Archive for October, 2020

Is Wall Street losing its tech enthusiasm?

This is The TechCrunch Exchange, a newsletter that goes out on Saturdays, based on the column of the same name. You can sign up for the email here. Over the past few months the IPO market made it plain that some public investors were willing to pay more for growth-focused technology shares than private investors. We saw this in both strong tech IPO pricing — the value set on companies as they debut — and in resulting first-day valuations, which were often higher. One way to consider how far public valuations rose for tech startups, especially those with a software core in 2020, is to ask yourself how often you heard about a down IPO this year. Maybe a single time? At most? (You can catch up on 2020 IPO performance here, if you need to.) IPO enthusiasm exposed a gap between what many venture capitalists and private investors were paying for tech shares, and what the public market was doing with its own valuation calculations. Insurtech startup Hippo’s $150 million private round from July is a good example. The company was valued at $1.5 billion in the round, a healthy uptick from its preceding private valuation. But if we valued it like the then-newly-public Lemonade, a related company, at the time, Hippo was priced inexpensively. This week, however, the concept of private investors being more conservative than public investors in certain cases (some eight-figure private rounds happened this year at valuations that were even more bullish than public investor treatment of IPOs, to be clear) took a ding as most big tech companies lost ground, SaaS stocks sold off, and other tech firms struggled to keep up with investor enthusiasm. Not only tech companies took a beating, but as I write to you on this Friday afternoon, the American stock markets were on a path for their worst week since March, CNBC reported, “led by major tech shares.” A change in the wind? Perhaps.  Notable is that it was just in September that VCs seemed resigned to having startup valuations pulled higher by public markets’ endless optimism for related companies. Canaan’s Maha Ibrahim told me during Disrupt 2020 that it was a time when VCs had to “play the game” and pay up for startups, so long as companies were being “rewarded in the public markets for high growth the way that Snowflake” was at the time. A16z’s David Ulevitch concurred. Perhaps that dynamic is changing as stocks dip. If so, startup valuations could decline en masse, along with the more exotic areas of startup-related finance. The SPAC boom, for example, may wane. Chatting with Hippo’s CEO Assaf Wand this week, he posited that SPACs were a market-response to the public-private valuation gap, an accelerant-cum-bridge to help startups get public while demand was hot for their equity. Without the same red-hot demand for growth and risk, SPACs could cool. So, too, could private valuations that the hottest startups have taken for granted. Whether what we’re feeling in the wind this week […]

Human Capital: Uber Eats hit with claims of ‘reverse racism’

With less than one week left until the election, DoorDash made a late contribution of $3.75 million to try to ensure California’s gig worker ballot measure Prop 22 passes. Meanwhile, Coinbase is looking for a head of diversity and inclusion and Uber was hit with claims of reverse racism. All that and more in this week’s edition of Human Capital, a weekly newsletter where we unpack all-things labor and D&I. To receive this in your inbox every Friday at 1 p.m. PT, be sure to sign up here. Let’s jump in. Employees at surveillance startup Verkada reportedly used tech to harass co-workers Oof. Just when we thought we were safe from surveillance, we’ve found yet another reason not to trust people with facial recognition tech. Just to be clear, the first part of that was sarcasm. Anyway, Vice reported earlier this week that some Verkada employees used the startup’s tech to take photos of their female colleagues and then made sexually explicit jokes. When other employees reported the incident to human resources, Verkada CEO Filip Kaliszan simply gave the offenders a choice of leaving the company or having their share of stock reduced. After the Vice story went out, however, Verkada fired the three employees in question. Coinbase is looking for a head of D&I Coinbase is on the hunt for a director of belonging, inclusion and diversity. It’s worth noting Coinbase previously had a head of D&I, Tariq Meyers, but he began focusing on an employee support task force role as a result of COVID-19 in April, according to his LinkedIn page. Meyers later left the company in August, which was before Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong took a stance about not speaking out about social issues. That stance led to 5% of Coinbase’s employees opting to take a severance package to leave the company. Two of those employees were Coinbase Global Head of Marketing, John Russ and Coinbase VP Dan Yoo. “We believe that it’s possible to be 100% committed to an inclusive workplace that values diversity where everyone is safe and belongs (and as part of that, working to root out and eliminate any intolerance or bias that exists at the company), and simultaneously maintain laser focus on our mission,” the job posting states. “To this end, we have made a public stance that Coinbase won’t issue external statements on topics beyond the scope of our mission of building a more open financial system and expanding economic freedom, while also redoubling our commitment to making the company an amazing place to work for all employees, regardless of background.” Precursor VC promotes Sydney Thomas to Principal Image Credits: Precursor Ventures Sydney Thomas, who started her career at Precursor Ventures as an intern, was promoted to Principal. That means she’s able to deploy capital to startups on behalf of the fund. “This is a promotion that has been earned through hard work, aptitude and a clear demonstration that Sydney embodies all of the values we hold dear here at Precursor,” the firm wrote in a blog […]