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Here comes the next IPO wave

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This is The TechCrunch Exchange, a newsletter that goes out on Saturdays, based on the column of the same name. You can sign up for the email here.

Are you tired? I am. What a week. But, if you kept your eyes off American politics and instead focused on the stock market, this was not a week of stress at all. It was a celebration.

Yes, the election appears to be influencing stocks, with investors delighted at what could be a divided government. Their bet is that with different parties in control of different bits of the government, nothing will happen, and thus taxes and regulation won’t change. You can handicap that as you wish.

Regardless, this week’s stock market boom was a multifaceted affair. Software stocks rallied as the summer-era trade appeared to come back into vogue, in which investors pour capital into SaaS and cloud companies in hopes of parking their wealth into something with growth potential. Software earnings also look pretty good thus far (we chatted with JFrog and Ping Identity and BigCommerce), improving on their early performance.

Uber and Lyft drove their own rally as California voters decided that their long-standing labor arbitrage would stand. And then Uber failed to vomit on itself during its earnings report. Not bad.

Big tech stocks rose, as well. All this is to say that after some fear in the market a week ago, things are back to being heated for tech companies. And it is, as we expected, flushing out the next wave of IPOs.

Airbnb is expected to file publicly early next week (we have four questions here that we cannot wait to get answered), and Upstart actually filed this week, which you probably missed because you were watching something else. No worries. We are here for you.

Another notable possible include DoorDash, now unshackled from its expensive California regulatory battle. How many debuts shall we see? Hopefully many.

Market Notes

Upstart’s IPO filing brings a fintech IPO to the fore, and overall its numbers are pretty good if you discount worries about its customer concentration. Its debut could augur well for fintech as a whole, a segment of the startup population that, when viewed through the lens of PayPal’s earnings, is having a hell of a year.

Fintech VCs are active, as well, dropping over $10 billion into startups focusing on financial technology products and services in Q3. Payments, insurtech, wealth management and banking startups caught our eye as sectors to watch in that niche.

It was not a perfect week for fintech, however, as the U.S. government decided that the Visa-Plaid deal should not happen. Damn. As discussed on Equity, this deal could limit M&A interest for fintech startups from large players. Does that mean that fintech IPOs, then, have to carry the liquidity bucket for the sector?

Maybe! And if so, Upstart’s impending flotation seems to take on extra importance. We’ll keep you posted.

  • Moving along, the Ant Group IPO termination by the Chinese government was probably the biggest tech story of the week, though as the company is worth a few hundred billion, it’s not really a startup event. For China, it’s a bad day, as it undercuts its goal of becoming a global financial center. For Ant, it’s a huge setback. For Jack Ma, it’s a warning, if not more.
  • The nine-figure neobank rounds? Not done yet.
  • Pony’s epic raise this week makes the point that self-driving tech is not dead. Indeed, the great race to let computers drive continues. Just more slowly than everyone had hoped.
  • Udacity underscored the edtech boom by raising $75 million in debt and reported “Q3 bookings up by 120% year-over-year and average run rates up 260% in H1 2020.” Our own Natasha Mascarenhas also reported on booming edtech M&A volume, again highlighting that edtech has gone from zero to hero in 2020, at least from a VC perspective.
  • $30 million for Hustle Fund, and €66.5M for All Iron Ventures, among other VC raises this week.
  • ByteDance is looking for $2 billion at a valuation of $180 billion? Also, what happened to the whole TikTok fiasco?
  • And TikTok’s rival’s IPO filing really shows how hard it is to build a similar network. It’s also very expensive.

Various and Sundry

Sticking under our target word count for the first time in so long I nearly forgot what it is, here are a few iotas and crumbs for your weekend:

Have a good weekend. Stay safe. Fight COVID-19. And listen to this.

Alex

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Pinterest tests online events with dedicated ‘class communities’

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Pinterest is getting into online events. The company has been spotted testing a new feature that allows users to sign up for Zoom classes through Pinterest, while creators use Pinterest’s class boards to organize class materials, notes and other resources, or even connect with attendees through a group chat option. The company confirmed the test of online classes is an experiment now in development, but wouldn’t offer further details about its plans.

The feature itself was discovered on Tuesday by reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong, who found details about the online classes by looking into the app’s code.

Currently, you can visit some of these “demo” profiles directly — like “@pinsmeditation” or “@pinzoom123,” for example — and view their listed Class Communities. However, these communities are empty when you click through. That’s because the feature is still unreleased, Wong says.

When and if the feature is later launched to the public, the communities would include dedicated sections where creators will be able to organize their class materials — like lists of what to bring to class, notes, photos and more. They could also use these communities to offer a class overview and description, connect users to a related shop, group chat feature and more.

Creators are also able to use the communities — which are basically enhanced Pinterest boards — to respond to questions from attendees, share photos from the class and otherwise interact with the participants.

When a user wants to join a class, they can click a “book” button to sign up, and are then emailed a confirmation with the meeting details. Other buttons direct attendees to download Zoom or copy the link to join the class.

It’s not surprising that Pinterest would expand into the online events space, given its platform has become a popular tool for organizing remote learning resources during the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers have turned to Pinterest to keep track of lesson plans, get inspiration, share educational activities and more. In the early days of the pandemic, Pinterest reported record usage when the company saw more searches and saves globally in a single March weekend than ever before in its history, as a result of its usefulness as a online organizational tool.

This growth has continued throughout the year. In October, Pinterest’s stock jumped on strong earnings after the company beat on revenue and user growth metrics. The company brought in $443 million in revenue, versus $383.5 million expected, and grew its monthly active users to 442 million, versus the 436.4 million expected. Outside of the coronavirus impacts, much of this growth was due to strong international adoption, increased ad spend from advertisers boycotting Facebook and a surge of interest from users looking for iOS 14 home screen personalization ideas.

Given that the U.S. has failed to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control, many classes, events and other activities will remain virtual even as we head into 2021. The online events market may continue to grow in the years that follow, too, thanks to the kickstart the pandemic provided the industry as a whole.

“We are experimenting with ways to help creators interact more closely with their audience,” a Pinterest spokesperson said, when asked for more information.

Pinterest wouldn’t confirm additional details about its plans for online events, but did say the feature was in development and the test would help to inform the product’s direction.

Pinterest often tries out new features before launching them to a wider audience. Earlier this summer, TechCrunch reported on a Story Pins feature the company had in the works. Pinterest then launched the feature in September. If the same time frame holds up for online events, we could potentially see the feature become more widely available sometime early next year.

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SpaceX targeting next week for Starship’s first high-altitude test flight

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SpaceX looks ready to proceed to the next crucial phase of its Starship spacecraft development program: A 15km (50,000 feet) test flight. This would far exceed the max height that any prior Starship prototype has achieved so far, since the current record-setting hop test maxed out at around 500 feet. Elon Musk says that SpaceX will look to make its first high-altitude attempt sometime next week.

This tentative date (these are always subject to change) follows a successful static test fire of the current SN8 generation prototype — essentially just firing the test spacecraft’s Raptor engines while it remains stationary on the pad. That’s a crucial step that paves the way for any actual flight, since it proves that the spacecraft can essentially hold together and withstand the pressures of active engines before it leaves the ground.

SpaceX’s SN8 prototype is different from prior versions in a number of ways, most obviously because it has an actual nosecone, along with nose fins. The prototypes that did the short test hops, including SN6, had what’s known as a mass simulator up top, which weighs as much as an actual Starship nose section but looks very different.

Musk added that the chances of an SN8 high-altitude flight going to plan aren’t great, estimating that there’s “maybe a 1/3 chance” given how many things have to work correctly. He then noted that that’s the reason SpaceX has SN9 and SN10 ready to follow fast, which is a theme of Starship’s development program to date: building successive generations of prototypes rapidly in parallel in order to test and iterate quickly.

We’ll likely get a better idea of when the launch will take place due to alerts filed with local regulators, so watch this space next week as we await this major leap forward in SpaceX’s Starship program.

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Police case filed against Netflix executives in India over ‘A Suitable Boy’ kissing scene

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Netflix, which has invested more than $500 million to gain a foothold in India in recent years, is slowly finding out just about what all could upset some people in the world’s second-largest internet market: Apparently everything.

A police case has been filed this week against two top executives of the American streaming service in India after a leader of the governing party objected to some scenes in a TV series.

The show, “A Suitable Boy,” is an adaptation of the award-winning novel by Indian author Vikram Seth that follows the life of a young girl. It has a scene in which the protagonist is seeing kissing a Muslim boy at a Hindu temple.

Narottam Mishra, the interior minister of the central state of Madhya Pradesh, said a First Information Report (an official police complaint) had been filed against Monika Shergill, VP of Content at Netflix and Ambika Khurana, Director of Public Policies for the firm, over objectionable scenes in the show that hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus.

“I had asked officials to examine the series ‘A Suitable Boy’ being streamed on Netflix to check if kissing scenes in it were filmed in a temple and if it hurt religious sentiments. The examination prima facie found that these scenes are hurting the sentiments of a particular religion,” he said.

Gaurav Tiwari, a BJP youth leader who filed the complaint, demanded an apology from Netflix and makers of the series (directed by award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair), and said the film promoted “love jihad,” an Islamophobic conspiracy theory that alleges that Muslim men entice Hindi women into converting their religion under the pretext of marriage.

Netflix declined to comment.

In recent days, a number of people have expressed on social media their anger at Netflix over these “objectionable” scenes. Though it is unclear if all of them — if any — are a Netflix subscriber.

The incident comes weeks after an ad from the luxury jewelry brand Tanishq — part of the 152-year-old salt-to-steel conglomerate — which celebrated interfaith marriage received intense backlash in the country.

For Netflix, the timing of this backlash isn’t great. The new incident comes days after the Indian government announced new rules for digital media, under which the nation’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will be regulating online streaming services. Prior to this new rule, India’s IT ministry oversaw streaming services, and according to a top streaming service executive, online services enjoyed a great degree of freedom.

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