Eat the rich, but let them build rockets in the meantime

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic went to space (or the vicinity of space) in a PR-suffused event over the weekend. It was all rather twee, packed with maudlin riffs about childhood dreams and riddled with hero worship. And the stream kept stuttering while some of the planned vehicle-to-Earth communications failed.


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But the launch accomplished what it set out to do: A few folks made it to into zero gravity after launching their rocket-powered space plane from a larger aircraft, flipping it around at the top of its arc so that its passengers could get a good view of our home while floating. Then it came back to the surface and, we’re sure, much champagne was consumed.

In the aftermath of the event, lots of folks are pissed. Complaints have rolled in, dissing the event and generally mocking the expense involved when there are other issues to manage. A sampling follows. Note that these are merely illustrative examples of a general vibe. I have precisely zero beef with anyone in the following tweets or articles:

And from the media side of things, this stood out today from the Tribune:

I disagree.

Sure, it’s maddening that Jeff Bezos’ new yacht will require a second boat so that he can have a mobile heliport on the go — his new boat has sails, so you can’t chopper to it — while the company that built his fortune churns through workers with abandon and squeezes its drivers so much that they have to piss in bottles due to scheduling constraints.

And, yes, Branson is annoying quite a lot of the time. He also owns an island and likes himself too much.

Equity Monday: Cybersecurity startups see deluge of capital as Microsoft looks to buy RiskIQ

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

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

It was a busy weekend for everyone, regardless of whether you were watching the technology, what Branson was up to, or the footie. I won’t take sides on the match, but I will say that it was gripping unto the very end and a great example of sport. Now, the news:

And don’t forget that earnings season is just around the corner. It’s a pretty important cycle. Why? Because startup valuations are hot, and could take a hit if earnings come up short. And the IPO market is pretty freaking active; poor earnings from major tech companies could crimp exit-prices for mature startups.

Ok! Talk to you on Wednesday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

Mmhmm, it’s the most ridiculous story we’ve ever heard

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

Danny and Alex were on deck this week, with Grace on the recording and edit. Natasha will be back with us starting next week. So, it was old times on the show with just two of our team to vamp on the news. And oh boy was there a lot of news to get into. Like, loads.

  • What’s going on with Didi? Didi’s woes have continued this week, with the company seeing its share price continue to fall. The Equity team’s view is that the era of Chinese companies listing in the United States is over.
  • What’s going on with facial recognition tech? With AnyVision raising a $235 million round, Danny and Alex tangled over the future of privacy, and what counts as good enough when it comes to keeping ourselves to ourselves.
  • Nextdoor is going public: Via a SPAC, mind, but the transaction had our tongues wagging about its history, growth, and how hard it can be to build a social network.
  • Dataminr buys WatchKeeper: In its first-ever acquisition, Dataminr bought a smaller company to help it better visualize the data it collects. It’s a neat deal, and especially fun given that Dataminr should go public sooner rather than later.
  • Planet and Satellogic are going public: One week, two satellite SPACs. You can read more about Planet here, and Satellogic here.
  • FabricNano and Cloverly raise capital: Satellites had us into the concept of climate change, so we also dug into recent funding rounds from FabricNano and Cloverly. It’s beyond neat to see for-profit companies tackle our warming planet.
  • Two new venture capital funds: Acrylic has put together a $55 million fund for moonshot crypto work, while Renegade Partners has a $100 million fund for early-and-mid-stage generalist investments.
  • Mmhmm is big time: And then there was mmhmm. Which now has $100 million more, and some big plans. Our question is what will it do with the money. We’ll have to wait and find out, we suppose.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Circle is a good example of why SPACs can be useful

In the wake of Coinbase’s direct listing earlier this year, other crypto companies may be looking to go public sooner than later. That appears to be the case with Circle, a Boston-based technology company that provides API-delivered financial services and a stablecoin.


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Circle will not direct list or pursue a traditional IPO. Instead, the company is combining with Concord Acquisition Corp., a SPAC, or blank-check company. The transaction values the crypto shop at an enterprise value of $4.5 billion and an equity value of around $5.4 billion.

The offering marks an interesting moment for the crypto market. Unlike Coinbase, which operates a trading platform and generates fees in a manner that is widely understood by public-market investors, Circle’s offerings are a bit more exotic.

Circle’s SPAC presentation details a company whose core business deals with a stablecoin — a crypto asset pegged to an external currency, in this case, the U.S. dollar — and a set of APIs that provide crypto-powered financial services to other companies. It also owns SeedInvest, an equity crowdfunding platform, though Circle appears to generate the bulk of its anticipated revenues from its other businesses.

For more on the deal itself, TechCrunch’s Romain Dillet has a piece focused on the transaction. Here, we’ll dig into the company’s investor presentation, talk about its business model, and riff on its historical and anticipated results and valuation multiples.

In short, we get to have a little fun. Let’s begin.

How Circle’s business works

As noted above, Circle has three main business operations. Here’s how it describes them in its deck:

Image Credits: Circle investor presentation

Let’s consider each one, starting with USDC.

Stablecoins have become popular in recent quarters. Because they are pegged to an external currency, they operate as an interesting form of cash inside the crypto world. If you want to have on-chain buying power, but don’t want to have all your value stored in more volatile, and tax-inducing, cryptos that you might have to sell to buy anything else, stablecoins can operate as a more stable sort of liquid currency. They can combine the stability of the U.S. dollar, say, and the crypto world’s interesting financial web.

r2c raises $27M to scale its security-focused code analysis service

This morning r2c, a startup building a SaaS service around the Semgrep open-source project, announced that it has closed a $27 million Series B. Felicis led the round, which the company said was a pre-emptive deal.

Prior investors firms Redpoint and Sequoia also participated in the fundraising event; r2c last raised a $13 million Series A in October of 2020.

The startup fits into several trends that TechCrunch has explored in recent quarters, including what appears to be a growing number of open-source (OSS) grounded startups raising capital, more rounds coming to exist thanks to investors looking to get the jump on inside rounds before they can form.

On the OSS point, r2c works with Semgrep, which the company likens to a “code-aware grep.” Still confused? Don’t worry, this is all a bit technical, but interesting. Grep is a tool for searching through plain-text that has been around for decades. Semgrep is related, but focused on finding things inside of written code.

Given the sheer volume of code that is written daily in the world, you can imagine that there is an ever-rising demand for finding particular bits of text quickly; Semgrep is an evolution of the original project, that was initially built inside of Facebook.

Per r2c CEO Isaac Evans, however, the project failed to attract much awareness. His startup has built what Evans described to TechCrunch has the “canonical” Semgrep fork, or version, and has crafted a software service around the code to make it easier for other companies to use.

The r2c team, via the company.

There are many ways to generate revenue from open-source software. Two popular monetization routes are througuh support services or offers to host particular projects. But, R2c is a doing something a bit different. The startup sells a monthly, per-developer subscription (SaaS) that packages a broad set of security-focused rules across different coding languages, allowing companies to easily check their own software for possible security issues.

Or as Evans succinctly explained it, r2c offers something akin to application security in a box.

Focusing on cybersecurity is a reasonable tack for the company. Given the ever-growing number of breaches that the public endures, helping companies leak less data, and suffer fewer intrusions is big business.

You don’t have to pay r2c, however. Semgrep is OSS and the rules associated with various languages are available under a LGPL license — more on that definition here. Developers could build their own version of what the company offers. But, Evans argued, it won’t be ready to help you pick which rules you may want to apply to your code, something that his company is happy to help with for a fee.

From a wide lens, r2c fits into the developer tools category. It is content to land and expand inside of companies, perhaps allowing it a lower cost of acquiring customers than we see at some SaaS startups. But that doesn’t mean that the company won’t go to market to sell its service. Per Evans, the startup has historically underinvested in marketing, something that it may now be able to focus more on thanks to its recent financing.

It is not uncommon to see companies with technically-minded founders initially spend too little on the sales and marketing parts of operating a software business. But our impression after discussing the company’s plans with Evans is that r2c intends to get that part of its house in order.

Evans told TechCrunch that his company took aboard more cash because it doesn’t want to build the best search tool for, say, the C programming language. It wants to go broad, fusing what the CEO described as the “customizability of Semgrep” and wide language support.

Let’s see how quickly the company can staff up, bolster its marketing efforts, and take on enterprise clients. Raising a Series C puts the company somewhere past its startup adolescence, so from here on out we can pester the company for concrete growth numbers.

Nextdoor’s SPAC investor deck paints a picture of sizable scale and sticky users

The SPAC parade continues in this shortened week with news that community social network Nextdoor will go public via a blank-check company. The unicorn will merge with Khosla Ventures Acquisition Co. II, taking itself public and raising capital at the same time.

Per the former startup, the transaction with the Khosla-affiliated SPAC will generate gross proceeds of around $686 million, inclusive of a $270 million private investment in public equity, or PIPE, which is being funded by a collection of capital pools, some prior Nextdoor investors (including Tiger), Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar and Khosla Ventures itself.

Notably, Khosla is not a listed investor in the company per Crunchbase or PitchBook, indicating that even SPACs formed by venture capital firms can hunt for deals outside their parent’s portfolio.

Per a Nextdoor release, the transaction will value the company at a “pro forma equity [valuation] of approximately $4.3 billion.” That’s a great price for the firm that was most recently valued at $2.17 billion in a late 2019-era Series H worth $170 million, per PitchBook data. Those funds were invested at a flat $2 billion pre-money valuation.

So, what will public investors get the chance to buy into at the new, higher price? To answer that we’ll have to turn to the company’s SPAC investor deck.

Our general observations are that while Nextdoor’s SPAC deck does have some regular annoyances, it offers a clear-eyed look at the company’s financial performance both in historical terms and in terms of what it might accomplish in the future. Our usual mockery of SPAC charts mostly doesn’t apply. Let’s begin.

Nextdoor’s SPAC pitch

We’ll proceed through the deck in its original slide order to better understand the company’s argument for its value today, as well as its future worth.

The company kicks off with a note that it has 27 million weekly active users (neighbors, in its own parlance), and claims users in around one in three U.S. households. The argument, then, is that Nextdoor has scale.

A few slides later, Nextdoor details its mission: “To cultivate a kinder world where everyone has a neighborhood they can rely on.” While accounts like @BestOfNextdoor might make this mission statement as coherent as ExxonMobil saying that its core purpose was, say, atmospheric carbon reduction, we have to take it seriously. The company wants to bring people together. It can’t control what they do from there, as we’ve all seen. But the fact that rude people on Nextdoor is a meme stems from the same scale that the company was just crowing about.

Underscoring its active user counts are Nextdoor’s retention figures. Here’s how it describes that metric:

Image Credits: Nextdoor SPAC investor deck

These are monthly active users, mind, not weekly active, the figure that the company cited up top. So, the metrics are looser here. And the company is counting users as active if they have “started a session or opened a content email over the trailing 30 days.” How conservative is that metric? We’ll leave that for you to decide.

The company’s argument for its value continues in the following slide, with Nextdoor noting that users become more active as more people use the service in a neighborhood. This feels obvious, though it is nice, we suppose, to see the company codify our expectations in data.

Nextdoor then argues that its user base is distinct from that of other social networks and that its users are about as active as those on Twitter, albeit less active than on the major U.S. social networks (Facebook, Snap, Instagram).

Why go through the exercise of sorting Nextdoor into a cabal of social networks? Well, here’s why:

Will Didi’s regulatory problems make it harder for Chinese startups to go public in the US?

Shares of Chinese ride-hailing business Didi are off 22% this morning after the company was hit by more regulatory activity over the holiday weekend. The recently public company traded as high as $18.01 per share since it held an IPO last week; today, shares of Didi are worth just $12.09, off around a third from their 52-week high.


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The decline in value follows a review by a Chinese cybersecurity agency that led to Didi being unable to onboard new users, a decision that arrived as last week rolled to a close.

Over the weekend, Didi was hit with more regulatory action. This time, the Cyberspace Administration of China said, via an internet translation, that “after testing and verification, the ‘Didi Travel’ App [was found to have] serious violations of laws and regulations in collecting and using personal information,” which led the agency to command app stores “to remove the ‘Didi Travel’ app, and required [the company] to strictly follow the legal requirements and refer to relevant national standards to seriously rectify existing problems.”

Being yanked from relevant app stores was enough for Didi to alert investors that its mobile app “had the problem of collecting personal information in violation of relevant PRC laws and regulations.” Didi said that the change in its app availability “may have an adverse impact on its revenue in China.”

Understatement of the year, I reckon.

But there’s more going on than what Didi is enduring. As CNBC reported:

Didi gets hit by Chinese government, and Pelo raises $150M

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

This is Equity Monday Tuesday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

What a busy weekend we missed while mostly hearing distant explosions and hugging our dogs close. Here’s a sampling of what we tried to recap on the show:

It’s going to be a busy week! Chat tomorrow.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

Didi gets hit by Chinese government, and Pelo raises $150M

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

This is Equity Monday Tuesday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

What a busy weekend we missed while mostly hearing distant explosions and hugging our dogs close. Here’s a sampling of what we tried to recap on the show:

It’s going to be a busy week! Chat tomorrow.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

Didi gets hit by Chinese government, and Pelo raises $150M

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

This is Equity Monday Tuesday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

What a busy weekend we missed while mostly hearing distant explosions and hugging our dogs close. Here’s a sampling of what we tried to recap on the show:

It’s going to be a busy week! Chat tomorrow.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!