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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for October 20, 2021. It’s been quite a day, with Facebook making a number of headlines, a blizzard of IPO updates and some acquisition scuttlebutt along with a big Twitter deal. Strap in; we have some work to do.
- Facebook said to ponder name change: Remember when Google created Alphabet, a holding company for its various ambitions? Facebook is reportedly mulling a similar reset and potentially renaming itself. Twitter immediately exploded into jokes, but the core news element — that Facebook really is focused on building a so-called metaverse company — appears serious enough. Perhaps the focus explains the company’s long-held focus on VR.
- IPO updates galore: While large technology companies and governments made much of the news today, a number of former startups busy approaching the public markets also made plenty of noise. Backblaze, for example, reported in its IPO filing that it has been a cash-efficient operation en route to going public. Separately, Udemy set an initial IPO price range, perhaps valuing the company at more than $4 billion. And Rent the Runway is pursuing an IPO at a valuation north of $1 billion, though we have yet to fully parse that filing.
- PayPal may buy Pinterest: And because the day was not busy enough, news that U.S. fintech giant PayPal may buy fellow domestic public company Pinterest raised eyebrows in both financial and technology circles. Precisely what PayPal will do with Pinterest as an asset is not clear, but there is a certain historical irony to PayPal, which famously split from eBay, potentially linking up with another non-financial company.
Before we dive into pieces of discrete news, our own Romain Dillet has a great piece out today concerning how startups can go about picking the right technology stack for their business. If you are in building mode, this might be just the bit of writing you were looking for.
- Fraud prevention as a service: That appears to be the gig that Resistant AI — which just raised $16.6 million — is chasing. Per Natasha Lomas, the startup “uses artificial intelligence to help financial services companies combat fraud and financial crime.” At some point, it will be entirely possible to spin up a neobank that fully outsources every single element of its tech stack.
- Shipping carpooling is big business: Flock Freight is the newest unicorn after raising nine figures worth of cash from SoftBank in a Series D. Working in the shared truckload market, here’s hoping that Flock can do something about the global supply chain crisis.
- DeFi startups stay in the spotlight: On the day when well-known cryptocurrency bitcoin reached a new all-time value high in USD terms, Element Finance announced a $32 million Series A for its decentralized yield generating service. Polychain Capital led the deal. Per TechCrunch, the company, built atop the Ethereum blockchain, allows users to earn “predictable returns on investments.” In the age of bonds with negative yield, stronger yields from Crypto Land could prove a big draw for blockchain take as a whole.
- Stripe buys India’s Recko: Giant fintech company Stripe, which has yet to go public despite its mammoth scale, has made its first buy in India. The acquired company, Recko, has “built a platform that lets businesses track and automate payments reconciliation.” Payment reconciliation may not get you excited, but the buy shows just how big Stripe’s ambitions are as an entity.
- New IP is worth a fortune: That appears to be the lesson from Superplastic’s $20 million Series A. The company has created a stable of digital characters that partner up with real folks for collabs and the like. Mock this all you want, but it makes way more sense than paying $3 million for the digital signature to an ape image on a single blockchain.
- TechCrunch is keeping technology accessibility in our line of sight. Read more here.
The Automattic TC-1
Our latest long-form look at a notable tech company examines Automattic, “the leading commercial complement to the open source WordPress publishing platform.”
At 16 years old, the company is growing into a major media player: Its purchase of Tumblr expanded its reach into social media, and WooCommerce, its open source e-commerce plugin for WordPress users, integrates with POS systems in the real world.
Broken into four parts, this series examines Automattic from multiple angles:
- Part 1: How doing everything wrong turned Automattic into a multibillion-dollar media powerhouse (origin story)
- Part 2: There’s nothing Automattic about balancing commercial growth with an open source developer community (open source development)
- Part 3: Can social and e-commerce transform the future of the open web? (acquisitions and future strategy)
- Part 4: The future of remote work is text (remote work culture)
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
We have a lot of big technology news to get through. So, we’ve grouped entities where possible:
- Facebook: The company was fined $70 million for flouting an order from the U.K. related to its purchase of Giphy. And the company’s efforts to make its Groups feature work more smoothly continues.
- Microsoft: Remember when Microsoft said that it would allow users to run Android apps on Windows 11? Well, we now have an idea of what that will look like. How excited you are — or not — by this news will depend on your platform of choice, but recall that Linux is also besties with Windows these days, so the Android move fits into a larger thematic push by Redmond.
- Acquisitions: Developer-API company Twilio is doubling down on the marketing world with a new buy as Twitter buys Sphere, a group chat application. The founder of Sphere is a name you should recall if you were watching tech news during the Marissa Mayer-Yahoo era.
- Shopify + Spotify = Spopify: Spotify is teaming up with Shopify, with the latter company helping artists sell merch on the music service. This is good. But what would be better would be to allow users to pay more and target a chunk of their payment stream to artists of their choosing. That would revolutionize smaller genres and make Spotify a place that was more welcoming to less well-known artists.
- And from the “this wasn’t already a rule?” world, the U.S. government is banning the sale of hacking tools to China and Russia.
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