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Webflow raises $140M, pushing its valuation to $2.1 billion

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This morning Webflow, a software company that helps businesses build no-code websites, announced that it has raised a $140 million Series B. The round, led by returning investors Accel and Silversmith, comes after the startup raised $72 million in an August, 2019 Series A.

The new funding values Webflow at more than $2.1 billion it said in a blog post that TechCrunch viewed before publication. Capital G, an Alphabet venture capital group, joined the Series B as well, with its investor Laela Sturdy joining the startup’s board.

Webflows offers a software that helps customers build websites without the need to write code; the company also offers hosting, and content-related capabilities.

Webflow’s product fits into a category of companies arguing that building software for the Internet should get easier over time, not harder. TechCrunch explored the no-code, low-code space 2020, including asking investors bullish on its market about their views concerning its future.

Webflow CEO Vlad Magdalin described the round as “opportunistic” for the company, telling TechCrunch that his company was not low on cash when the deal came together. Indeed, Magdalin said that his company ended 2020 cash-flow positive.

So why raise more money, let alone such a huge round? The CEO described the funds as “courage capital,” funds that will allow it to make investments into its business that may not have short-term revenue impacts. Magdalin said that the money may be spent on its enterprise products, support team, platform, and recruiting.

In an email, Accel investor, and Webflow board member Arun Mathew echoed the CEO’s comments, adding that the company doubled its customer base in 2020.

That Webflow managed to break into the realm of startup profitability is less surprising when we recall that the no-code software company bootstrapped for more than a half-decade before taking external funds; it’s done this before.

Raising capital has other impacts on a business than the ability to raise spend. New capital, a higher valuation, and noise about a business can bolster recruiting efforts, and assuage customers concerned that the startup in question could either evaporate due to a lack of cash, or wind up bought, and either stripped by a private-equity firm, or subsumed by a tech giant.

Big companies don’t want to tie themselves to a product that could disappear. Webflow, now valued at $2.1 billion after its Series B closed, may have allayed those concerns for the time being.

Asked how 2020 went for the company, Magdalin said that its business doubled, which he described as an acceleration of its previous results.

It’s not clear from our vantage point if the company is in the eight, or nine-figure revenue range, so it’s hard to vet how strong a roughly 100% growth rate is for Webflow; that it appears to have bested its 2019 growth rate in 2020 is encouraging for its future IPO prospects.

The company could see strong growth in 2021. Webflow’s CEO told TechCrunch that his company’s move up-market is starting to bear fruit. After noting that average contract values, or ACV, for its larger accounts were several orders of magnitude bigger than its sales agreements with SMBs, Magdalin said that its enterprise customers only account for around 5% of its present-day business today.

However, the CEO said that his firm had only begun to target the enterprise cohort last year, and expects to grow its larger-account business by a factor of ten this year.

And the company has big product plans, including building out its service to support richer and more powerful website creation. In the CEO’s view, websites are merely part of the software world, and he expects no-code tooling to take on more and more complex software tasks over time.

That could expand the broader no-code market, in our view, perhaps creating more space for startups to build services that allow for non-developers to depend less on engineering teams over time.

Mathew shares Magdalin’s bullish view on the no-code market, saying in an email that “the market is moving very quickly to being bullish on no-code tooling,” adding that we are “still very early in the adoption curve.”

Given that take, it’s not hard to see why Accel would want to double-down on Webflow. Accel has a history of making large-dollar bets into companies that bootstrapped to scale, including Webflow and Qualtrics. In the Qualtrics example, Accel led its Series A, B, and C, rounds worth a combined total of $400 million.

To see Accel lead another round for Webflow, then, is in-keeping with prior investing patterns from the firm.

Capital G’s Sturdy, Webflow’s new board member, told TechCrunch in an email that her firm has been “bullish on the massive potential of no code for years,” leading it to hunt for “the most promising companies utilizing no code to transform sectors and democratize access to key tools.” Let’s see what it can do with another huge check and some time.

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

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MIT develops method for lab-grown plants that eventually lead to alternatives to forestry and farming

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Researchers at MIT have developed a new method for growing plant tissues in a lab – sort of like how companies and researchers are approaching lab-grown meat. The process would be able to produce wood and fibre in a lab environment, and researchers have already demonstrated how it works in concept by growing simple structures using cells harvested from zinnia leaves.

This work is still in its very early stages, but the potential applications of lab-grown plant material are significant, and include possibilities in both agriculture and in ruction materials. While traditional agricultural is much less ecologically damaging when compared to animal farming, it can still have a significant impact and cost, and it takes a lot of resources to maintain. Not to mention that even small environmental changes can have a significant effect on crop yield.

Forestry, meanwhile, has much more obvious negative environmental impacts. If the work of these researchers can eventually be used to create a way to produce lab-grown wood for use in construction and fabrication, in a way that’s scalable and efficient, then there’s tremendous potential in terms of reducing the impact of forestry globally. Eventually, the team even theorizes you could coax the growth of plant-based materials into specific target shapes, so you could also do some of the manufacturing in the lab, by growing a wood table directly for instance.

There’s still a long way to go from what the researchers have achieved. They’ve only grown materials on a very small scale, and will look to figure out ways to grow plant-based materials with different final properties as one challenge. They’ll also need to overcome significant barriers when it comes to scaling efficiencies, but they are working on solutions that could address some of these difficulties.

Lab-grown meat is still in its infancy, and lab-grown plant material is even more nascent. But it has tremendous potential, even if it takes a long time to get there.

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Cannabis marketing startup Fyllo acquires DataOwl

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Fyllo has acquired DataOwl, a company offering marketing and loyalty tools for cannabis retailers.

Fyllo said it already works with 320 cannabis retailers across 25 states (plus Puerto Rico and Jamaica). According to Chief Marketing Officer Conrad Lisco, this acquisition allows the company to offer the industry’s “first end-to-end marketing solution,” combining consumer data, digital advertising, regulatory compliance (thanks to Fyllo’s acquisition of CannaRegs last year) and, through DataOwl, CRM and loyalty tied into a business’ point-of-sale system.

As an example, founder and CEO Chad Bronstein (previously the chief revenue officer at digital marketing company Amobee) said that retailers will be able to use the Fyllo platform to send promotional texts to regular customers while, crucially, ensuring that those campaigns are fully in compliance with state and local regulations. He added that eventually, the platform could be used beyond cannabis, in other regulated industries.

“Beauty, gambling, etc. — the same things need to happen in every regulated industry, they would all benefit from loyalty and compliance automation,” Bronstein said.

In addition, he argued that mainstream brands are increasingly interested in using data around cannabis and CBD consumers, as borne out in a Forrester study commissioned by Fyllo.

Lisco said this acquisition comes at a crucial time for the cannabis industry, with dispensaries classified as essential businesses in many states, as well as continuing momentum behind marijuana legalization.

“In 2020, cannabis came of age,” he said. “We would say it went form illicit to essential in 10 months … 2021 is really about watching endemic [marijuana] brands try to scale, so that they can capitalize on the explosive growth. They’ve historically been excluded from the kinds of integrated marketing capabilities that other non-endemic [mainstream] brands get to use when go to market.”

Bronstein said Fyllo aims to bring those capabilities to marijuana brands, first by bringing the its compliance capabilities into the DataOwl product. The company also aims to create a national cannabis loyalty platform, allowing a marijuana retailer in one state to easily expand its marketing capabilities into other states in a compliant fashion.

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. DataOwl co-founders Dan Hirsch and Vartan Arabyan are joining Fyllo, as is the rest of their team, bringing the company’s total headcount to 110.

“By integrating with Fyllo, DataOwl’s solutions will reach the widest possible audience via the industry’s most innovative marketing platform,” Hirsch said in a statement.

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SpaceX delivers 60 more Starlink satellites in first launch of 2021, and sets new Falcon 9 rocket reusability record

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SpaceX has launched its 17th batch of Starlink satellites during its first mission of 2021, using a Falcon 9 rocket that was flying for the eighth time, and that landed again, recording a record for its reusability program. This puts the total Starlink constellation size at almost 1,000, as the company has expanded its beta access program for the service to the UK and Canada, with a first deployment in the latter company serving a rural First Nations community in a remote part of the province of Ontario.

The launch took off from Florida at 8:02 AM EST (5:02 AM PST), with delivery of the satellites following as planned at around an hour after lift-off. The booster on this launch flew seven times previously, as mentioned – including just in December when it was used to delivery a SiriusXM satellite to orbit to support that company’s satellite radio network.

Today’s launch was also notable because it included a landing attempt in so-called “envelope expansion” conditions, which means that the winds in the landing zone where SpaceX’s drone recovery ship was stationed at sea actually exceeded the company’s previously-defined safety window for making a landing attempt.

As a result of today’s success, SpaceX will likely now have higher tolerances for wind speeds in order to attempt recovery, which should translate to fewer cancellations of launches based on weather conditions in the landing zone.

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