YC grad QuotaBook raises $11M to scale its equity management platform

QuotaBook claims that it has more than 3,500 startups and investor users on its platform, largely based in South Korea, where the company started. About 40% of startups in Korea use QuotaBook’s service that provides cap table management, according to Choi. In June, it launched a restricted stock units (RSU) management service.

Its SaaS-based platform offers two services

QuotaBook, a Seoul-based equity management platform, has raised $11 million in funding led by Elefund, with participation from Access Ventures, Hana Securities and South Korean fintech company Viva Republica. Some of its previous backers, including Draper Associates and Capstone Partners, joined the round.

The Korean startup, which graduated from Y Combinator (YC)’s Winter 21 batch, was founded by former venture capitalists Andy Choi, Dan Hong and Pilseon Jun, in 2019. Choi, the company’s CEO, said in an interview with TechCrunch that in their capacity as investors, the three noticed that in Korea and many other Asian countries, startups were still relying on Excel when managing their cap tables, stock options, stakeholder and other related information.

That meant the startups’ backers were forced to make sense of these spreadsheets, too. “VCs were stuck with Excel sheets or very old enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools, so old that they are not web-based and can be installed only on Windows machines,” Choi said. “It created a very annoying and error-prone process where startups and investors were regularly exchanging crucial equity data and corporate info via document attachments or text messages.”

Everyone was typing in the data manually because investors and startups had different formats and had to run double checks from each side again, Choi told TechCrunch.

“I had a case where the startup didn’t provide their most up-to-date cap table Excel sheet for more than two months, which made it hard for us to update our investment valuations and returns that were needed to be reported to our LPs,” Choi said.

QuotaBook will use the latest funding — which brings its total raised to approximately $20 million — to digitize the equity/fund management process, providing a common standard for security-related data, and making it possible to safely host shareholder and board meetings online. Additionally, the startup plans to scale out its product team, enter Southeast Asia and launch its service for investors in the Middle East, Choi noted. “The [Asian] market is still very young, so we also want to set up local offices or teams in the regions like Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan.”

Currently, the outfit employs 45 people, Choi added.

Image Credits: QuotaBook

QuotaBook claims that it has more than 3,500 startups and investor users on its platform, largely based in South Korea, where the company started. About 40% of startups in Korea use QuotaBook’s service that provides cap table management, according to Choi. In June, it launched a restricted stock units (RSU) management service.

Its SaaS-based platform offers two servicesan equity management service for startups, which includes cap table management, stock option management, investor reporting, investor consents, shareholder and board meetings, and a fund management platform for investors, which provides fund info, investment and returns management, portfolio management, LP commitment and returns management, LP reporting and fund activity analytics.

Its startup users start with a freemium plan. If they upgrade to a plan with more …read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/yc-grad-quotabook-closes-11m-to-scale-its-equity-management-platform/

The venture slowdown finally hit early-stage valuations, PitchBook data shows

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Ever since technology stocks began getting repriced in late 2021, we kept hearing that the correction would eventually trickle down to private startups.

Each quarter brought its share of answers on how the venture capital slowdown would shape up. Would it impact late-stage deals first? Yes. Would it ever reach the angel and seed stage? Maybe not.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money.

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It didn’t take long for a trend to emerge: Last quarter, we reported that the venture slowdown was impacting fundraising for startups of every size and sector. And we also noted that round sizes from the Series A to C stages in the United States were in decline.

Our conclusions were based on early data from Carta on Q1 2022 activity through its ownership management platform. As such, it was a good proxy for overall investing into startups in the first three months of the year — and the tendency was confirmed when the platform released a fuller roundup that we analyzed a couple of weeks later.

…read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/the-venture-slowdown-finally-hit-early-stage-valuations-pitchbook-data-shows/

American Airlines to buy 20 jets from Boom Supersonic

American Airlines will buy up to 20 jets from Boom Supersonic, an aircraft maker that aims to commercialize supersonic, and super-fast, flight.

Boom’s Overture four-engine jets promise speeds of up to Mach 1.7 over water, which is twice the speed of today’s fastest commercial aircraft — meaning the jet can fly from Miami to London in just under five hours, rather than the standard nine hours.

About a year ago, United Airlines also agreed to purchase some 15 Boom jets, and in 2016, Virgin Atlantic partnered with Boom to build and test planes in an attempt to make the historically expensive flights more affordable.

With the American Airlines deal in hand, Boom has an order of 130 planes to fill, including options — American has an option to purchase 40 more of the jets — valued at about $26 billion, Reuters reports. Boom’s Overture jets, which can carry 65 to 80 passengers, are expected to start coming off Boom’s Greensboro, North Carolina, production line in 2025, followed by test flights in 2026. Boom expects its jets to carry their first passengers in 2029, but Boom has already been delayed in conducting test flights for its other jet, the XB-1, so delivery for the Overture might also be delayed.

Boom’s jets, while incredibly fast, are not as fast as the legendary Concorde’s, which flew at a speed of Mach 2.04. The Concorde, which made its first supersonic flight in 1976 from New York City to London in three hours, was in the skies until 2003, when the Concorde made its last commercial flight, due to a number of issues with the jets. For one, the flights were expensive to operate and used too much fuel, meaning they would cost thousands of dollars for a ticket. Concorde jets were also incredibly loud due to their “sonic booms” — so loud, in fact, that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned overland supersonic commercial flights.

Boom’s Overture will fly over land at a rate that’s about 20% faster than subsonic flights, but not as fast as it will on the over 600 mostly transoceanic routes to which Overture will be best suited.

In January last year, the FAA issued new final rules to pave the way for reintroduction of supersonic commercial flight. Besides Boom, other companies are exploring ways to bring this tech back to life. Virgin Galactic teamed up with Rolls-Royce in 2020 to develop a supersonic jet, and NASA and Lockheed Martin are also looking to design a jet that could break the sound barrier with a quieter sonic boom.

Boom told TechCrunch the Overture has noise-reducing features like engine updates and an automated noise-reduction system that will ensure supersonic takeoff is no louder than today’s subsonic jets and that meets the noise levels required by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

American Airlines and Boom haven’t come out with a ballpark for ticket prices yet, …read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/american-airlines-to-buy-20-jets-from-boom-supersonic/

The Roku Channel adds 14 linear channels, expanding its local news offering

Roku announced today that it added 14 new linear channels through its Live TV Guide on its free streaming hub, The Roku Channel, including several new local news streams. Viewers can now access three NBC local news channels, San Diego, Boston and San Francisco Bay Area, as well as LX News, a news network by NBCUniversal Local that is targeted toward adults aged 18 to 45.

According to TVREV, news is a top category that attracts viewers in the free ad-supporting streaming landscape. After experiencing slow growth in active accounts in the first and second quarters of 2022, Roku has been eager to prove its worth to investors and consumers.

“We’re thrilled to further expand our NBCUniversal Local news channels lineup to provide streamers across the country with access to valuable local news coverage through The Roku Channel,” Ashley Hovey, head of The Roku Channel advertising-based video on demand (AVOD), said in a statement. “Since launching our local news category earlier this summer, we have seen users come to The Roku Channel to engage with this programming category in a meaningful way. We’re proud to offer a convenient way for millions of streamers to stay informed on important local topics and current events.”

In June, Roku launched eight NBC Local news channels, the first time that local news appeared on The Roku Channel. In addition to the news channels that Roku added today, other NBC local news channels available on the streaming service include NBC New York News, NBC Los Angeles News, NBC Chicago News, NBC Philadelphia News, NBC Dallas/Fort Worth News, NBC Washington, D.C. News, NBC South Florida News and NBC Connecticut News.

Other than news, The Roku Channel also added new channels in various genres like Westerns, Spanish-language entertainment, true crime and more. The remaining lineup of new linear channels includes the Ion Channel, which will feature episodes from “NCIS,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Law & Order: SVU” and other well-known series; Roku Channel Westerns, which will give viewers classic Western titles like “Apache Junction,” “The Westerner,” and “The Rebel;” Cine EstrellaTV, a new Spanish-language channel available through The Roku Channel’s dedicated Espacio Latino hub; other channels inluce BBC Kids, BOUNCE XL, Cheaters, Court TV, Grit Xtra, Ion Mystery and Ion Plus.

…read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/the-roku-channel-adds-14-linear-channels-expanding-its-local-news-offering/

Google makes robots smarter by teaching them about their limitations

Robot playing table tennis

If you’ve used a smart voice assistant such as Alexa, Siri and whatever-Google’s-smart-assistant-is-called, you’ll probably have noticed that the tech is getting smarter every day. Google can wait on hold for you, Siri can speak in a gender-neutral voice and Alexa can read you bedtime stories in your dead grandmother’s voice. Robotics is evolving in leaps and bounds as well, as we explored in our Robotics event last month. The gap between the two — voice commands and autonomous robotics — has been vast, for a number of reasons. Last week, we went to Google’s robotics labs in Mountain View to see how that’s set to change in the near future.

Teaching robots what to do for repetitive tasks in controlled spaces where humans aren’t allowed isn’t easy, but it’s more or less a solved problem. Rivian’s recent factory tour was a great reminder of that, but the use of industrial robotics is everywhere in manufacturing.

General-purpose robots that are able to solve lots of different tasks based on voice commands in spaces where humans also exist, is a lot harder. You might say, “But what about Roomba,” but everyone’s favorite robo-vacuum is generally programmed to avoid touching things other than the floor, and whatever’s on the floor — much to some owners’ chagrin.

Table tennis is a game where the robot can easily self-determine whether a task was successful and learn from its mistakes. Here, one of the robotics researchers at Google is taking a break, showing the robot what’s what. Image Credits: Haje Kamps (opens in a new window) / TechCrunch(opens in a new window)

“You may wonder why ping-pong. One of the big challenges in robotics today is this intersection of being fast, precise and adaptive. You can be fast and not adaptive at all; that’s not a problem. That’s fine in an industrial setting. But being fast and adaptive and precise is a really big challenge. Ping-pong is a really nice microcosm of the problem. It requires precision and speed. You can learn from people playing: it’s a skill that people develop by practicing,” Vincent Vanhoucke, Distinguished Scientist and head of robotics at Google Research told me. “It’s not a skill where you can read the rules and become a champion overnight. You have to really practice it.”

Speed and precision is one thing, but the nut Google is really trying to crack in its robotic labs, is the intersection between human language and robotics. It is making some impressive leaps in the level of robotic understanding natural language that a human might use. “When you have a minute, could you grab me a drink from the counter?” is a pretty straightforward request that you might ask a human. To a machine, however, that statement wraps a lot of knowledge and understanding into a seemingly single question. Let’s break it down: “When you have a minute” could mean nothing at all, just meant …read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/google-robotics/

Hong Kong’s Crackdown on Dissent Hits Facebook Pages

Several pages that were used to share anonymous comments about government and educational institutions have shut down, following the arrest of two men on suspicion of sedition. …read more

https://www.wsj.com/articles/hong-kongs-crackdown-on-dissent-hits-facebook-pages-11660645491?mod=rss_Technology

From ‘literally zero’ experience to $100M, this VC is raising his second climate tech seed fund

If you ask me, climate tech investor Contrarian Ventures isn’t so contrarian anymore.

The five-year-old firm is targeting $100 million for its second seed-stage fund, and it’s doing so smack in the middle of a climate-tech dealmaking boom. So, if anything, it’s trendy.

But when the seed-stage VC — a backer of e-bike maker Zoomo and solar data firm PVcase — debuted with a $13.6 million fund in 2017, its focus was “obviously contrarian,” founding partner Rokas Peciulaitis told TechCrunch, as the “industries in vogue at the time were AI and Fintech.”

The launch also marked an unexpected pivot for Peciulaitis, who says he dove into the scene with “literally zero climate tech sector experience.” He’d recently left an inflation-trading job at Bank of America, where the work was “not fulfilling in the slightest,” Peciulaitis said in a nod to the bank’s reputation as a major funder of fossil fuels.

In 2017, PitchBook recorded 578 climate tech deals globally, altogether worth $12.5 billion. The sector has since tripled in size, as climate change–driven extreme weather events occupy evermore space in our collective consciousness. To that point: PitchBook tracked 1,130 climate tech deals globally in 2021, topping $44.8 billion in value. Climate tech is cool now, but Peciulaitis’s Lithuania-based venture firm is sticking with its name anyways.

Like any venture capital firm, Contrarian says that it stands out through its emphasis on “developing excellent relationships with founders.” Materially, the firm invests in tech that could help decarbonize transportation, industrial processes, energy and buildings.

Contrarian has completed 21 deals to date, and this year it expanded beyond Lithuania with new partners in Berlin and London. The firm backs emerging startups in Europe as well as Israel, but nowhere else in the Middle East. Currently, the firm does not invest in agriculture-related tech, though the category has a significant carbon footprint of its own.

In an email, Contrarian said it counts London-based tech VC Molten Ventures among its limited partners. The firm declined to share a full list of its LPs, but stated that none of them were fossil fuel companies.

…read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/european-climate-vc-contrarian-targets-100-million-seed-fund/

Daily Crunch: 7 months after emerging from stealth, YC alum Arc secures $20M Series A

Most web3 startups are in the same leaky boat: They haven’t reached product-market fit, hiring technical talent is difficult at best, and many of the same investors who were eager to take their calls a year ago are ghosting them today.

Thirsty travelers who know where to look can still find water, however, according to Jenny Q. Ta, CEO of GalaxE.

In a TC+ guest post, she offers suggestions for approaching angels, accelerators and traditional VCs, along with some thoughts that may help web3 entrepreneurs level-set.

“Don’t let anxiety call the shots. This too shall pass, but don’t waste the moment.”

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

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May you find love, peace, harmony, and a CAC/LTV arbitration ratio beyond your wildest dreams.  — Christine and Haje

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • New way to save for a rainy day: Banking for startups, SaaS startups to be exact, is popular, and Mary Ann brings us the story of Arc, a W22 Y Combinator grad, which landed $20 million in Series A capital for its approach to borrowing, saving and spending. She writes that Arc is offering a way “to convert future revenue into upfront capital.” And startups are on board. Since emerging from stealth earlier this year, the company now boasts over 1,000 customers.
  • One Meta, two Meta, three Meta: Horizon Worlds, Meta’s social platform for virtual reality, is saying “Bonjour” and “Buenos días” to France and Spain, respectively, Ivan reports. Meta was also busy today rolling out new Reels features on Instagram and Facebook, Aisha writes, and the company is partnering with DoorDash to test delivery of Facebook Marketplace items, Lauren reports.
  • As seen on Shopify: If you’re a creator looking to partner with independent businesses and make some extra cash, or a merchant looking for a new sales and marketing channel, Shopify’s new “Shopify Collabs” offering will oblige, Aisha writes.

Startups and VC

Some folks have asked themselves how Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, lost investors $1 billion and is facing prison time, while Adam Neumann, who founded WeWork, lost $11 billion, but then went on to raise $350 million for his newest startup. The answer is pretty clear — Neumann, despite burning 10x more money, wasn’t convicted of fraud. Natasha M and Anita take a closer look at how the tech industry is reacting to Adam Neumann’s a16z-backed return to real estate. Also, this made us titter with amusement.

Apropos Natasha M — the Equity team put together an omnibus collection of six conversations that bring nuance to tech’s layoff wave. It’s a great reminder of both a bunch of lovely episodes of Equity and a bunch of ways of thinking about layoffs in a macroeconomic context.

Okay, fine, here’s a few more:

SAIC Mobility Robotaxi valued at $1B after $148M Series B

SAIC Mobility Robotaxi, an arm of state-owned Chinese automaker SAIC that aims to launch a commercial robotaxi service, raised $148 million (RMB 1 billion). The funds will be used to scale its robotaxi service in China, which it will operate in partnership with autonomous vehicle company Momenta.

SAIC Group led the Series B round that also saw participation from Momenta, Gaoheng Management Consulting and other institutions. The funding brought SAIC Mobility’s total valuation to more than $1 billion, according to the company.

The company’s robotaxis are powered using Momenta’s “Flywheel L4” technology, which is designed to use deep learning rather than a rules-based, machine learning approach. Momenta contends that the technology allows the robotaxis to quickly iterate and improve its algorithms.

The funding comes eight months after the two companies launched two 100-day trials in the cities of Shanghai and Suzhou. The pilot, which launched in December, tested a fleet of 60 vehicles, all of which had a safety driver behind the wheel at all times. SAIC says it reached a daily order volume of about 20 rides per vehicle and that its overall user satisfaction rate was 98%. About 80% of riders used the service two or more times after their initial experience, according to the companies.

The next step is to advance SAIC’s trial in Shanghai and Suzhou into a service as SAIC Mobility gears up for eventual commercialization. Local regulations don’t support commercialization, and SAIC wants to be ready when new regulations are released early next year, according to a SAIC spokesperson.

With Momenta on its side, SAIC Mobility has a good chance of scoring a commercial deployment permit in Suzhou. The company has a joint venture with the Suzhou branch of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC), which has oversight of more than 100 large state-owned enterprises, to “scale up” robotaxi deployment in the city.

Launching in Shanghai will put SAIC Mobility in competition with other big players, like Baidu, which also has an autonomous ride-hailing service, Apollo Go, in the city. Baidu also recently got the green light to operate a commercial robotaxi service, without a human driver present, in Wuhan and Chongqing. Baidu is also operating Apollo Go commercially in Beijing, with a human safety operator present, alongside Pony.ai.

Momenta and SAIC have said in the past that they aim to deploy 200 vehicles across China by 2022. To reach this aim, the two companies will use the Series B to buy and develop more vehicles, more than doubling the current number in its fleet, and will continue to improve on both the ride-hailing app and the autonomous capabilities of the vehicles, said the spokesperson.

“SAIC Mobility Robotaxi’s success is the organic combination of ‘operational experience’ and ‘leading autonomous driving technology,’” said Cao Xudong, CEO of Momenta, in a statement. “Our two companies together will continue to develop the technology, products and commercial implementation to meet the future and diverse travel needs of …read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/saic-mobility-robotaxi-valued-at-1b-after-148m-series-b/

How a16z’s investment into Adam Neumann further solidifies the ‘concrete ceiling’

It was the fundraise heard around Twitter.

Adam Neumann, the infamous entrepreneur behind WeWork, raised a stunning $350 million from Andreessen Horowitz for a yet-to-launch real estate company called Flow. The investment gave Neumann’s latest venture a more than $1 billion valuation, as reported by The New York Times, and came amid what is supposed to be an investor pullback in a bear market.

It is the largest individual check a16z has ever written and the second time the firm backed a Neumann-founded company this year.

There is no need to rehash every single thing that Neumann did wrong; AppleTV+ did that already in the miniseries “WeCrashed.” His calamitous tenure at WorkWork garnered him a reputation for worker mismanagement and he led his company to a disastrous IPO. He nevertheless walked away with a roughly $1 billion exit package. He failed up, and the announcement of his a16z round was a reminder that he is still failing up.

“The news [of Neumann’s raise] was not shocking to me,” Nicole Tinson, the founder of the inclusion platform HBCU 20×20, told TechCrunch. “I actually anticipated this because discrimination in funding is no different than discrimination in any avenue.”

One cannot out-educate, out-network and out-assimilate the systemic barriers designed to discriminate against them.

The news put reality in a harsh light, a breaking point for many. Women are tired of shattering glass ceilings; their hands are slashed from the dropping shards. Some founders are also exhausted from taking swings at the concrete ceiling, where gender, racial and often socioeconomic conditions combine to create a discriminatory barrier so strong it cannot shatter like glass; it’s sturdy like concrete and must arduously be drilled through.

…read more

https://techcrunch.com/2022/08/16/how-a16zs-investment-into-adam-neumann-further-solidifies-the-concrete-ceiling/