Sequoia’s Mike Vernal will share how to iterate with tempo at TC Early Stage in July

TC Early Stage is back in July and we have a fantastic lineup in store that’s laser-focused on marketing and fundraising. That includes, but is not limited to, Sequoia’s Mike Vernal, whose portfolio companies include Citizen, PicsArt, Whisper, Threads, Houseparty and more.

Vernal will be leading a discussion on tempo and product-market fit. The chat stems from Vernal’s experience as an investor, sharing the lesser-known keys to success to not only secure early investment, but to use it to secure a later-stage investment.

In essence, tempo is everything. At the earliest stage, investors are looking more at the team than the product, knowing that the likelihood of the product changing and evolving is high. That means that the ability to adapt — including the systems in place to collect feedback and willingness to continue iterating — are incredibly important factors.

Vernal will not only stress the importance of tempo and product iteration (and how it relates to fundraising success), he’ll also share how both enterprise and consumer companies should go about creating these feedback loops with customers and how to iterate quickly.

Vernal joined Sequoia as a partner in 2016. He currently sits on the boards of Citizen, Jumpstart, rideOS, PicsArt, Rockset, Threads and Whisper. Before Sequoia, Mike was VP at Facebook, where he led a variety of product and engineering teams. He co-created Facebook Login and the Graph API.

In other words, he’s seen and participated in success, and has done the work of product iteration himself.

Vernal joins a stellar lineup of speakers at TC Early Stage in July, including Norwest Venture Partners’ Lisa Wu, Greylock’s Mike Duboe and Cleo Capital’s Sarah Kunst, among many others that are soon to be announced.

One of the great things about TC Early Stage is that the show is designed around breakout sessions, with each speaker leading a chat around a specific startup core competency (like fundraising, designing a brand, mastering the art of PR and more). Moreover, there is plenty of time for audience Q&A in each session.

Pick up your ticket for the event, which goes down July 8 and 9, right here. And if you do it before the end of the day today, you’ll save a cool $100 off of your registration.


Early-bird price ends tonight: Buy your pass to TC Early Stage 2021 and save $100

Last call, founders. Today is your last chance to save $100 on a pass to TC Early Stage 2021: Marketing & Fundraising. Our last founder bootcamp event of the year takes place July 8-9, and it’s time to call on Saint Expeditus — the patron saint of procrastinators and programmers alike. He’ll help you kick procrastination to the curb, save some cash and gain access to a bevy of top-tier investors, famous founders, marketing magicians, financial wizards and other startup savants. And they all want to help you build a better startup. But you need to buy your pass by 11:59 p.m. (PT) today, April 30.

This TC Early Stage experience goes deep on fundraising and marketing fundamentals. On day one, you’ll choose from a range of presentations and breakout sessions — all interactive, with plenty of time for Q&As. Plus video on demand, available after the event ends, means you don’t have to worry about schedule conflicts.

Speakers at Early Stage bring a wealth of experience, coupled with authenticity. You’ll walk away with actionable advice for immediate use and an unvarnished look at what it takes to build a startup. No sugar-coating here.

Vlad Magdalin, founder of Webflow, was very candid about the challenges he faced on his journey to success. “You always hear about startups that raise millions of dollars, but you don’t necessarily hear about the ups and downs it takes to get to that point. It’s important for early founders to see that side, too.”

We recently added Lisa Wu, a partner at Norwest Venture Partners, to our speaker roster, and we can’t wait to hear why she thinks founders should think like a VC. We’re adding more amazing speakers every week, and the full agenda is coming soon!

On day two, get ready for the Early Stage Pitch-off. Applications open next week! Throw your hat in the ring and maybe you’ll be one of the 10 early-stage startup founders chosen to pitch live in front of a panel of VC judges and all the Early Stage attendees around the world. Valuable exposure and pitch feedback for all competitors and special prizes for the winner. Stay tuned!

Read about Nalagenetics, the April TC Early Stage Pitch-off winner right here.

You procrastinated, dragged your feet and delayed taking action on this one simple, opportunity-filled task. For the love of Saint Expeditus, buy your pass to TC Early Stage 2021: Marketing & Fundraising before 11:59 pm (PT) tonight, save $100 and build a better startup.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Early Stage 2021 – Marketing & Fundraising? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Sydney Thomas is coming to judge startups at Disrupt

Before Precursor Ventures hired Sydney Thomas, the firm was running its operations out of founder Charles Hudson’s inbox, the investor recently recalled. Thomas was hired specifically to do the operational work of bringing a solo GP fund, with less than $5 million in committed capital, to a more organized place — and that’s exactly what Thomas has done. Which is why we’re honored to have Thomas, a celebrated investor, philanthropist, podcaster and community advocate, attend TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 as a judge for our Startup Battlefield competition.

A graduate of the Haas School of Business at Berkeley in 2016, Thomas is now cutting checks as a principal at Precursor, where she focuses her time on investing and supporting pre-seed companies democratizing access to products and services for what Thomas calls the “mass market economy”. Thomas also founded and hosts the “Be About It” podcast, where she profiles companies that fit the thesis. All of this complements a full extracurricular schedule that includes working on a list of investors committed to backing Black and LatinX founders called “The Interrupters” and serving on the Advisory Board of Invanti — a startup generator in the Midwest. In 2020, she was honored to receive the Champion of Justice Award from Esq. Apprentice, an Oakland-based nonprofit that creates alternative pathways to legal careers.

The Startup Battlefield competition has been the launchpad for hundreds of startups at Disrupt, including Dropbox, Cloudflare, Fitbit and more. If you are interested in throwing in your hat to compete, applications are open now! Thomas joins a number of other seasoned investors as a judge at the show. You should be there as well and can get your ticket to attend for less than $100 for a limited time. Get your pass today!

CES will return to Las Vegas in 2022

It was, I admit, slightly strange not feeling the extreme anxiety over the holidays at having to return to Las Vegas this past year. But nature is healing. Vaccinations have begun rolling out in much of the world, and CES is ready to return.

The massive consumer electronic show’s governing board, the CTA, announced this morning that the event will return to the City of Second Chances January 5-8 (with media days eating into that post New Year’s glow starting on the 3rd). Per a press release, roughly 1,000 companies have committed to returning.

The list thus far includes, Amazon, AMD, AT&T, Daimler AG, Dell, Google, Hyundai, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics and Sony. Given how the past year has gone, however, it’s important to note that everything is always subject to change.

“Our customers are enthusiastic about returning to a live event in Las Vegas,” CTA EVP Karen Chupka said in a release tied to the news. “Global brands and startups have shared that plans are already well underway and are committed to sharing the magic of an in-person CES with even more people from around the world.”

Of course, things will very much feel up in the air until our respective planes have landed at the Las Vegas Airport (and I may or may not still be wearing a mask). And the CTA is quick to note that there will continue to be a digital element. That will almost certainly continue to be an important aspect of these shows moving forward. Will it seemed unlikely that the pandemic would kill trade shows altogether (particularly hardware trade shows), like many things in life, there are some aspects that will simply never be the same.

Learn how to create an effective earned media strategy with Rebecca Reeve Henderson at TC Early Stage 2021

TechCrunch’s Early Stage 2021 is back for part two of our bootcamp-for-entrepreneurs event, with a focus on marketing and fundraising. Building on the first half of the event in April, this two-day virtual sprint will take place July 8 & 9, and we’re thrilled to welcome Rebecca Reeve Henderson as one of our all-star slate of experts. Rebecca will be joining us to share insight on how to build an effective earned media strategy for your startup, building on her deep expertise developing effective communications programs for some of the top business software companies in the world.

Earned media, aka the kind of exposure you get from a TechCrunch article, is a key element of any startup’s marketing strategy. It’s something that is best used as a complementary component to paid marketing and owned channel promotional efforts, but it’s also one of the trickiest things to get right, especially for first-time founders. Rebecca has worked with companies ranging from Slack, to Shopify, to Zapier, to Canva and many more, helping craft effective earned media strategies in one of the most difficult areas of all: B2B SaaS.

Image Credits: Rsquared Communications

Rebecca is also a founder herself, having built her communications company Rsquared from the ground up into an international business spanning the U.S. and Canada. Rsquared’s clients included startups at all stages of growth, from their very beginnings through to successful exits, including public market debuts, so she’s run effective communications campaigns at every point on the growth spectrum. Then in 2019, Rsquared had its own exit, with an acquisition by global communications firm Archetype.

We’ll hear tips from Rebecca on how earned media contributes to an effective overall communications strategy, and how you go about earning that media — including how to pitch media, and how to build successful long-term relationships with key reporters and publications in your industry.

Tickets for TC Early Stage: Marketing & Fundraising are available until this Friday at the early bird rate which gives you an instant $100 savings! Secure your seat before this weekend!

Just one week left to save $100 on TC Early Stage 2021: Marketing and Fundraising

Don’t let procrastination slow your roll. Yeah, we’re looking at you, early-stage founders. At TechCrunch, we love to reward action with savings. Want to save a cool $100? Buy your Early Stage 2021: Marketing & Fundraising pass before April 30, at 11:59 p.m. (PT), and you’ll keep a cool $100 in your pocket.

Take action, reap savings and get ready to join your community of early-inning startup founders for a two-day bootcamp (July 8-9) dedicated to helping you build a firm foundation for entrepreneurial success. We’re talking a day packed with highly interactive presentations, breakout sessions and plenty of time for Q&As with top-tier industry leaders and experts — plus a thrilling day-long pitch competition.

Part one of TC Early Stage 2021, which took place in April, featured folks like entrepreneur and VC Melissa Bradley, who delivered advice on nailing a virtual pitch meeting; Alexa von Tobel lead a discussion on finance for founders; and Fuel Capital’s Leah Solivan revealed 10 things not to do when you start a company.

Here’s just one example of the quality topics and guidance you can expect at TC Early Stage 2021 in July.

Plenty of founders struggle to find, or even define, product-market fit. And let’s face it, without the proper product-market fit, you basically have two chances of raising a unicorn: slim and fat. That’s why you won’t want to miss out on what Superhuman founder, CEO and product-market fit master Rahul Vohra has to say on the subject. Bring your questions and take advantage of his invaluable advice.

Pro Tip: We’re building our July agenda and announcing new speakers every week (like Mike Duboe and Sarah Kunst) — stay tuned!

Wondering whether attending TC Early Stage 2021: Marketing & Fundraising is worth your time and money? Here’s what two founders shared about their experience at last year’s event.

Early Stage 2020 provided a rich, bootcamp experience with premier founders, VCs and startup community experts. If you’re beginning to build a startup, it’s an efficient way to advance your knowledge across key startup topics. — Katia Paramonova, founder and CEO of Centrly.

Sequoia Capital’s session, Start with Your Customer, looked at the benefits of storytelling and creating customer personas. I took the idea to my team and we identified seven different user types for our product, and we’ve implemented storytelling to help onboard new customers. That one session alone has transformed my business. — Chloe Leaaetoa, founder, Socicraft.

TC Early Stage 2021: Marketing & Fundraising takes place on July 8-9, and you have just one week left to save $100 on the price of admission. Kick procrastination to the curb and keep more money in your wallet. Buy your TC Early Stage 2021 pass before April 30, at 11:59 p.m. (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Early Stage 2021 – Marketing & Fundraising? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Introvoke raises $2.7M to power online events that can be embedded anywhere

While there’s been plenty of attention and money lavished on virtual event platforms over the past year, Introvoke co-founder and CEO Oana Manolache predicted that we’re only at the beginning of a “third wave of digital transformation.”

In her framing, the first wave came at the beginning of the pandemic, when everyone was using video conferencing tools like Zoom for their virtual events. Next came conference platforms like Hopin (which has been raising money at a mind-boggling clip). But Manolache argued that even Hopin represents a “Band-Aid” that customers are hoping will tide them over until in-person events can resume — particularly when organizers have to point attendees to a third-party platform.

“One size does not fit all,” she said. “The Band-Aid solution that was only supposed to last for a couple months has had big benefits as companies grew their customer base and revenue targets. Now we’ve reached the third wave, as organizations want to bring solutions to their own universe and own their relationship with the audience.”

San Francisco-based Introvoke is a Techstars Accelerator graduate aiming to provide this third-wave solution. It’s announcing today that it has raised $2.7 million in funding led by Struck Capital, while Comcast, Social Leverage, Great Oaks, V1vc, Time CTO Bharat Krish and Resy co-founder Mike Montero also participated.

The startup offers components like virtual stages, chat rooms and networking hubs, all customizable and embeddable on a customer’s website. Manolache said Introvoke (the name comes from the idea of “thought-provoking introductions”) is designed for a hybrid future, which will take multiple forms: “Hybrid is going to mean virtual-only events, in-person only events and events that have in-person and virtual elements.”


Image Credits: Introvoke

Introvoke charges customers based on live event minutes, a model that it says is accessible to companies large and small. Its components can be embedded on websites built with WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Splash and other platforms, but also on a customer’s internal intranet.

“We’ve been so impressed by the way customers are using the technology — conferences, career fairs, employee engagements,” Manolache said.

She added that as customers like Comcast, Wharton and Ritual Motion have used the platform in private preview mode, they’re beginning to break free of the in-person model. For example, Introvoke events can allow for attendees to chat with each other over weeks or months, not just a few days.

In a statement, Struck Capital founder and Managing Partner Adam B. Struck suggested that virtual events “will continue far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Right now, virtual experiences, from conferences and concerts to company all-hands, are generally hosted on third party platforms, which creates a disjointed experience for the brand or organization hosting the event,” he continued. “Virtual enablement should be native to the website and platform of the enterprise itself, and it’s the role of technologists like the Introvoke team to make these experiences as seamless as any in-person event.”

Alexa von Tobel will join Disrupt 2021 as a Startup Battlefield judge

Alexa von Tobel, co-founder and managing partner of Inspired Capital, will be joining TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 taking place September 21-23 to help judge the startups competing in Startup Battlefield. NOTE: Applications are now open to don’t hesitate to throw your hat in the ring here!

Prior to Inspired Capital, Alexa founded LearnVest in 2008 with the goal of helping women in particular make better investments and learn financial planning. After raising $75 million in venture capital and growing the service to 1.5 million users, LearnVest was acquired by Northwestern Mutual in May 2015 for $250 million.

Following the acquisition, Alexa joined the management team of Northwestern Mutual as the company’s first chief digital officer. She later assumed the role of chief innovation officer, a position in which which she oversaw Northwestern Mutual’s venture arm.

Alexa, who holds a Certified Financial Planner designation, is also The New York Times-bestselling author of “Financially Fearless,” which debuted in December 2013, and its follow-up, “Financially Forward,” which arrived in May 2019. She is also the host of “The Founders Project with Alexa von Tobel,” a weekly podcast with Inc. that highlights entrepreneurs.

Alexa is a member of the 2016 Class of Henry Crown Fellows and an inaugural member of President Obama’s Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship. She has been honored with numerous recognitions, including: a Forbes Magazine cover story, Fortune’s 40 Under 40, Fortune’s Most Powerful Women, Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30 and World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader.

Alexa recently joined us at TechCrunch Early Stage, where she led a breakout session on financial planning targeted specifically at startups. Join us at Disrupt this September and get your ticket for under $100 for a limited time!

What to expect from Apple’s Spring Loaded event

Surprise! It’s another Apple Event. Gone are the days of getting a few weeks’ notice before these events now that they’re entirely virtual (at least until 2022, most likely). Instead, the company just dropped the news last week.

Thankfully, there have been plenty of rumors leading up to tomorrow’s big event — and perhaps even a few hints in the invite itself. After skipping last year’s spring event, due to cresting COVID-19 numbers in the U.S., the company has grown much more comfortable dropping semi-regular livestreamed events. As ever, we’ll be covering the event as it unfolds, starting at 10AM PT/1PM ET. But here’s what we expect to see, along with the customary high-production-value sweeping-drone transitions.

The closest thing we have to a surefire bet is the arrival of new iPads, keeping in line with what looks to be a finger-drawn image on the invite. Specifically, the iPad Pro is leading the way. The high-end tablet has been rumored to be getting a refresh at some point this season, so no time like the present.

The biggest news is likely to be the addition of a mini-LED display for the 12.9-inch model (a refresh to the 11-inch is coming sometime down the road). Benefits include increased brightness, better battery life and less potential for image burn-in. The tech would arrive in the place of the OLED currently found on iPhone models.

The improved screen technology is said to add a bit of thickness to the design, which otherwise is largely unchanged. Supply constraints could ultimately put a damper on availability, so there’s a possibility that the product could be announced tomorrow, but delayed for a later date.

There’s likely to be a processor update, as well. Rumor has it that the A14X will utilize the same technology that forms the foundation of the M1 chip found on recent Macs. That could, in turn, bring a real big performance bump.

At the other end of the spectrum is the iPad mini. The 8.4-inch tablet would be getting its first major boost in two years. The updates are said to be less pronounced than on the Pro. The classic iPad design language will remain, though the device is said to be getting a performance boost courtesy of new chips. A new Apple Pencil is rumored to be on the way, as well, though details are scarce.

And could this be the event where Apple finally gives the world AirTags? All signs point to “definitely maybe.” After several delays, the company’s Tile competitor is said to finally be arriving. At the very least, the timing makes sense. After all, the company just opened up third-party “Find My” access, along with a bunch of compatible devices. That includes direct competitor, the Chipolo ONE Spot.

Also on the maybe pile is a new Apple TV featuring a Find My compatible remote. That seems like a slam dunk, as one of the most frequently lost products in history. With Apple on a two-year line-wide refresh, some new silicon Macs could be on the list. The most likely candidate? At the moment it seems to be a long-awaited refresh to the iMac line.


Join ECL on Wednesday to pitch your startup to Fifth Wall’s Brendan Wallace and Hippo’s Assaf Wand

Have you ever dreamed about the opportunity to find yourself in, say, an elevator with an investor who is open to hearing your pitch? Well, then the next episode of Extra Crunch Live is for you.

If you’ve hung out with us on an ECL before, you know we start with a bit of top news, chat with our speakers about how to successfully fundraise and finish with the Pitch Deck Teardown, where we take a look at decks submitted by you, the audience members, and give live feedback.

On Wednesday, with the help of Fifth Wall’s Brendan Wallace and Hippo’s Assaf Wand, we’re going to shake things up a bit.

Folks who attend the live event will be able to virtually “raise their hand,” come on screen, and give a 60-second pitch of their startup. No demoes. No videos. No visual aids of any kind. It’s the ultimate elevator pitch, and it’ll be done before a live audience.

Wallace and Wand (that’s catchy, eh?) will give their feedback and ask questions at the end of every pitch.

The only way you can participate in the ECL Pitch-off is to show up. Luckily, the events are free to anyone. However, accessing any of this content on demand is reserved strictly for Extra Crunch members.

We’re super excited to introduce the pitch-off as a feature of ECL and hope you are too! See you on Wednesday!

Register here.