Daily Crunch: With $4M pre-seed round, Casava sets new funding record for African insurtech
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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Wednesday, February 2, 2022! Today we’re talking about AI code generation, fintech declines and the creator economy. Yes, it’s a grab bag because there’s just so darn much going on. Read on to catch up! – Alex
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AI code generation is going to rule: The process of writing code is a human-driven process today. However, DeepMind’s AlphaCode AI is getting pretty good at writing code for you. This reminds us of the work that GitHub is doing with its Copilot project. In short, code is getting better at writing code, and about time, I’d add.
Why PayPal’s stock got rekt today: During the COVID-19 pandemic, fintech got a boost. Trading volumes went up, helping power Robinhood and Coinbase to new heights. Big fintechs also did well, PayPal included. And then yesterday, it detailed its recent results and projected ahead. Investors did not like what they heard.
Adventures in SPAC land: Faraday Future is in hot water. After a short-seller went after the company for alleged “inaccurate statements,” the company executed an internal review. The result of the investigation? Faraday is “revamping its board, cutting the pay of two top executives and suspending at least one other,” per TechCrunch. The issues that some SPAC-led deals are enduring have not stopped the blank-check dealmaking flow, however. MariaDB is going public via a SPAC it announced this week. We dug into its numbers here.
Today we’re talking crypto, creators, and a full-on pile of funding rounds. Sound good? Let’s have some fun.
Investors’ latest NFT bet is on a startup called Pixel Vault — a massive NFT collection of superheroes that has the goal of growing into a decentralized Marvel-esque empire. The NFT startup tells TechCrunch it has closed a whopping $100 million in funding from Adam Bain and Dick Costolo’s 01 Advisors and Velvet Sea Ventures.
Is it possible to create lasting new IP on the blockchain? Are these investors suddenly into consumer mythology because they want to build a new creative universe, or because they want to turn a quick buck? Matney says in the piece that those more skeptical see NFTs as “a space full of capital-obsessed hucksters who want to choke all of the lasting value from popular culture,” while fans “see a new technological revolution.” At least investors are putting their money where their hopes are.
And because everyone now must have a crypto project, Anthony Levandowski – famous for getting into trade-secret trouble and being pardoned by former U.S. President Donald Trump – is also building something new.
Turning to creators, TechCrunch has two pieces up today that are worth your time. The first is about Sunroom, which is building a creator platform for women. And the Equity team – of which I am a member – has a deep dive up on the creator economy and platform economics. Enjoy!
Now, the funding round rundown!
Waldo raises $15M for automated mobile testing: Building an app can be hard work, depending on what you are creating. But making that same app work across a number of operating systems and myriad devices is super tough. Thus the mobile testing world. Waldo is taking a no-code approach to the work, which we thought was neat.
RudderStack raises for enterprise stuff: I don’t have a lot of visibility into how mega-companies manage data, so I think it’s best if I just quote Frederic Lardinois directly. What does RudderStack do? Per our scribe, it has built a “platform that focuses on helping businesses build their customer data platforms to improve their analytics and marketing efforts.” Cool. And it just raised $56 million.
Lakehouse: Not merely a marketing term. I was once on a call with the CEO of Databricks when someone I know pushed him on whether the concept of a data “lakehouse” was more marketing term than new product category. For any new bit of corporate-speak, such questions are important, if occasionally awkward. I bring all that up because Onehouse just raised $8 million for its open source lakehouse work. So, I guess that answers the question – lakehouse is not merely Databricks slang.
Casava is making insurance more accessible for Nigerians: The real power of fintech is not to merely make the lives of the already wealthy slightly better than before. It’s to bring services and fair treatment to previously excluded populations. That’s why Casava is neat – not simply the fact that the company just raised capital – it’s bringing insurance products to a market where they have very little penetration.
Today in good startup names: Zero Acre Farms is just that, a company that generates foodstuffs sans land. Given that the startup is tackling the vegetable oil market in a manner that doesn’t result in deforestation, I dig it.
And to close out our startup notes today, Stoggles is in TechCrunch. Rarely does my partner’s life – she owns and wears Stoggles on the regular – and this publication intersect, but here we are!
3 ways web3 recruiters can improve their hiring game
You wouldn’t hire a plumber to redo your wiring, and you shouldn’t hire a web3 developer if you’re building a team for your metaverse startup.
Investors are swooning over startups in these sectors, but a fat pre-seed check is not a hiring strategy. Making matters more difficult: most developer talent is focused in a few verticals, and any offers you make must compare to incentives from companies like Apple and Microsoft.
“Engineers don’t want to only be putting out fires, they want to create and pioneer projects,” says Sergiu Matei, founder of remote talent platform Index.
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
GitHub scoots the open source business model forward: The world of open source software is a big damn deal. But that doesn’t mean that it has figured out its incentives – some startups are working on the issue, to be clear – but now Microsoft’s GitHub is shaking the tree. After launching sponsorships in the past, a way for folks to support open source projects, the Redmond division is “launching sponsor-only repositories, that is, private repositories that only sponsors will get access to,” we report.
The Joe Rogan affair didn’t move the needle for Spotify competitors: Sure, you’ve seen tweets from folks claiming that they are swapping music providers. But data show that the impact of the Joe Rogan brouhaha has not revolutionized the market.
And sticking to the musical theme, Twitch is partnering with “independent digital music licensing group Merlin,” we write, “marking the Amazon-owned livestreaming platform’s latest effort to get cozy with the recording industry.”
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