NotCo gets its horn following $235M round to expand plant-based food products

NotCo, a food technology company making plant-based milk and meat replacements, wrapped up another funding round this year, a $235 million Series D round that gives it a $1.5 billion valuation.

Tiger Global led the round and was joined by new investors, including DFJ Growth Fund, the social impact foundation, ZOMA Lab; athletes Lewis Hamilton and Roger Federer; and musician and DJ Questlove. Follow-on investors included Bezos Expeditions, Enlightened Hospitality Investments, Future Positive, L Catterton and Kaszek Ventures.

This funding round follows an undisclosed investment in June from Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer through his firm EHI. In total, NotCo, with roots in both Chile and New York, has raised more than $350 million, founder and CEO Matias Muchnick told TechCrunch.

Currently, the company has four product lines: NotMilk, NotBurger and NotMeat, NoticeCream and NotMayo, which are available in the five countries of the U.S., Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia.

The company is operating in the middle of a trend toward eating healthier food, as more consumers also question how their food is made, resulting in demand for alternative proteins. In fact, the market for alternative meat, eggs, dairy and seafood products is predicted to reach $290 billion by 2035, according to research by Boston Consulting Group and Blue Horizon Corp.

NotCo’s proprietary artificial intelligence technology, Giuseppe, matches animal proteins to their ideal replacements among thousands of plant-based ingredients. It is working to crack the code in understanding the molecular components and food characteristics in the combination of two ingredients that could mimic milk, but in a more sustainable and resourceful way — and that also tastes good, which is the biggest barrier to adoption, Muchnick said.

“Our theory is that there is a crazy dynamic among people: 60% who are already eating plant-based are not happy with the taste, and 30% of those who drink cow’s milk are waiting to change if there is a similar taste,” he added. “Our technology is based in AI so that we can create a different food system, as well as products faster and better than others in the space. There are 300,000 plant species, and we still have no idea what 99% of them can do.”

In addition to a flow of investments this year, the company launched its NotMilk brand in the United States seven months ago and is on track to be in 8,000 locations across retailers like Whole Foods Market, Sprouts and Wegmans by the end of 2021.

Muchnick plans to allocate some of the new funding to establish markets in Mexico and Canada and add market share in the U.S. and Chile. He expects to have 50% of its business coming from the U.S. over the next three years. He is also eyeing an expansion into Asia and Europe in the next year.

NotCo also intends to add more products, like chicken and other white meats and seafood, and to invest in technology and R&D. He expects to do that by doubling the company’s current headcount of 100 in the next two years. Muchnick also wants to establish more patents in food science — the company already has five — and to explore a potential intelligence side of the business.

Though NotCo reached unicorn status, Muchnick said the real prize is the brand awareness and subsequent sales boost, as well as opening doors for quick-service restaurant deals. NotBurger went into Burger King restaurants in Chile 11 months ago, and now has 5% of the market there, he added.

Sales overall have grown three times annually over the past four years, something Muchnick said was attractive to Tiger Global. He is equally happy to work with Tiger, especially as the company prepares to go public in the next two or three years. He said Tiger’s expertise will get NotCo there in a more prepared manner.

“NotCo has created world class plant-based food products that are rapidly gaining market share,” said Scott Shleifer, partner at Tiger Global, in a written statement. “We are excited to partner with Matias and his team. We expect continued product innovation and expansion into new geographies and food categories will fuel high and sustainable growth for years to come.”

 

Jack Dorsey says bitcoin will be a big part of Twitter’s future

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey confirmed to investors that bitcoin will be a “big part” of the company’s future, as he sees opportunities to integrate the cryptocurrency into existing Twitter products and services, including commerce, subscriptions, and other new additions like the Twitter Tip Jar and Super Follows.

Dorsey has been a staunch bitcoin advocate for years, but how it would be put into action on Twitter’s platform had not yet been spelled out in detail. However, Dorsey has often publicly touted the cryptocurrency, saying it reminds him of the “early days of the internet” and that there wasn’t “anything more important” in his lifetime for him to work on.

More recently, Dorsey launched a $23.6 million bitcoin fund with Jay Z and announced plans to lead his other company Square into the decentralized financial services market by way of bitcoin. Square also this year acquired a majority stake Jay Z’s TIDAL music service with an eye toward how blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies could change the music business.

Today, Dorsey also dubbed bitcoin one of three key trends for Twitter’s future, along with A.I and decentralization — the latter which Twitter is pursuing through its “Bluesky” initiative.

He touted bitcoin to investors on Twitter’s second quarter earnings call, saying it could help the company move faster in terms of its product expansions, while explaining that it was the “best candidate” to become the “native currency” of the internet. (Incidentally. Square’s $50 million in bitcoin purchased in 2020 was worth $253 million by February 2021, and it purchased $170 million more earlier this year.)

“If the internet has a native currency, a global currency, we are able to able to move so much faster with products such as Super Follows, Commerce, Subscriptions, Tip Jar, and we can reach every single person on the planet because of that instead of going down a market-by-market-by-market approach,” Dorsey explained. “I think this is a big part of our future. I think there is a lot of innovation above just currency to be had, especially as we think about decentralizing social media more and providing more economic incentive. So I think it’s hugely important to Twitter and to Twitter shareholders that we continue to look at the space and invest aggressively in it,” he added.

A Twitter rep confirmed this is the first time that Dorsey has spoken publicly about how Twitter could integrate bitcoin into its product lineup.

Dorsey also pointed out Twitter would not be alone in pursuing a crypto strategy, noting that Facebook was backing the digital currency Diem.

“There’s an obvious need for this, and appreciation for it. And I think that an open standard that’s native to the internet is the right way to go, which is why my focus and our focus eventually will be on bitcoin,” he noted.

Overall, Twitter delivered strong earnings in a pandemic rebound which saw the company posting its fastest revenue growth since 2014, according to CNBC, which drove Twitter shares 9% higher in extended trading. The company pulled in Q2 revenue of $1.19 billion versus the $1.07 billion Wall St. expected, a majority ($1.05 billion) from its advertising business. It also saw earnings per share of 20 cents versus the 7 cents expected.

However, monetizable daily active users (mDAUs) — Twitter’s own invented metric meant to fluff up often flat monthly user growth — were only at 206 million, an 11% year-over-year increase, while analysts were counting on 206.2 million. The company blamed the decline on a slower news cycle and end of shelter-in-place in many U.S. communities, which may have impacted Twitter usage during the quarter.

 

 

Elon Musk says Tesla will ‘most likely’ accept Bitcoin again when it becomes more eco-friendly

Tesla will ‘most likely’ resume accepting bitcoin as a form of payment once the mining rate for the cryptocurrency reaches 50% renewables, CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday at a virtual panel discussion hosted by the Crypto Council for Innovation, remarks that are in line with statements he made last month on Twitter.

Tesla started accepting bitcoin as a form of payment in February, the same time that the company purchased a historic $1.5 billion in bitcoin — before reneging on its decision just three months later, citing environmental concerns.

Cryptocurrencies get a bad rap for energy usage because they do indeed use up an awful lot of energy, at least many of them do. Bitcoin and Ethereum, the space’s two biggest currencies, use a mechanism called proof-of-work to power their networks and mint new blocks of each currency. The “work” is solving complex cryptographic problems and miners do so by stringing together high-end graphics cards to tackle these problems. Major mining centers have thousands of GPUs running around the clock.

While Ethereum has already committed to transitioning away from proof-of-work to something called proof-of-stake, which vastly reduces energy usage, Bitcoin seems less likely to make this transition. So, becoming “eco-friendly” likely doesn’t mean making any major underlying changes to Bitcoin, but rather shifting what energy sources are powering those mining centers.

While Bitcoin’s global mining network does clearly lean on renewables, it’s pretty difficult to get exact insights on what the spread of renewables usage is given how, ahem, decentralized the grid is. What is clear is that it’s going to take some unprecedented transparency from the global network to even give Musk a starting point here to judge Bitcoin’s current or future “eco-friendliness,” and in all likelihood Musk will have a lot of wiggle room to make this decision based on anecdotal data whenever he wants.

Today’s comments come as no surprise: He tweeted in June, “When there’s confirmation of reasonable (~50%) clean energy usage by miners with positive future trend, Tesla will resume allowing Bitcoin transactions.”

His comments do give him plenty of wiggle room, however. “As long as there is a conscious effort to move bitcoin miners toward renewables then Tesla can support that,” he added later in the talk. A large portion of bitcoin mining was done in China, where cheap coal and hydropower made it slightly more economical; but Musk noted that some of these coal plants have been shut down (and a large portion of miners in China have started to migrate abroad, in response to mining crackdowns by the Chinese party).

It should also be noted that his concerns over bitcoin’s environmental impact have caused controversy in the bitcoin community, with some arguing that bitcoin receives an oversized amount of scrutiny relative to its actual energy consumption. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who also participated in the virtual panel, has actually argued that bitcoin can incentivize the transition to renewable energy. A white paper published by the Bitcoin Clean Energy Initiative, a program created by Square, argues that bitcoin mining could make renewables even cheaper and more economically feasible than they are today.

Musk’s comments, as ambiguous as they were, shows he still exerts considerable power over cryptocurrency markets. Bitcoin price fell below $30,000 on Monday, after hitting an all-time high of over $63,000 in April. But after the billionaire founder revealed more details about his and his companies’ holdings at the virtual panel, the price rebounded.

In addition to personal bitcoin holdings and Tesla’s bitcoin holdings, his aerospace company SpaceX also owns bitcoin. Musk added that he also personally owns ether and (of course) dogecoin. The price for all three cryptocurrencies rose after his comments.

Trump’s new lawsuits against social media companies are going nowhere fast

Trump’s spicy trio of lawsuits against the social media platforms that he believes wrongfully banned him have succeeded in showering the former president with a flurry of media attention, but that’s likely where the story ends.

Like Trump’s quixotic and ultimately empty quest to gut Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act during his presidency, the new lawsuits are all sound and fury with little legal substance to back them up.

The suits allege that Twitter, Facebook and YouTube violated Trump’s First Amendment rights by booting him from their platforms, but the First Amendment is intended to protect citizens from censorship by the government — not private industry. The irony that Trump himself was the uppermost figure in the federal government at the time probably won’t be lost on whoever’s lap this case lands in.

In the lawsuits, which also name Twitter and Facebook chief executives Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg as well as Google CEO Sundar Pichai (Susan Wojcicki escapes notice once again!), Trump accuses the three companies of engaging in “impermissible censorship resulting from threatened legislative action, a misguided reliance upon Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and willful participation in joint activity with federal actors.”

The suit claims that the tech companies colluded with “Democrat lawmakers,” the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci, who served in Trump’s own government at the time.

The crux of the argument is that communication between the tech companies, members of Congress and the federal government somehow transforms Facebook, Twitter and YouTube into “state actors” — a leap of epic proportion:

“Defendant Twitter’s status thus rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor, and as such, Defendant is constrained by the First Amendment right to free speech in the censorship decisions it makes.”

Trump’s own Supreme Court appointee Brett Kavanaugh issued the court’s opinion on a relevant case two years ago. It examined whether a nonprofit running public access television channels in New York qualified as a “state actor” that would be subject to First Amendment constraints. The court ruled that running the public access channels didn’t transform the nonprofit into a government entity and that it retained a private entity’s rights to make editorial decisions.

“… A private entity… who opens its property for speech by others is not transformed by that fact alone into a state actor,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote in the decision.

It’s not likely that a court would decide that talking to the government or being threatened by the government somehow transform Twitter, YouTube and Facebook into state actors either.

Trump vs. Section 230 (again)

First Amendment aside — and there’s really not much of an argument there — social media platforms are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a concise snippet of law that shields them from liability not just for the user-generated content they host but for the moderation decisions they make about what content to remove.

In line with Trump’s obsessive disdain for tech’s legal shield, the lawsuits repeatedly rail against Section 230. The suits try to argue that because Congress threatened to revoke tech’s 230 protections, that forced them to ban Trump, which somehow makes social media companies part of the government and subject to First Amendment constraints.

Of course, Republican lawmakers and Trump’s own administration made frequent threats about repealing Section 230, not that it changes anything because this line of argument doesn’t make much sense anyway.

The suit also argues that Congress crafted Section 230 to intentionally censor speech that is otherwise protected by the First Amendment, ignoring that the law was born in 1996, well before ubiquitous social media, and for other purposes altogether.

For the four years of his presidency, Trump’s social media activity — his tweets in particular — informed the events of the day, both nationally and globally. While other world leaders and political figures used social media to communicate or promote their actions, Trump’s Twitter account was usually the action itself.

In the shadow of his social media bans, the former president has failed to re-establish lines of communication to the internet at large. In May, he launched a new blog, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” but the site was taken down just a month later after it failed to attract much interest.

The handful of pro-Trump alternative social platforms are still struggling with app store content moderation requirements at odds with their extreme views on free speech, but that didn’t stop Gettr, the latest, from going ahead with its own rocky launch last week.

Viewed in one light, Trump’s lawsuits are a platform too, his latest method for broadcasting himself to the online world that his transgressions eventually cut him off from. In that sense, they seem to have succeeded, but in all other senses, they won’t.

You can share tweets directly to Instagram Stories now

It’s a little thing, but one worth savoring.

If you’re tired of your Instagram feed mostly being a chaotic mashup of screencapped tweets and reshared TikToks, well, those things probably aren’t going away but one is about to look a lot better.

Twitter just added the capability to share a tweet directly to Instagram Stories, letting you port your clever cross-platform moments over properly. You can’t tap the tweets to hop back to Twitter, but they look nice now. Unfortunately for Android users, it’s iOS-only for now.

 

The new cross-platform feature is just a tiny sample of Twitter’s refreshing recent flurry of product activity — a result of mounting pressure from investors who accused the company of stagnating and planned to oust its CEO, Jack Dorsey. The company also just added two more major features to empower users to monetize their tweets: paid subscriptions known as “Super Follows” and ticketed events.

Twitter users have long waited for a laundry list of small quality of life tweaks to manifest, a phenomenon that often materializes as an entire cohort of journalists complaining about how you still can’t edit tweets. But if it can keep the pace, Twitter might finally be ready to deliver.

See, doesn’t that look nice?

Example of tweet embedded on Instagram Story

You can share tweets directly to Instagram Stories now

It’s a little thing, but one worth savoring.

If you’re tired of your Instagram feed mostly being a chaotic mashup of screencapped tweets and reshared TikToks, well, those things probably aren’t going away but one is about to look a lot better.

Twitter just added the capability to share a tweet directly to Instagram Stories, letting you port your clever cross-platform moments over properly. You can’t tap the tweets to hop back to Twitter, but they look nice now. Unfortunately for Android users, it’s iOS-only for now.

 

The new cross-platform feature is just a tiny sample of Twitter’s refreshing recent flurry of product activity — a result of mounting pressure from investors who accused the company of stagnating and planned to oust its CEO, Jack Dorsey. The company also just added two more major features to empower users to monetize their tweets: paid subscriptions known as “Super Follows” and ticketed events.

Twitter users have long waited for a laundry list of small quality of life tweaks to manifest, a phenomenon that often materializes as an entire cohort of journalists complaining about how you still can’t edit tweets. But if it can keep the pace, Twitter might finally be ready to deliver.

See, doesn’t that look nice?

Example of tweet embedded on Instagram Story

You can share tweets directly to Instagram Stories now

It’s a little thing, but one worth savoring.

If you’re tired of your Instagram feed mostly being a chaotic mashup of screencapped tweets and reshared TikToks, well, those things probably aren’t going away but one is about to look a lot better.

Twitter just added the capability to share a tweet directly to Instagram Stories, letting you port your clever cross-platform moments over properly. You can’t tap the tweets to hop back to Twitter, but they look nice now. Unfortunately for Android users, it’s iOS-only for now.

 

The new cross-platform feature is just a tiny sample of Twitter’s refreshing recent flurry of product activity — a result of mounting pressure from investors who accused the company of stagnating and planned to oust its CEO, Jack Dorsey. The company also just added two more major features to empower users to monetize their tweets: paid subscriptions known as “Super Follows” and ticketed events.

Twitter users have long waited for a laundry list of small quality of life tweaks to manifest, a phenomenon that often materializes as an entire cohort of journalists complaining about how you still can’t edit tweets. But if it can keep the pace, Twitter might finally be ready to deliver.

See, doesn’t that look nice?

Example of tweet embedded on Instagram Story

Super Follows and Ticketed Spaces are coming to Twitter

In Twitter’s latest appeal to one-up competitors, from Clubhouse to Patreon, the company announced today that it will begin rolling out applications for Super Follows and Ticketed Spaces.

Twitter first teased the Super Follow feature during an Analyst Day event in February. Super Follows allow creators on Twitter to generate monthly revenue by offering paywalled content to followers who subscribe to them for $2.99, $4.99 or $9.99 per month. To be eligible, users over the age of 18 need to have 10,000 followers and at least 25 tweets in the last 30 days.

Twitter will only take 3% of creators’ revenue after in-app purchase fees — but, on the App Store and Google Play, in-app purchase fees are 30%, which means that creators will take home about two-thirds of what their followers are paying. Once they exceed $50,000 of lifetime earnings on Twitter, the app will take “20% of future earnings after fees.” When combined with the 30% in-app purchase fee, that leaves creators with about half of their followers’ payments. Meanwhile, Patreon only takes between 5% and 12% of a creator’s earnings (it bypasses in-app purchase fees since it’s a web-based platform). While creators who primarily engage with their audience on Twitter might benefit from having a way to monetize without directing followers to another app, the difference in payout here is stark. Creators might not abandon their existing Patreon systems for Super Follows, but at the very least, this could offer a supplemental income stream.

“Our goal is to elevate people driving the conversations on Twitter and help them earn money,” said senior product manager Esther Crawford. “We updated our revenue share cuts after spending more time thinking about how we could support emerging voices on Twitter.”

Image Credits: Twitter

Ticketed Spaces seem more promising though, since Clubhouse, Spotify Greenroom and other competitors don’t offer similar options yet (Discord is testing ticketed audio events on its Stage Discovery portal, but they aren’t out yet). Through Ticketed Spaces, users can set their ticket price anywhere between $1 and $999. Creators can also limit how many tickets are sold, which might incentivize someone to actually use the $999 ticket price for a one-on-one conversation with a celebrity (still… yikes?). Twitter will remind attendees that the Ticketed Space is happening through push and in-app notifications. Users over the age of 18 that have hosted three Spaces in the last 30 days and have at least 1,000 followers are eligible to apply for access.

Clubhouse and Instagram have features that let listeners tip speakers or award badges in a live audio space, but the apps don’t yet allow for advance ticket sales. Another way for top creators to make money on these apps is through Creator Funds. Spotify Greenroom and Clubhouse have both announced plans for Creator Funds, but it’s not yet clear how the earning potential will compare with selling access to Ticketed Spaces on Twitter.

This slew of updates to Twitter comes after activist shareholders attempted to oust CEO Jack Dorsey last year. Now, Twitter is rapidly adding new features and acquiring companies like Revue (a newsletter platform), Ueno (a creative agency) and Breaker (a social podcasting platform).

Image Credits: Twitter

Applications to use Super Follows and Ticketed Spaces are only available on mobile (so, no avoiding the in-app purchase fees) and for people in the U.S. Currently, only iOS users can apply for Super Follows, but Ticketed Spaces applications are available on both iOS and Android. Twitter is adding a brand new Monetization button to the sidebar in the app, where users navigate to see if they’re eligible to apply to be part of the test groups for these features. These features will launch more broadly in the coming months.

Update 6/22/21, 2:48 PM EST with additional information about eligibility criteria for new features

 

In search of a new crypto deity

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review!

Last week, I wrote about tech taking on Disney. This week, I’m talking about the search for a new crypto messiah.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny.


The Big Thing

Elon has worn out his welcome among the crypto illuminati, and the acolytes of Bitcoin are searching out a new emperor god king.

This weekend, thousands of crypto acolytes and investors have descended on a Bitcoin-themed conference in Miami, a very real, very heavily-produced conference sporting crypto celebrities and actual celebrities all on a mission to make waves.

Even though I am not at the conference in person (panels from its main stage were live-streamed online), I have plenty of invites in my email for afterparties featuring celebrities, open bars and endless conversations on the perils of fiat. The cryptocurrency community has never been larger or richer thanks to its most fervent bull run yet, and despite a pretty noteworthy correction in the past few weeks, people believe the best is yet to come.

Despite having so much, what they still seem to be lacking is a patron saint.

For the longest bout, that was SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk who bolstered the currency by pushing Tesla to invest cash on its balance sheet into bitcoin, while also pushing for Tesla to accept bitcoin payments for its vehicles. As I’ve noted in this newsletter in the past, Musk had a tough time reconciling the sheer energy use of bitcoin’s global network with his eco warrior bravado which has seemed to lead to his mild and uneven excommunication (though I’m sure he’s welcome back at any time).

There are plenty of celebrities looking to fill his shoes — a recent endorsement gone wrong by Soulja Boy was one of the more comical instances.

Crypto has been no stranger to grift — of that even the most hardcore crypto grifters can likely agree — and I think there’s been some agreement that the only leader who can truly preach the gospel is someone who is already so rich they don’t even need more money. It’s one reason the community has offered up so much respect for Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin who truly doesn’t seem to care too much about getting any wealthier — he donated about $1 billion worth of crypto to Covid relief efforts in India. A Musk-like cheerleader serves a different purpose though, and so the community is in search of a Good Billionaire.

The best runner-up at the moment appears to be one Jack Dorsey, and while — like Musk — he is also another double-CEO, he is quite a bit different from him in demeanor and desire for the spotlight. He was, however, a headline speaker at Miami’s Bitcoin conference.

Dorsey gathers the most headlines for his work at Twitter but it’s Square where he is pushing most of his crypto enthusiasm. Users can already use Square’s Cash App to buy Bitcoin. Minutes before going onstage Friday, Dorsey tweeted out a thread detailing that Square was interested in building its own hardware wallet that users could store cryptocurrency like bitcoin on outside of the confines of an exchange.

“Bitcoin changes absolutely everything,” Dorsey said onstage. “I don’t think there is anything more important in my lifetime to work on.”

And while the billionaire Dorsey seems like a good choice on paper — he tweets about bitcoin often, but only good tweets. He defends its environmental effects. He shows up to House misinformation hearings with a bitcoin tracker clearly visible in the background. He is also unfortunately the CEO of Twitter, a company that’s desire to reign in its more troublesome users — including one very troublesome user — has caused a rift between him and the crypto community’s very vocal libertarian sect.

Dorsey didn’t make it very far into his speech before a heckler made a scene calling him a hypocrite because of all this with a few others piping in, but like any good potential crypto king would know to do, he just waited quietly for the noise to die down.


(Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Other things 

Here are the TechCrunch news stories that especially caught my eye this week:

Facebook’s Trump ban will last at least 2 years
In response to the Facebook Oversight Board’s recommendations that the company offer more specificity around its ban of former President Trump, the company announced Friday that it will be banning Trump from its platforms through January 2023 at least, though the company has basically given itself the ability to extend that deadline if it so desires…

Nigeria suspends Twitter
Nigeria is shutting down access to Twitter inside the country with a government official citing the “use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.” Twitter called the shutdown “deeply concerning.”

Stack Overflow gets acquired for $1.8 billion
Stack Overflow, one of the most-visited sites of developers across the technology industry, was acquired by Prosus. The heavy hitter investment firm is best known for owning a huge chunk of Tencent. Stack Overflow’s founders say the site will continue to operate independently under the new management.

Spotify ups its personalization
Music service Spotify launched a dedicated section this week called Only You which aims to capture some of the personalization it has been serving up in its annual Spotify Wrapped review. Highlights of the new feature include blended playlists with friends and mid-year reviews.

Supreme Court limits US hacking law in landmark case
Justices from the conservative and liberal wings joined together in a landmark ruling that put limits on what kind of conduct can be prosecuted under the controversial Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

This one email explains Apple
Here’s a fun one, the email exchange that birthed the App Store between the late Steve Jobs and SVP of Software Engineering, Bertrand Serlet as annotated by my boss Matthew Panzarino.


illustration of money raining down

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Extra things

Some of my favorite reads from our Extra Crunch subscription service this week:

For SaaS startups, differentiation is an iterative process
“The more you know about your target customers’ pain points with current solutions, the easier it will be to stand out. Take every opportunity to learn about the people you are aiming to serve, and which problems they want to solve the most. Analyst reports about specific sectors may be useful, but there is no better source of information than the people who, hopefully, will pay to use your solution..”

3 lessons we learned after raising $6 million from 50 investors
“…being pre-product at the time, we had to lean on our experience and our vision to drive conviction and urgency among investors. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough. Investors either felt that our experience was a bad fit for the space we were entering (productivity/scheduling) or that our vision wasn’t compelling enough to merit investment on the terms we wanted.

The existential cost of decelerated growth
“Just because a technology startup has a hot start, that doesn’t mean it will grow quickly forever. Most will wind up somewhere in the middle — or worse. Put simply, there is a larger number of tech companies that do fine or a little bit worse after they reach scale.”

 

Again, if you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny.

Twitter to set up its first African presence in Ghana

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, via a tweet today, announced that the company would be setting up a presence in Africa. “Twitter is now present on the continent. Thank you, Ghana and Nana Akufo-Addo,” he said.

In a statement, Twitter says it is now actively building a team in Ghana “to be more immersed in the rich and vibrant communities that drive the conversations taking place every day across the continent.”

Twitter indicated several roles from product and engineering to design, marketing, and communications for job openings in the company. However, individuals will fill these roles remotely as Twitter makes plans to establish an office in the country later.

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, enthused about the news said “the choice of Ghana as HQ for Twitter’s Africa operations is excellent news. Government and Ghanaians welcome very much this announcement and the confidence reposed in our country.”

He also revealed that he held a virtual meeting with Dorsey on the 7th of April, where the two parties might have finalized the deal.

“As I indicated to Jack in our virtual meeting on 7th April 2021, this is the start of a beautiful partnership between Twitter and Ghana, which is critical for the development of Ghana’s hugely important tech sector. These are exciting times to be in and to do business in Ghana,” he added.

According to Twitter, the decision to kick off its African expansion with Ghana stems from the country’s dealings with AfCFTA and its openness towards the internet.

“As a champion for democracy, Ghana is a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet, of which Twitter is also an advocate. Furthermore, Ghana’s recent appointment to host The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area aligns with our overarching goal to establish a presence in the region that will support our efforts to improve and tailor our service across Africa,” the statement read.

The news comes almost eighteen months after Dorsey’s visit with his Twitter team to Africa for the first time in November 2019. During his tour on the continent, he visited Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa, where he met with different industry leaders and tech stakeholders on matters concerning Twitter and bitcoin.

Dorsey stated that he would return to the continent to live for six months in mid-2020, but the pandemic made sure that plan was soiled. Since then, not much was communicated by Dorsey or the Twitter team about the visit, although in September, the company subsequently made some mental health and cultural partnerships with local communities across the countries —  Afrochella and The HackLab Foundation in Ghana, Amref Health Africa in Kenya, and Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) in Nigeria.

In October 2020, the Twitter CEO showed solidarity in the protests against police brutality that rocked Nigeria and supported bitcoin usage throughout the demonstrations. For months, it seemed Dorsey was solely concerned about bitcoin activities on the continent. However, today’s news puts things into perspective and shows connecting Twitter and the continent was at the back of his mind after all.