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Bumble’s first date with the public markets

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The public markets have been so active lately that it’s hard to drum up excitement for yet another company making its way to the bull market. But, in the case of Bumble, a dating app where women message first, next week’s public debut is worth paying attention to.

The market for dating startups has long had an 11-year-old elephant in the room: Match Group. The Dallas company owns popular dating brands including Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, and more, which some saw as the singular exit point for startups that help people meet.

Bumble, founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd, will change that narrative with its entrance into the public markets. Bumble is seeking to raise more than $1 billion upon debut. The company could be worth between $5.73 billion and $6.14 billion, looking at a diluted valuation.

Bumble’s choice to swipe past the classic route to sell to Match Group tells us that Wolfe Herd is bullish that the exit environment is strong for dating apps, as loneliness amid the pandemic continues to impact the masses.

Cleo Capital’s Sarah Kunst, a former senior adviser to Bumble, tells me that Bumble is making history in a few ways, and “may well unleash a tidal wave of new funding and startups in the space.”

“As the youngest woman to ever take a company public, Whitney has proven that dating, a category long shunned by venture investors, is a highly lucrative and fast growing sector,” Kunst said. “She also is at the vanguard of several dawning realizations in tech: companies founded outside of Silicon Valley, companies founded by women, and gender parity on boards.”

We’ll be all over this on TechCrunch and Extra Crunch next week, but in the meantime, let’s get through the other news of the week. Make sure to follow me on Twitter so I can bother you the remaining six days of the week.

Pandemic-era valuations

Valuations are simply the price that an investor thinks a startup is worth — nothing more, nothing less. When a big event happens in the world of startups, such as a massive exit or blockbuster IPO, startups within the sector-of-interest often enjoy a boom in valuations.

Here’s what to know: This week, we explored whether edtech enjoyed that same burst of energy. According to over a dozen investors, edtech isn’t seeing skyrocketing valuations. It’s a surprise to me, but venture capitalists have their theories as to why (and seemingly are energized enough by exit opportunities in the meantime).

Etc: Beyond edtech, this survey can give us key intel on how sectors that faced a pandemic lift, such as fintech and e-commerce, are valued and ranked by investors. It might suggest that the noise is louder than the actual dollars and cents.

Carta tackles the startup liquidity problem

Don’t let the Demo Days fool you: Venture capital is getting bigger, faster, and older. But if you’re an angel who invested in a startup that was meant to go public in 2014, you might be getting a little bit impatient and want your capital back.

Carta is trying to create a solution to help startups trade secondary shares, pre-exit events, to bring liquidity earlier on in a startup’s life.

Here’s what to know: The tool, CartaX, finally launched this week after being teased out for months. Upon launch, Carta sold nearly $100 million of its own shares on its own cap table, at more than double its last valuation post-Series F round.

Etc: Carta is, of course, hoping that its cap-table management business will help it pull off the operation unlike others who have tried and failed. Here is some context from Danny Crichton:

That wave of liquidity startups ran into two problems: One was regulatory, and the other was a lack of company information about cap tables and that company’s current financial picture. Stock buyers were essentially flying blind while buying into companies, which some investors were more than willing to do, but that blindness limited the market demand for secondary shares significantly.

Image: JaaakWorks/iStock/Getty Images

The art of a startup narrative

It’s normal if sculpting a story out of the hot mess that is your day-to-day doesn’t feel natural. It’s like writing a story before you know exactly what you want to accomplish with each and every word. The difficulty doesn’t diminish the necessity, though.

Here’s what to know: Whether it’s pitching for a story or for millions of dollars, founders need to know how to nail their startup’s narrative. We got into the nuts in bolts in the latest edition of Extra Crunch Live, a virtual event series for early-stage founders.

We were very heads down, building these open-source projects and trying to create good software, and we just hadn’t thought a lot about the narrative. Over the years, that’s gotten a lot better, but it’s also become a lot more self-evident to us and much clearer as we write and build the business,” said Raj Dutt, Grafana’s co-founder and CEO.

Etc: Speaking of advice, here’s one warning story by Silicon Valley editor Connie Loizos about how an insurtech startup got their idea swiped (and funded) by their own venture backer. And to offset that stress, here’s one inspiring story, by yours truly, about how one woman went from user to chief executive of a startup in less than a year.

detail of a microphone with some bokeh on background

Work with really cool people, and me

Extra Crunch is now hiring for reporter, editor and project manager positions

It’s almost our second birthday, and in lieu of presents, want to send us candidates? The Extra Crunch team, which I’m a part of, is hiring for new contract positions to help us dig out what’s really going on in the world of startups.

Check out the amazing speakers joining us on Extra Crunch Live in February

Our live, virtual event series is back and better than ever with a stacked lineup and a ton of advice for early-stage startup folks.

Plus, a new gift for your inbox:

Wrapping up this week, TechCrunch has a new newsletter coming out on apps that is going to rule. Sarah Perez is writing it. You can sign up here, it’s free!

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

New antitrust reform bill charts one possible path for regulating big tech

The cloud infrastructure market hit $129B in 2020

A growing number of startups are creating APIs to assess and offset corporate carbon emissions

China’s national blockchain network embraces global developers

Seen on Extra Crunch

Udemy’s new president discusses the re-skilling company’s future

4 strategies for deep tech founders who are fundraising

Spotify Group Session UX teardown: The fails and their fixes

Dear Sophie: What’s the recipe for an H-1B

@EquityPod: A lake house architect, Miami VC, and homeowner walk into a wine bar

In this week’s podcast, the Equity team got their west coast correspondent back (aka me) and had a good ol’ time talking about everything from Miami to millennial homes.

Listen to the podcast to hear us chat about Drizly’s new parent, a new Nellie Levchin-backed startup, and UiPath’s big new valuation. We, of course, got into off topic conversations such as a sommelier that hates people and the lake house dynamic.

Until next week,

Natasha

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

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Qualcomm veteran to replace Alain Crozier as Microsoft Greater China boss

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Microsoft gets a new leader for its Greater China business. Yang Hou, a former executive at Qualcomm, will take over Alain Crozier as the chairman and chief executive officer for Microsoft Greater China Region, according to a company announcement released Monday.

More to come…

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Autonomous drone maker Skydio raises $170M led by Andreessen Horowitz

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Skydio has raised $170 million in a Series D funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz’s Growth Fund. That pushes it into unicorn territory, with $340 million in total funding and a post-money valuation north of $1 billion. Skydio’s fresh capital comes on the heels of its expansion last year into the enterprise market, and it intends to use the considerable pile of cash to help it expand globally and accelerate product development.

In July of last year, Skydio announced its $100 million Series C financing, and also debuted the X2, its first dedicated enterprise drone. The company also launched a suite of software for commercial and enterprise customers, its first departure from the consumer drone market where it had been focused prior to that raise since its founding in 2014.

Skydio’s debut drone, the R1, received a lot of accolades and praise for its autonomous capabilities. Unlike other consumer drones at the time, including from recreational drone maker DJI, the R1 could track a target and film them while avoiding obstacles without any human intervention required. Skydio then released the Skydio 2 in 2019, its second drone, cutting off more than half the price while improving on it its autonomous tracking and video capabilities.

Late last year, Skydio brought on additional senior talent to help it address enterprise and government customers, including a software development lead who had experience at Tesla and 3D printing company Carbon. Skydio also hired two Samsara executives at the same time to work on product and engineering. Samsara provides a platform for managing cloud-based fleet operations for large enterprises.

The applications of Skydio’s technology for commercial, public sector and enterprise organizations are many and varied. Already, the company works with public utilities, fire departments, construction firms and more to do work including remote inspection, emergency response, urban planning and more. Skydio’s U.S. pedigree also puts it in prime position to capitalize on the growing interest in applications from the defense sector.

a16z previously led Skydio’s Series A round. Other investors who participated in this Series D include Lines Capital, Next47, IVP and UP.Partners.

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Space startup Gitai raises $17.1M to help build the robotic workforce of commercial space

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Japanese space startup Gitai has raised a $17.1 million funding round, a Series B financing for the robotics startup. This new funding will be used for hiring, as well as funding the development and execution of an on-orbit demonstration mission for the company’s robotic technology, which will show its efficacy in performing in-space satellite servicing work. That mission is currently set to take place in 2023.

Gitai will also be staffing up in the U.S., specifically, as it seeks to expand its stateside presence in a bid to attract more business from that market.

“We are proceeding well in the Japanese market, and we’ve already contracted missions from Japanese companies, but we haven’t expanded to the U.S. market yet,” explained Gitai founder and CEO Sho Nakanose in an interview. So we would like to get missions from U.S. commercial space companies, as a subcontractor first. We’re especially interested in on-orbit servicing, and we would like to provide general-purpose robotic solutions for an orbital service provider in the U.S.”

Nakanose told me that Gitai has plenty of experience under its belt developing robots which are specifically able to install hardware on satellites on-orbit, which could potentially be useful for upgrading existing satellites and constellations with new capabilities, for changing out batteries to keep satellites operational beyond their service life, or for repairing satellites if they should malfunction.

Gitai’s focus isn’t exclusively on extra-vehicular activity in the vacuum of space, however. It’s also performing a demonstration mission of its technical capabilities in partnership with Nanoracks using the Bishop Airlock, which is the first permanent commercial addition to the International Space Station. Gitai’s robot, codenamed S1, is an arm–style robot not unlike industrial robots here on Earth, and it’ll be showing off a number of its capabilities, including operating a control panel and changing out cables.

Long-term, Gitai’s goal is to create a robotic workforce that can assist with establishing bases and colonies on the Moon and Mars, as well as in orbit. With NASA’s plans to build a more permanent research presence on orbit at the Moon, as well as on the surface, with the eventual goal of reaching Mars, and private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin looking ahead to more permanent colonies on Mars, as well as large in-space habitats hosting humans as well as commercial activity, Nakanose suggests that there’s going to be ample need for low-cost, efficient robotic labor – particularly in environments that are inhospitable to human life.

Nakanose told me that he actually got started with Gitai after the loss of his mother – an unfortunate passing he said he firmly believes could have been avoided with the aid of robotic intervention. He began developing robots that could expand and augment human capability, and then researched what was likely the most useful and needed application of this technology from a commercial perspective. That research led Nakanose to conclude that space was the best long-term opportunity for a new robotics startup, and Gitai was born.

This funding was led by SPARX Innovation for the Future Co. Ltd, and includes funding form DcI Venture Growth Fund, the Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, and EP-GB (Epson’s venture investment arm).

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