Coincidentally, I was siting on said sofa this morning and considering that transaction when Alex Wilhelm submitted a column that compared recent earnings for three BNPL providers: Afterpay, Affirm and Klarna.
I asked him why he decided to dig into the sector with such gusto.
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“What struck me about the concept was that we had just seen earnings from Affirm,” he said. “So we had three BNPL players with known earnings, and I had just covered a startup funding round in the space.”
“Toss in some obvious audience interest, and it was an easy choice to write the piece. Now the question is whether I did a good job and people find value in it.”
Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week! Have a great weekend.
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
As BNPL startups raise, a look at Klarna, Affirm and Afterpay earnings
Pilot CEO Waseem Daher tears down his company’s $60M Series C pitch deck
I avoid running Extra Crunch stories that focus on best practices; you can find those anywhere. Instead, we look for “here’s what worked for me” articles that give readers actionable insights.
That’s a much better use of your time and ours.
With that ethos in mind, Lucas Matney interviewed Pilot CEO Waseem Daher to deconstruct the pitch deck that helped his company land a $60M Series C round.
“If the Series A was about, ‘Do you have the right ingredients to make this work?’ then the Series B is about, ‘Is this actually working?’” Daher tells TechCrunch.
“And then the Series C is more, ‘Well, show me that the core business is really working and that you have unlocked real drivers to allow the business to continue growing.’”
Can solid state batteries power up for the next generation of EVs?
A global survey of automobile owners found three hurdles to overcome before consumers will widely embrace electric vehicles:
- 30-minute charging time
- 300-mile range
- $36,000 maximum cost
“Theoretically, solid state batteries (SSB) could deliver all three,” but for now, lithium-ion batteries are the go-to for most EVs (along with laptops and phones).
In our latest market map, we’ve plotted the new and established players in the SSB sector and listed many of the investors who are backing them.
Although SSBs are years away from mass production, “we are on the cusp of some pretty incredible discoveries using major improvements in computational science and machine learning algorithms to accelerate that process,” says SSB startup founder Amy Prieto.
Dear Sophie: Which immigration options are the fastest?
Help! Our startup needs to hire 50 engineers in artificial intelligence and related fields ASAP. Which visa and green card options are the quickest to get for top immigrant engineers?
And will Biden’s new immigration bill help us?
— Mesmerized in Menlo Park
Why F5 spent $2.2B on 3 companies to focus on cloud native applications
Founded in 1996, F5 has repositioned itself in the networking market several times in its history. In the last two years, however, it spent $2.2 billion to acquire Shape Security, Volterra and NGINX.
“As large organizations age, they often need to pivot to stay relevant, and I wanted to explore one of these transformational shifts,” said enterprise reporter Ron Miller.
“I spoke to the CEO of F5 to find out the strategy behind his company’s pivot and how he leveraged three acquisitions to push his organization in a new direction.”
DigitalOcean’s IPO filing shows a two-class cloud market
Cloud hosting company DigitalOcean filed to go public this week, so Ron Miller and Alex Wilhelm unpacked its financials.
“AWS and Microsoft Azure will not be losing too much sleep worrying about DigitalOcean, but it is not trying to compete head-on with them across the full spectrum of cloud infrastructure services,” said John Dinsdale, chief analyst and research director at Synergy Research.
Oscar Health’s initial IPO price is so high, it makes me want to swear
I asked Alex Wilhelm to dial back the profanity he used to describe Oscar Health’s proposed valuation, but perhaps I was too conservative.
In March 2018, the insurtech unicorn was valued at around $3.2 billion. Today, with the company aiming to debut at $32 to $34 per share, its fully diluted valuation is closer to $7.7 billion.
“The clear takeaway from the first Oscar Health IPO pricing interval is that public investors have lost their minds,” says Alex.
His advice for companies considering an IPO? “Go public now.”
If Coinbase is worth $100 billion, what’s a fair valuation for Stripe?
Last week, Alex wrote about how cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase was being valued at $77 billion in the private markets.
As of Monday, “it’s now $100 billion, per Axios’ reporting.”
He reviewed Coinbase’s performance from 2019 through the end of Q3 2020 “to decide whether Coinbase at $100 billion makes no sense, a little sense or perfect sense.”
Winning enterprise sales teams know how to persuade the Chief Objection Officer
A skilled software sales team devotes a lot of resources to pinpointing potential customers.
Poring through LinkedIn and reviewing past speaker lists at industry conferences are good places to find decision-makers, for example.
Despite this detective work, GGV Capital investor Oren Yunger says sales teams still need to identify the deal-blockers who can spike a deal with a single email.
“I call this person the Chief Objection Officer.”
3 strategies for elevating brand authority in 2021
Every startup wants to raise its profile, but for many early-stage companies, marketing budgets are too small to make a meaningful difference.
“Providing real value through content is an excellent way to build authority in the short and long term,” says Amanda Milligan, marketing director at growth agency Fractl.
RIBS: The messaging framework for every company and product
The most effective marketing uses good storytelling, not persuasion.
According to Caryn Marooney, general partner at Coatue Management, every compelling story is relevant, inevitable, believable and simple.
“Behind most successful companies is a story that checks every one of those boxes,” says Marooney, but “this is a central challenge for every startup.”
Ironclad’s Jason Boehmig: The objective of pricing is to become less wrong over time
On a recent episode of Extra Crunch Live, Ironclad founder and CEO Jason Boehmig and Accel partner Steve Loughlin discussed the pitch that brought them together almost four years ago.
Since that $8 million Series A, Loughlin joined Ironclad’s board. “Both agree that the work they put in up front had paid off” when it comes to how well they work together, says Jordan Crook.
“We’ve always been up front about the fact that we consider the board a part of the company,” said Boehmig.
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If you’re a boater, and I know at least some of you are, you’re probably familiar with two different ways of chart-plotting, or tracking your location and route: the one attached to your boat and the one in your pocket.
The one on your boat is clunky and old-fashioned, like the GPS interface on a years-old budget sedan. The one in your pocket is better and faster — but the phone isn’t exactly seaworthy and the app drains your battery with a quickness.
Orca is a Norwegian startup from veterans of the boating and chart-plotters that leapfrogs existing products with a built-from-scratch modern interface.
“The industry hasn’t changed in the last 20 years — you have three players who own 80 percent of the business,” said co-founder and CEO Jorge Sevillano. “For them, it’s very hard to think of how software creates value. All these devices are built on a user interface that’s 10-15 years old; think about a Tomtom, lots of menus, lots of clicks. This business hasn’t had its iPhone moment, where it had to rethink its entire design. So we thought: let’s start with a blank slate and build a new experience.”
CTO and co-founder Kristian Fallro started working on something like this years ago, and his company was acquired by Navico, one of the big players Sevillano refers to. But they didn’t seem to want to move forward with the ideas, and so he and the others formed Orca to pursue them. Their first complete product opened up for pre-orders this week.
“The challenge up until now has been that you need a combination of hardware and software, so the barrier to entry was very, very high,” Fallro explained. “It’s a very protected industry — and it’s too small for Apple and Google and the big boys.”
But now with a combination of the right hardware and a totally rebuilt software stack, they think they can steal a march on the dominant companies and be ready for the inevitable new generation of boaters who can’t stand to use the old tech any more. Shuttling an SD card to and from the in-boat system and your computer to update charts? Inputting destinations via directional pad? Using a separate mobile app to check weather and tides that might bear on your route? Not exactly cutting edge.
The Orca system comprises a ruggedized industrial tablet sourced from Samsung, an off the shelf marine quality mounting arm, a custom-designed interface for quick attachment and charging, and a computing base unit that connects to the boat’s own sensors like sonar and GPS over the NMEA 2000 protocol. It’s all made to be as good or better than anything you’d find on a boat today.
So far, so similar to many solutions out there. But Orca has rebuilt everything from the ground up as a modern mobile app with all the conveniences and connections you’d expect. Routing is instantaneous and accurate, on maps that are clear and readable as those on Google and Apple Maps but clearly still of the nautical variety. Weather and tide reports are integrated, as is marine traffic. It all runs on Android or iOS, so you can also use your phone, send routes or places of interest to the main unit, and vice versa.
“We can build new services that chart plotters can’t even dream of including,” said Sevillano. “With the latest tide report and wind, or if there’s a commercial ship going in your way, we can update your range and route. We do updates every week with new features and bug fixes. We can iterate and adapt to user feedback faster than anyone else.”
These improvements to the most central system of the boat mean the company has ambitions for coming years beyond simply replacing the ageing gadgets at the helm.
Information collected from the boat itself is also used to update the maps in near real time — depending on what your craft is monitoring, it could be used for alerting others or authorities, for example if you encounter major waves or dangerous levels of chemicals, or detect an obstacle where none is recorded. “The Waze of the seas,” they suggested. “Our goal is to become the marine data company. The opportunities for boaters, industries related to the sea, and society are immense.”
Being flexible about the placement and features means they hope to integrate directly with boats, becoming the built-in OS for new models. That’s especially important for the up-and-coming category of electric boats, which sort of by definition buck the old traditions and tend to attract tech-savvy early adopters.
“We’re seeing people take what works on land taking it to sea. They all have the same challenge though, the biggest problem is range anxiety — and it’s even worse on the water,” said Fallro. “We’ve been talking to a lot of these manufacturers and we’re finding that building a boat is hard but building that navigation experience is even harder.”
Whether that’s entirely true probably depends on your boat-building expertise, but it’s certainly the case that figuring out an electric boat’s effective range is a devilishly difficult problem. Even after building a new boat from starting principles and advanced physical simulations to be efficient and predictable, such as Zin Boats did, the laws of physics and how watercraft work mean even the best estimate has to be completely revised every few seconds.
“Figuring out range at sea is very hard, and we think we’re one of the best out there. So we want to provide boat manufacturers a software stack with integrated navigation that helps them solve the range anxiety problem their users have,” said Fallro.
Indeed, it seems likely that prospective purchasers of such a craft would be more tempted to close the deal if they knew there was a modern and responsive OS that not only accurately tracked range but provided easy, real-time access to potential charge points and other resources. Sure, you could use your phone — and many do these days because the old chart plotters attached to their boats are so limited. But the point is that with Orca you won’t be tempted to.
The full device combo of computing core, mount, and tablet costs €1,449, with the core alone selling for €449, with a considerable discount for early bird pre-orders. (For people buying new boats, these numbers may as well be rounding errors.)
Fallro said Orca is operating with funding (of an unspecified amount) from Atomico and Nordic VC firm Skyfall Ventures, as well as angel investors including Kahoot co-founder Johan Brand. The company has its work cut out for it simply in fulfilling the orders it has collected (they are doing a brisk trade, Fallro intimated) before moving on to adding features and updating regularly as promised.