July 25, 2021

Daily Crunch: India’s most valuable startup buys US-based digital reading platform Epic for $500M

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Hello and welcome to Extra Crunch for July 21, 2021. It’s been a good day for crypto fans, with major coins seeing some recovery from recent lows. Bitcoin and ether remain depressed on a seven-day time frame, however. And the stock market is up today. What more can we ask for on a Wednesday? Well, how about a huge run of startup and tech news? We can do that! — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Clubhouse leaves beta: Clubhouse, the buzzy live-audio startup that captivated the technology world earlier this year, is out of beta. The move feels a hair late given the work that Twitter has done with its Spaces product, but is welcome all the same. Data indicates that Clubhouse is having a moment in India, a key tech market as Daily Crunch has discussed ad nauseam.
  • Tumblr goes pro: Feeling like a comeback story? Tumblr certainly does. After winding up as part of Yahoo thanks to a $1.3 billion deal, and later part of Verizon after the company (and still TechCrunch’s parent company’s parent company) bought the online portal giant, it got sold to Automattic for a song. Now it wants to join the creator economy boom by allowing its users to put up paywalls. We’re here for it — the internet would be more fun with a healthy Tumblr in the mix.
  • Byju’s comes to America: Indian edtech superstar Byju’s is coming to the U.S. on the heels of its newly announced $500 million deal for Epic, what TechCrunch described as a “California-headquartered reading platform.” The edtech market is hot, something that we’ve long known. Duolingo’s IPO is also in the mix, as is a recent $24 million round for Sololearn, a startup that wants to take the Duolingo model and apply it to learning to code.

Startups/VC

We have lots to chat about today from the world of startups thanks to the supercharged venture capital cadence around the world. Up top, if you are keeping tabs on the Robinhood IPO, our latest notes are here. Now, let’s talk tech upstarts and private capital, starting with some fintech updates.

Fintech

  • Lending startup Upgrade embraces crypto: Back in 2019, TechCrunch took note of Upgrade, a consumer lending startup from LendingClub founder Renaud Laplanche. Today the startup rolled out a credit card with bitcoin rewards. If you need a few more satoshis worth of $BTC and want to build credit, this might be for you.
  • No-code + Payments = WhenThen: WhenThen’s no-code payments service is not struggling to explain itself to investors, its latest $6 million round indicates. Its service, TechCrunch reports, allows customers to “autonomously orchestrate, monitor, improve and manage all customer payments and payments ops.” The no-code element likely means it’s a bit more friendly to the non-developers out there. We grade this idea neat out of 10.
  • $118M more for corporate spend management: Here in the U.S., the corporate spend wars have Ramp versus Airbase versus Brex on the front lines. But that doesn’t mean that the popular model of fusing corporate cards and software to help companies manage their overall dispensation of funds is fully figured out. Especially in a global context. And now Spendesk has a fresh €100 million in its own accounts to spend taking on the EU market. I wonder what service it will use to track those costs?

Software

  • Sequoia Capital India backs Outplay: The new $7.3 million investment will bolster the startup’s efforts to “help outbound sales teams scale their campaigns.”
  • Say hello to what may be the future of spreadsheets: Spreadsheet.com wants to flip the idea of turning spreadsheet usage into targeted apps on its head. Instead, the startup wants to put apps in your spreadsheets. And its general release is coming this October.
  • Aussies want to help D2C brands kick the Big Tech habit: Now flush with $5.3 million in new capital, Sydney-based Okendo wants to help “brands scale the quality of their first-party data and loosen their reliance on tech advertising kingpins for customer acquisition and engagement.” If they can manage that, hats off.

Closing our startup coverage, a few final notes. Pangaea has raised $68 million for its men’s personal care brands. That is cool. But don’t get it mixed up with Providence, Rhode Island-based Pangea, a recent Y Combinator grad that has some news coming up. More on that soon.

If you want a deeper dive into the latest in hot business books, the Equity team recently sat down with one of the authors of “The Cult of We” to chat all things WeWork.

These simple metrics will tell you if your startup is ready to scale

There’s a temptation inside early-stage startups to claim that the go-to-market strategy is fully operational. In reality, GTM is a stark numbers game, and even with a solid plan in place, it can be easily foiled by common problems like turf battles and poor communication.

Finding GTM fit is a milestone for any startup that can include anything from expanding the engineering team to launching your first media buy. But how do you know when you’ve reached that magic moment?

“You have to consider three metrics: gross churn rate, the magic number and gross margin,” says Tae Hea Nahm, co-founder and managing director of Storm Ventures.

High churn means customers aren’t delighted, low gross margins mean poor unit economics, and that so-called magic number?

“You can calculate it by taking new ARR divided by your marketing and sales spending,” according to Nahm. “But keep in mind that the magic number is a lagging indicator, and it may take you a few quarters to see a positive result.”

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Remember Alexa? Amazon still wants you to build for it: Amazon’s voice assistant still wants developers to build for it, something that they may do. To entice more developer love, Amazon released a slew of new features for the service. Frankly, given the slow pace of growth in intelligence we’ve experienced with Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google’s “OK Google” setup, we are gently skeptical.
  • Can Ford, Argo and Lyft make self-driving taxis work? Recall that Google’s Waymo taxi service both exists and operates, albeit in micro compared to the riding networks that Uber and Lyft sport. Now Ford, a car company; Argo, a self-driving concern; and Lyft, a ride-hailing effort, “plan to launch up to 1,000 self-driving vehicles on Lyft’s ride-hailing network in a number of cities over the next five years, starting with Miami and Austin.”

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

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