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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for December 7, 2021! It’s nearly time to reflect on the year, a period in which so very much changed for the global startup world. One of the most interesting themes? Rising venture investment for African startups. Long ignored by the global investing set, startups from the African continent are having a barnstorming year. Sure, we have data to back up that claim, but with even more nine-figure deals landing in Africa it’s a market that any technologist now must keep an eye on. More on the MainOne-Equinix deal here. —Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Twitter buys Quill, will work on DMs: Let’s be clear, Twitter is a fun place to hang out, but its private-messaging service is pretty basic. But there’s good news on the horizon with the social media company buying the business messaging service’s team to work on DMs. Quill will not survive, but it’s hard to compete against Slack.
- Meta: Facebook’s parent company is busy generating headlines this week, with the head of its Messenger service leaving the company, adding to a roster of exits in recent months (more here and here). And ahead of a congressional hearing, Instagram is rolling out parental controls.
- Discord working on paid memberships: In the larger creator economy, chat service Discord has found an interesting niche. And it’s working to take advantage of the communities that have been built atop its platform, working on a “new way for creators to make money by offering community members access to paid, subscriber-only content,” TechCrunch reports.
While the year is coming to a close, the IPO cycle is not yet done. We have HashiCorp’s debut on the way and Nubank in the wings. But don’t forget about IoT shop Samsara, which could become a decacorn in its upcoming IPO.
- Therify wants to make therapy more accessible: Finding a therapist is not easy if you’re a cishet man. I can attest to this. But if you are a “person of color or someone with disabilities, there are few or no people sharing your experience available,” TechCrunch notes. Therify just raised $1.3 million to work on the problem.
- Jupe is “not making … glamping tents for bros at Coachella:” So what is the startup building? Housing for the roughly 1.5 billion people — by its count — that lack sufficient shelter. The company just raised $9.5 million.
- Torq puts points on the board for the Portland, Oregon, tech scene: The startup formerly known as StackPulse is building a no-code tool for security workflows. And that effort helped it raise a simply massive $50 million Series B. Yes, the pre-IPO rounds of old are today’s early-stage investments. Get used to it. Regardless, we don’t hear that much from my home state, so it’s nice to see Torq doing well. SentinelOne led the round.
- SendOwl raises to help creators sell digital goods: No, we’re not talking about NFTs. Instead, SendOwl wants to help “creators and businesses sell digital goods such as e-books, podcasts and online courses.” There is a big market for such content, even if SendOwl is not the only startup that we can name that is working in the space. Defy.vc and Stripe put up the capital for SendOwl’s $4.5 million seed round.
- Today’s neobank funding round is MAJORITY: We recently discussed a neobank aimed at SMBs. Today, immigrants. MAJORITY has raised a $27 million Series A for its work, bringing its total capital raised to some $46 million, per TechCrunch reporting. The company now allows folks to sign up sans a Social Security number, which feels notable.
- I thought Circle was a book? Or the crypto company going public via a SPAC? Turns out it’s also a startup helping creators build and manage their community. Which seems cool, but we’d politely ask the company to rebrand to avoid us talking in circles on Slack. Regardless, Circle just raised at a $200 million valuation.
- AgentSync is today’s new unicorn: Fundraising rocket ship AgentSync announced a $75 million funding round today, pushing its valuation up to the $1.2 billion mark. Working in the insurtech API infra space, AgentSync is proof that there is big money in connecting disparate informational elements of antiquated industries.
- Honey, you’ve barely touched your brewed protein! We kid, but if The EVERY Co. has its way, we’ll be eating fermented animal protein equivalents in due time. The company just landed a huge $175 million round to help it bring the future it envisions to life. The startup was previously known as Clara Foods, for reference.
- Pento raises pile of capital: Today’s main Tiger round is Pento, a U.K.-based payment automation startup that just raised $35 million. Running payroll is a pain, and even more so for small companies. Pento of course has lots of competition, but certainly doesn’t lack for TAM.
- To round out our startup coverage today, TechCrunch wants to meet your startup at CES!
AWS re:Invent 2021 was more incremental than innovative
We’re used to Amazon making news: It’s the world’s third-largest company, and its founder is planning to build his own private space station.
But at last week’s re:Invent, the annual conference for AWS customers, “it felt more like Amazon was checking boxes and filling in holes in the product road map,” writes enterprise reporter Ron Miller.
After going virtual in 2020, this year’s in-person return to Las Vegas saw updates from incoming CEO Adam Selipsky, CTO Werner Vogels and others, but “nothing came out of the 2021 re:Invent that felt really cool.”
A few highlights: AWS unveiled the Gravitron 3, its latest Arm-based processor, along with re:Post, a managed Q&A service that replaces AWS forums, and Amplify Study, a no-code/low-code service for devs building cloud-connected applications.
But notably, “this is the first re:Invent in a long time where AWS did not announce a new database,” said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research.
Ron’s recap of the week’s announcements — and the lack thereof — points to a company in transition: “Perhaps Amazon is becoming a bit more like Apple.”
Big Tech Inc.
- Microsoft takes on Chinese hacking ring: TechCrunch reports that Redmond-based software giant Microsoft has “seized control of a number of websites that were being used by a Chinese government-backed hacking group to target organizations in 29 countries, including the U.S.” Good news that the company did that, but bad news that it had to.
- Google disrupts Russian botnet: At some point we’ll get a handle on rampant cybercrime, but today is not that day. Not yet. Progress is being made, however, with U.S. software giant Google taking on a Russian botnet of “technical sophistication,” to quote the firm. Again, good to have this happen, bad that it was a required action.
- App stores big: You knew that, but the data is actually somewhat staggering even given our expectations. Per Sarah Perez, first-time app installs are expected to reach 143.6 billion this year, with consumer app spending reaching some $133 billion. No wonder Apple is loath to loosen its grip on its own app-related incomes. They are huge.
- Netflix gaming is really, actually a thing: I keep expecting this story to go away, but it’s doing the opposite. Again. TechCrunch noted today that video-streaming service Netflix has added three gaming titles to its larger portfolio. Instead of doing this, frankly, I’d hazard that Netflix would be better served just sponsoring its own League of Legends team, but, hey, that’s just me.
- Something something Snap metaverse something something: Today Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, held something called Lens Fest. Yes, this was AR and Spectacles and the like. Our own Lucas Matney has the information you need.
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