No One Agrees On Coffee Or Series A Rounds

… constant deals we read about, Gené Teare interviewed NFX’s co-founder James Currier, and I chatted with Alex Marshall from First Round Capital.

Welcome to the Crunchbase News Weekend Update. An email form of this post went out Saturday morning. Happy reading!

Hot takes feel lukewarm these days. I’d wager that if we spent less time arguing about cold brew versus iced coffee, that same energy could be pivoted to shed light on more pressing topics.

Complacency about caffeine is not a sin, people.

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For example, we wrote about how Webflow raised a $72 million Series A this week. A debate followed on whether it was fair to compare Webflow to other companies that have raised outsized Series As. In this case, it felt helpful to use a take to clarify how Crunchbase News thinks about the ever-changing definition of this round.

Plus, it sets the scene for the next section I want to get into: the funding rounds we covered this week.

Starting big, Ibotta, an in-app coupon company, raised a nine-figure Series D. It’s the only tech unicorn in Colorado right now. Another company worth around $1 billion dollars, Cybereason, raised $200 million led by Softbank (We covered SoftBank’s earnings as well, so head here to learn about how the Vision Fund is doing).

While SoftBank’s name pops up in some of the biggest deals we see, reporting on smaller news gives us the best ins for big trends. For example, when Airbnb acquired another company, we looked at the broader travel startup market. Or as Lyft and Uber reported their Q2 performance, we asked what it meant for other ride-hailing companies. We also got into the cannabis market with LeafLink’s $35 million raise, and how Smart News is joining a friend group of Chinese-news focused unicorns. For quirkier hits, check out Last Week In Venture.

Beyond breaking news, Jason took us through a growing trend of hypergiant rounds, which are private financing totals of $250 million or more. We also took a look at two different geographic regions: Mary Ann’s look at a lukewarm Texas VC scene, and my inaugural column on Boston, which had its slowest July in VC funding since 2014.

Finally, to better learn about the people behind the constant deals we read about, Gené Teare interviewed NFX’s co-founder James Currier, and I chatted with Alex Marshall from First Round Capital. Learn about why one thinks Buzzfeed is dead, and why the other can’t handle hearing about crypto.

Until next week,


Illustration: Li-Anne Dias.

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My theory for why Roger Ver was trolled on Twitter… and deserved it

Bitcoin Cash has reported a YTD return of 120.70% but failed to advance its ecosystem. With a lack of technological advancement, it becomes difficult …

It was a regular day on Crypto Twitter- Justin Sun made an announcement, Bitcoin community was hoping for the price to shoot up, whales were trying to manipulate the market, and then I saw a tweet from Roger Ver, Bitcoin Cash proponent, that made me cringe and say “What?!!!”.

Ver took to Twitter:

“My theory for why @jack is so irrationally hot for #LightningNetwork is because he has / had a romantic relationship with @starkness, the CEO of @lightning”

Being a part of the Crypto-Twitter is generally entertaining but this so-called “theory” coming from the lips (or in this case fingers) of a prominent CEO about his tiff with Jack Dorsey, Twitter and Square CEO crossed a line when he dragged the Lightning Labs CEO, Elizabeth Stark into it. An academician turned technology geek, Stark is the co-founder of Lightning Labs and an active participant of the Bitcoin community.

Even though she is consumed with her work related to crypto and advocating the implementation of better government policies around it, Stark is a visiting fellow at Yale’s Information Society project while also teaching at the University. Her experience in the field has left many inspired and has been noted in many scholarly articles.

However, Ver seems to have conveniently forgotten all about her credentials it as he sulks at Dorsey for not listing his pet coin, BCH on Square. Bitcoin Cash has reported a YTD return of 120.70% but failed to advance its ecosystem. With a lack of technological advancement, it becomes difficult for any coin to stay relevant and gain major adoption, but with Ver’s attitude towards the whole thing might cost BCH in the long term.

This bitterness is Ver’s behavior was observed by Jameson Lopp, the CTO of CasaHodl and he proposed a counter-theory to Ver’s:

“My theory for why you’re spreading this “theory” is that you’re desperate.”

Crypto-twitter and Reddit trolled Ver and his unnecessary tweet. This is exactly what Reddit needed to create a string of “My theory for why Roger Ver…” jokes.

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The lesson from Elon Musk’s ‘funding secured’ mess is to never tweet

Never tweet. It’s a simple rule that you, me, and everyone who uses the hellish but seemingly indispensable social media platform should follow — if …

Never tweet. It’s a simple rule that you, me, and everyone who uses the hellish but seemingly indispensable social media platform should follow — if not exactly by the letter, then certainly in spirit. And there’s perhaps no greater example of that truism than the tweet sent one year ago today by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

“Am considering taking Tesla private at $420,” he tweeted on August 7th, 2018. “Funding secured.” Those few words — the last two specifically — created an entirely new fire for Musk to put out at a time when he was already mired in the self-described “hell” of Model 3 production. He did not, as it turned out, have any funding secured to do such a thing.

Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 7, 2018

Without rehashing the entire experience, which we documented in detailoverthelastyear, here are some of the direct consequences of that decision to answer Twitter’s eternal prompt of “What’s Happening?”

  • Forced out as Tesla chairman.
  • Paid a $20 million fine.
  • Tesla paid a $20 million fine.
  • Musk bought $20 million in Tesla stock to essentially make up for the fine.
  • Appointed two new independent directors to the company’s board.
  • Agreed to have his tweets reviewed by Tesla’s in-house counsel.

That last point is especially relevant because, in February, the SEC tried to hold Musk in contempt for violating that part of the settlement. This kicked off another stage of the battle, one that very publicly played out in court over the course of a few months. In the end, the two sides agreed to amend the settlement to be more specific about what Musk can and can’t tweet without approval — language he might have just violated again.

In this modern age, bad tweets abound. They’re met with ratios or reported to Twitter itself, and are often, ultimately, deleted. You don’t usually see such concrete evidence of how bad a tweet can break, though. Millions of dollars, months of headaches and distractions, and a proverbial door that the money cops can walk through every time they think Musk might have tweeted something that harms his company’s shareholders.

To be fair (I guess?) to Musk, these are the kinds of consequences he was trying to avoid by taking the company private! And for what it’s worth, the fact that he didn’t have “funding secured” from Saudi Arabia meant he ultimately avoided what certainly would have been immense scrutiny from… well, everyone, following the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Saudi Arabia does still own about 5 percent of Tesla’s stock that it bought on public markets, though it hedged that position earlier this year.) But if you’re going to announce that you have lined up Saudi Arabian cash to take your multibillion-dollar company private in the middle of the trading day, you should probably resist the siren song of tweeting, put down the phone, and wait until that money actually exists.

Which brings me back to my original point: “never tweet.” Again, I believe fully in the spirit of this rule as opposed to the letter of it, and often use it as a mantra to back myself off of any Twitter ledge I find myself on. I still tweet (sometimes a lot!). But more often than not, I think of the proverbial bullet Musk took, and do a survey of the resulting damage, tap “Cancel” and then “Delete.” As much as I love Twitter, we’d all probably be better off putting a bit of distance between it and our synapses anyway. Or, at the very least, burying it in our drafts while we cool off. We all might not have the fate of a massive company riding on the things that we publish on the platform, but if Musk’s messy year is good for anything, it’s reminding us how quickly things can get out of hand.

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Ex-Twitter execs secure $134M in new VC fund

While funding slipped in the first quarter of 2019, the number of deals ticked up 4% quarter-over-quarter, according to CB Insights Global Fintech …

Two former social media executives have been working on moving from the boardroom to fintech.

Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and ex-COO Adam Bain teamed up to launch a consulting and investment firm, called 01 Advisors, and are quickly raising venture capital for future investments. The inaugural fund, called 01 Advisors 01, secured $134.7 million this week and is aiming for a total of $200 million, according to SEC filings. The news was first reported by Axios.

The duo has been active in venture capital investing since departing the social media giant. After leaving Twitter in 2015, Costolo joined the investment firm Index Ventures as a partner. Bain also left Twitter in 2015 and invested in companies like Reddit, Tonal and Lyric, according to LinkedIn.

A spokeswoman for 01 Advisors declined to comment.

Former Twitter investor relations executive David Rivinus is also a partner at 01 Advisors, according to a LinkedIn profile, although he is not listed in the SEC filings.

Costolo and Bain wouldn’t be the first prominent wealth management CEO to make the jump to the venture space. Former LPL CEO Mark Casady and his business partner David Blundin invested $5 million in Vestigo Ventures, a fund that invests in wealth management startups, especially those focused on blockchain and big data.

Vestigo, which closed at $60 million in 2018, has invested in a handful of companies so far, including LifeYield, Digital Assets Data and Vestmark, according to company data.

While it is not immediately clear which sectors the 01 Advisor fund will focus on, it will certainly enter a crowded marketplace. Venture capital funding for fintechs got off to a hot start this year, with early-stage companies raising millions of dollars in late March and April. While funding slipped in the first quarter of 2019, the number of deals ticked up 4% quarter-over-quarter, according to CB Insights Global Fintech report.

Sean Allocca

Sean Allocca is an associate editor of Financial Planning, On Wall Street and Bank Investment Consultant. Follow him on Twitter at @sjallocca.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.

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Inside the Growing Tech Battle for India’s Consumers—Data Sheet

… of 2019, India eclipsed China as the top market in Asia for venture capital-backed fintech funding, according to market research group CB Insights.

This is the web version of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.

A few weeks ago, in this space, I noted that GGV Capital’s Hans Tung, one of the smartest China tech investors I know, was hunting for unicorns in India. Today, I find myself in New Delhi and catching up on a smart piece in this weekend’s Financial Times in which Nandan Nilekani—one of the smartest India tech investors I know—says he, too, sees huge opportunities here in the world’s second-most populous nation.

As many Data Sheet readers will know, Nandan is a pioneer of India’s 1980s tech revolution. He co-founded software giant Infosys, which he led for five years as CEO. Later Nandan joined the Indian government to launch its ambitious effort to create the world’s largest biometric identity program. Now, as the FT notes, he heads a government drive to bolster the nation’s online payments.

Nandan has been a generous mentor to Western business writers over the years. He helped me get my bearings when I first started visiting India for Fortune in the early 2000s and he famously supplied the title for Tom Friedman’s best-seller, The World is Flat.

So when Nandan speaks, I’m all ears. And what he tells the FT is that India has become “ground zero” in a global battle for dominance in digital payments.

Investors from the United States, Japan, and China are pumping billions into the sector. The early leader is Paytm, backed by SoftBank and Alibaba Group. But PhonePe, a four-year old venture acquired by Walmart, is catching up fast. Google, Amazon, and Facebook’s WhatsApp, are also jockeying for position alongside a gaggle of other start-ups, including Freecharge, Mobikwik, Citrus, and BharatPe.

India’s booming tech sector is a fascinating battleground. Investors from the United States and China go at it head-to-head, even as they find themselves increasingly shut out of each other’s home markets. In the first quarter of 2019, India eclipsed China as the top market in Asia for venture capital-backed fintech funding, according to market research group CB Insights.

But there are a lot of frenemies and the alliances can be bewildering. For example, Alibaba’s arch-rival Tencent Holdings has invested over $2 billion in Indian startups so far, including Flipkart (which Walmart paid $16 billion to gain control of last year). And Ola, a ride-sharing platform backed by SoftBank, faces as its main competitor in India Uber, another SoftBank investment. Walmart recently announced Flipkart will roll out free video service to compete with Amazon’s Indian unit.

The committee on online payments Nandan leads recently estimated that about 100 million Indian consumers now use digital payments at least once a month. The panel predicted that number will triple by 2021.

McKinsey, in a recent report, found that India has 560 million internet subscribers, second only to China, and that Indian Internet subscribers spend more time on social media—an average of 17 hours a week—than social media users in China or the United States. The consultancy, after surveying 17 major emerging and developed economies across 30 different dimensions of Internet use, concluded that India, with its 1.2 billion people, is digitizing faster than any other market in the world save Indonesia.

Sounds like a pretty fertile unicorn habitat to me.

Clay Chandler

On Twitter: @ claychandler



I have a really bad feeling about this. At Walt Disney, there were earnings to digest in its first full quarter since taking on assets from Fox. The results disappointed due to low theme park attendance (Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was a bit of a bust). But the big headline was the disclosure of the price for Disney’s new Internet video bundle. The company will charge $13 per month for the combined Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu (with ads) services. Disney shares, which had risen 30% so far this year, were off 4% in premarket trading on Wednesday. Longtime cable analyst Michael Nathanson felt the urge to cite Avril Lavigne to explain the report: “Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?”

Either I’m going to kill her or I’m beginning to like her. Speaking of payments, Mastercard is making the biggest acquisition in its history, agreeing to pay $3.2 billion for the real-time payments business of Denmark’s Nets Group. The business facilitates transfers between bank accounts and “we want to be a one-stop shop for all payments,” Mastercard chief product officer Michael Miebach tells the FT.

It’s not wise to upset a Wookiee. Elsewhere on Wall Street, Tinder owner MatchGroupreported quarterly revenue rose 18% to $498 million, as 9.1 million subscribers used its apps, also up 18%. Match shares gained 17% on Wednesday. But as Eric Jhonsa, technology columnist for The Street, pointed out on Twitter, the more interesting revelation is that Match’s stock price has gained more than 150% since the panicked sell-off last fall when Facebook started a dating service.

Never tell me the odds. For years, Yelp has led the charge againstGoogle, claiming that the search giant was improperly discriminating against it or scraping data or doing other nefarious things. Now it turns out Yelp is screwing around. The company has replaced the phone numbers of some restaurants listed in its app when users order take out, so that the calls go via Grubhub and Yelp collects a referral fee of 15% to 20% per order, according to an investigation by Vice. The fees charged back to restaurants are sometimes inaccurate, Vice found.

Don’t everybody thank me at once. Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and former Twitter COO Adam Bain have created an investment and advisory firm called 01 Advisors, Axios reports. The pair have raised $135 million from investors as they seek total backing of $200 million.

You like me because I’m a scoundrel. Two men in Pakistan paid AT&T employees over $1 million in bribes to install malware on the telecom giant’s systems in order to be able to “unlock” cellphones. The conspirators then used their unauthorized access to sell phone unlocking service to AT&T consumers. Muhammad Fahd was extradited from Hong Kong to face the charges, the Justice Department said on Tuesday. His co-conspirator, Ghulam Jiwani, is believed to be deceased. In completely unrelated AT&T news, the carrier turned on its business-customer-only 5G network in parts of New York City, marking its 21st 5G region.

She’s fast enough for you, old man. Thousands of travelers were stranded on Wednesday morning when two computer systems at British Airways went down. Software running online check-ins and a separate system running flight departures were said to have crashed.

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Google’s hardware has a come a long way since the first-ever Android phone, made by HTC, came out in 2008. Nowadays, the devices are cooler and less brick-shaped. Head of hardware design Ivy Ross oversees a team of about 150 at the company’s Design Lab in Mountain View, Calif. Mark Wilson got the full tour for a story at Fast Company. It’s a purposely cool space filled with inspirations, Wilson reports:

In other instances, the lab is set up so designers can window-shop. The second story walkway around the atrium feels something like a high-end mall. On one side, I see a glass wall to the color lab. On the other side, a glass wall to the material lab. The color lab features an ever-changing array of objects, collected by Google hardware designers on their travels. It’s a hodgepodge of items that seems less about color than what I might call a vibe. I see a paper radish, a green stack of stones, and an ivory jewelry box—all evoking a certain handmade minimalism. The display is the best reminder of a simple fact of Google’s hardware design team. Just 25% to 40% of the group has ever designed electronics before. The rest designed everything from clothing to bicycles in a previous life.


Security Researchers Find ‘Worst Case Scenario’ in LeapFrog Kids TabletBy Alyssa Newcomb

Apple Is Letting People Apply for Its Credit Card. Can Its Rewards Spur New iPhone Sales?By Xavier Harding

Former Tinder Exec Sues Former CEO for Sexual AssaultBy Chris Morris

Apple’s AirPods Business Is Bigger Than You ThinkBy Don Reisinger

Viacom Buys Garfield in Big, Fat, Hairy DealBy Chris Morris


I’m not sure how I feel about the rapid proliferation of fake meat, but there’s no denying its growing popularity. The latest to join the bandwagon is fast food sandwich chain Subway, which will start selling a meatless version of its iconic meatball sub using Beyond Meat’s meat substitute next month. Munch on, sub sandwich devotees.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.

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