DoorDash raises another $250M, nearly triples valuation to $4B

DoorDash raises another 0M, nearly triples valuation to B

Food delivery startup DoorDash announced this afternoon that it has raised $250 million, just five months since the company announced a $535 million round.

Why raise more money so soon? CEO Tony Xu told Axios that he wasn’t actively looking for additional investment, but was open to investor interest because it could help the company expand more quickly. (Maybe he’ll have more to say about those plans at Disrupt SF next month.)

The new funding was led by Coatue Management and DST Global. It sounds like the terms were pretty appealing too, with the valuation growing from $1.4 billion to $4 billion.

In a blog post, the company said it’s had a good 2018, with deliveries increasing 250 percent year-over-year, restaurant chains like Chipotle and IHOP signing up and last week’s launch of the DashPass subscription service, where you can pay $9.99 per month to get unlimited free deliveries.

“As we grow, we will stay true to our values and our mission of connecting people with possibility  —  and, trust us, we’re just getting started,” DoorDash wrote.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Kapwing is Adobe for the meme generation

Kapwing is Adobe for the meme generation

Need to resize a video for IGTV? Add subtitles for Twitter? Throw in sound effects for YouTube? Or collage it with other clips for the Instagram feed? Kapwing lets you do all that and more for free from a mobile browser or website. This scrappy new startup is building the vertical video era’s creative suite full of editing tools for every occasion.

Pronounced “Ka-pwing,” like the sound of a ricocheted bullet, the company was founded by two former Google Image Search staffers. Now after six months of quiet bootstrapping, it’s announcing a $1.7 million seed round led by Kleiner Perkins.

Kapwing hopes to rapidly adapt to shifting memescape and its fragmented media formats, seizing on opportunities like creators needing to turn their long-form landscape videos vertical for Instagram’s recently launched IGTV. The free version slaps a Kapwing.com watermark on all its exports for virality, but users can pay $20 a month to remove it.

While sites like Imgur and Imgflip offer lightweight tools for static memes and GIFs, “the tools and community for doing that for video are kinda inaccessible,” says co-founder and CEO Julia Enthoven. “You have something you install on your computer with fancy hardware. You should able to create and riff off of people,” even if you just have your phone, she tells me. Indeed, 100,000 users are already getting crafty with Kapwing.

“We want to make these really relevant trending formats so anyone can jump in,” Enthoven declares. “Down the line, we want to make a destination for consuming that content.”

Kapwing co-founders Eric Lu and Julia Enthoven

Enthoven and Eric Lu both worked at Google Image Search in the lauded Associate Product Manager (APM) program that’s minted many future founders for companies like Quip, Asana and Polyvore. But after two years, they noticed a big gap in the creative ecosystem. Enthoven explains that “The idea came from using outdated tools for making the types of videos people want to make for social media — short-form, snackable video you record with your phone. It’s so difficult to make those kinds of videos in today’s editors.”

So the pair of 25-year-olds left in September to start Kapwing. They named it after their favorite sound effect from the Calvin & Hobbes comics when the make-believe tiger would deflect toy gunshots from his best pal. “It’s an onomatopoeia, and that’s sort of cool because video is all about movement and sound.”

After starting with a meme editor for slapping text above and below images, Kapwing saw a sudden growth spurt as creators raced to convert landscape videos for vertical IGTV. Now it has a wide range of tools, with more planned.

The current selection includes:

  • Meme Maker
  • Subtitles
  • Multi-Video Montage Maker
  • Video Collage
  • Video Filters
  • Image To Video Converter
  • Add Overlaid Text To Video
  • Add Music To Video With MP3 Uploads
  • Resize Video
  • Reverse Video
  • Loop Video
  • Trim Video
  • Mute Video
  • Stop Motion Maker
  • Sound Effects Maker

Kapwing definitely has some annoying shortcomings. There’s an 80mb limit on uploads, so don’t expect to be messing with much 4K videos or especially long clips. You can’t subtitle a GIF, and the meme maker flipped vertical photos sideways without warning. It also lacks some of the slick tools that Snapchat has developed, like a magic eraser for Photoshopping stuff out and a background changer, or the automatic themed video editing found in products like Google Photos.

The No. 1 thing it needs is a selective cropping tool. Instead of letting you manually move the vertical frame around inside a landscape video so you always catch the action, it just grabs the center. That left me staring at blank space between myself and an interview subject when I uploaded this burger robot startup video. It’s something apps like RotateNFlip and Flixup already offer. Hopefully the funding that also comes from Shasta, Shrug Capital, Sinai, Village Global, and ZhenFund will let it tackle some of these troubles.

Beyond meme-loving teens and semi-pro creators, Kapwing has found an audience amongst school teachers. The simplicity and onscreen instructions make it well-suited for young students, and it works on Chromebooks because there’s no need to download software.

The paid version has found some traction with content marketers and sponsored creators who don’t want a distracting watermark included. That business model is always in danger of encroachment from free tools, though, so Kapwing hopes to also become a place to view the meme content it exports. That network model is more defensible if it gains a big enough audience, and could be monetized with ads. Though it will put it in competition with Imgur, Reddit and the big dogs like Instagram.

“We aspire to become a hub for consumption,” Enthoven concluded. “Consume, get an idea, and share with each other.”

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Bird has officially raised a whopping $300M as the scooter wars heat up

Bird has officially raised a whopping 0M as the scooter wars heat up
And there we have it: Bird, one of the emerging massively hyped Scooter startups, has roped in its next pile of funding by picking up another $300 million in a round led by Sequoia Capital.
The company announced the long-anticipated round this morning, with Sequoia’s Roelof Botha joining the company’s board of directors. This is the second round of funding that Bird has raised over the span of a few months, sending it from a reported $1 billion valuation in May to a $2 billion valuation by the end of June. In March, the company had a $300 million valuation, but the Scooter hype train has officially hit a pretty impressive inflection point as investors pile on to get money into what many consider to be the next iteration of resolving transportation at an even more granular level than cars or bikes. New investors in the round include Accel, B Capital, CRV, Sound Ventures, Greycroft and e.ventures; previous investors Craft Ventures, Index Ventures, Valor, Goldcrest, Tusk Ventures and Upfront Ventures are also in the round. (So, basically everyone else who isn’t in competitor Lime.)
Scooter mania has captured the hearts of Silicon Valley and investors in general — including Paige Craig, who actually jumped from VC to join Bird as its VP of business — with a large amount of capital flowing into the area about as quickly as it possibly can. These sort of revolving-door fundraising processes are not entirely uncommon, especially for very hot areas of investment, though the scooter scene has exploded considerably faster than most. Bird’s round comes amid reports of a mega-round for Lime, one of its competitors, with the company reportedly raising another $250 million led by GV, and Skip also raising $25 million.
“We have met with over 20 companies focused on the last-mile problem over the years and feel this is a multi-billion dollar opportunity that can have a big impact in the world,” CRV’s Saar Gur, who did the deal for the firm, said. “We have a ton of conviction that this team has original product thought (they created the space) and the execution chops to build something extremely valuable here. And we have been long-term focused, not short-term focused, in making the investment. The ‘hype’ in our decision (the non-zero answer) is that Bird has built the best product in the market and while we kept meeting with more startups wanting to invest in the space — we kept coming back to Bird as the best company. So in that sense, the hype from consumers is real and was a part of the decision. On unit economics: We view the first product as an MVP (as the company is less than a year old) — and while the unit economics are encouraging, they played a part of the investment decision but we know it is not even the first inning in this market.”
There’s certainly an argument to be made for Bird, whose scooters you’ll see pretty much all over the place in cities like Los Angeles. For trips that are just a few miles down wide roads or sidewalks, where you aren’t likely to run into anyone, a quick scan of a code and a hop on a Bird may be worth the few bucks in order to save a few minutes crossing those considerably long blocks. Users can grab a bird that they see and start going right away if they are running late, and it does potentially alleviate the pressure of calling a car for short distances in traffic, where a scooter may actually make more sense physically to get from point A to point B than a car.
There are some considerable hurdles going forward, both theoretical and in effect. In San Francisco, though just a small slice of the United States metropolitan area population, the company is facing significant pushback from the local government, and scooters for the time being have been kicked off the sidewalks. There’s also the looming shadow of what may happen regarding changes in tariffs, though Gur said that it likely wouldn’t be an issue and “the unit economics appear to be viable even if tariffs were to be added to the cost of the scooters.” (Xiaomi is one of the suppliers for Bird, for example.)

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Instead of points, Bumped gives equity in the companies you shop at

Instead of points, Bumped gives equity in the companies you shop at

What does brand loyalty even mean anymore? App downloads, points, stars, and other complex reward systems have not just spawned their own media empires trying to decipher them, they have failed at their most basic objective: building a stronger bond between a brand and its consumers.

Bumped wants to reinvent the loyalty space by giving consumers shares of the companies they shop at. Through Bumped’s app, consumers choose their preferred retailer in different categories (think Lowe’s vs The Home Depot in home improvement), and when they spend money at that store using a linked credit card, Bumped will automatically give them ownership in that company.

The startup, which is based in Portland and was founded in March 2017, announced the beta launch of its service today, as well as a $14.1 million series A led by Dan Ciporin at Canaan Partners, along with existing seed investors Peninsula Ventures, Commerce Ventures, and Oregon Venture Partners.

Bumped is a brokerage, and the company told me that it has passed all FINRA and SEC licensing. When consumers spend money at participating retailers, they receive bona fide shares in the companies they shop at. Each retailer determines a loyalty percentage rate, which is a minimum of 1% and can go up to 5%. Bumped then buys shares off the public market to reward consumers, and in cases where it needs to buy fractional shares, it will handle all of those logistics.

Bumped’s app allows users to track their shares

For founder and CEO David Nelsen, the startup doesn’t just make good business sense, it can have a wider social impact of democratizing access to the public equity markets. “A lot of brands need to build an authentic relationship with the customers,” he explained to me. “The brands that have a relationship with consumers, beyond price, are thriving.” With Bumped, Nelsen’s goal is to “align the interests of a shareholder and consumer, and everybody wins.”

His mission is to engage more Americans into the equity markets and the power of ownership. He notes that far too many people fail to setup their 401k, and don’t invest regularly in the stock market, citing a statistic that only 13.9% of people directly own a share of stock. By offering shares, he hopes that Bumped engages consumers to think about their relationship to companies in a whole new way. As Nelsen put it, “we are talking about bringing a whole new class of shareholders into the market.”

This isn’t the first time that Nelsen has built a company in the loyalty space. He previously was a co-founder and CEO of Giftango, a platform for prepaid digital gift cards that was acquired by InComm in late 2012.

Consumers will have to choose their Bumped loyalty partner in each category, like burgers

That previously experience has helped the company build an extensive roster for launch. Bumped has 19 brands participating in the beta, including Chipotle, Netflix, Shake Shack, Walgreens, and The Home Depot. Another 6 brands are currently papering contracts with the firm.

Ciporin of Canaan said that he wanted to fund something new in the loyalty space. “There has been just a complete lack of innovation in the loyalty space,” he explained to me. “I think about it as Robinhood meets airline points programs.” One major decider for Ciporin in making the investment was academic research, such as this paper by Jaakko Aspara, showing that becoming a shareholder in a company tended to make consumers significantly more loyal to those brands.

In the short run, Bumped heads into a crowded loyalty space that includes companies like Drop, which I have covered before on TechCrunch. Nelsen believes that the stock ownership model is “an entirely different mechanism” in loyalty, and that makes it “hard to compare” to other loyalty platforms.

Longer term, he hints at exploring how to offer this sort of equity loyalty model to small and medium businesses, a significantly more complex challenge given the lack of liquid markets for their equity. Today, the company is exclusively focused on publicly-traded companies.

Bumped today has 14 people, and is targeting a team size of around 20 employees.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Winnie raises $4 million to make parents’ lives easier

Winnie raises million to make parents’ lives easier

An app that has the needs of modern-day parents in mind, Winnie, has now raised $4 million in additional seed funding in a round led by Reach Capital. Other investors in the new round include Rethink Impact, Homebrew, Ludlow Ventures, Afore Capital, and BBG Ventures, among others. With the new funds, Winnie has raised $6.5 million to date.

The San Francisco-based startup, which begun its life as a directory of kid-friendly places largely serving the needs of newer parents, has since expanded to become a larger platform for parents.

Winnie was founded by Bay Area technologists, Sara Mauskopf, who spent time at Postmates, Twitter, YouTube and Google, and Anne Halsall, also from Postmates and Google, as well as Quora and Inkling.

As new parents themselves, they built Winnie out a personal need to find the sort of information parents crave – details you can’t easily dig up in Google Maps or Yelp.

For example, you can use Winnie to find nearby kid-friendly destinations like museums or parks, as well as those that welcome children with features like changing tables in restrooms, wide aisles in stores for stroller access, areas for nursing, and other things.

Winnie serves as a good example of what investing in women can achieve. Somehow, the young, 20-something men that receive the lion’s share of VC funding had never thought up the idea of app that helps new parents navigate the world. (I know, shocking, right?) And yet, the kind of questions that Winnie tries to answer are those that all parents, at some point, are curious about.

The data on Winnie is crowd-sourced, with details, ratings and reviews coming from other real parents. Listings in San Francisco may be more fleshed out than elsewhere, as that’s where Winnie got its start. However, the app is now available in 10,000 cities across the U.S., and has just surpassed over a million users.

In more recent months, Winnie has been working to expand beyond being a sort of “Yelp for parents,” and now features an online community where parents can ask questions and participate in discussions.

“The crowdsourced directory of family-friendly businesses is still a huge component of what we do…and this has grown to over 2 million places across the United States,” notes Winnie co-founder and CEO Sara Mauskopf. “But we also have these real-time answers to any parenting question from this authentic, supportive community,” she says, referring to Winnie’s online discussions.

The idea is that parents will be searching the web for answers to questions about toddler sleep issues or good local preschools or breastfeeding help, and Winnie’s answers will come up in search results, similar to other Q&A sites like Quora or Yahoo Answers.

“A lot of younger millennial parents are turning to Google to find answers to these questions,” adds Winnie co-founder and CPO Anne Halsall. “So we want to have the answer to these questions at the ready, and we want to have the best page. That’s an example of something that’s yield a lot of traffic for us, just because no one else had that data before Winnie,” she says.

Related to this expansion, Winnie is also serving this data across platforms, including – obviously – the web, in addition to its native app on iOS and Android. The hope is that, with the growth, business owners will come in to claim their pages on Winnie.com, too, and update their information.

In the near-term, the founders say they’ll put the funding to use building out more personalization features.

“As a technology company, we have a unique opportunity to give you this really tailored experience that grows with your family over time – so as your children are getting older, and you’re entering new phases of development, our product’s adapting and putting relevant information in front of you,” Halsall says. 

Data on businesses serving the needs of parents with older kids – like summer camps or driver’s ed classes, for example – are the kind of things Winnie will focus on as it grows to include information for more parents, instead of just those with younger children and babies.

Winnie will also use the funds to hire additional engineers to help it scale its platform.

Esteban Sosnik from Reach Capital joined Hunter Walk from Homebrew on Winnie’s board as a result of the funding.

The app is a free download for iOS and Android, and is available on the web at Winnie.com.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Opendoor raises $325M to make buying and selling homes a near-instant process

Opendoor raises 5M to make buying and selling homes a near-instant process

Investors are placing another huge bet on a startup looking to reinvent a decades-old process into something that’s near instant, this time pouring $325 million into Opendoor — a company that wants to bring the complex operation of buying or selling a home down to something similarly as simple as hailing a Lyft.

The idea of Opendoor is one not so dissimilar from a consumer theory that’s blossomed into companies worth tens of billions of dollars — consumers hate complex processes and are willing to hand off those processes to technology companies if they can make it even a little simpler. Home-buying and selling can be one of the more intense ones, requiring a lot of moving pieces and coordinating multiple time tables and schedules. Opendoor’s theory is that it can create a sizable business by dropping that time and energy cost to zero and effectively create a new technology-powered business model in the process, just like Uber or Airbnb.

Opendoor says it hopes to expand to 50 markets by the end of 2020 with this additional financing. It is in 10 markets right now, and also says it now purchases more than $2.5 billion in homes on an annual run rate. The company says it has raised a $325 million financing round co-led by General Atlantic, Access Technology Ventures and Lennar Corporation. Andreessen Horowitz, Coatue Management, 10100 Fund and Invitation Homes also participated, as well as existing investors Norwest Venture Partners, Lakestar, GGV Capital, NEA and Khosla Ventures. Opendoor has in total raised $645 million in equity and $1.5 billion in debt.

“What I realized was that there’s a lot of tailwinds with people wanting to transact with their mobile device,” CEO Eric Wu said. “We see this with Uber and Lyft and Amazon. I believe the future of real estate will be on demand and that’s the centerpiece of Opendoor’s thesis, making the transaction real time and instant. I realized there were going to be tailwinds, and that real estate was in need of being transformed.”

Opendoor has also sought to expand its efforts to make viewing those homes just as seamless. The company enables potential customers to check out a home by opening it with the app seven days a week. Wu said that most potential buyers go to the house each of the seven days up to the transaction, and then seven days after the transaction happens. Given that it’s such a significant step for any home owner, it makes sense that a lot of planning and consideration would go into the process. The next step is to create a sort of trade-up system, where Opendoor works to create a streamlined way to turn around an existing home for a new home.

Still, buying (or selling) a home is one of the single-largest transactions a consumer can do — especially if they are in a major metropolitan area where houses can quickly hit the $1 million-plus range. So it’s still a hurdle to convince consumers that they should press a few buttons to make a transaction in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Wu said that the challenge there was to build enough trust with customers that they realize the process should be as seamless and powered by transparent data.

“It’s something we faced early on when we launched the service,” Wu said. “We were asking sellers to sell their home online to a tech company. A lot of the things we’ve done — such as lowering the fees and being transparent about pricing — which helped us build trust. Since it’s one of the largest financial transactions anyone makes, we had to build a world-class pricing model, be transparent about how we got to the quote, make it a low-fee service, and provide a certainty around the process.”

To try to do all this, Opendoor says it’s built a robust data set that will help best model potential prices for homes and be more transparent about that information. Wu said Opendoor currently employs around 650 people and hopes to double that by the end of next year, and the company is investing a significant amount of capital in growing out its data science team. The challenge is to understand the dynamics of the housing market — and any potential chaos — in order to best assess how to buy and sell those homes. Opendoor acquires some risk by purchasing some homes and holding them for a period of time, so ensuring that the company knows how the market performs will be one of its biggest challenges.

Opendoor is certainly not the only player in this area, as some competitors like Knock and OfferPad are starting to raise additional capital. Knock picked up $32 million in January last year with a similar bet: simplify the home-buying process and handle all of the details behind the scenes. If anything, it’s shown that there’s an appetite among the venture community (especially one where the numbers just keep getting bigger) for models that look to tap the same consumer demand of simplifying overly complex processes to just a few inputs on a smart app powered by data science.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Parsable secures $40M investment to bring digital to industrial workers

Parsable secures M investment to bring digital to industrial workers

As we increasingly hear about automation, artificial intelligence and robots taking away industrial jobs, Parsable, a San Francisco-based startup sees a different reality, one with millions of workers who for the most part have been left behind when it comes to bringing digital transformation to their jobs.

Parsable has developed a Connected Worker platform to help bring high tech solutions to deskless industrial workers who have been working mostly with paper-based processes. Today, it announced a $40 million Series C cash injection to keep building on that idea.

The round was led by Future Fund with help from B37 and existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Airbus Ventures and Aramco Ventures. Today’s investment brings the total to nearly $70 million.

The Parsable solution works on almost any smartphone or tablet and is designed to enter information while walking around in environments where a desktop PC or laptop simply wouldn’t be practical. That means being able to tap, swipe and select easily in a mobile context.

Photo: Parsable

The challenge the company faced was the perception these workers didn’t deal well with technology. Parsable CEO Lawrence Whittle says the company, which launched in 2013, took its time building its first product because it wanted to give industrial workers something they actually needed, not what engineers thought they needed. This meant a long period of primary research.

The company learned, it had to be dead simple to allow the industry vets who had been on the job for 25 or more years to feel comfortable using it out of the box, while also appealing to younger more tech-savvy workers. The goal was making it feel as familiar as Facebook or texting, common applications even older workers were used to using.

“What we are doing is getting rid of [paper] notebooks for quality, safety and maintenance and providing a digital guide on how to capture work with the objective of increasing efficiency, reducing safety incidents and increasing quality,” Whittle explained.

He likens this to the idea of putting a sensor on a machine, but instead they are putting that instrumentation into the hands of the human worker. “We are effectively putting a sensor on humans to give them connectivity and data to execute work in the same way as machines,” he says.

The company has also made the decision to make the platform flexible to add new technology over time. As an example they support smart glasses, which Whittle says accounts for about 10 percent of its business today. But the founders recognized that reality could change and they wanted to make the platform open enough to take on new technologies as they become available.

Today the company has 30 enterprise customers with 30,000 registered users on the platform. Customers include Ecolab, Schlumberger, Silgan and Shell. They have around 80 employees, but expect to hit 100 by the end of Q3 this year, Whittle says.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Hustle rallies $30M for grassroots texting tool Republicans can’t use

Hustle rallies M for grassroots texting tool Republicans can’t use

Hustle 20X’d its annual revenue run rate in 15 months by denying clients that contradict its political views. It’s a curious, controversial, yet successful strategy for the startup whose app lets activists and marketers text thousands of potential supporters or customers one at a time. Compared to generic email blasts and robocalls, Hustle gets much higher conversion rates because people like connecting with a real human who can answer their follow-up questions.

The whole business is built around those relationships, so campaigns, non-profits, and enterprises have to believe in Hustle’s brand. That’s why CEO Roddy Lindsay tells me “We don’t sell to republican candidates or committees. What it’s allowed us to do is build trust with the Democratic party and progressive organizations. We don’t have to worry about celebrating our clients’ success and offending other clients.”

Hustle execs from left: COO Ysiad Ferreiras, CEO Roddy Lindsay, CTO Tyler Brock

Investors agree. Tempted by Hustle’s remarkable growth to well over a $10 million run rate and 85 million conversations started, Insight Partners has led a $30 million Series B for the startup that’s joined by Google’s GV and Salesforce Ventures.

The round comes just 10 months after Hustle’s $8M Series A when it was only doing $3 million in revenue. Lindsay says he was impressed with Insight’s experience with communication utilities like Cvent and non-profit tools like Ministry Brands. Its managing director Hillary Gosher who specializes in growing sales teams will join Hustle’s board, which is a great fit since Hustle is hiring like crazy.

Humanizing The Call To Action

Founded in late 2014, Hustle’s app lets organizers write MadLibs-style text message scripts and import contact lists. Their staffers or volunteers send out the messages one by one, with the blanks automatically filled in to personalize the calls to action. Recipients can respond directly with the sender ready with answers to assuage their fears until they’re ready to donate, buy, attend, or help. Meanwhile, organizers can track their conversions, optimize scripts, and reallocate assignments so they can reach huge audiences with an empathetic touch.

The Hustle admin script editor

The app claims to be 77X faster than making phone calls and 5.5X more engaging than email, which has won Hustle clients like LiveNation’s concert empire, NYU, and the Sierra Club. Clients pay $0.30 per contact uploaded into Hustle, with discounts for bigger operations. Now at $41 million in total funding, Hustle plans to push further beyond its core political and non-profit markets and deeper into driving alumni donations for universities, sales for enterprises, and attendance for event promoters.

Hustle will be doing that without one of its three co-founders, Perry Rosenstein, who left at the end of 2017. [Disclosure: I know Lindsay from college and once worked on a short-lived social meetup app with Rosenstein called Signal.] Lindsay says Rosenstein’s “real excellence was about early stage activities and problems”. Indeed, in my experience he was more attuned to underlying product-market fit than the chores of scaling a business. “It was Perry’s decision, it was a departure we celebrated, and he’s still involved as an informal adviser to me and the company” Lindsay concluded.

Hustle is growing so fast, this recent photo is already missing a third of the team

Hustle has over 100 other employees in SF, NYC, and DC to pick up the torch, though. That’s up from just 12 employees at the start of 2017. And it’s perhaps one of the most diverse larger startups around. Lindsay says his company is 51 percent women, 48 percent people of color, and 21 percent LGBT. This inclusive culture attracts top diverse talent. “We see this as a key differentiator for us. It allows us to hire incredible people” Lindsay says. “It’s something we took seriously from day one and the results show.”

Partisan On Purpose

What started as a favored tool of the Bernie Sanders campaign has blossomed into a new method of communicating at scale. “We’re massively humanizing the way these organizations communicate” Lindsay said. “Humans really matter, no matter if what you care about is getting lots of people to come to events, vote, or renew a season ticket package. Having a relationship with another person can cut through the noise. That’s different than your interactions with bots or email marketing campaigns or things where it’s dehumanized.”

Lindsay felt the frustration of weak relationships when after leaving Facebook where he worked for six years as one of its first data scientists, he volunteered for Mark Zuckerberg’s Fwd.us immigration reform organization. Its email got just a 1 percent conversion rate. He linked up with Obama’s former Nevada new media director Rosenstein and CTO Tyler Brock to fix that with Hustle.

Working with Bernie aligned with the team’s political sentiments, but they were quickly faced with whether they wanted to fuel both sides of the aisle — which would mean delivering fringe conservative campaign messages they couldn’t stomach. Hustle still has no formal policy about declining Republican money, and a spokesperson said they point potential clients to TechCrunch’s previous article mentioning the stance. Meanwhile, Hustle is growing its for-profit client base to make shunning the GOP feel like less of a loss. Having Salesforce as a strategic investor also creates a bridge to a potential exit option.

Focusing on the left is working for now. Over 25 state Democratic parties are clients. Hustle sent 2.5 million messages and reached over 700,000 voters — 1 in 5 total — during the Alabama special election, helping Democrat Doug Jones win the Senate seat.

“Let’s build this great business for the Democratic party. Let’s let someone else take the Republicans” Lindsay explains. A stealth startup called OpnSesame is doing just that, Lindsay mentions. But he says “we don’t actually see them as competitive. We see them as potential allies that advocate for the power of p2p texting in getting everyone included in our democracy.” Instead, Lindsay sees the potential for Hustle to lose its sense of purpose and drive as it rapidly hires as its biggest threat.

Long-term, Hustle hopes to propel the right side of history by sticking to the left. Lindsay concludes, “You can really just put on your business hat and see this is a good choice.”

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Tech Will Save Us raises $4.2M for its tech-focused range of toys, partners with Disney

Tech Will Save Us raises .2M for its tech-focused range of toys, partners with Disney
Tech Will Save Us, the U.K. startup getting kids excited about technology through a range of ‘hackable’ toys, has raised $4.2 million in Series A funding led by Initial Capital. The round also includes Backed VC, SaatchInvest, All Bright, Unltd-inc, and Leaf VC, along with angel investors Chris Lee (co- founder of Media Molecule), Martin McCourt (ex CEO of Dyson) and Jonathan Howell (CTO of Made.com).
The London-based startup says the new capital will be used to expand its product range — which now includes a first partnership with Disney with a Marvel Avengers themed kit inviting children to help superheroes complete secret missions — and to continue its mission to “create a brighter future for kids by encouraging them to create with, rather than be fearful of or passive to, technology”.
Founded by wife and husband duo Bethany Koby and Daniel Hirschmann, over the last four and a half years Tech Will Save Us has developed a range of digital and physical toys that combine play with STEM education to help kids get on the front foot of learning the skills they’ll need in the future. It sells its products direct online and through retailers such as Amazon, John Lewis, Best Buy and Target, and claims to have reached customers in over 97 countries.
“We were just very aware that education doesn’t move fast enough to keep up with technology and it probably never will,” Koby tells me when I ask why her and Hirschmann started the company. “The other thing that really motivated us is having a child. Going into the toy department was actually slightly depressing. It didn’t really feel like there was any motivation around empowering kids with technology that was future-facing, that was about the way the world is unfolding, and in a way that is really creative and fun. It just felt like tech shoved inside of plastic”.
In contrast, the Tech Will Save Us product range is anything but. Covering multiple price points and age groups, the ‘kits’ span electronic dough products, wearables where kids have to program their own games and activities that respond to movement, all the way to gaming devices where kids build their own game consoles and invent and program their own video games. For the first few years of the company’s existence, you would have been hard pressed to find anything quite like it on toy store shelves.
“We’re creating a category, ultimately,” says Koby. “And I think creating a category, in addition to scaling and growing a business — with people, with culture, with all of the beautiful and complicated things that businesses possess — is a challenge, right. Building a category is not the same as just entering a category, and when we started, this category didn’t even exist”.
Fast-forward to today and Tech Will Save Us is benefiting from an aligning of the macro stars, with Koby noting that governments in Europe and the U.S. are pushing STEM education and computer science, and that Target now has a STEM buyer, and Walmart has a STEM section. “The challenge has been riding these macro trends and really building the category, while simultaneously building a product business,” she says.
Reaching kids also means securing buy-in from parents, which has its own challenges from a marketing but also product perspective. “Parents are really fearful of tech. They don’t understand it, they want their kids to be a part of it, they want their kids to understand it, but they themselves are fearful of it,” says Koby. To mitigate this, it was important to design products that ensure parents “are on that journey too” and can support their kids being creators of technology.
To that end, the tie-in with Disney, in addition to today’s Series A round, feels like a major milestone for the startup. Koby says it came about after someone from Disney bought one of the startup’s products at John Lewis and contacted the company to say they were really excited about the area of STEM. This led to Tech Will Save Us meeting lots of interesting people within Disney and developing a multi-year, multi-product pipeline, launching with Marvel Avengers.
“We’ve not just taken characters and slapped them on a product, we’ve created new experiences,” explains Koby. “Our product is the first for kids to go on secret missions with the Avengers, and solve these secret missions by learning about electronics… with the Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, using electronic dough and electronics as part of their problem solving tools to solve these missions”.
Like all of the Tech Will Save Us products, the experience mixes digital and physical, and Koby says there is the capacity to add new missions with different superheroes and different characters from the Avengers, as well as superheroes and missions that kids create.
“I’ve always believed that there is a partnership strategy in our business. We are a play experience business, we’re not a character business, and the beauty of having partnerships like Avengers and Disney is that our goal is to reach as many kids as possible and to help them see that they have the capacity to be creators of technology. But the way we do that is not by necessarily convincing them, it’s by meeting them where they’re at. Leveraging the things that kids already love and using those things to create new experiences and tell stories”.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch