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Emotional marketing and an e-mail titan walk into a bar

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My mom cuts to the chase when she is describing my beat to others. In her words, I cover companies like Uber before they become companies like Uber. And honestly? I can’t exactly disagree with the description. The best feeling in tech journalism is telling a story about a startup before it becomes a household name. As an early-stage reporter, I honestly bet a lot on the potential of a savvy edtech founder or creative marketplace play. And when I’m doing my job right, I point to the unique insight that will make the startup successful or challenged in the future.

On that note, one of my favorite renewed series at TechCrunch is an EC-1 (Extra Crunch subscription required), a story series that goes through the nitty-gritty of a startup’s story, from its original days to its pivots along the way. I’ve spent the past few months on one of these projects — and mine is coming out next week! In the meantime, you’ve read packages about StockX and Tonal, and our latest just came out: the Klaviyo EC-1:

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman

Enjoy this long-form read and big thanks to Danny Crichton, my Equity co-host and managing editor here at TechCrunch, who has been managing and editing all of these projects.

In the rest of this newsletter we’ll get into All Raise data, the new Miami and a new lineup you don’t want to miss. Follow me on Twitter @nmasc_ for updates throughout the week.

All (aren’t) Raise(d)

All Raise, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing the footprint of women founders and funders, has released its annual report for 2020. The whole thing is honestly worth a read, but we especially paid attention to how funding has dropped for female founders:

  • Round sizes for women + non-binary founders were up to 49% lower than males
  • 85% of venture funding goes to all-male teams
  • 64% of VC firms still don’t have a single female partner
  • Black + Latinx female founders receive only 0.64% of VC funding, a slight uptick from the year prior.

Here’s what to know: On Equity, we talked about how these abysmal metrics were both a predicted but still surprising effect of Zoom investing. This disconnect is the conversation no one has during an upmarket — and metrics are one way we can benchmark progress.

Internet is the new Miami

To quote Winnie CEO and co-founder Sara Mauskopf, “Internet is the new Miami.” The networks made online — either through the rise of meme culture or Substack spice — can be a competitive advantage in the world of investment, as two new funds this week showed us.

Here’s what to know: Ryan Hoover and Vedika Jain announced Weekend Fund 3, which will include a $1 million community raise. And Chief Meme Officer Turner Novak finally debuted Banana Capital’s debut fund launched with $9.99 million in funding.

Novak explained how being internet-first impacts his investments:

“It just kind of happens where [my investments] are people who understand the culture of the internet, to understand memes and understand wit and humor and appreciate that a little bit more,” he said. “Those are probably the people that are more naturally intuitive investments, so it definitely does skew that direction.”

While Novak didn’t share explicit targets or mandates around investment in diverse founders, he pointed to his track record at Gelt VC, in which 41% of capital went to woman CEOs. To date, 65% of Banana Capital’s portfolio founding teams include non-white founders and 50% of the teams include more than one gender.

Around TechCrunch

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

The AWS for blockchain

Atlassian launches a Jira for every team

CES will return to Las Vegas in 2022

Microsoft’s new default font options, rated

Seen on Extra Crunch

Hacking my way into analytics: A creative’s journey to design with data

How Brex more than doubled its valuation in a year

And finally

India is in crisis. It is devastating and heartbreaking to watch this unfold and impact our family and friends and colleagues and people. My colleague Manish Singh, who is based there, wrote up the different ways you can donate to help out.

I’ll end by quoting Singh:

With several major industries, including film and sports, going about their lives pretending there is no crisis, entrepreneurs and startups have emerged as a rare beam of hope in recent days, springing to action to help the nation navigate its darkest hours.

It’s a refreshing change from last year, when thousands of Indian startups themselves were struggling to survive. And while some startups are still severely disrupted, offering a helping hand to the nation has become the priority for most.

Until next week,

N

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

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If you don’t want robotic dogs patrolling the streets, consider CCOPS legislation

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Boston Dynamics’ robot “dogs,” or similar versions thereof, are already being employed by police departments in Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York. Partly through the veil of experimentation, few answers are being given by these police forces about the benefits and costs of using these powerful surveillance devices.

The American Civil Liberties Union, in a position paper on CCOPS (community control over police surveillance), proposes an act to promote transparency and protect civil rights and liberties with respect to surveillance technology. To date, 19 U.S. cities in have passed CCOPS laws, which means, in practical terms, that virtually all other communities don’t have a requirement that police are transparent about their use of surveillance technologies.

For many, this ability to use new, unproven technologies in a broad range of ways presents a real danger. Stuart Watt, a world-renowned expert in artificial intelligence and the CTO of Turalt, is not amused.

Even seemingly fun and harmless “toys” have all the necessary functions and features to be weaponized.

“I am appalled both by the principle and the dogbots and of them in practice. It’s a big waste of money and a distraction from actual police work,” he said. “Definitely communities need to be engaged with. I am honestly not even sure what the police forces think the whole point is. Is it to discourage through a physical surveillance system, or is it to actually prepare people for some kind of enforcement down the line?

“Chunks of law enforcement have forgotten the whole ‘protect and serve’ thing, and do neither,” Watts added. “If they could use artificial intelligence to actually protect and actually serve vulnerable people, the homeless, folks addicted to drugs, sex workers, those in poverty and maligned minorities, it’d be tons better. If they have to spend the money on AI, spend it to help people.”

The ACLU is advocating exactly what Watt suggests. In proposed language to city councils across the nation, the ACLU makes it clear that:

The City Council shall only approve a request to fund, acquire, or use a surveillance technology if it determines the benefits of the surveillance technology outweigh its costs, that the proposal will safeguard civil liberties and civil rights, and that the uses and deployment of the surveillance technology will not be based upon discriminatory or viewpoint-based factors or have a disparate impact on any community or group.

From a legal perspective, Anthony Gualano, a lawyer and special counsel at Team Law, believes that CCOPS legislation makes sense on many levels.

“As police increase their use of surveillance technologies in communities around the nation, and the technologies they use become more powerful and effective to protect people, legislation requiring transparency becomes necessary to check what technologies are being used and how they are being used.”

For those not only worried about this Boston Dynamics dog, but all future incarnations of this supertech canine, the current legal climate is problematic because it essentially allows our communities to be testing grounds for Big Tech and Big Government to find new ways to engage.

Just last month, public pressure forced the New York Police Department to suspend use of a robotic dog, quite unassumingly named Digidog. After the tech hound was placed on temporary leave due to public pushback, the NYPD used it at a public housing building in March. This went over about as well as you could expect, leading to discussions as to the immediate fate of this technology in New York.

The New York Times phrased it perfectly, observing that “the NYPD will return the device earlier than planned after critics seized on it as a dystopian example of overly aggressive policing.”

While these bionic dogs are powerful enough to take a bite out of crime, the police forces seeking to use them have a lot of public relations work to do first. A great place to begin would be for the police to actively and positively participate in CCOPS discussions, explaining what the technology involves, and how it (and these robots) will be used tomorrow, next month and potentially years from now.

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Bird Rides to go public via SPAC, at an implied value of $2.3B

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Bird Rides, the shared electric scooter startup that operates in more than 100 cities across 3 continents, said Wednesday it is going public by merging with special purpose acquisition company Switchback II with an implied valuation of $2.3 billion. The announcement confirms earlier reports, including one this week from dot.la, that Bird intended to go public via a SPAC.

Bird said it was able to raise $106 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE, by institutional investor Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, and others. Apollo Investment Corp. and MidCap Financial Trust provided an additional $40 million asset financing.

The transaction will enable the combined entity to retain net proceeds of up to $428 million of cash, according to Switchback, which brings $316 million cash-in-trust to the table. The announcement also provided new information about a previously undisclosed $208 million, which Bird raised privately as part of an April 2021 Senior Preferred Convertible equity offering led by Bracket Capital, Sequoia Capital and Valor Equity Partners.

When and how Bird would go public has been an item of speculation after Bloomberg reported last November that the company received “inbound interest” from SPACs.

Bird’s ride has been bumpy at times. In 2020, revenue dropped to $95 million, or 37% from the previous year. That year the company also laid off around 30% of its workforce – 406 people – for cost-saving reasons. The company may use this new access to cash to expand its European operations and pay off debt.

Most importantly, the new injection of cash may help the company finally achieve profitability. It’s a rarity amongst scooter startups, who face notoriously high overhead.

Special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, have become a popular route for going public amongst transportation startups. Already this year, scooter company Helbiz, which is based in Europe and the U.S., went public via SPAC in a merger with GreenVision Acquisition Corp. SPAC shell corporations allow companies to list on the NASDAQ without doing a traditional initial public offering.

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Only three days left to buy $99 passes to TC Disrupt 2021

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The countdown clock keeps on ticking, and you have just three days to secure your $99 pass to TechCrunch Disrupt 2021. You read that right — $99 is all that you’ll pay, $99 is all (everybody sing)!

Silly Minions aside, you’ll snag serious savings if you buy your Disrupt 2021 pass before the deadline expires on May 14 at 11:59 pm (PT).

TechCrunch Disrupt is a massive gathering of the tech startup world’s top leaders, innovators, makers, investors, founders and ground breakers. The all-virtual platform means more global participation and exposure. It’s all designed to help early-stage founders — and the people who invest in them — build a thriving business.

The Disrupt stage features in-depth interviews and panel discussions with a who’s-who of tech talent. The Extra Crunch stage is where you’ll find a deep bench of subject-matter experts sharing practical how-to content. You’ll take away actionable insights you can put into practice now — when you need it most. Check out our roster of speakers — we’re adding more every week.

Granted, we might be a tad biased about Disrupt — of course we think it’s awesome. But your contemporaries recognize its value, too. Here’s what a few of them told us about their experience at Disrupt 2020.

There was always something interesting going on in one of the breakout rooms, and I was impressed by the quality of the people participating. Partners in well-known VC firms spoke, they were accessible, and they shared smart, insightful nuggets. You will not find this level of people accessible and in one place anywhere else. — Michael McCarthy, CEO, Repositax.

I loved the variety of topics and learning about recent technology trends as they’re happening. Disrupt gave me a whole new perspective on the ways innovation happens in big companies. — Anirudh Murali, co-founder and CEO, Economize.

Watching the Startup Battlefield was fantastic. You could see the ingenuity and innovation happening in different technology spaces. Just looking at the sheer number of other pitch decks and hearing the judges tear them down and give feedback was very helpful. — Jessica McLean, Director of Marketing and Communications, Infinite-Compute.

If watching Startup Battlefield is thrilling (and it is), imagine what it would feel like to compete — or to win. We’re still accepting applications but not for long. Want to take a shot at winning $100,000? Apply to compete in Startup Battlefield before May 13 at 11:59 pm (PT).

There’s so much more opportunity waiting for you at Disrupt 2021. Explore Startup Alley, our expo area. Better yet, exhibit there yourself and, in addition to a bunch of other perks, you might be one of only 50 exhibiting startups chosen to participate in the Startup Alley+ VIP experience. Read more about Startup Alley+ here. TechCrunch will notify selected startups at the end of June.

Time is running out, and $99 is all that you’ll pay — if you buy your Disrupt 2021 pass before Friday, May 14 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.


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