Hello, friends! Welcome back to Week in Review, the newsletter where we quickly sum up the most read TechCrunch stories from the last sevenish days. The goal? Even if you’ve had a busy week, a quick skim of WiR should keep you in the (tech) loop.
Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.
This week was a bit all over the place, with another big story breaking every couple hours. Let’s just drop right in, shall we?
- Cutbacks at Area 120: Area 120 is Google’s in-house incubator, meant to let Googlers with potentially big ideas tap the mega company’s resources to turn said ideas into something real. This week, however, Google confirmed that it’s slashing half of the Area 120 projects currently in development, with the incubator “shifting its focus” to AI projects. Impacted employees are being given until early 2023 to find a new job within Google.
- Adobe buys Figma: In one of the biggest tech acquisitions of all time, Adobe announced this week its intent to buy the collaborative/web-based design tool Figma for a whopping $20 billion. Figma saw ridiculous growth throughout the pandemic, as many, many tech teams went remote and adjusted their workflows accordingly. Even for a company as big as Adobe, winning that part of the workflow back would’ve been tough.
- Layoffs at Twilio: Twilio confirmed this week that it’ll lay off roughly 11% of its workforce — somewhere between 800 and 900 people — as the company focuses on reaching profitability in 2023.
- iOS 16 goes live: As expected, iOS 16 rolled out to Apple devices this week. Want our thoughts on it? Find Romain’s review here. Want to know all of the not-so-obvious new features hiding within the update? Check out Ivan’s list. Most of our readers seem to be looking for interesting ways to use those new Lock Screen widgets.
- South Korea issues an arrest warrant for Terraform Labs’ founder: “A court in South Korea has issued an arrest warrant for Do Kwon, the founder of Terraform Labs,” writes Manish, “escalating its probe into the crypto ecosystem whose two tokens lost $40 billion in value in a span of days earlier this year.”
- Uber hack: Late Thursday night, Uber confirmed that it’s “responding to a cybersecurity incident” after a hacker seemingly breached the company’s internal network, with the hacker reportedly announcing their presence (and protesting how Uber pays its drivers) right within Uber’s Slack.
If you like TechCrunch for your eyes, check out TechCrunch for your ears. This week in TechCrunch podcast land, the Equity team talked about how Y Combinator has evolved in recent years, the Chain Reaction crew “dug into the institutional embrace of blockchains by stodgy financial powerhouses,” and the Found team went all “greatest hits” by revisiting an interview with Figma founder Dylan Field from earlier this year.
Want to know what TC+ members are reading most behind the paywall? I’ve got that list below. Want to become a TC+ member yourself? Sign up here and use promo code “WIR” for 15% off an annual pass.
Backed by Epic Games, distributed computing startup Hadean nabs $30M to power the metaverse
Hadean, a U.K.-based distributed, spatial computing startup that’s setting out to build the infrastructure for the burgeoning metaverse, has closed a $30 million seres A round of funding from a high-profile cast of investors including Epic Games and Tencent.
Founded out of London in 2015, Hadean started out with a broad mission to put “supercomputer levels of processing power at the disposal of anyone,” TechCrunch wrote back in 2017 when the company was still operating in beta. In the intervening years, Hadean has iterated for different use-cases and has emerged as a major player in the gaming sphere in particular, where it powers major hits such as Minecraft.
At its core, Hadean is all about helping developers scale their codebase to support software that requires significant computing power, something that Minecraft demands particularly when it involves multiplayer engagement across the internet. Hadean’s spatial simulation library integrates with all the major gaming engines, and helps MMO (massively multiplayer online game) and other online game developers avoid having to put player limits in place, or use other forms of technical (but limited) trickery to circumvent the problems created by hundreds or more gamers participating at the same time. It’s all about keeping the dreaded “lag” at bay, while maintaining the depth, complexity, and realism of a single-player offline console game.
This is achieved through the magic of distributed computing, with Hadean’s platform eliminating “excessive middleware, orchestration, and overengineering,” as the company puts it, dynamically provisioning more or fewer resources as a game requires.
But the underlying technology can be used for just about any use-case, from resource-intensive enterprise applications through to web 3.0, blockchain, and the metaverse. Back in July, Hadean was awarded a contract with the British Army to build a simulated training environment for land warfare.
And it’s against that backdrop that Hadean has now secured a slew of illustrious backers eager to get in at an early stage, while the metaverse is still in its fledgling years.
As the Telegraph newspaper first reported last month [paywalled], Hadean initially secured around $18 million in funding from investors including Chinese technology titan Tencent and InQTel, a CIA-backed not-for-profit venture capital firm based in Virginia, U.S. As it transpired, this initial reveal came somewhat prematurely, as Hadean was still in the process of closing the round of funding, which is what it’s announcing today.
The full list of (known) backers include lead investor Molten Ventures (formerly Draper Esprit), Tencent, 2050 Capital, Alumni Ventures, Aster Capital, Entrepreneur First, InQtel, and the mighty Epic Games, which also happens to be a Hadean customer. In fact, Epic Games previously doled out funding to Hadean in the form of a MegaGrant, which are basically grants to support companies working on projects to help support its Unreal Engine.
In an email to TechCrunch, Hadean CEO Craig Beddis said Epic Games arrived late to the series A round and so had to invested via a convertible note, which basically means it’s a short-term debt that will convert into equity.
It’s also worth noting that Epic Games recently raised around $2 billion to build what it’s touting as a kid-friendly metaverse, and this gives a further clue as to why it’s now investing directly in Hadean.
“Hadean’s computing power will provide the infrastructure that’s needed as we work to create a scalable metaverse,” said Marc Petit, who serves as VP of Epic’s Unreal Engine Ecosystem, in a statement. “The company’s technology complements Epic’s Unreal Engine by enabling massive amounts of concurrent users and unlocking new tools for creators and developers.”
Tencent’s involvement is also notable, given current geopolitical tensions between China and the U.S. Beddis explained that Hadean ended up taking less money than what was on offer from Tencent so that it could remain CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) compliant, and avoid a national security review.
With another $30 million in the bank, in addition to its previously raised seed rounds amounting to around $16.5 million, Hadean is well-financed to double-down on its existing traction across the gaming, government, and enterprise realms, and power all manner of web 3.0 and metaverse applications.
“Hadean’s mission is to bridge physical and virtual worlds — to help us make better decisions and ultimately improve the quality of our lives in the physical world,” Beddis said. “Today’s virtual worlds are a limited experience – small scale, siloed, and insecure. Hence why these are the technical challenges we’re tackling today. But we believe the true success and mass adoption of the metaverse will rely on the ease by which creators will be able to build their own experiences at scale, leveraging open and robust metaverse-as-a-service technologies.”
Interview with Ekke Uustalu, Co-Founder of Planyard
Co-founder of Planyard with a background in B2B software and cyber security. Now tackling profitability forecasting in larger construction companies to make sure they don’t go out of business due to insufficient visibility.
He was born right when Estonia regained its independence from the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 90s. This experience has been invaluable as he saw the rapid development and life quality improvement this new way provided.
When growing up, everything in his life was digitalized – the communication, the school work, government and medical services. This meant that that was since childhood the normal. He couldn’t really expect less than excellent and user-friendliness from any service. This part is probably normal for 99% of Estonians though.
He studied computer systems in his university studies and found entrepreneurship interesting from early on. He worked in various startups during studies and attended various startup events and competitions. Some of these competitions were also where the first attempts (and failures) at personal startups took place.
He also tried Amazon FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) product selling which failed quite miserably as the product was completely custom designed and was just a one-time thing. The product was also partially a safety device so Amazon deciding to now allowing to sell the product was a good learning point. Never give too much decision power to someone else. Also, don’t make safety products without having great suppliers. 🙂
After a short stint in a cyber security company, he was invited by acquaintances to work on Planyard. This has been the main focus for the past few years.
Where did the idea for Planyard come from?
The idea for Planyard came from our acquaintances working in the construction field. Many of them work as project managers and complained that they don’t have good tools that help them do financial tasks efficiently.
They often need to use multiple unlinked spreadsheets with duplicate data where the processing and data copying takes way too long. So when one of our founders had multiple discussions with these PMs, he was able to identify key issues that we started to work on once the mockups were confirmed.
So now we are providing a cloud-based software tool for construction companies to automate much of the annoying manual work they have to do anyway. This can save up to 5 days for each project manager per month. Additionally, colleagues and managers can also easily see what the status is if the company prefers to share the access inside the company.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Since we are a small bootstrapped team, the day consists of various tasks that have to be done – often some development work, marketing actions if we have some content planned, calls with customers and representatives from tools that we integrate with.
It is important to list and then prioritize all of the things that need to be done in the day to make sure that you can really focus on the important tasks. Depending on the task, we have different Trello boards to track them or for stuff only specific to me, I also use Gmail snoozing to not lose anything.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We often hear about problems that our customers are having. When we hear these brought out, we have to validate that many or most of our customers face similar issues. When we validate that indeed this is a relevant issue for many people, we then start work on solution proposals.
We then make very low-quality mockups that we can validate with all of the parties and often do multiple rounds of these discussions to tweak the solution before we start implementing it.
This means that we can be very sure of the technical solution before we do anything. We might make small adjustments to the design or the process later on, but the fundamental assumptions are correct, thus reducing the amount of rework we have to do.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Young and/or tech-savvy people who are becoming decision makers in (construction) companies. They have grown up with productivity tools and user-friendly tools and expect that when they try to find a solution. Also, a more bottom-up management style is nice since everyone’s’ opinion matters and the boss doesn’t decide alone.
This means that our potential customers are more open to embracing technical solutions that will make their life easier. Additionally, when looking for solutions, they are very selfishly trying to find a great experience. That differs from the “old school“ enterprise sales where the management would just decide for something and the end users would not really benefit from it.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
If you don’t get it 100% clearly, just ask again. I think I need to fully understand the problem and why it is a problem to be able to solve it for the customer.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Ask more questions before rushing to propose solutions. You probably didn’t fully get it yet.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Probably not that unpopular, but raising money is not everything. Raising money too soon can hurt or end your business.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Blocking out time for deep focus time. This is probably more a techy thing to do, but having the freedom of no distractions for some part of your day really lets you achieve a lot.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We still need to do a lot of work on our online presence and messaging, but we for sure are already seeing successes from our SEO efforts however limited the time is that we put in there.
In short, it’s better to be where the customers are searching for you instead of cold calling and reaching out to them yourself.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
A few years ago, I tried doing Amazon FBA (fulfillment by Amazon) as a business. We developed our own product from scratch for just a one-time event.
The production delays and strict Amazon restrictions meant that we actually could almost not sell any products to our customers before the date. We lost a lot of time and money doing this, but I learned to value my own control over the process more. In that case, we did make a lot of mistakes on our own as well. But giving so much power to someone else can be risky as they can just shut you down when they decide to do so.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I recently heard of an idea for an app to order food in the restaurant. So basically Uber Eats to eat in – no waiting for the waiter, no payment struggles, and the possibility for the company to do dynamic pricing.
I’m not sure if it is a great idea, but it’s an idea.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Trello. Keeping track of what you need to do, what you did, and to prioritize what needs to be done. Without structure, you just do whatever you want to in the morning and that probably won’t take you too far.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
What is your favorite quote?
Change in all things is sweet – Aristotle
Berlin’s Visionaries Club VC boosts its funds with €350M worth of fresh capital for B2B investments
It was back in 2019 that we reported on Visionaries Club, a new, Berlin-based, European VC focusing on B2B, founded by Sebastian Pollok and Robert Lacher. At the time, Visionaries Club had launched two new €40M micro funds for seed and growth-stage B2B.
Pollok was previously a VC at e.ventures in San Francisco and also founded Amorelie, which exited to Pro7Sat.1 Media Group. Lacher was previously a founding partner of La Famiglia, an early investor in FreightHub, Coya, Asana Rebel, OnTruck and Personio.
Visionaries Club has now announced a second B2B-focused fund, with a new €150m Seed Fund and €200m ‘Early Growth Fund. It’s so far invested in companies such as Personio, Miro, Choco, Xentral, Truelayer, Vay, Taxdoo, Yokoy, Pigment, Leapsome and Gtmhub, alongside VCs such as Sequoia, Accel, Index, Lightspeed or Bessemer.
In a statement, Lacher said: “We are extremely proud and humbled that more than 20 of our founder LPs are founders we have backed in the past, that now reinvest their private money into our funds such as Hanno Renner (Personio), Jenny Podewills (Leapsome), Daniel Khachab (Choco), Christian Reber (Pitch / Superlist) or the founders of Taxdoo and Insify.”
The fund essentially operates as a micro-VC fund, which means it can lead, and co-lead Seed investment deals, co-investing alongside larger, multistage VC funds in Early Growth stage (Series B) deals.
It’s also launching the Visionaries Club science-driven ‘Tomorrow Fund’ to back science-driven startups at the Pre-Seed and Seed stage.
Additionally, Sahar Meghani and Marton Sarkadi Nagy have been promoted to Partners.
London-based Meghani will take a lead role in managing the new Growth Fund, while Sarkadi Nagy will take a lead on the seed fund activities.
Interviews8 months ago
Interview with Jean-Francois Desormeaux, Real Estate Investor
Business News4 months ago
NFTMagazine.com Is Bringing NFTMag Conference 2022 to Miami this Year Says JetSetFly
Interviews6 months ago
Paying it Forward — Meet Dr. Jonathan Kenigson, the Founder of the World’s Leading Think-Tank in the Quadrivium
Entrepreneurship10 months ago
600% In Under 5 Years, Financial Advisors Grow Business By Podcasting And YouTube
Community3 months ago
The Bassnectar Community – It Belongs to All of Us
Technology1 week ago
General Atlantic buys out SoftBank’s 15% stake in edtech Kahoot, now valued at about $152M vs the $215M SoftBank ponied up 2 years ago
Interviews9 months ago
Interview with Trey Branham, Partner at Dean Omar Branham Shirley
Community7 months ago
A Multi-Millionaire in The Making: An Interview with Ty Panopoulos, NFT Mentor and Social Media Marketing Expert