeinated Capital, General Catalyst, 8VC, and numerous angel investors.

Wu is going up against some pretty powerful competition. Carta was reportedly raising $200 million in fresh funding at a $3 billion valuation as of the spring (a round the company never official confirmed or announced). Last year, it raised $300 million. Morgan Stanley has meanwhile been beefing up its stock plan administration business, acquiring Solium Capital early last year and more newly purchasing Barclay’s stock plan business.

Of course, startups often manage to find a way to take down incumbents and a distraction for Carta, at least, in the form of a very public gender discrimination lawsuit by a former VP of marketing, could be the kind of opening that Pulley needs. We emailed with Yu yesterday to ask if that might be the case. She didn’t answer directly, but she did mention “values,” as long as shared some more details about what she sees as different about the two products.

TC: Why start this company? Has Carta’s press of late created an opening for a new upstart in the space?

YW: I left Microsoft in 2018 and started Pulley a year later. We skipped the seed and raised the A because of overwhelming demand from investors. Many wanted a better product for their portfolio companies. Many founders are increasingly thinking about choosing with companies, like Pulley, that better align with their values.

TC: How many people are working for Pulley and are any folks you pulled out of Carta?

YW: We’re a team of seven and have four people on the team who are former Y Combinator founders. We attract founders to the team because they’ve experienced firsthand the difficulties of managing a cap table and want to build a better tool for other founders. We have not pulled anyone out of Carta yet.

TC: Carta has raised a lot of funding and it has long tentacles. What can Pulley offer startups that Carta cannot?

YW: We offer startups a better product compared to our competitors. We make every interaction on Pulley easier and faster. 409A valuations take five days instead of weeks, and onboarding is the same day rather than months. By analogy, this is similar to the difference between Stripe and Braintree when Stripe initially launched. There were many different payment processes when Stripe launched. They were able to capture a large portion of the market by building a better product that resonated with developers.

One of the features that stands out on Pulley is our modeling feature [which helps founders model dilution in future rounds and helps employees understand the value of their equity as the company grows]. Founders switch from our competitors to Pulley to use our modeling tool [and it works] with pre-money SAFEs, post-money SAFEs, and factors in pro-ratas and discounts. To my knowledge, Pulley’s modeling tool is the most comprehensive product on the market.

TC: How does your pricing compare with Carta’s?

YW:  Pulley is free for early-stage companies regardless of how much they raise. We’re price competitive with Carta on our paid plans. Part of the reason we started Pulley is because we had frustrations with other cap table management tools. When using other services, we had to regularly ping our accountants or lawyers to make edits, run reports, or get data. Each time we involved the lawyers, it was an expensive legal fee. So there is easily a $2,000 hidden fee when using tools that aren’t self-serve for setting up and updating your cap table.

TC: Is there a business-to-business opportunity here, where maybe attorneys or accountants or wealth managers private label this service? Or are these industry professionals viewed as competitors?

YW: We think there are opportunities to white label the service for accountants and law firms. However, this is currently not our focus.

TC: How adaptable is the software? Can it deal with a complicated scenario, a corner case?

YW: We started Pulley one year ago and we’re launching today because we have invested in building an architecture that can support complex cap table scenarios as companies scale. There are two things that you have to get right with cap table systems, First, never lose the data and second, always make sure the numbers are correct. We haven’t lost data for any customer and we have a comprehensive system of tests that verifies the cap table numbers on Pulley remain accurate.

TC: At what stage does it make sense for a startup to work with Pulley, and do you have the tools to hang onto them and keep them from switching over to a competitor later?

YW: We work with companies past the Series A, like Fast and Clubhouse. Companies are not looking to change their cap table provider if Pulley has the tool to grow with them. We already have the features of our competitors, including electronic share issuance, ACH transfers for options, modeling tools for multiple rounds, and more. We think we can win more startups because Pulley is also easier to use and faster to onboard.

TC: Regarding your paid plans, how much is Pulley charging and for what? How many tiers of service are there?

YW; Pulley is free for early-stage startups with less than 25 stakeholders. We charge $10 per stakeholder per month when companies scale beyond that. A stakeholder is any employee or investor on the cap table. Most companies upgrade to our premium plan after a seed round when they need a 409A valuation.

Cap table management is an area where companies don’t want a free product. Pulley takes our customers data privacy and security very seriously. We charge a flat fee for companies so they rest assured that their data will never be sold or used without their permission.

TC: What’s Pulley’s relationship to venture firms?

YW: We’re currently focused on founders rather than investors. We work with accelerators like Y Combinator to help their portfolio companies manage their cap table, but don’t have a formal relationship with any VC firms.

Daily Crunch: Stripe acquires Nigeria’s Paystack

Stripe makes a big acquisition, Google rolls out search improvements and Snapchat adds a TikTok-y feature. This is your Daily Crunch for October 15, 2020.

The big story: Stripe acquires Nigeria’s Paystack

Stripe has made its biggest acquisition to date. It announced today that it bought Paystack, a Lagos-headquartered startup that makes it easy to integrate payment services — we’ve referred to it in the past as “the Stripe of Africa.”

Sources tell us that the acquisition price was more than $200 million.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Stripe CEO Patrick Collison said that expanding into Africa presents the company with “an enormous opportunity,” adding that Stripe is planning for “a longer time horizon” than most other companies: “We are thinking of what the world will look like in 2040-2050.”

The tech giants

Google launches a slew of Search updates — These new AI-focused improvements include the ability to better answer questions with very specific answers, as well as a new algorithm to better handle the typos in your queries.

Snapchat launches its TikTok rival, Sounds on Snapchat — Snapchat made good on its promise to release a new feature that would allow users to set their Snaps to music.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit review — Bryce Durbin offers an illustrated look at a new edition of Mario Kart that incorporates a real remote-controlled car.

Startups, funding and venture capital

River, the latest venture from Wander founder Jeremy Fisher, launches with $10.4M in funding — River is meant to rethink the way we consume content across the internet.

Small business payments and marketing startup Fivestars raises $52.5M — It’s a difficult time for small businesses, and Fivestars CEO Victor Ho said that many of the big digital platforms aren’t helping.

Bipedal robot developer Agility announces $20M raise — Agility’s Digit is a package delivery robot capable of navigating stairs and other terrain.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

News that Calm seeks more funding at a higher valuation is not transcendental thinking — We rewind the clock and review data from 2018, 2019 and 2020 about the meditation app.

Brighteye Ventures’ Alex Latsis talks European edtech funding in 2020 — European edtech firm Brighteye Ventures recently announced the $54 million first close of its second fund.

Tesla’s decision to scrap its PR department could create a PR nightmare — The move effectively makes founder Elon Musk the company’s lone voice.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

New Oxford machine learning-based COVID-19 test can provide results in under 5 minutes —  The test also offers advantages when it comes to detecting actual virus particles, instead of antibodies or other signs of the presence of the virus.

When was the last time you worked out your soul? — Another discussion of wellness startup funding, this time via the latest episode of the Equity podcast.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Khosla Ventures seeks $1.1 billion for its latest fund

Khosla Ventures, the eponymous venture firm helmed by longtime Silicon Valley rainmaker, Vinod Khosla, is raising  $1.1 billion for its latest venture fund, according to documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The filing was first spotted by Ari Levy over at CNBC.

Khosla, whose investing career began at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (back when it was still called Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) is rightly famous for a number of bets on enterprise software companies and was a richly rewarded co-founder of Sun Microsystems before venturing into the world of venture capital.

Like his former partner, John Doerr, Khosla also went all-in on renewable energy and sustainability both at Kleiner Perkins and then later at his own fund, which he reportedly launched with several hundreds of millions of dollars from his personal fortune.

Over the years Khosla Ventures has placed bets and scored big wins across a wide range of industries including cybersecurity (with the over $1 billion acquisition of portfolio company Cylance), sustainability (with the Climate Corp. acquisition), and healthcare (through the public offering of Editas).

And the current portfolio should also have some big exits with a roster that includes: the unicorn lending company, Affirm; the nuclear fusion technology developer, Commonwealth Fusion Systems (maybe not a winner, but so so so cool); delivery company, DoorDash; the meat replacement maker, Impossible Foods; grocery delivery service, Instacart; security technology developer, Okta; the health insurance provider, Oscar; and the payment companies Square and Stripe .

That’s quite a string of unicorn (and would-be unicorn) investments. And it speaks to the breadth of the firm’s interests that run the gamut from healthcare to fintech to sustainability and the future of food.

Khosla will likely benefit from the surge of interest in investments that adhere to new environmental, social responsibility and corporate governance standards.

There are billions of dollars that are looking for a home that can invest along those criteria, and for the last 16 years or so, that’s exactly what Khosla Ventures has been doing.

The highest valued company in Bessemer’s annual cloud report has defied convention by staying private

This year’s Bessemer Venture Partners’ annual Cloud 100 Benchmark report was published recently and my colleague Alex Wilhelm looked at some broad trends in the report, but digging into the data, I decided to concentrate on the Top 10 companies by valuation. I found that the top company has defied convention for a couple of reasons.

Bessemer looks at private companies. Once they go public, they lose interest, and that’s why certain startups go in and out of this list each year. As an example, Dropbox was the most highly valued company by far with a valuation in the $10 billion range for 2016 and 2017, the earliest data in the report. It went public in 2018 and therefore disappeared.

While that $10 billion benchmark remains a fairly good measure of a solidly valued cloud company, one company in particular blew away the field in terms of valuation, an outlier so huge, its value dwarfs even the mighty Snowflake, which was valued at over $12 billion before it went public earlier this month.

That company is Stripe, which has an other worldly valuation of $36 billion. Stripe began its ascent to the top of the charts in 2016 and 2017 when it sat behind Dropbox with a $6 billion valuation in 2016 and around $8 billion in 2017. By the time Dropbox left the chart in 2018, Stripe would have likely blown past it when its valuation soared to $20 billion. It zipped up to around $23 billion last year before taking another enormous leap to $36 billion this year.

Stripe remains an outlier not only for its enormous valuation, but also the fact that it hasn’t gone public yet. As TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden pointed out in article earlier this year, the company has remained quiet about its intentions, although there has been some speculation lately that an IPO could be coming.

What Stripe has done to earn that crazy valuation is to be the cloud payment API of choice for some of the largest companies on the Internet. Consider that Stripe’s customers include Amazon, Salesforce, Google and Shopify and it’s not hard to see why this company is valued as highly as it is.

Stripe came up with the idea of making it simple to incorporate a payments mechanism into your app or website, something that’s extremely time-consuming to do. Instead of building their own, developers tapped into Stripe’s ready-made variety and Stripe gets a little money every time someone bangs on the payment gateway.

When you’re talking about some of the biggest companies in the world being involved, and many others large and small, all of those payments running through Stripe’s systems add up to a hefty amount of revenue, and that revenue has led to this amazing valuation.

One other company, you might want to pay attention to here, is UIPath, the robotic process automation company, which was sitting just behind Snowflake with a valuation of over $10 billion. While it’s unclear if RPA, the technology that helps automate legacy workflows, will have the lasting power of a payments API, it certainly has come on strong the last couple of years.

Most of the companies in this report appear for a couple of years as they become unicorns, watch their values soar and eventually go public. Stripe up to this point has chosen not to do that, making it a highly unusual company.

A stampede of unicorn news

With a hot IPO market and a world accelerating its shift to digital technologies amidst a pandemic, it’s a busy time for late-stage startups. Happily, the current moment is generating a wave of leaks and news. So much so, it’s actually been pretty hard to keep up.

In honor of the somewhat crazy week we’ve had, I’ve compiled the biggest and best bits of unicorn news, with two final items concerning companies that are not quite unicorns. Our goal is to get caught up so we can start next week sufficiently informed.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. You can read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


As always with this sort of work, we’ll have to handle each entry quickly. But if you want to know what’s up lately with the most valuable private companies, this should provide a working summary.

We’ll start with the Gong round, talk Palantir, peek at Stripe, chat about Airbnb’s results, detail a few other revenue milestones that were new to us, discuss Robinhood trading volume, gander at some Coinbase product news and a few other items, wrapping with a note on recent funding rounds from Parsable and Coda.

The theme, in case you were hoping for a unifying thread, is that the good times that took temporary flight in March and April, are back.

Today, it’s nearly hard to recall the fear that took over startup-land; sure, there are warning signs about cloud growth rates, but for many unicorns, we still live in boom times.

Let’s begin.

A  blessing of unicorns

As promised, we’re starting with the Gong round, which my dear friend Ron Miller covered for TechCrunch. The salestech software company put together a $200 million round at a $2.2 billion valuation after raising several other rounds in recent quarters. As Ron reports, the company’s growth has been torrid, with 1,300 customers and 2.5x revenue growth “this year alone.” But most critically, Gong’s CEO Amit Bendov said that “there’s a lot of liquidity in the market.” Yep.

Extension rounds help some startups play offense during COVID-19

The venture capital world is constantly changing, and its evolution can sometimes flip pieces of conventional wisdom on their heads. For example, a recent flurry of extension rounds from Silicon Valley’s hottest startups like Stripe and Robinhood seem to signal that the investment type has suddenly become cool.

Extensions evolving from unloved to hot is not the first time that a type of VC deal has gained, or lost luster. In past times, for example, raising consecutive rounds from the same lead investor was often perceived as a negative signal; why couldn’t the startup find a new, different lead investor? Today, in contrast, venture capitalists are using inside rounds to double-down on winning startups, a way of helping ensure returns for their own backers.

The recent phenomenon of extensions becoming vogue is a tale of the times, in which the best startups get to play offense, and startups that can’t show accelerating growth are left behind. Let’s explore what has changed.

A series of fortunate extensions

TechCrunch first wrote about the new extension-round trend after seeing what felt like a wave of the deals crop up. Some were large, like MariaDB’s huge $25 million add-on to its Series C, or Robinhood’s biblical $320 million addition to its Series F.

But most were smaller events like Sayari adding $2.5 million to its Series B, or CALA adding $3 million to its seed round. Even more recently, Eterneva raised another $3 million on top of its seed round, and also out this week was a million pounds more for Edinburgh-based Machine Labs’ seed round.

One reason for the growth of extension rounds in 2020 has been runway — making sure that a startup has enough. Upstarts often raise on an 18-month cadence. But because of COVID-19 and its constituent economic disruptions, many have reduced costs in a bid to bolster how long they have until their cash stores reach zero.

Tech for good during COVID-19: Sky-high gifts, extra help, and chips

When Roger Lee, the co-founder of Human Interest, heard that San Francisco imposed shelter-in-place orders, he started blogging about layoff news and posting crowdsourced lists of employees who were laid off. His goal was to increase awareness about layoffs and give recruiters a place to search for candidates.

However, one week and 40 startup layoffs later, Lee saw his blog was not going to be able to keep up with the massive number of cuts happening across the country. So, Layoffs.fyi tracker was born and currently receives tens of thousands of visitors every day.

As for how he’s balancing the tracker and Human Interest? Lee noted that he has transitioned to work at the company from a board-level capacity.

Lee’s work is one example of many inspiring initiatives we’re going to showcase this week. Let’s get into the list.

  1. Plan your future adventures. A number of sites have popped up to encourage people to buy gift cards and support their local restaurants. But what about their local tourism industries? Adam Faris, a student at the University of Oregon, launched a coronavirus initiative with a team of folks to support businesses in the action sports and adventure experience space. Faris has aggregated a number of businesses offering discounts on skiing, surfing, whitewater rafting and more to encourage people to support small businesses.
  2. Extra help for developers. YouTeam, a Y Combinator-backed marketplace for building remote development teams, is launching a volunteer developers group. Any startups working on COVID-19-related issues can turn to the group to find technical support to aid them, and apply for free development hours of front-end, back-end or UX support. 
  3. Tiny steps, big impact. Tiny Organics, a child nutrition company, is pledging $10,000 annually to Partnership for Healthier America, which works to make sure kids have access to health food. Tiny Organics also created a special edition plant-based meal, Michelle My Broccoli Belle, and will donate 100% of the proceeds to the Food Bank for New York City. 
  4. Help from above. Skydio is donating dozens of self-flying drones to first responders across the country, as part of its Emergency Response program. The drones do not have speakers and will not be used as a communication mechanism, but instead as a way for fire and police units to see potential issues close up. Skydio will provide training and support at no cost. Additionally, the company is teaming up with Frontline Support, a nonprofit, to source and deliver more than a million units of PPE equipment to the University of Washington Hospital System through its logistical and supply chain systems. 
  5. A safe space. Equal space (=SPACE), co-working space for multicultural, LGBTQ, and women-owned startups, has opened up its doors virtually. =Space is offering resources online for freelancers and small business owners that includes training, workshops, productivity sessions, and wellness talks all free of charge.
  6. Aid for healthcare workers. Work & Co partnered with employees at Adobe, Dropbox, and a number of medical students to create a tool to connect healthcare workers with access to grocery delivery, discounted childcare, and free mental health services. The tool was made with input from doctors, nurses, and medical school faculty to help workers meet their basic needs, beyond PPE. It is currently available in New York.
  7. Bandcamp waives fees. Bandcamp, a music company that lets users directly support artists, announced that it will be waiving fees for artists for a number of select days. Last time the platform waived fees, sales for music and merchandise pulled in $4.3 million for artists. It’s a refreshing way to support artists in a world where concerts are no longer a reality. Read more here
  8. A pro bono portal. The American Bar Association and a justice tech company, Paladin, teamed up to create a portal to connect those impacted by COVID-19 to lawyers working pro bono. LegalZoom and Clio are also connected to the project. Read more here.
  9. Hiring help. Binc, a recruitment company that works with companies like Tiktok, Stripe, Nest, Groupon, and more, has launched a free program to help tech workers find jobs. The company is placing employees in engineering, product, design, market, and recruitment professionals in jobs for no charge until the end of the month.
  10.  Chipping in for COVID. Morning Brew is holding an online poker tournament-turned-fundraiser to raise money for Frontline Foods, which supports restaurants and feeds frontline workers. A donation of $100 is required to play.

Precursor Ventures’ Charles Hudson on ‘the conversation no one has during an upmarket’

For pre-seed startups, precarious times are baseline until they secure their first customer, first hire and first check. But no matter how built-in turbulence might be for a pre-seed founder, we’re entering a period where stresses are amplified and outlooks are unpredictable.

In light of the new market conditions, a harder fundraising market and slower expected growth, Charles Hudson (founder and general partner of Precursor Ventures) is urging his portfolio companies to reassess their futures with a refreshingly human question: “Are you excited and prepared to run this company for the next two years?

If not, you might want to do something else. Why? Because if a super early-stage company manages to survive the COVID-19 era, making it out the other end, it’s not clear that they’ll be venture-ready when markets recover. As Hudson put it, “there’s never been a better time to maybe fold.” That’s because, he explained, startups that merely survive won’t be judged merely against their peers that also survived; they will also compete with brand-new startups for capital and companies that didn’t need to hunker down during lean times.

It’s possible to make it through, but it won’t be an easy path.

TechCrunch spoke with Hudson earlier this week as part of our ongoing Extra Crunch Live series that brings leading founders and investors to our (virtual) stage. Between our editors and journalists and the best questions from the audience, we’re working with guests to understand the new world that we find ourselves in. That we’re hosting these events virtually instead of in-person is testament to our changed reality.

But the chat was far from all gloom; Hudson is bullish on a number of things. Niche publications with subscription economics? Yes. Social services targeting particular audiences? Yep! Precursor is still cutting checks into net-new deals, and while it’s wrapping up its second main fund and first opportunity fund, the firm is also raising a new, larger capital pool.

The conversation ran the full hour we had set aside for it, meaning we had to condense some later discussions about fintech and the new trade-off between growth and profit, but we did get to diversity in venture and startups in the future, and what impact a recession might have on both (it’s a bigger possible impact than you’re considering).

Hit the jump for the best Hudson takeaways and the full audio recording from the session. Head here if you need Extra Crunch access; there are some trials for just a few bucks, so everyone can access the chat. Let’s go!

Raising a fund in the COVID-19 era

Daily Crunch: Stripe now valued at $36B

Stripe raises new funding, Uber acknowledges financial uncertainty and a controversial facial recognition startup accidentally exposes its source code.

Here’s your Daily Crunch for April 17, 2020.

1. Stripe raises $600M at $36B valuation in Series G extension, says it has $2B on its balance sheet

The economy may be contracting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but promising startups are still continuing to raise money to shore up finances for whatever may lie ahead.

The latest development: Stripe, a well-known payments unicorn, announced that it had raised another $600 million in new capital, money that it plans to use to continue investing in product development, further global expansion and strategic initiatives.

2. Uber withdraws 2020 guidance

“Given the evolving nature of COVID-19 and the uncertainty it has caused for every industry in every part of the world, it is impossible to predict with precision the pandemic’s cumulative impact on our future financial results,” Uber said in a statement.

3. Security lapse exposed Clearview AI source code

The controversial facial recognition startup allows its law enforcement users to take a picture of a person, upload it and match it against its alleged database of 3 billion images, which the company scraped from public social media profiles. And for a time, a misconfigured server exposed the company’s internal files, apps and source code for anyone on the internet to find.

4. Changing policy, Y Combinator cuts its pro rata stake and makes investments case-by-case

Under its new policy, the accelerator is reducing its pro rata investment size from 7% to 4% and is only investing on a case-by-case basis going forward. Apparently the portfolio has gotten too large for blanket investments, and some of the limited partners who back the accelerator’s operations are balking at making commitments to the pro rata program.

5. Announcing the Extra Crunch Live event series

First up: We’ll be chatting with Aileen Lee (former KPCB partner, founder and managing director at Cowboy.vc and coiner of the term “Unicorn”) and Ted Wang (Cowboy.vc partner, former partner at Fenwick & West, and former outside counsel to Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Square and more) on Monday, April 20. And yes, you’ll need to be an Extra Crunch member to tune in.

6. NASA reveals ambitious multi-spacecraft plan to bring a piece of Mars back to Earth

NASA has said many times that it intends to collect a sample from Mars and return it to Earth. But how will the organization go about scooping up soil from the surface of a distant planet and getting it back here? With a newly-revealed plan that sounds straight out of sci-fi.

7. Facebook’s annual virtual reality conference goes virtual-only

Facebook announced that it will be shelving the in-person component of its virtual reality-focused Oculus Connect 7 conference due to COVID-19 concerns and focusing on a digital format. Although the company hadn’t announced dates for the event, the conference is typically held in late September or early October.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Saving, not spending, is the new hotness in fintech

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

Yesterday news broke that Robinhood is on the hunt for new capital at a roughly flat valuation, per friend of the blog Katie Roof. If you are a bit confused by the news, I understand. Robinhood went through a gauntlet of bad press and user complaints after it suffered from some embarrassing downtime back in March, and isn’t the capital market for private companies in rough shape?

But the round is more reasonable than you’d think, namely because Robinhood’s revenue has reached real scale, and, like other savings and investing-focused financial applications, it’s enjoying a boom in demand. Showing that there’s buzz in helping people save, let’s talk about Robinhood briefly and dig into some other metrics from its loose cohort of companies (including M1 Finance, more about them in a moment) .

Growth