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This Week in Apps: Instagram brings back the chronological feed, South Korea bans P2E games, Google looks for ecosystem integrations

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy. The app industry continues to grow, with a record number of downloads and consumer spending across..

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Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record number of downloads and consumer spending across both the iOS and Google Play stores combined in 2021, according to the latest year-end reports out this week. App Annie says global spending across iOS and Google Play is up to $135 billion in 2021, and that figure will likely be higher when its annual report, including third-party app stores in China, is released next year. Consumers also downloaded 10 billion more apps this year than in 2020, reaching nearly 140 billion in new installs, it found.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that was up 27% year-over-year.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

Instagram to bring back the chronological feed

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Instagram said it will begin testing a new feature that will allow users to select between three different feeds: the current algorithmically generated timeline as well as two new options, Favorites and Following, which are sorted chronologically. This is similar to the Recent & Favorites section that Facebook today offers — though that version is buried in the app’s More menu, making it difficult to access. It’s unclear how easy it will be to access Instagram’s new feed options — especially given the app’s growing clutter and strategic priorities. The latter even saw Instagram shifting its critical “post” button to an out-of-reach spot to give the prime real estate in the app’s navigation to Instagram’s Reels instead.

The feed changes were announced following a Senate hearing where Instagram head Adam Mosseri testified for the first time. The hearing had focused on the app’s teen safety track record but often branched into other areas, like user privacy, and to what extent users were being “manipulated by algorithms,” as one Senator put it. Mosseri had then responded by saying the company was developing a feature that would allow consumers to choose to view a chronological feed. In other words, it’s likely this “test” will soon evolve into a public-facing feature for all users, in order to deflect further pressure from Congress over the matter.

Although users have clamored for an option or full-on return to a chronological feed for some time, Instagram ignored those demands until now — when it’s a topic of legislative inquiry. That fact indicates the need for increased tech regulations as it proves companies won’t listen to user demands unless pressured to do so.

South Korea blocks new “play-to-earn” (P2E) games

The South Korean government’s Game Management Committee in the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism (or GMC for short) has asked the major app stores to block any games that require an in-app purchase before users play. The games, which have become popular in the crypto industry, often require that players first purchase game pieces as NFT. Players can then compete for in-game rewards and prizes, giving them the name “play-to-earn” (or P2E). The GMC said it asked the app stores to remove the existing P2E games on the market and block the release of new ones.

The changes follow other difficulties for these types of games in South Korea, which have been battling in the courts to get age ratings required to be listed in the domestic app stores. The government limits in-game rewards to 10,000 Korean won (~$8.40), but some of the games’ cashouts exceed that figure but were being listed anyway — which would technically be illegal.

The government views this genre of gaming as a money-making scheme and is now taking a harsher stance to get them removed from the app stores and out of kids’ hands, in particular. In addition to penalizing games themselves, the new restrictions may impact other titles associated with games in this genre, like those tied to games like Axie Infinity and Splinterlands.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

  • Apple launched App Analytics for in-app events. Events are a newer feature that allow developers to promote something happening inside their app at the present time — like game competitions, the release of seasonal features, livestreamed experiences, new movie releases and more. Now developers will be able to view information about their events’ performance, including event page views, reminder and notification data, and the number of downloads and redownloads that were driven by their in-app events. This data can also be viewed by territory, source type, device and more, Apple said.

Platforms: Google

  • Google is working to catch up with Apple with a new series of integrations between its various platforms, including Android, Wear OS and Chromebooks. At CES, the company showed off a number of new software features that would allow its users to be able to do things like mirror their Android screen on their Chromebook or use its Fast Pairing feature generally meant for headphones on other devices like TVs and smart home devices. Later this year, Chromebook owners will also be able to instantly set up their devices using an Android handset to port over their data and logins. Smartwatches running Wear OS 3 will also be able to unlock Android phones and Chromebooks, the way Apple Watch works today. Plus, Windows PCs and Android will also work more closely, Google says.
  • Google also at CES introduced a new integration with Volvo which will allow owners to do things like turn their car on and off, control the temperature, and get car information using voice commands on Google Assistant-enabled home and Android mobile devices.
  • XDA Developers reportedly got ahold of Android 13 screenshots (aka “Tiramisu”) which show updates and changes in areas like app language selection, runtime permissions for notifications, the lockscreen clock and more. They also include a look at The Android Resource Economy (TARE), which focuses on energy use management.

E-commerce

  • Amazon dropped to No. 4 in global shopping app installs in 2021, according to data from Apptopia. Amazon had topped the list last year, but has now fallen behind Singapore’s Shopee, China’s Shein and India’s Meesho. Amazon is still No. 1 in the U.S., however.

Augmented Reality

  • Snapchat released a new AR filter ahead of the holidays which lets you see what you’d look like in the “metaverse.” In other words, the filter makes you look more like a virtual character (your SIMS self?) or some sort of gaming avatar. This is maybe even more impressive than that Disney filter?

snapchat avatar lens examples

Image Credits: Snapchat

Fintech/Crypto

  • Messaging app Signal’s cryptocurrency feature seemed to have quietly launched to worldwide users in mid-November, but was only picked up on this past week. The feature, which was previously being tested in the U.K., integrates with a privacy-focused cryptocurrency called MobileCoin. Signal users can now send MobileCoin to others in the app worldwide. MobileCoin founder Josh Goldbard confirmed the rollout to Wired, noting Signal’s adoption helped the cryptocurrency jump to thousands of daily transactions compared with just dozens before the global release.
  • Spare change investing app Acorns is inching into Robinhood territory with its plan to build a feature that allows users to customize their own stock portfolios instead of just using Acorns’ own ETFs.
  • China’s WeChat will begin supporting the digital yuan (e-CNY), the country’s sovereign digital currency that’s been in the works since 2014. The move would bring the currency to WeChat Pay’s over 800 million MAUs.
  • Apptopia revealed the top finance apps for 2021, including to 10 most downloaded crypto apps — a list that was led by Binance, Crypto.com, and Coinbase.

Image Credits: Apptopia

Social

  • Twitter released a handful of new features this week, including its own take on TikTok’s video reactions and updated Spaces features, including the ability for hosts to see how many listeners joined live and how many replayed the Space after the fact.
  • Microsoft-owned LinkedIn is the latest to clone Clubhouse with this week’s beta launch of interactive audio events, which will be followed by a video version in the spring. Hosts will be able to record and run their events directly on LinkedIn, host live conversations, moderate rooms and more.
  • Snap is suing the USPTO for rejecting its application to trademark the word “spectacles” for its digital AR glasses. The application was rejected because spectacles is a generic term, and Snap’s version “has not acquired distinctiveness,” according to a report from The Verge.
  • TikTok is testing its own version of a retweet with a new “Repost” button that shows up on video on the For You feed. Reposted videos will then appear on the For You feed for those who you’re mutual friends with on the app. You can also add a comment as to why you shared the video. TikTok said the feature is live for a limited number of users for the time being.

Image Credits: TikTok screenshot

  • Instagram was spotted testing a new Stories feature that would allow users to “like” each other’s stories, but privately. Only the person who had posted the Story would be able to see the total number of likes and that there were not any plans to make the like count public.
  • Tumblr has been getting in trouble with Apple’s App Review over the mature content in its app, leading it to new crackdowns that have confused Tumblr users. The company had been struggling to remove content featuring pornography, sex and other adult material from its iOS app, amid constant App Store rejections. It seems Tumblr’s own system requiring blogs to be labeled as “adult” wasn’t getting the job done to keep this sort of content out of the hands of iOS users. Complicating matters is how Apple’s review system works. Apple randomly assigns an app review to whoever is available at the time instead of allowing a company to work with an Apple employee on a more direct basis to solve a specific problem. That leads to inconsistent responses based on how each reviewer interprets Apple’s rules or their overall thoroughous. For Tumblr, it’s meant a lot of jumping through hoops to try to get its app cleaned up enough to be allowed back in the App Store.

Dating

  • Tinder was spotted developing a feature called Swipe Party that lets users invite friends to their swiping session. Users send friends a link to establish a guest account, and then those friends can watch their friend using audio and video while they vet their dating prospects.

Messaging

  • China’s WeChat (to be fair, a super app not just a social messenger) said DAUs of its mini-programs grew about 12.5% to 450 million in 2021 and its native search function added 200 million MAUs over the past year. The growth took place among government crackdowns on local tech companies.
  • WhatsApp is preparing to introduce profile photo notifications in a future update, according to WABetaInfo. The feature is being rolled out to beta users on iOS (iOS 15+).

Streaming & Entertainment

  • Spotify introduced a new ad format for podcasts. The cards will appear as the audio ad begins playing, and is supported by Spotify’s investment in streaming ad insertion technology. The cards will also remain on show and episode pages for users to discover later on.
  • Clubhouse finally added support for listening to its shows via the web. The feature is first launching in the U.S. as an experiment. The company also rolled out a “Share on Clubhouse” feature that lets you post to social media when you’re in an interesting room that you want others to join. Creators will also be able to see Share and Clip counts at the bottom of their rooms, and access a new Room Insights page which will include more insights over time.
  • TikTok teamed up with business-focused streaming service Atmosphere, which offers video content for commercial venues like bars, gyms and restaurants. Atmosphere will offer a new channel featuring curated TikTok content — the first time TikTok is offered on an out-of-home service.
  • Apple is reportedly considering an entry into the audiobook market, according to a report by The Economist. A new service would fit into Apple’s broader goal of offering more subscriptions to its users, and the rumor fits with other reports of a services expansion in 2022.

Gaming

  • Samsung at CES announced its 2022 TVs will bring cloud gaming services, including GeForce Now and Google’s Stadia, to a new gaming hub, where viewers can also watch YouTube gaming videos. The TVs will also support NFTs somehow but details were light on the implementation details.
  • China’s continued gaming crackdown has put a freeze on new video game licenses, leading 14,000 gaming-related firms and small studios to shut down over the past several months. Regulators haven’t released a list of approved new video game titles since the end of July, making this the longest crackdown since the nine-month pause in 2018.

Utilities/Productivity

  • Brave’s browser, available for both mobile and web, says it has doubled the number of MAUs for the fifth year in a row, going from 24 million MAU on December 31st, 2020, to over 50 million by the end of 2021. It also has over 15.5 million daily active users and sees 2.3 billion searches per year. In 2021, the browser added Brave Search, Brave Wallet, Brave Talk and, for iOS, Brave Playlist.
  • At CES, gaming PC maker Razer introduced plans for a new Razer Smart Home app that will allow users to set up a range of smart home devices from across manufacturers.
  • Hey’s email app was updated with a vacation auto-responder called “Away Autoresponder” that will send out pre-written automatic replies to incoming emails. Users can just toggle the feature on when they’re out, and can opt to restrict the auto-replies to screened-in contacts or to all.

Health & Fitness

  • Apple updated its Apple Fitness+ service which will include Collections and Time to Run features starting on January 10. Collections are a series of workouts and meditations from the Fitness+ library focused on helping users reach a specific goal, like improving your posture or running your first 5K. Meanwhile, Time to Run is an audio experience designed for runners, where each episode focuses on a popular running route in select major cities, and includes music that aims to capture the spirit of the city and photos of the route being run. Time to Walk will also roll out its third season with new guests like Rebel Wilson, Bernice A. King and Hasan Minhaj. New Artist Spotlight workouts are being added as well.
  • A study of over 2,000 adults by Sleep Junkie found that TikTok was the worst app to use before bed, as it causes difficulties in falling asleep. TikTok users took over one hour longer than average to fall asleep and spent 14% of their sleep in the REM phase, which is half of the recommended amount.
  • Meditation app Calm has launched its first foray into physical activity and short-form video content with its new “Daily Move” video series. The series will feature elements from yoga, tai chi, Pilates, stretching, dance, walking and more, and each video will be 3-5 minutes in length.
  • Most of the U.S. still isn’t using COVID-19 exposure identification apps, even as omicron surges, The Washington Post reported. More than 20 U.S. states don’t use the technology for exposure notifications built by Apple and Google, it found.

Travel & Transportation

  • China’s ride-sharing app Didi disclosed a $4.7 billion loss after its revenues shrank in the last quarter, driven by new government regulations in the country, Bloomberg reported. The company plans to shift its listing to Hong Kong next year.

Government & Policy

  • Indian antitrust regulator ordered an investigation into Apple’s business practices, including its requirement for app developers to use its own payments system for apps and in-app purchases. The inquiry was triggered by a complaint filed by nonprofit Together We Fight Society, which said the requirement makes a significant dent in developers’ revenues.
  • Germany’s antitrust regulator found that Google met the threshold for special abuse control under its competition laws for digital companies. The assessment included Google’s dominance in online advertising as well as its role as gatekeeper on key services like YouTube and the Play Store on Android.
  • Spotify’s Head of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer Horacio Gutierrez, who led the company’s antitrust battles with Apple, is leaving the company for Disney. The move is also a loss for the Coalition for App Fairness, which recently saw its amicus curiae brief rejected by a regional appeals court in the Epic-Apple battle.

Funding and M&A

Twitter completed the sale of MoPub to AppLovin for $1.05 billion. The deal was first announced in October 2021, following Twitter’s reveal of its plan to double its revenue by 2023 to reach $7.5 billion or more. Twitter said it aims to redirect more resources toward performance-based ads, SMBs and commerce.

Pediatric mental health app Little Otter raised $22 million to scale its service providing treatment to kids and families. The round was led by CRV and brings the company’s total raise to date to $26.7 million.

Indian hyperlocal delivery startup Dunzo raised $240 million in funding led by Reliance Retail. Its $200 million investment will give it a 25.8% stake in the six-year-old startup that now operates in seven cities in India.

Emotional wellness app Mine’d raised $3.5 million in a seed round led by Listen Ventures. The app offers interactive and short-form live and on-demand classes on a variety of topics like dating, breakups, career and purpose. The six-month-old app now has a community of over 100,000 users and 1 million videos.

Vietnam-based digital banking firm Timo Bank raised $20 million in its first external funding led by Square Peg. Founded in 2015, Timo Bank lets users sign up without visiting a bank branch and helps customers visualize their financial goals.

Delivery Hero is acquiring a majority stake in Spanish delivery company Glovo. The deal, announced on December 31, 2021, will allow Delivery Hero to acquire an additional 39.4% on top of its existing 44% stake.

Prune-based mobile-first credit card company OneCard raised $75 million in a new round led by existing investor QED, valuing the business at $722 million, post-money. That’s up 4x from the valuation in the company’s Series B round in April 2021. OneCard is offered in 12 cities, including Mumbai, Delhi, NCR and Bengaluru.

Fintech Ant Money, a micro-income startup, raised $20 million in funding (a mix of previously unannounced seed and Series A capital) and acquired Blast, a startup offering financial tools for gamers, via a stock-for-stock merger. The funding was led by Franklin Templeton’s Franklin Venture Partners. The startup declined to share the acquisition price for Blast.

Indian neobank Jupiter raised $86 million in Series C funding to launch new lending and wealth management services. QED and Sequoia Capital India co-led the round, valuing the startup at $711 million, up from $300 million in August 2021.

Downloads

The Oculus app, apparently

Oculus Quest 2

Image Credits: Facebook

Consumers worldwide downloaded Meta’s Oculus app, the mobile companion for Oculus VR devices including the Quest 2, roughly 2 million times globally since Christmas Day, according to new data from third-party app intelligence firms Apptopia and Sensor Tower. Already, there had been some indication that the Quest 2 was a popular holiday gift after the Oculus app shot to the top of the Apple App Store for the first time ever on Christmas Day and became the most popular free app on Google Play in the U.S., as well.

During the week of Christmas in the U.S. (December 23-29), adoption of the Oculus app jumped up by 517% week-over-week to reach 1.5 million installs, Sensor Tower’s data indicates.

In the week that followed, the firm saw those installs drop 77% to 345,000 from December 30 through January 5, but this figure is still higher than the week before Christmas 2021 by 42%. And it’s likely that these more recent downloads still include those who recently received a new Oculus device for the holidays, but hadn’t gotten around to setting it up yet.

While the U.S. accounted for the majority of the post-Christmas installs, app intelligence firms estimate that, in total, the app has seen around 2 million global installs from Christmas Day through the present across the App Store and Google Play combined.

(Read TechCrunch’s full report here.) 

 

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How can the Metaverse help the food industry?

The evolution of blockchain in the food industry started from establishing a Bitcoin Pizza Day, and now it’s moving into the Metaverse.
Cryptocurrencies and the food industry might not seem like the most intuitive pairing — one…

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The evolution of blockchain in the food industry started from establishing a Bitcoin Pizza Day, and now it’s moving into the Metaverse.

Cryptocurrencies and the food industry might not seem like the most intuitive pairing — one based in the digital realm and the other firmly rooted in the physical. But going back to the earliest days of crypto, the very first real-world use case for Bitcoin (BTC) was food-related. On May 22, 2010, Laszlo Hanyecz enacted the first documented commercial BTC transaction, buying two Papa John’s pizzas for the princely sum of 10,000 BTC. 

That day is now enshrined in the crypto calendar as Bitcoin Pizza Day. By itself, the event has ended up becoming an annual celebration with restaurant chains and crypto firms alike taking advantage of the marketing opportunities. However, as well as marking Bitcoin’s debut as a medium of exchange, Bitcoin Pizza Day also kicked off crypto’s relationship with the food sector — one that’s beginning to flourish and is set to solidify further as Web3 and the Metaverse take over.

Crypto’s insatiable appetite for food

Bitcoin Pizza Day notwithstanding, the crypto world has always seemed to embrace food-related fads. A glance through any list of “dead coins” and you’ll find plenty of examples of culinary-sounding tokens, including Baconbitscoin, Onioncoin and Barbequecoin. Pizzacoin even still shows up on Coinmarketcap.

Like most projects that piled onto the initial coin offering (ICO) bandwagon, these tended to be tokens without any underlying tech to support them. However, the advent of the DeFi era brought a fresh batch of food-related protocols to the table, many of which thrive to this day — SushiSwap and PancakeSwap being the most obvious examples.

Related: When and why did the word ‘altcoin’ lose its relevance?

Names aside, over the years between the ICO craze and the bull market of 2021, there’s been plenty of other development at the convergence of blockchain, crypto and the food sector. Food traceability is one area that’s proven to be ripe for disruption. Solutions such as IBM’s Food Trust are often associated with groceries, such as Nestlé and Carrefour, but the company has also worked with a chain of seafood restaurants in California to bring more transparency to the origins and treatment of its menu items before they reach the table.

However, it’s in the customer relationship where blockchain and cryptocurrencies come into their own for the foodservice industry. Over recent years, and particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, restaurants have found themselves increasingly distanced from their customers, thanks to the rising dominance of platforms like Uber Eats. It’s hardly surprising — the platform model had already upended industries from private transport (Uber) to hotels (Airbnb) to music (Spotify.)

Related: Tracing fishy risks with blockchain tech amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Applied to the restaurant sector, the platform model means that tech firms take over the customer relationship, including the payment process, data handling and loyalty programs. Food operators are squeezed into the background so that their product is the only part that ends up visible to the consumer. Perhaps most damagingly, relying on a platform can increase the price of food by an eye-watering 90%.

Restoring the balance

Blockchain and crypto are now increasingly able to restore the balance by facilitating a direct connection between restaurants and their customers. A blockchain-based marketplace for food operators provides a similar, user-friendly one-stop shop to find a variety of menu choices but allows the customer and restaurateur to interact freely, with merchants having full autonomy over their menus, prices and terms. This means that consumers pay merchants directly, without playing into the hands of a controlling third party. Rather, third parties function as infrastructure providers for restaurateurs and food shops, giving them the tools to run their online shop on their merit.

However, the ecosystem at present is still only at a fraction of its full potential, which will come into its own as the shift into the Metaverse picks up pace.

Food in the Metaverse? Surely there’s no place for activities like eating that are so firmly anchored in the real world? Digital consumption has its limits. But as we live out more and more of our lives in the digital sphere, the food industry will invariably move with the times.

Related: Why are major global brands experimenting with NFTs in the Metaverse?

So how will foodservice operators exist in the Metaverse?

A richer culinary experience

The answer is: they already are, at least in some cases. For Halloween, U.S. restaurant chain Chipotle opened a virtual restaurant for Roblox players. Users who entered the restaurant had a spooky, Halloween-themed experience and then received a promo code for a free burrito in the real world.

Largely, the progression of food service into the Metaverse will be a continuation of a digitization journey that’s already begun. Along with the platform model taking over food delivery and takeout, it’s also increasingly common to begin the restaurant experience online by researching options using Google or TripAdvisor. You might visit a restaurant’s website to look at the menu or see pictures or even videos of meals and the restaurant itself. Imagine watching your team play a virtual big game and seeing ads around the stadium for all the places you can eat afterward, just like in the physical stadium now.

Related: Fasten your seatbelt: Crypto’s impact on marketing has only just begun

Once the match has finished and you’re hungry for some takeout, you take your avatar down to a virtual street food market where you can check out the various operators and their menus, which are represented as virtual dishes. When you’re ready to order, you pay instantly with crypto, and voila! Your meal arrives at your door in real life within the next half an hour.

Or let’s say you want to impress someone special in your life with a nice meal at a high-end restaurant. You could choose your venue and even your table based on a virtual tour. You can even chat with virtual chefs about the preparation and ingredients of a particular dish or browse the wine menu with a virtual sommelier advising you on your meal pairing choices.

A smorgasbord of opportunities

All these scenarios are imagined only from the customer side — from the restaurant side, the opportunities are vast. For instance, if someone books a table after a virtual tour, the restaurant could request a booking deposit to be made in crypto using an escrow system based on smart contracts. This would protect against one of the biggest issues in the restaurant industry — no-show bookings. If the person doesn’t show, the smart contract simply transfers the funds in escrow to the restaurant.

The food service industry hasn’t necessarily benefited from how the digital shift has unfolded so far. However, blockchain and crypto offer a chance to restore the relationship between food merchants and customers. Beyond that, the Metaverse is poised to create unparalleled new value for the entire sector.

This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Bas Roos is the CEO at Bistroo, a peer-to-peer food marketplace that aims to break down the barrier of real-life use cases for cryptocurrencies. Bas loves exploring how IT can improve business processes. With experience in IT management and risk assessment, Bas has gone deep down into the blockchain space.

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TechCrunch+ roundup: 2021 edtech report, UBS-Wealthfront deal, falling startup revenue

I could spend hours discussing early-stage startup operations and community-based marketing, but deal flow is my blind spot.

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I could spend hours discussing early-stage startup operations and community-based marketing, but deal flow is my blind spot.

But when investment banking firm UBS picked up financial robot-advisor Wealthfront for $1.4 billion in an all-cash deal this week, I noticed.

“At those prices, the company’s exit price is a win in that it represents a 2x or greater multiple on its final private valuations,” wrote Alex Wilhelm in The Exchange. “But its exit value is also parsable from a number of alternative perspectives: AUM, customers and revenue,” he added.

Examining each of those factors in turn, Alex found that the deal is more than just a “next-gen push” intended “to reach rich young Americans,” as some headlines suggested.

This exit will help other fintechs set expectations, but it should give a mental boost to anyone who thinks they’re too late to start up in this space.


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


Just over 56% of Americans own stock, but that figure is still several points lower than it was before the Great Recession more than a decade ago. With more consumers buying crypto and fractional shares today, I’d say the robo-advisor race is still doing a parade lap.

Alex, who swims through deal flow like a carefree dolphin, agrees with me — to a point:

The recent declines in active users on platforms like Robinhood, and the success of fintechs like M1 in the last few years could point to a market more open to robo-advising, but the question is whether their lower-cost model can prove sufficiently interesting to investors.

Wealthfront, for example, takes a 0.25% cut of consumer funds. Robinhood I think was doing a bit better when we considered its PFOF incomes against lower-value customer accounts that were actively trading.

Can the robos present a financial picture that is similarly strong? If they can, they will likely prove less volatile than Robinhood has to date.

We’re essentially in agreement: it’s never too late for a good idea.

Thanks very much for reading TechCrunch+ this week!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch+
@yourprotagonist

European and North American edtech startups see funding triple in 2021

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

Pre-pandemic, VCs were notoriously reluctant to invest in education-related companies. Today, edtech startups are seeing higher average deal sizes, more seed and pre-seed funding from non-VC investors, and an influx of generalists.

According to Rhys Spence, head of research at Brighteye Ventures, funding for edtech startups based in Europe and North America trebled over the last year.

“Exciting companies are spawning across geographies and verticals, and even generalist investors are building conviction that the sector is capable of producing the same kind of outsized returns generated in fintech, healthtech and other sectors,” writes Spence.

Here’s how far VCs have lowered revenue expectations for seed through Series B

A front view on multiple spreadsheets containing binary computer data, financial figures and graph lines.

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

Valuations are soaring, but revenue averages for SaaS startups “have seen a recent and rapid decline,” according to a Kruze Consulting report Alex Wilhelm studied yesterday.

The revenue growth goalposts for early-stage startups wanting to fundraise have moved closer in the past couple of years, which means investors are now willing to pour money into companies with slower growth than they were earlier, Alex wrote.

“In all, startups are getting paid better, faster for less work than before. It’s a great time to raise, but a pretty awful time for venture capitalists trained in an era when they got more equity for their dollar.”

Dear Sophie: 3 questions about immigration and naturalization

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

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

My F-1 OPT will run out this June. My employer has agreed to register me in the H-1B lottery in March.

What are my options if I’m not selected in the lottery?

—Gritty Grad

I’m in the U.S. with an L-1A visa that will max out later this year. My wife has been with me during the whole period on an L-2. Can my wife apply for H-1B this year?

Would she need to leave the country to activate it?

—Helpful Hubby

I have a 10-year green card that will expire later this year. I’ve been married to a U.S. citizen for 11 years, but we are in the process of divorcing.

Can I apply for U.S. citizenship even after my divorce?

—New Year, New Life

IBM shrugs off investor EPS concerns, sells growth story

Madrid headquarters of IBM International Business Machine, the American multinational of informatics and technology consulting services in Madrid, Spain

Madrid headquarters of IBM International Business Machine, the American multinational of informatics and technology consulting services, Spain, November 2012. Image Credits: Cristina Arias/Cover/Getty Images

IBM’s earnings report was received positively, but when CFO Jim Kavanaugh declined to share the company’s earnings per share expectations on a post-earnings conference call, the stock quickly tanked.

The stock recovered the following day, but the blip was newsworthy, since a narrow focus on offloading some assets, expanding growth and free cash flow puts IBM on track for further growth, analysts told Alex Wilhelm and Ron Miller.

“Good to see IBM finding back the growth that has eluded the vendor for longer than any investor would have liked,” said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research.

“But a small ship can sail faster, and with Kyndryl and Watson Health assets being offloaded, it will help make IBM sail faster.”

In blow to unicorns, the global IPO market continues to soften

It’s still a great time to be a startup founder. Specifically — an early-stage startup founder.

WeTransfer’s parent, WeRock, delayed its IPO earlier this week, becoming the latest major software firm to shelve its plans to go public after JustWorks.

Before that, a bevy of SPAC IPOs that many hoped would shoot to the moon instead drifted off course after launching.

These signals, taken with several others, suggest that this might not be the best time to go public, wrote Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim in The Exchange.

“Are the good times ending?”

Edtech startups flock to the promise and potential of personalized learning

Image Credits: Getty Images/smartboy10/DigitalVision

Everyone learns differently, but parents, teachers and schools tend to forget that vital fact in the classroom.

The enforced changes brought by the pandemic, however, have led some teachers and parents to realize that personalized learning is key to education, especially in the case of neurodiverse students.

As a result, a new wave of startups have appeared that promise to deliver curricula that adapts to a student’s emotional or educational state, reports Natasha Mascarenhas.

“The pandemic’s extended stay has caused edtech entrepreneurs – and society – to view learning outcomes as broader than job placement and exam scores,” she wrote.

3 views: How should startups prepare for a post-pandemic dip?

An illustration of a descending jet airplane with a unicorn logo on its tail

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

If the public markets were a swimming pool, it would still be open for business, but there’d be signs warning newcomers that the water has gotten a bit chilly.

Natasha Mascarenhas, Mary Ann Azevedo and Alex Wilhelm, the trio behind the Equity podcast, shared their predictions about what’s in store for startup funding and due diligence in 2022:

  • Natasha Mascarenhas: ‘The Lean Startup’ has aged with an asterisk
  • Alex Wilhelm: Money over bulls**t
  • Mary Ann Azevedo: Don’t try to be all the things

Crypto pioneer David Chaum says web3 is ‘computing with a conscience’

In 1982, computer scientist David Chaum wrote a dissertation that described a blockchain protocol, along with the code for implementing it.

Since then, his cryptologic research has led to developments like digital cash and anonymous communication networks. This week, he launched xxmessenger, which the company describes as the first “quantum-resistant” messaging app.

When we asked him what has changed in the past few years, Chaum said, “Seems to me that Bitcoin and the like have created something that could no longer be ignored. Now the question is: How can it be brought to the general public in a way that they can readily adopt this next generation of information technology?”

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Crypto

Is MINA a good buy in February 2022?

MINA/USD has collapsed from $6.7 to $2.06 since November 11, and the current price stands at $2.26. World’s lightest blockchain Mina is the world’s lightest blockchain, powered by participants with a mission to build a gateway between the real world…

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MINA/USD has collapsed from $6.7 to $2.06 since November 11, and the current price stands at $2.26.

World’s lightest blockchain

Mina is the world’s lightest blockchain, powered by participants with a mission to build a gateway between the real world and crypto.

Many other blockchain protocols don’t interact with the internet; they are heavy and require intermediaries to run nodes, limiting applications’ utility.

Mina can interact with any website, enabling developers to leverage information in computing to change real-world problems without compromising the privacy of users’ sensitive data.

Mina does not require intermediaries to run nodes, and the entire Mina blockchain is about 22kb1, the size of a couple of tweets.

This blockchain will stay accessible even as it scales because it was built on a consistent-sized cryptographic proof.

Anyone can connect peer-to-peer and quickly sync and verify the chain, while participants can also access strong censorship resistance and secure the blockchain.

Mina is truly decentralized, so anyone who’s syncing the chain is also validating transactions like a full node and can take part in proof-of-stake consensus.

This blockchain project dedicates lots of effort to provide the simplest possible experience for clients who may have no familiarity with the crypto space, and it has one of the largest and most active communities.

The native token of this blockchain is the MINA which is used to execute network transactions. Users can also stake their MINA tokens to earn a reward while securing the network or exchange it like any other cryptocurrency.

MINA token has achieved an impressive gain in the second week of November 2021, and it has reached a record high of $6.7 on November 11. MINA is currently down more than 65% from its peak, mainly because the prices of all other cryptocurrencies went down.

The U.S. central bank signaled interest rate hikes starting in March and a shift away from pandemic-era economic support measures. In such conditions, risk-on assets tend to suffer as the cost of borrowing money becomes more expensive.

Bears in control of MINA

MINA has collapsed from its record high of $6.7, registered on November 11, and according to technical analysis, it remains in a bear market.

The current support level for MINA stands at $2, and if the price falls below it, the next price target could be around $1.5 or even below.

On the other side, if the price jumps above $25, it would be a strong “buy” signal, and we have the open way to a resistance level that stands at $30.

Summary

MINA has collapsed from its record high of $6.7, and according to technical analysis, this cryptocurrency remains in a bear market. Investors should consider that if Bitcoin falls below the $30000 support, the price of MINA can weaken even more.

La notizia Is MINA a good buy in February 2022? era stato segnalata su Invezz.

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