Daily Crunch: Japanese marketing tech firm Geniee acquires Zelto for $70M
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Hello, you crunchy Crunchers! If you’ve been slacking and not bought yourself a Disrupt ticket yet, that’s cool, we still love you. But here’s a hot tip: This is your last chance for super-early-bird tickets, so maybe get on that sooner rather than later! — Christine and Haje
The TechCrunch Top 3
- All roads lead to acquisition: Manish writes that after Japan’s Geniee acquired AdPushup-operator Zelto for $70 million. He called the deal “a remarkable turnaround” for Zelto, a company that has stared down a few near-death experiences, including cash flow and product market fit problems, during its 10-year-old life.
- Sweet (South) Carolina, bup, bup, bup: VW-backed Scout Motors has plans to build a $2 billion factory in South Carolina to produce its all-electric vehicles. Tim Stevens has more.
- Fined: Manish also writes about India’s central bank, which fined Amazon’s payments unit over $370,000, claiming the company was noncompliant with certain know-your-customer guidelines.
Startups and VC
While most established automotive players call the shots from sprawling, corporate palaces, Scout bases much of its operations — at least for now — out of a WeWork near Washington, D.C., Tim Stevens reports. Scout Motors’ base of operations will eventually “anchor” near the $2 billion factory in South Carolina that was announced Friday, and the company plans to bring rugged, retro cred to the EV era.
And we have five more for you:
To fix the climate, these 10 investors are betting the house on the ocean
Tapping the ocean for energy led to disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which released nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Today, wind power and wave action are just two technologies leading investors to take a closer look at ocean conservation technology, reports Tim De Chant. To learn more about the opportunities they’re chasing and to discover how climate change is shaping their investment thesis, he surveyed:
- Daniela V. Fernandez, founder and CEO of Sustainable Ocean Alliance, managing partner at Seabird Ventures
- Tim Agnew, general partner, Bold Ocean Ventures
- Peter Bryant, program director (oceans), Builders Initiative
- Kate Danaher, managing director (oceans and seafood), S2G Ventures
- Francis O’Sullivan, managing director (oceans and seafood), S2G Ventures
- Stephan Feilhauer, managing director (clean energy), S2G Ventures
- Sanjeev Krishnan, senior managing director and chief investment officer, S2G Ventures
- Rita Sousa, partner, Faber Ventures
- Christian Lim, managing director, SWEN Blue Ocean Partners
- Reece Pacheco, partner, Propeller
Three more from the TC+ team:
TechCrunch+ is our membership program that helps founders and startup teams get ahead of the pack. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!
Big Tech Inc.
It was only a matter of time before another company would try to mimic what Instacart has going for it. Today that is Uber. Rebecca writes that Uber is coming for Instacart with some updates to its one-year-old Shop and Pay feature that lets delivery workers opt in to receiving trips to do grocery or other retail shopping for customers before dropping off orders at the customer’s door. “Basically, it’s Uber’s attempt to follow the Instacart model, which is working well for the incumbent grocery delivery company,” she reports.
Autonomous trucking company Embark Trucks, which went public in 2021, is now laying off about 230 workers as it explores liquidating its self-driving truck assets, Kirsten reports.
And now here’s six more for your Friday:
Just 7 days until the TC Early Stage early bird flies away
Budget-minded entrepreneurs and early-stage startup founders take heed — this is no time to procrastinate. We have only 7 days left of early-bird pricing to TechCrunch Early Stage 2023 in Boston on April 20.
Don’t wait…the early bird gets the…SAVINGS: Buy a $249 founder pass and save $200 before prices increase on April 1 — that’s no joke.
TC Early Stage is our only event where you get hands-on training with experts to help your business succeed. No need to reinvent the startup wheel — you’ll have access to leading experts across a range of specialties.
During this one-day startup bootcamp, you’ll learn about legal issues, fundraising, marketing, growth, product-market fit, pitching, recruiting and more. We’re talking more than 40 highly engaging presentations, workshops and roundtables with interactive Q&As and plenty of time for networking.
Here are just a few examples of the topics we have on tap. You’ll find plenty more listed in the event agenda.
How to Tell Your TAM: Dayna Grayson from Construct Capital invests in the rebuilding of the most foundational and broken industries of our economy. Industries such as manufacturing and logistics, among others, that formed in an analog world have been neglected by advanced technology. Dayna will talk about how, beyond the idea, founders can pitch investors on their TAM, including how they will wedge into the market and how they will eventually disrupt it.
How to Think About Accelerators and Incubators: Founders often hear they should get involved with an incubator or accelerator, but when is the “right” time for early-stage founders to apply to these types of startup support ecosystems, and how can they best engage if accepted? In this talk, Harvard Innovation Labs executive director Matt Segneri will cover everything from the types of incubators and accelerators available to early-stage founders, to what startups should consider before applying, and tips for getting the most out of these ecosystems.
How to Raise Outside of SV in a Down Market: Silicon Valley’s funding market tends to be more immune to macroeconomic conditions than elsewhere in the world. So how do you raise outside the Valley bubble? General Catalyst’s Mark Crane has ample experience on both the founder and VC side from all over Europe, as well as a firm understanding of the funding landscape in the northeastern U.S., so he’ll give practical advice on how to stay alive and thrive.
At TechCrunch Early Stage you’ll walk away with a deeper working understanding of topics and skills that are essential to startup success. Founders save $200 with an early-bird founder ticket — college students pay just $99!
Twitter will kill ‘legacy’ blue checks on April 1
Twitter has picked April Fool’s Day, otherwise known as April 1, to start removing legacy blue checkmarks from the platform.
Despite the significance of the day Twitter chose, the removal of legacy checkmarks has been anticipated for months now. Musk tweeted in December that the company would remove those checks “in a few months” because “the way in which they were given out was corrupt and nonsensical.”
Since then, legacy blue checkmark holders have been seeing a pop-up when they click on their checkmark that reads, “This is a legacy verified account. It may or may not be notable.”
Before Musk acquired the company, Twitter used checkmarks to verify individuals and entities as active, authentic and notable accounts of interest. Verified checkmarks were doled out for free.
Today, Twitter users can purchase a blue check through the Twitter Blue subscription model for $8 per month (iOS and Android signups will cost $11 per month, due to app store costs). There are also other checkmark colors and badges available for purchase to denote whether an account is a business or a government, for example.
Twitter says the purchase of a checkmark gives users access to subscriber-only features like fewer ads on their timeline, prioritized ranking in conversations, bookmark folders, and the ability to craft long tweets, edit tweets and undo tweets.
The news comes within hours of Twitter also announcing the availability of the Blue subscription globally.
Twitter did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for more information about how many users have already signed up for Twitter Blue.
Roofstock, valued at $1.9B last year, cuts 27% of staff in second round of layoffs
Proptech company Roofstock has laid off about 27% of its staff today, according to an email sent to employees viewed by TechCrunch. The cuts come just five months after the startup laid off 20% of its workforce.
The company’s website states that it has 400+ employees, or “Roofsters” as they’re dubbed, but it is not known if that figure is current.
Roofstock, an online marketplace for investing in leased single-family rental homes, one year ago raised $240 million at a $1.9 billion valuation. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led that financing, which included participation from existing and new backers including Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Bain Capital Ventures and others. Roofstock has raised a total of over $365 million in funding since its 2015 inception, per Crunchbase.
According to the email seen by TechCrunch, co-founder and CEO Gary Beasley said today’s reduction in force (RIF) was “in response to the challenging macro environment” and the “negative impact” it is having on Roofstock’s business.
He added that the company was not expecting to have to cut more staff so soon but that it needed to “right size” in an effort “to reduce cash burn rate” and ensure it has “adequate capital runway until the market eventually turns.”
Beasley sent the email because apparently, the Zoom meeting where it was addressed “maxed out on attendees.”
Oakland, Calif.-based Roofstock lets people buy and sell rental homes in dozens of U.S. markets. The premise behind the company is that both institutional and retail investors can buy and sell homes without forcing renters to leave their homes. Meanwhile, buyers can also presumably generate income from day one.
At the time of its raise in March 2022, the company said that it had facilitated more than $5 billion in transaction volume, more than half of which had come from the last year alone.
Just days before its last round of layoffs last year, Roofstock made headlines for selling its first single-family home using NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.
Rising mortgage rates and a slowdown in the housing market led to challenges for many real estate technology companies in 2022 that continue this year. Opendoor, Redfin, Compass, Better.com and Homeward were among the other startups that also laid off workers. IBuyer Reali also announced it was shutting down after raising $100 million the year prior.
TechCrunch has reached out to Roofstock but had not heard back at the time of writing but multiple sources confirmed that layoffs had taken place today.
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