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It’s sometimes hard to remember that, as a startup founder, you have influence over aspects of your business that you wouldn’t have if you were a cog in a giant machine somewhere. In one of my past companies, we went very far out of our way to ensure that our packaging was fully biodegradable, but still a lot of fun. In another, we ensured that all our server use was carbon-offset. In a third, we had regular standups and brainstorms to figure out how we could have less of an impact on our planet.
All of which is to say: As a startup founder, you have a beautiful luxury. You are the master of your destiny, and your passions and interests get to be those of your startup. The inverse is also true: If you don’t care about climate change, diversity, or equality, your company as a whole is a lot less likely to make those topics a priority.
One way that this is showing up for me is that, even if you have money to spend, it’s really hard to find genuinely high-quality products that will last you a lifetime. The Sam Vimes “boots” theory of socioeconomic unfairness, often called simply the “boots theory” popularized by Terry Pratchett in the Discworld series, speaks to that. And in my column for the week, All products are garbage, and for good reason, I continue the philosophical meandering to see how that might apply to startups, too.
In other news, it caused some nervous giggles in the TechCrunch newsroom that Connie’s promotion was scooped by Axios, but I respect a good scoop, and so I am begrudgingly linking to our arch-enemy’s coverage of our leadership change. Of course, we wrote some ourselves, too: Panzer’s retrospective of his decade in the Big Chair at TechCrunch and Connie’s cigar-puffing reception of the proverbial editorial baton.
Roll on up! Roll on up!
Mergers and acquisitions are a crucial part of the startup ecosystem: Acquisitions are one of two ways (the other being an IPO) that startups can get a liquidity event, or an “exit,” as they are often called. It’s pretty rare that a startup goes on an 80-mom-and-pop buying spree, but that’s the phenomenon our new editor in chief Connie sniffed out this week.
Apropos IPOs, we have our first Big Tech IPO of the year, and Alex and Mary Ann dove into Instacart’s S-1 document to see what they could learn. (TC+)
The other big public listing recently was Better.com, which went public through a SPAC. It didn’t go super well, and the stock took a dramatic nosedive.
Big rounds in trouble: Anna and Alex took a look at the new valuation norms and explored just how sharply the late-stage market is on pace to contract this year. In summary: The late-stage venture market is crumbling, but maybe that’s okay?
Industrial-scale angel investing: Hustle Fund has been around for a hot minute; it’s doubling down on its mission to build the “YC of angel investing.”
Preparing for battle: Disrupt is just around the corner, and this week, Neesha finally revealed the Startup Battlefield 200 companies that are going to be at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023.
Let’s talk fundraising
Raising money is a perennial challenge for startups, and it’s one of the topics I spend almost all of my time on. This week, we saw a significant uptick in interest in articles around fundraising, so perhaps there’s a lot of startups that are preparing for the fundraising season that kicks off immediately after Labor Day. So, what’s going on? I took a look at the 5 trends in VC funding for pre-seed startups.
One of the most-read articles on TC+ this week was my own: Never express your ‘use of funds’ slide as percentages. It’s one of the things to keep in mind when you are trying to explain what you are going to do with that fresh money you are in the process of raising. The ‘use of funds’ slide is the part of the narrative that almost every founder gets wrong. The other thing founders screw up is looking at fundraising as unlocking runway. That’s true, but honestly, nobody gives a crap about your runway: If you can hit your milestones in eight to nine months instead of 18, that’s fine. If you need two years to hit your goals, that’s fine too (as long as you don’t run out of cash along the way). In a nutshell: It’s all about milestones.
Incidentally, if you are on the fundraising trail, TechCrunch has an incredible, in-depth guide to almost every aspect of building a deck and getting it in front of investors. You need a TC+ subscription, but honestly, it’s the best $99 you’ll ever spend. Hell, even though I write for TC+ and I could probably get a free subscription, I pay for my own, that’s how much I love it.
Here’s a few other nuggets to take with you on the fundraising trail:
The order matters: But there’s no such thing as a standard order for your slides. Here’s how to prioritize and think about the right order of slides for your story.
Nail your marketing story: Founders, “we haven’t spent a penny on marketing” isn’t the brag you think it is.
Think about your last impression: First impressions matter, but it’s good to remember that you have an opportunity to leave a parting gift, too. Make it count.
Hardware’s stepping back into the limelight
If you’re the kind of person who marks their calendars for when the new iPhone gets announced, September 12 is it: The iPhone 15 is coming to pockets near you in just a couple of weeks. Maybe we’ll finally get USB-C charging, too, after it was left off the iPhone 14 spec, much to my ever-lasting chagrin. Pixel fans have to wait an additional three weeks or so: Google’s Pixel 8 event is set for October 4.
Audeze makes high-end gaming and audio production headphones, and it seems like Sony’s PlayStation division took note: Sony is buying Audeze, the company confirmed to Brian this week. Sony is also in the news because it finally made the $200 PlayStation Portal in-home handheld official, after a few false starts.
Sure, you can open up our gadgets: Brian reports that Apple lends support to California’s Right to Repair bill, penning a letter to California state senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, including “Apple supports California’s Right to Repair Act so all Californians have even greater access to repairs while also protecting their safety, security, and privacy.”
Welcome to retirement — here’s your companion robot: ElliQ is a desktop home robot designed to serve as a kind of robotic companion for elderly users. The company behind the friendly-looking companion just raised another $25 million in funding.
Walmart succeeding where Amazon fails: Amazon continues to stumble with its drone delivery attempts, so no doubt Walmart is smugly doing a little victory dance as it adds Wing drone deliveries to some Superstores this year.
Top 3 reads on TechCrunch this week
Another Indian unicorn: Manish reports that Zepto becomes India’s first 2023 unicorn with $200 million fresh funding.
Moar Face Hugging dollars: Trust me, that headline is weird to everyone. Nonetheless, Hugging Face raises $235 million from investors, including Salesforce and Nvidia.
Set your alarm, we’re going on a trip: Flight prices fluctuate throughout the day and week, and Google Flights will now tell you when it’s the cheapest time to book.
Grab your pass to TC Disrupt 2023
Join 10,000 startup leaders in San Francisco at TechCrunch Disrupt on September 19–21. Last-minute passes are still available. Save 15% with code STARTUPS. Register now!