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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for January 12, 2022! Today we have to talk about things both serious and less serious. So we’re going to look at global venture capital results for 2021, and Wordle. A delayed IPO, and the fact that a panda-themed startup is now a unicorn. You get the idea. Let’s go! – Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
- 2021 was a venture capital year par excellence: Data indicate that 2021 was easily the biggest year of all time for venture capital and related private-market investing. TechCrunch dug into the major figures for the world, select geographies, and both the fintech and cybersecurity markets. Yes, you know that last year was a bit bonkers on the capital front. But we doubt you know just how bonkers.
- Checkout.com raises $1B at a $40B valuation: Today’s mega-round of choice is one of the largest and most expensive in valuation terms that we can recall. And given that Checkout.com was worth $15 billion a year ago, the company has posted one of the fastest gains in paper value that we can recall. The lesson here is that the payments space is hot and not entirely owned by Stripe.
- Justworks delays its IPO, which bodes poorly for unicorn exits: While venture capitalists were busy putting more money to work last year than ever before — and 2022 is kicking off in a similar manner, as the Checkout.com news shows — an IPO just got put on hold. Why? Justworks cited market conditions. For unicorns hoping to find an exit this year, the Justworks news is sub-good.
What is a startup? It’s a question that TechCrunch has poked at from time to time (and that I have also wrangled with across the internet). But sometimes we care about tech products that are not startups. Wordle, the popular word game, is perhaps an example of the concept. As it is more website than company, its huge audience gains – TechCrunch has the key interview with the Wordle founder here – are not showering Wordle’s creator with all the benefits of its success. Owen Williams argues for our pages that the service is “being punished by app stores for choosing the open web.”
If you have yet to Wordle, are you even in tech?
Moving along, Public has appointed new indie board members after seeing its funded account tally soar 700% last year. The Robinhood competitor decided to eschew payment for order flow last year, a key revenue driver for its well-known rival. TechCrunch is curious what’s ahead for the company on the revenue side of things now that Public has reached material user scale.
And before we get into the day’s digest of funding events, Dorm Room Fund is raising a new, larger fund according to the keen eyes of our own Natasha Mascarenhas, and Headspace has acquired an AI-powered mental health startup.
Now, the rounds:
- DeepScribe raises $30M for medically focused transcription: Doctors have to be medical providers and paperwork machines if they want to leave work on time. DeepScribe is betting that applying a little tech to the matter will help. The startup provides “ambient voice AI technology that summarizes natural patient-physician conversations,” TechCrunch writes. Neat!
- Helping governments build digital IDs is big business: That appears to be the lesson from Merit’s new round. The startup just raised $50 million – bringing its capital base to $80 million in total – to help governments get past plastic cards and into the digital realm. Of course we have privacy worries about the concept, but at the same time, the fact that if someone steals my Social Security card it could be big trouble is some 1800s nonsense.
- SeekOut lands $115M to help companies hire from a broader candidate pool: Gone are the days when you could hire a team of all white dudes and not get a few questions about your biases. So even the least-enlightened companies want to do better. SeekOut may be of assistance. The startup, TechCrunch writes, “aims to help enterprises hire from a more diverse talent pool.” And Tiger Global just doubled down on the startup with another big check. One to watch.
- Pluang raises more capital to help Indonesians invest: Using fintech services to help make investing more accessible to the less wealthy has been the goal of a number of startups. Pluang is one such company, offering its users an array of possible assets that they can buy into for small amounts. And it just landed $55 million in a round led by Accel. (The notable fact here is that Robinhood’s share price erosion post-IPO is not halting investments into private companies that could be considered comps.)
- What do you call a behorned panda? Turns out the answer to that question is BigPanda, a startup that just raised $190 million at a $1.2 billion valuation. Based on a read of the company’s materials, it uses AI to parse information coming from IT systems, and also helps automate rote tasks.
We have even more rounds on TechCrunch for your enjoyment, including $40 million for Ecommerce Brands, $115 million for TravelPerk, and $15.6 million for Superchat. If you want to know how these deals are being vetted, the Equity team has you covered.
Blockchain gaming survey: 7 investors discuss regulation, opportunities and NFT hype
Game distribution platform Steam banned blockchain-based games in October 2021: Any titles that incorporate NFTs or cryptocurrency were summarily booted from the service.
Meanwhile, within Axie Infinity, an NFT-based online game, new players are paying hundreds of dollars to acquire mythical pets and love potions.
Blockchain gaming is making inroads with some consumers, but given the lack of regulatory guidance and the speculative nature of many crypto holdings, what do investors think?
To find out, we surveyed seven investors who are active in the space:
Anton Backman, principal, and Kenrick Drijkoningen, general partner, Play Ventures
Banafsheh Fathieh, head of investments, Americas, Prosus Ventures
Josh Chapman, managing partner, Konvoy Ventures
Eddie Thai, general partner, 500 Startups and general partner, Ascend Vietnam Ventures
Beryl Li, co-founder, Yield Guild Games
Rajul Garg, founder and managing partner, Leo Capital
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
- Apple patches iOS in wake of HomeKit flaw: Updated iOS builds for iPhone and iPad will “patch the so-called ‘doorLock’ flaw, which was disclosed earlier this month by security researcher Trevor Spiniolas,” TechCrunch reports.
- PC shipments soar: If you bought a new PC last year, you were far from the only person to do so. TechCrunch has the latest on 2021’s PC shipment figures, and if you own Apple or Microsoft stock, the news is Not Bad.
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