Startups

Daily Crunch: 4 years after launch, fintech platform Esusu saddles unicorn with $130M Series B


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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for January 27, 2022! Today’s news is a pretty positive roundup. New fund? Oh yeah. Huge rounds? You bet. We even have new unicorns to discuss. On the other side of the coin, the IPO market appears more ossified than open. – Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Facebook’s stablecoin bet proves unstable: So much for Facebook – er, Meta – taking over the blockchain world with its own stablecoin. The assets of Diem, for which Meta was a key consortium member, are reportedly being sold for a few hundred million dollars. Cheap? No. But also a fraction of the hopes that the project once had.
  • The new seed, Series A and Series B benchmarks: How far have the standards shifted for early-stage startups when it comes to revenues? The good news is that we have the data. The bad news is that it’s mostly what you expected – startups are raising larger, later rounds with less revenue than before. Growth, it turned out, was the more surprising delta to examine.
  • New funds! TechCrunch has notes on a number of new funds out today that are worth digging into. This Week in Fintech has a fund now, and Portugal’s Indico Capital Partners has €50 million for its ocean tech fund. There are others. South Korean internet conglomerate Naver Group has a $100 million fund for what TechCrunch described as “metaverse creators.” It’s amazing how fast that word became ubiquitous, and therefore passé.

Startups/VC

We have a host of mega-rounds to chat through today, but first some words of warning: It appears that the IPO climate is frozen shut.

What that will mean for companies like Esusu, which just raised $130 million, or Ascend, which just raised $280 million in equity and debt for its BNPL-flavored approach to insurance, is that there is a mountain of private-market wealth out there that needs an exit. The question is just when those checks can be cashed. And if they will get more than a dollar back per dollar invested.

IPO issues or not, the crypto world is busy taking on more external capital. One particular play in the blockchain world is the infrastructure effort, building products that will support other products. This is often a good bet. Twilio is an example of the infra game coming up trumps. AWS is another. So when another crypto backend player like Fireblocks pushes its valuation to $8 billion, we know what’s going on. (And speaking of crypto, don’t forget the impending tax issue or the startups working to keep folks off the government’s naughty list.)

And now, our regular funding round rundown:

  • Quan wants to take on employee churn: There are two kinds of employee exits, from the corporate perspective: regretted churn and unregretted churn. The former is when someone you wanted to keep quits, and the latter is when someone you wanted to fire does you a favor. Quan, which just raised capital, wants to tackle the former by, we report, bridging the “gap between engagement surveys and well-being perks.”
  • Bloss is building a company for expecting parents: With birth rates in decline in many parts of the world, it’s clear that we’re in a new era when it comes to parenting. A time when it’s more choice than default. Bloss wants to link expecting parents with experts, which makes good sense, given that babies don’t precisely come with a handbook when they enter the world. The company just raised a pre-seed round.
  • Parthean will teach you personal finance whether you like it or not: That’s slightly unfair, but the idea behind Parthean is that most folks aren’t great with money and need help. So, it is going to teach users concepts and then prompt them to take a particular action toward, in theory, financial health. Natasha’s story here is great, and worth reading if you are curious about the intersection of edtech and fintech. The company just raised $1.1 million.
  • The.com is a website builder with a great URL: Short URLs were mega-hype back in the day when you had to have a .com or live a life apart from the consumer spotlight. Things have since changed. But The.com is taking us back to the ’90s with its great name and product: website building. But unlike the template-focused builders of the past, this time the company is using “blocks.” As someone with both websites and no coding skills, this appeals to me.
  • The Vets is a bet that you want the vet to come to your step: Flush with $40 million in new capital, The Vets wants to make animal care an at-home affair. As someone who has spent far too much time in the last year standing outside his local vet, waiting for a certain puppy to finish her checkup while, variously, burning up in the summer and freezing in the winter, I love this idea.

And there was more. France’s Sigfox, which raised more than $300 million, is dead. A Quizup founder is building an MMO, and PortalOne raised $60 million for its “immersive” gaming platform. Whew! What a day!

Dear Sophie: 3 questions about immigration and naturalization

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Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

My F-1 OPT will run out this June. My employer has agreed to register me in the H-1B lottery in March.

What are my options if I’m not selected in the lottery?

—Gritty Grad

Dear Sophie,

I’m in the U.S. with an L-1A visa that will max out later this year. My wife has been with me during the whole period on an L-2. Can my wife apply for H-1B this year?

Would she need to leave the country to activate it?

—Helpful Hubby

Dear Sophie,

I have a 10-year green card that will expire later this year. I’ve been married to a U.S. citizen for 11 years, but we are in the process of divorcing.

Can I apply for U.S. citizenship even after my divorce?

—New Year, New Life

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • LG Energy Solution goes public: The IPO market is closed, but there are always exceptions. Such is the case with LG’s electric vehicle battery maker. For obvious reasons – the global car industry is racing toward an all-electric future as quickly as its aging leaders can manage. And all those cars are going to need batteries. The company is now worth a little more than $98 billion.
  • Messenger updates its E2E encryption: While governments around the world continue to try to find enough backbone to make the comically bad choice of banning encryption, Meta is moving along with its work to make its Messenger service more secure. Good!
  • And if you have longed to pay for yet another streaming service, the good news is that Disney+ is coming to 42 more countries later this year.

TechCrunch Experts

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Testimonial: “Their UX expert review (i.e., user observations) of our application showed that the average time on one of the tasks was around 50 seconds. The resulting recommendation was to introduce a shortcut, which after implementation reduced the average time-on-task to 20 seconds.”





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