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The Station: Lime scoots towards profitability, a framework for AVs, and another electric vehicle SPAC

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every Saturday in your inbox. Hi folks, welcome back to The Station, a newsletter dedicated to all the present and future…

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The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every Saturday in your inbox.

Hi folks, welcome back to The Station, a newsletter dedicated to all the present and future ways people and packages move from Point A to Point B.

Let’s get right to it. Companies tried to pack in the news before the Thanksgiving holiday, which means we have a lot to um, digest.

Email me anytime at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

the station scooter1a

COVID-19 has obliterated entire business models, while boosting others. Micromobility startups were some that suffered in the early days of the pandemic. However, there appears to be a recovery. Lime is the latest example.

Lime said this week it has moved beyond the financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, is now largely profitable. Alex Wilhelm and I raised our eyebrows at this and asked for more detail. As you might know, there are all kinds of tricks to be able to claim profitability. What we learned from the company — and yes, reader I know, it’s a private company and therefore no public filing — was rosier than we expected.

Lime said it was both operating cash flow positive and free cash flow positive in the third quarter — a first — and is on pace to be full-year profitable, excluding certain costs (EBIT), in 2021. In general, cash flow positivity is an important threshold for a startup to reach because it implies that the company can largely self-fund from that point forward, limiting its dependency on external cash for survival.

Lime also claimed that it “reached EBIT positive at the company level over the summer.” The specifics of the phrase “EBIT positive” are important. Was the company employing strict EBIT on its math and not discounting share-based compensation, or was it measuring using adjusted EBIT as many startups do, removing the cost of share-based compensation that shows up in GAAP results? According to the company the number did exclude share-based compensation, making the news slightly smaller.

And finally, the last most bullish data point. The company said it expects to be full-year profitable in 2021. TechCrunch asked for specifics because again how one measures profitability matters. It turns out, Lime is basing this projection on EBIT, as opposed to more traditional net income. For a startup this is not a surprising decision, but before we declare Lime fully “profitable,” we’ll want some more GAAP metrics.

In other Lime news …

The company launched its fourth-generation scooter in Paris, a device designed to last more than two years. The Gen4 will roll out across Europe in early 2021. Much of the Gen4 work was done by engineers at Uber’s Jump micromobility unit. Lime did some tweaking to the Jump team’s work, specifically improving the scooter’s durability and swapped out some parts that would allow the company to reuse parts from existing Lime vehicles.

Lime also teased that a “third mode,” beyond bikes and scooters, is also in the works for the first quarter of 2021, as well as the addition of third-party companies to its platform.


I recommend that you take the time to read an article by two of TechCrunch’s European reporters Natasha Lomas and Romain Dillet. The pair examined the urban transformation that is underway in Paris, Barcelona, London and Milan, specifically policy decisions aimed reclaiming streets for feet and two wheels.

A few highlights include Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s efforts to create a “15-minute city” and Barcelona’s ambitious pedestrianization plan focused on creating ‘superilles’ or ‘superblocks.’

Grab a coffee and get comfortable for this detailed breakdown.

Oh! wait … a couple of other micromobbin’ items …

Voi, another European electric scooter startup, is equipping its devices with computer vision sensors to detect pedestrians and sidewalks. The aim, VentureBeat reports, is to help users avoid collisions and comply with local legal requirements.

Zipp Mobility, the Irish micromobility startup, is now operating in two Buckinghamshire towns under a year-long pilot program. The company will launch with 25 electric scooters in each area, with plans to increase the fleet size to 300 scooters over the next two months.

Deal of the week

money the station

The summer of the SPAC has spilled over into fall and is threatening to continue into 2021. Startups aiming to produce and sell electric vehicles seem to be particularly fond of this path to becoming a public company. We have Canoo, Fisker, Lordstown Motors, Hyliion, Nikola and now Arrival.

Arrival was an unknown UK startup that operated quietly for about five years until bursting on the public scene in January with a $110 million investment from Hyundai and Kia. It soon became one of the UK’s most valuable startups with a valuation of $3.4 billion.

Arrival’s aim is to produce electric vehicles that are competitive in price with traditional fossil fuel-powered vehicles and lower than other EVs. Arrival’s pitch is that its modular electric “skateboard” platform, which can be used on a range of different vehicle types, along with its use of microfactories are the key ingredients to its price competitive sauce. So far, the company has two vehicles — an electric van and bus. Production of its buses are expected to start in the fourth quarter 2021 and its vans in 2022.

OK, so the gist of the deal is this: Arrival agreed to merge with special purpose acquisition company CIIG Merger Corp. with a market valuation up to $5.4 billion. Arrival raised $400 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE, from investors that included Fidelity Management & Research Company, Wellington Management, BNP Paribas Asset Management Energy Transition Fund and funds managed by BlackRock. Arrival will have about $660 million in cash proceeds.

On a side note, the company was founded by Denis Sverdlov, who also created Roborace.

Arrival electric bus van

Image Credits: Arrival

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Electric Last Mile Solutions, a Michigan-based electric vehicle startup founded by former Accuride and Ford executive Jason Luo, is in talks to go public through a merger with Forum Merger III Corp., Bloomberg reported. The startup aims to produce mre than 100,000 vehicles a year at a plant in Indiana. Caveat: the terms are not finalized.

Fenix, a new Abu Dhabi micromobility startup, raised $3.8 million in a seed round investment led by Israel-based venture firm Maniv Mobility. The deal is notable for a few reasons. Remember Circ? It’s the Middle East scooter company that Bird acquired and then shuttered in several cities. The founders of Circ, Jaideep Dhanoa and IQ Sayed (who were also colleagues at Careem), started Fenix. Maniv Mobility founder and managing partner Michael Granoff told me this is the first Israeli VC to invest in a UAE-based tech company. Granoff is joining the Fenix board. “Aside from more momentum toward clean and practical urban mobility, I think it heralds an amazing new age of cooperation in the Middle East,” Granoff wrote me in an email touting the deal.

Forto, a digital freight forwarder, raised $50 million in a funding round led by Inven Capital, a growth fund out of the Czech Republic. Additional investment came from Iris Capital as well as existing investors Rider Global, Northzone, Cherry Ventures, Unbound (Shravin Mittal) and the Italian venture fund H14.

Gojek, the ride-hailing firm, raised $150 million from Indonesia’s biggest telecom network Telkomsel. This is being sold as a “strategic partnership,” and seems to expand upon the companies’ existing relationship. Since 2018, Gojek and Telkomsel have maintained a deal to subsidize the cost of mobile data consumed by the ride-hailing firm’s driver partners.

Lightning EMotors, a Colorado-based fleet electrification company, is in advanced talks to go public through a merger with blank-check firm GigCapital3 Inc., Bloomberg reported. There is still some ways to go on this deal, however. GigCapital3 is trying to raise about $100 million in new equity to support a transaction that would create a combined entity worth $700 million to $1 billion, including debt.

Loadsmart, an on-demand digital freight platform, raised $90 million in a Series C funding round co-led by funds under management by BlackRock and Chromo Invest. Strategic investor TFI International, a leader in the logistics space, also participated in this round. Maersk, a global oceanic shipping leader and one of Loadsmart’s strategic backers since its Series A round, also participated.

Ride Vision, an Israeli startup building an AI-driven safety system to prevent motorcycle collisions,  raised a $7 million Series A round led by crowdsourcing platform OurCrowd. YL Ventures, Mobilion VC and motorcycle mirror manufacturer Metagal also participated in this round. The company has now raised a total of $10 million.

Strava, the activity and fitness data-tracking platform, raised $110 million in new funding, in a Series F round led by TCV and Sequoia, and including participation by Dragoneer group, Madrone Capital Partners, Jackson Square Ventures and Go4it Capital.

Election day mobility: scooters

Spin, the micromobility subsidiary of Ford, sent me an interesting graphic and some data points about its ridership on Election Day.

Now, this is just one company’s data. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and make wild presumptions. Think of this an interesting tidbit on how some people were getting around November 3 and one company’s strategy to encourage ridership to the polls.

Spin recorded a 31.45% overall increase in ridership on Election Day from the previous Tuesday. The company offered a $10 discount for riders commuting to the polls November 3 under its SpinToVote campaign, which certainly helped push those ridership numbers higher. Spin said nearly 3,000 riders used the SpintoVote discount.

Cities with the highest increases in ridership on Election Day were Chicago with a whopping 243% rise, Cleveland with 193%, San Francisco with 25% and Atlanta with a10% increase. Spin also tracked use of its “Spin to Vote” campaign. Riders in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, San Diego and Washington D.C. had the highest opt in for that discounted ride campaign.

Update: Lime sent me some of their data, which they also posted in a blog. The company said riders used the Lime to the Polls promotion code for 20% of all U.S. trips on Election Day. This is double the percentage of trips taken during the company’s first Lime to the Polls campaign for the 2018 midterm elections.

How did you get to your polling location? (for those who didn’t mail in their ballot)

spin-election day statistics

Image Credits: Spin

Notable reds and other tidbits

Seriously, folks. So.much.news.

California Public Utilities Commission approved Thursday two new programs to allow permitted companies to provide and charge for shared rides in autonomous vehicles. While the industry mostly cheered the news, some have argued that the approval process to secure one of these permits adds unnecessary bureaucracy that could delay deployments by more than two years.

General Motors had a bunch of announcements this week. First up, the company is getting back into the insurance biz, but this time more in step with the connected-car era. The service, called OnStar Insurance, aims to leverage the vast amounts of data captured through its OnStar connected car service, which today has more than 16 million members in the United States.

The U.S. automaker also upped its budget for electric vehicles and automated technology by 35%. GM said it will spend $27 billion over the next five years on EVs and AVs. GM is also accelerating its go-to-market timeline and adding more EVs to its portfolio plans. The new plan is to bring 30 new electric vehicles to a global market through 2025.

Lordstown Motors said it plans to establish an automotive R&D center in Farmington Hills with support from the Michigan Strategic Fund, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced today. The project is expected to create 141 jobs.

Luminar locked in a supplier deal to furnish Intel subsidiary Mobileye with lidar for its fleet of autonomous vehicles. The deal will see a rising star paired with a company that has long dominated the automotive industry. I breakdown why this is seemingly small deal is worth paying attention to.

Motional, the Aptiv-Hyundai $4 billion joint venture aimed at commercializing autonomous vehicles, received approval from the state of Nevada to test fully driverless vehicles on public roads. The company plans to begin driverless testing on public roads in Las Vegas sometime in early 2021.

National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration officials released an advance notice of proposed rule-making for automated driving. Remember last week when I said rumor had it that U.S. regulators planned to make some moves that will affect the autonomous vehicle industry? Specifically, I noted that UL 4600, a standard created by Underwriters Laboratories that offers a guide for how to build the safety case for an AV design, is rumored to be the front runner.

Welp … the framework released this week includes a whole section for UL 4600. You can view the NHSTA Framework for Automated Driving here.

NYT does a deep dive into the arms race in car stereos.

Panasonic signed a preliminary agreement with the Nordic energy company Equinor and engineering and industrial company Norsk Hydro to collaborate on building a battery business in Northern Europe. Ok, I know, it’s a “preliminary agreement.” This got my attention because of the battery supplier battle that between LG Chem and Panasonic. And as TechCrunch’s Jonathan Shieber notes: Panasonic’s push into Northern Europe alongside two big regional players in hydrocarbons and renewable energy is a sign of the potential that exists in the European market beyond automotive.

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Government

US: The New Real Hoaxes?

US: The New Real Hoaxes?

Authored by Pete Hoekstra via The Gatestone Institute,

The investigative reporting by these two organizations…

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US: The New Real Hoaxes?

Authored by Pete Hoekstra via The Gatestone Institute,

  • The investigative reporting by these two organizations [the New York Times and the Washington Post] was so thorough and groundbreaking it turned up things that were not even there.

  • For having refused to rescind these awards, the Pulitzer Committee should receive its own Pulitzer -- for fraud.

  • The real hoax appears to have been the CCP's ostensible good behavior and the now-hugely-discredited initial reporting on the virus.

  • Or how about the Hunter Biden laptop cover-up? Once again, On October 14, 2020, just weeks before the 2020 presidential election, a critical story of possible extensive influence-peddling with senior intelligence officers in the CCP, Russia and Ukraine by the son of a presidential candidate. The contents of the laptop raised questions that the candidate at the time, Vice President Joe Biden, could be compromised. The entire subject was decisively pushed aside, along with the potential threat to national security that such an eventuality might entail.

  • Also not allowed during the January 6th hearings have been any witnesses for the defense, any cross-examination, or any exculpatory evidence.

  • One wonders, for instance if the January 6th Committee will consider the July 29, 2022 tweet by General Keith Kellogg, that on January 3, 2021, Trump, in front of witnesses, did indeed ask for "troops needed" for January 6. Kellogg wrote: "I was in the room."

  • The January 6th Committee has also not released any information about government informants or FBI undercover law enforcement officers who might have been in the crowd, and Pelosi is also said to be blocking access to a massive quantity of documents. Finally, according to attorney Mark Levin, under the Constitution's separation of powers, Congress, has no legitimacy even to hold a criminal investigation: that power belongs to the Judiciary. The entire proceeding is illegitimate and a usurpation of power.

  • Is it surprising that after the Pulitzer decision, the Russia collusion hoax, the Whitmer kidnapping hoax, the Covid origin hoax, the Hunter Biden laptop hoax, and now the January 6th Committee hoax, that many Americans believe there is something wrong with the system?

Recently former US President Donald Trump challenged the award of Pulitzer Prizes to the New York Times and the Washington Post for their investigative reporting on alleged collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.

The investigative reporting by these two organizations was so thorough and groundbreaking it turned up things that were not even there.

You have to hand it to them for this so-called "great reporting": the Pulitzer Committee sure did.

We now know, of course, the grand conspiracy pushed by these papers is nothing more than thoroughly debunked disinformation. For having refused to rescind these awards, the Pulitzer Committee should receive its own Pulitzer -- for fraud.

The intractability of the Pulitzer Committee is only the latest example of why so many Americans have been losing trust in their institutions, both public and private. Rather than admitting that these awards were a mistake, and that much of the reporting was not investigative reporting, but merely a recitation of fabrications put forward by political hacks for campaign purposes, the Pulitzer Committee announced that it will stand by its initial decision, facts be dammed.

The Russia hoax is emblematic of the model built by the anti-Trump, anti-America First, anti-populist movement that the American people have experienced for the last six years. It embodies many of the characteristics that have frustrated Americans. It is a combination of influential forces -- media, social media, political players, and government -- that put forward information detrimental to one -- oddly always the same -- political viewpoint. In this instance, populists -- believers in the rights, wisdom or virtues of the common people, according to Merriam Webster -- who might embrace the concept of personal freedom espoused by the Constitution, a free market economy, economic growth, energy independence, school choice, equal application of the law and decentralized governance.

Much of the material used to foster the Russia hoax originated from the discredited "Steele Dossier," pedaled by former British spy Christopher Steele, funded by Clinton-linked opposition research firm FusionGPS, and pushed by Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussman. This discredited information was shared widely -- and often, it seems, with prior knowledge of its falseness -- through the mainstream media and social media when it was leaked to the press early in 2017 just before Donald Trump was sworn in as president. The material contributed to the launching of the Mueller "Russiagate" investigation, which cast a shadow over the first two years of the Trump administration. Government officials were involved as CIA Director John BrennanFBI Director James Comey and DNI James Clapper all lent their credibility to the supposed authenticity or seriousness of the Russian materials. All of this did tremendous damage to the effectiveness of the Trump administration, as it sought to govern, by putting it under a cloud of suspicion and illegitimacy from the outset.

This, however, was not the only example. Consider the disrupted kidnapping plot against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in her key swing state for presidential elections. "The FBI got walloped [in April]", according to the New York Post, " when a Michigan jury concluded that the bureau had entrapped two men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Those men and others were arrested a few weeks before the 2020 election in a high-profile, FBI-fabricated case...."

The media, however, for the most part portrayed the kidnapping plot as the work of domestic terrorists, with the implied inference being they were right-wing Trump supporters. Whitmer went so far as to accuse Trump of being complicit in the plan, even though it emerged that these alleged plotters had also supposedly wanted to hang Trump. The FBI, it was later shown, had been heavily involved in the plot through informants and individuals it had placed in the group. By the time the case came to trial after the election, Biden had won Michigan's electoral votes and the damage had been done.

Consider, also, the COVID pandemic. The "facts" at the time were supposedly that it came from "nature" and that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government had supposedly known nothing about its human-to-human transmissibility, even though it had "made whistleblowers disappear and refused to hand over virus samples so the West could make a vaccine."

The CCP, early on, was portrayed as a constructive player in controlling the spread of the virus, even as it was recalling and hoarding all of its Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This fiction was reinforced by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the World Health Organization, and other prominent participants – apart from Taiwan, which futilely tried to warn the WHO of the coronavirus's fierce human-to-human transmissibility, only to be dismissed.

The mainstream media and social media also quickly began parroting the "official" story line. Social media companies suspended the accounts of whoever might have had a different opinion and some were even canceled.

For the 10 months leading up to the November 2020 election, the narrative was set: COVID-19 was a naturally occurring virus and the CCP was in the clear. Imagine how different the 2020 presidential election might have been if the debate was how the world would have held the CCP accountable for the leak and coverup of COVID from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Now in 2022, a lab-leak is considered the most "likely cause" of the coronavirus, but again the political damage, and a gigantic amount of non-political damage, has already been done. The real hoax appears to have been the CCP's ostensible good behavior and the now-hugely-discredited initial reporting on the virus.

Or how about the Hunter Biden laptop cover-up? Once again, On October 14, 2020, just weeks before the 2020 presidential election, a critical story of possible extensive influence-peddling with senior intelligence officers in the CCP, Russia and Ukraine by the son of a presidential candidate. The contents of the laptop raised questions that the candidate at the time, Vice President Joe Biden, could be compromised. The entire subject was decisively pushed aside, along with the potential threat to national security that such an eventuality might entail.

Discussion of Hunter Biden's laptop with its reportedly incriminating information about the Biden family business dealings with the CCPRussia, and other actors in what appeared to be a model of pay-for-play, was instantly shut down. Fifty-one former government intelligence officials , who we now know were perfectly well aware that the laptop was real – the FBI had been holding it for months -- wrote a letter describing the contents of the laptop as having "all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation" designed to damage Joe Biden.

NPR famously downplayed the story, and once again, if you used social media to post information originally reported by the New York Post, you were canceled.

A year and a half after the election, the facts were finally "officially" accepted: Well, what do you know, it really was Hunter Biden's laptop and the material on it "is real!"

Once again, the leadership at the FBI, the media, social media, and former government officials had developed a hoax to damage their political opposition and the people who supported it.

Finally, there is the January 6th Committee, a one-sided investigative body, sometimes called "the third (attempted) impeachment." The Committee appears to have been put in place to stop Trump from running for office again. Before the proceeding even began, its outcome was predetermined: Trump was to be found guilty of -- something. As Stalin secret police chief, Lavrentiy Beria used to say during Soviet Russia's reign of terror, "Find me the man and I'll find you the crime." So the US show trial commenced.

Even its start was ominous. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in an unprecedented move, vetoed the committee appointments of Representatives Jim Banks and Jim Jordan. This rebuff led House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to pull his five Republican candidates from participating. Pelosi, it appeared, wanted only anti-Trump folks to serve on the Committee. Also not allowed during the January 6 hearings have been any witnesses for the defense, any cross-examination, or any exculpatory evidence.

One wonders, for instance if the January 6th Committee will consider the July 29, 2022 tweet by General Keith Kellogg, that on January 3, 2021, Trump, in front of witnesses, did indeed ask for "troops needed" for January 6. Kellogg wrote:, "I was in the room:"

"Great OpEd. Reinforces my earlier comment on 6 Jan Cmte. Has quote from DOD IG Report regarding 3 Jan 2021 meeting with Actg Def Secy Miller/CJCS Milley in the Oval on the 6 Jan NG request by POTUS on troops needed. I was in the room."

While purportedly examining in detail every decision and action by Trump and his team, the Committee refuses to question Pelosi, among the leading figures responsible for the security of the Capitol. She reportedly "turned down" requests for greater security. According to the Federalist:

"Four days after the riot, former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned his post in the aftermath, told The Washington Post his request for pre-emptive reinforcement from the National Guard ahead of Jan. 6 was turned down. Sund said House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, overseen by Pelosi, thought the guard's deployment was bad "optics" two days before the raid.... Despite the Associated Press and Washington Post's best efforts to run interference for the speaker, suddenly exonerating her of duties overseeing Capitol security, the riot on Jan. 6 was a security failure Pelosi owns. If the "speaker trusts security professionals to make security decisions," then why, as the police breach unfolded, did Irving feel compelled to seek the speaker's approval to dispatch the National Guard, as The New York Times reported? How could Pelosi also order the extended shut down of the Capitol to visitors, citing coronavirus, and install metal detectors in the House chamber?"

The Committee has not evaluated the performance of the Capitol Police or other law enforcement agencies, but it has targeted the "private records of individuals with no connection to the violence."

The January 6th Committee has also not released any information about government informants or FBI undercover law enforcement officers who might have been in the crowd, and Pelosi is also said to be blocking access to a massive quantity of documents. Finally, according to attorney Mark Levin, under the Constitution's separation of powers, Congress, has no legitimacy even to hold a criminal investigation: that power belongs to the Judiciary. The entire proceeding is illegitimate and a usurpation of power. The Committee's narrative is clear: Donald Trump is responsible for the events of January 6, now let us manufacture the evidence to prove it.

This article has not even delved into the 28 states that "changed voting rules to boost mail-in ballots." Some States apparently omitted both state law and the need for states' legislatures to be the sole arbiters of election law, as required by the Constitution; the $400 million spent by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg; the 2000-plus "mules" and the algorithms that sent conservative emails to spam while emails with liberal content went through to the addressees.

Is it any wonder that many Americans have lost faith in their institutions and leaders? Is it surprising that after the Pulitzer decision, the Russia collusion hoax, the Whitmer kidnapping hoax, the Covid origin hoax, the Hunter Biden laptop hoax, and now the January 6th Committee hoax, that many Americans believe there is something wrong with the system? The media, social media, government officials and others have been complicit in undermining our rule of law and possibly even subverting an election.

*  *  *

Peter Hoekstra was US Ambassador to the Netherlands during the Trump administration. He served 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the second district of Michigan and served as Chairman and Ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. He is currently Chairman of the Center for Security Policy Board of Advisors and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

Tyler Durden Fri, 08/12/2022 - 23:55

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Spread & Containment

TechCrunch+ roundup: Down-funnel growth metrics, RIF planning, is e-commerce aggregation over?

It’s hard to argue with the proverb “measure twice and cut once,” especially when it comes to laying off employees.

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In the video game Katamari Damacy, players control an avatar who rolls a sticky ball that captures anything it touches. The goal is to create a sphere large enough to become a star or moon.

E-commerce aggregators work in much the same way by purchasing smaller brands, then optimizing their manufacturing and sales channels to boost market share.

This was effective in a pre-vaccine era when consumers stopped visiting stores, but is the brand-rollup model still viable today?


Full TechCrunch+ articles are only available to members
Use discount code TCPLUSROUNDUP to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription


“Decreased consumer confidence, inflated brand value, and a freeze in investment capital are creating a perfect storm,” says David Wright, co-founder and CEO of Pattern, an e-commerce accelerator. “Unless aggregators change how they operate, their future is bleak at best and nonexistent at worst.”

Scaling an online business until it’s large enough to flip sounds great, but Wright (who clearly has a vested interest) says small brands should partner with companies that can help them navigate the market, not swallow them whole.

“It’s comparable to the financial crisis of 2008, when poor financial products were lumped together in order to diversify risk and make them look better than they actually were,” he writes.

“We all know how that turned out.”

Thanks for reading — I hope you have a great weekend.

Walter Thompson
Editorial Manager, TechCrunch+
@yourprotagonist

Pitch Deck Teardown: Five Flute’s $1.2M pre-seed deck

Follow-on funding is harder to come by, but seed-stage founders who have a strong idea and good presentation skills can still close rounds.

To wit: Five Flute, an issue-tracking platform for hardware product managers, recently raised a $1.2M SAFE note to ramp up its marketing and hire more technical talent.

Five Flute’s founders shared their slightly redacted pitch deck with us. Besides the standard slides for TAM and GTM strategies, their presentation does a compelling job of describing the problems to be solved and why they believe they’re poised for success:

“We’ve felt this pain personally.”

Dear Sophie: Which immigration options are best for a decentralized team in the US?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

We just raised a $20 million Series A, and we need to hire more engineers to fully develop our product.

In addition, we’d like to bring our overseas PEO contractors to the States to join us more locally and in-timezone.

We’re excited about being decentralized — which immigration options are best for us?

— Elated Entrepreneur

To optimize for growth, study your down-funnel metrics

Illustration showing man tweaking funnel with lever to optimize for growth; growth marketing down funnel

Image Credits: erhui1979 (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Early-stage startups put a lot of time and energy into marketing and acquisition: These levers direct new customers into the top of your sales funnel to drive growth. And investors love growth.

But in August 2022, they like revenue even better, which is why Jonathan Martinez says companies should turn their attention to down-funnel metrics.

“Varying messaging by user cohort is your largest lever for moving users through the funnel,” writes Martinez in his latest TechCrunch+ post.

“It’s imperative to slice users into their respective buckets, because it opens the opportunity for unique targeting and messaging.”

How to conduct a reduction in force: Planning, execution and follow-up

Office chairs piled in corner of empty office

Image Credits: Pulp Photography (opens in a new window) / Getty Images (Image has been modified)

It’s hard to argue with the proverb “measure twice and cut once,” especially when it comes to laying off employees.

Few managers have overseen a reduction in force, which is why Nigel Morris, co-founder and managing partner of QED Investors, has been sharing a five-page document with his portfolio company CEOs to give them guidance.

“We broke the process down into three parts: planning, execution and follow-up,” he writes in a TechCrunch+ post that condenses the advice he’s giving the founders he works with.

“The unavoidable reality is that while you’ll need to conduct the RIFs in an organized manner that is grounded in strong business rationale, there is always an overarching need to deliver the message with empathy and respect.”

7 investors discuss why edtech startups must go back to basics to survive

Graduation cap as a part of laptop; edtech investor survey 2022

Image Credits: Boris Zhitkov (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Pre-pandemic, edtech was not an especially frothy sector: In 2019, these startups received approximately $7 billion in VC funding, according to Crunchbase.

Last year, that figure rose to $20 billion after efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 impacted students of every age.

To learn more about how edtech is faring during the current downturn, Natasha Mascarenhas spoke to seven VCs about the advice they’re offering portfolio companies, where edtech is crossing over into other sectors, and how they prefer to be pitched:

  • Ashley Bittner and Kate Ballinger, Firework Ventures
  • Jan Lynn-Matern, founder and partner, Emerge Education
  • Malvika Bhagwat and Kriti Bansal, Owl Ventures
  • Jomayra Herrera, partner, Reach Capital
  • Rebecca Kaden, general partner, Union Square Ventures

“I would say the past few years have been more of an anomaly, and we are getting back to a more sustainable pace,” said Reach Capital partner Jomayra Herrera.

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Spread & Containment

UT researchers receive $2.75 million grant to investigate movement of amphibian pathogens in wildlife trade networks

The evolution, emergence and spread of novel pathogens has been widely discussed even before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in 2019. A team of…

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The evolution, emergence and spread of novel pathogens has been widely discussed even before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in 2019. A team of researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has received a $2.75 million grant to identify disease mitigation strategies that will minimize the risk of amphibian pathogens spreading from captive pet populations to wild populations and negatively impacting biodiversity.

Credit: Pixabay

The evolution, emergence and spread of novel pathogens has been widely discussed even before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in 2019. A team of researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has received a $2.75 million grant to identify disease mitigation strategies that will minimize the risk of amphibian pathogens spreading from captive pet populations to wild populations and negatively impacting biodiversity.

The project, “Socioeconomic and Epidemiological Drivers of Pathogen Dynamics in Wildlife Trade Networks,” is being funded by the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases Program, a joint program of the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The work is overseen by Principal Investigator Matt Gray, professor in the UT Institute of Agriculture Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries and associate director of the UTIA Center for Wildlife Health. The project’s two UT co-principal investigators are Neelam Poudyal, also a professor in Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries; and Nina Fefferman, director of the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and an associate director of the UT One Health Initiative.

The goal of the study is to identify how socio-economic decisions and pathogen dynamics impact each other in a wildlife trade network.

“It is important to study how human values and knowledge impact behavior in preventing transmission of pathogens within and beyond the trade network,” says Poudyal. “This study will enable us to understand factors that determine human decisions to engage in biosecurity practices, assess the feasibility of market-based mechanisms to promote healthy trade, and characterize the public value of protecting natural populations of amphibian biodiversity.”

For the next five years, the team will determine what aspects of the trade, like species composition and the number of animals, influence pathogen occurrence. With more than 2.5 million live animals moving throughout more than 180 nations per year, the need for advanced pathogen mitigation is critical. This is the first study to investigate the bidirectional coupling between socioeconomic factors and pathogen dynamics across a tractable wildlife trade network.

“Global and domestic trade of wildlife is one of the major pathways for movement and introduction of wildlife and zoonotic pathogens,” says Gray. “Our research is focusing on amphibian pathogens in trade but will be used as a model for other pathogens of concern.”

Many infectious outbreaks, like that of monkeypox, chronic wasting disease and COVID-19, have been linked to wildlife trade. These outbreaks cost economies trillions of dollars, cripple biodiversity and result in substantial loss of human life.

“Especially as global trade markets have become more interconnected, we’ve seen over and over again how animal trade practices can either foster or else help prevent the emergence of infectious disease outbreaks in wildlife and people, sometimes with devastating effects,” says Fefferman. “Our work to discover how people make choices about how they buy, transport, and sell animals and how that shapes pathogen dynamics will help us guide policies to support conservation and prevent the next global pandemic.”

The collaborating institutions on this project are the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, including the UT Institute of Agriculture; Washington State University; Michigan State University; University of Massachusetts; and Rutgers University. The team is also collaborating with the amphibian trade industry through a partnership with the Pet Advocacy Network.

This research project was initially supported by the UT One Health Initiative through one of its seed grants. More information about that grant can be found at onehealth.tennessee.edu/pijac. Carrie Castille, senior vice chancellor and senior vice president of UTIA, which oversees the UT One Health Initiative, is excited to see the initiative receive such recognition. “This grant recognizes the importance of our researchers’ work to protect the health of humans and the natural world around us. The synergies that exist within the UT One Health Initiative and the contributing institutions are unique and incredibly important to our nation and the global society,” she said.

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennessee.edu.
 


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