There are a few different cash flow formulas. Learn four different ways to calculate cash flow for your business.
There are a few different cash flow formulas. Learn four different ways to calculate cash flow for your business.
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Midweek? More like mid-weak! Okay, terrible pun, but we’re a little low energy in this heat wave today, so it kinda made sense.
Oh! And good news, btw, we’re offering 15% off Disrupt tickets (excluding online or expo tickets) for you, our trusty Daily Crunch readers. Use promo code “DC” to claim your discount!
This week, Haje went deep with a founder who’s building digital license plates. He mused that building an easy-to-copy hardware product in an incredibly tightly regulated industry where winner-takes-all would be an utter nightmare, but when it works, it works, and it’s fascinating to see Reviver build a company, one license plate at the time.
Populus, the San Francisco–based transportation data startup, got its start as shared scooter mania took hold and cities tried to make sense of how infrastructure was being used by fleets of tiny vehicles. Now, Populus co-founder and CEO Regina Clewlow is repositioning the company to take advantage of another hot opportunity: curbs and congestion, Rebecca writes. It’s a really good read from the TechCrunch transportation desk with an undertone of “the power of great pivots.”
Raisin’ money, raisin’ hell:
Giving users better service than they expected could literally save a software startup. In one study, companies that spent 10% of yearly revenue on customer success attained peak net recurring revenue.
“Companies mostly deploy two or more customer success archetypes,” according to TC+ contributors Rachel Parrinello and John Stamos. “They usually vary by customer segment, business versus technical focus and sales motion focus: adopt, renew, upsell and cross-sell.”
If you're interested in optimizing revenue through CS, read the rest for a full overview of job design methodology, because “companies should not design their customer success roles in a vacuum.”
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Social media and privacy don’t often go hand in hand, especially when children can see a lot on the internet already. Twitter got caught up in this when it reportedly tried to monetize adult content in an effort to compete with OnlyFans. It later scrapped the program when it was found that its system couldn’t “detect child sexual abuse material and non-consensual nudity at scale,” Amanda writes. Meanwhile, California lawmakers wasted no time moving ahead to put in place statewide online privacy protections for children where there are none at the federal level, Taylor reports.
Lyft is facing a fresh batch of lawsuits from drivers and passengers who say they were sexually and physically assaulted during rides and accused the ride-hailing company of failing to protect its users.
Seventeen lawsuits were filed in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise, the law firm representing many of the victims. These are separate lawsuits and not a class-action. The lawsuits are requesting a jury trial and do not specify a specific financial award except that they're seeking compensatory damages, including all expenses and wages owed, damages for future loss of earnings, reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses and punitive damages.
The lawsuits, 13 of which were from drivers and passengers who were sexually assaulted, allege that Lyft didn't have proper safety measures to prevent such attacks and failed to adequately respond once the assaults were reported.
Tracey Cowan, partner at Peiffer Wolf, said during a press conference that they want “Lyft to take the steps it knows it needs to take to make everyone safe.” Those steps, Cowan said, includes comprehensive background screening on its drivers, ensuring information that applicants provide as well as background checks are accurate through biometric fingerprint monitoring and providing dashcams to drivers.
“The best possible outcome would be for Lyft to actually make these changes that people — both passengers and drivers alike — have been asking for for years and we hope that's what Lyft does,” Cowan said.
Lyft responded by emphasizing its commitment to safety and disputed some of the claims that were made during a virtual press conference held Wednesday featuring several drivers and passengers who have filed lawsuits.
“We’re committed to helping keep drivers and riders safe. While safety incidents on our platform are incredibly rare, we realize that even one is too many,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Our goal is to make every Lyft ride as safe as possible, and we will continue to take action and invest in technology, policies and partnerships to do so.”
Lyft said that every driver goes through “rigorous screening,” including a background check. Once approved, there is “continuous criminal monitoring.” Any driver who does not pass the initial, annual and continuous screenings is barred from the platform, the company said. Every driver is required to take a community safety education course created in partnership with anti-sexual violence organization RAINN, according to Lyft.
The company also disputed plaintiffs' attorneys assertion that it doesn't cooperate with law enforcement. Some of the victims who spoke during the Wednesday press conference detailed their struggles to get Lyft to respond or share information with police.
Lyft told TechCrunch that it requires a subpoena or other valid legal process before disclosing personal information to law enforcement. The company said it is not standard process to proactively report safety incidents to law enforcement because the decision to report and when to do so is left up to the individual.
Lyft's most recent community safety report, which was released in October 2021, found more than 4,000 incidents of sexual assault occurred to users of the ride-hailing platform between 2017 and the end of 2019. While the number of instances grew, Lyft cited that the rate decreased because the number of rides grew.
In October 2018, Lyft ended its forced arbitration policy for individual claims of sexual assault or harassment by drivers, riders or employees. However, the arbitration requirement is still in places for physical assault complaints.
NASA has finalized an agreement with SpaceX to purchase five more astronaut transportation missions to and from the International Space Station, further entrenching the space company’s position as the prime services vendor for the space agency.
The new contract — for the Crew-10, Crew-11, Crew-12, Crew-13 and Crew-14 missions — is valued at $1.4 billion. It brings the total contract value for all 14 transportation missions, part of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program, to $4.9 billion. The funds include use of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule to transport up to four astronauts, the Falcon 9 rocket for launch and all other return and recovery operations. NASA announced its intention to order the additional missions in June.
The CCtCap program is under the aegis of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, a series of public-private partnerships designed to develop domestic launch capabilities. NASA issued the original $2.6 billion contract to SpaceX in 2014. The space agency also awarded a CCtCap contract to Boeing for up to $4.2 billion, for six flights using its Starliner capsule, though that capsule has been beset by technical issues and has yet to complete a successful crewed mission. Late last week, Boeing and NASA said they were targeting early 2023 for the first crewed Starliner flight.
The ultimate goal is to use both Crew Dragon and Starliner for astronaut transportation services. Prior to CCtCap, NASA used Russia’s Soyuz capsule for astronaut transportation services. A 2019 report from NASA’s Office of the Inspector General found that the space agency was spending an average of $79.7 million per seat after 2017.
NASA said in a notice published in June that it was seeking the additional flights due, in part, “to the technical and schedule challenges experienced by Boeing” and “NASA projections of when alternative crew transportation systems will be available.”
The space agency went on to stress the importance of having redundant astronaut transportation capabilities to ensure the ISS is continuously crewed through the end of the station’s life in 2030.
The space agency also extended SpaceX’s CCtCap contract in February.
Welcome back to Found, where we get the stories behind the startups.
This week’s guest Shiv Rao founded Abridge after experiencing how unnerving it can be to go through a medical emergency with a loved one — even for a practicing doctor like himself. So he and the Abridge team created an app that doesn’t just transcribe a conversation between doctor and patient but can summarize the important parts, pull out the next steps and even define any medical terms that were said so the patient walks away with all the information they need. The same technology helps doctors take better notes and alleviate the “pajama time” burnout by recording what happened in the appointment and synthesizing it in a format that is useful to a doctor. Darrell, Jordan and Shiv talk about the importance of making an impact at scale in the medical field.
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For context, I've done online sales before with Etsy/Ebay. But it was always things I personally made or reselling items I already owned. Now, I'm looking to having a supplier make my products and launch a website. I know there will be a learning curve but I'm more than ok with putting in effort (currently familiarizing myself with seo/ads/marketing as well)
In your experience what do suppliers tend to respond better to during initial contact?
A.) a quick qualifying message with a small, concise list of questions?
B.) a long, detailed message mapping out everything expected/design/MOQs/price quotes/materials/reference pics/etc?
C.) somewhere in the middle
Seems like a basic question I know, I just want to start off on the right foot (as much as possible)
Two weeks ago, longtime venture capitalist Chris Olsen, a general partner and cofounder of Drive Capital in Columbus, Oh., settled into his seat for a portfolio company's board meeting. It turned out to be a maddening exercise.
“Two of the board members didn't show up, and the company had a resolution on the agenda to pass the budget,” recalls an exasperated Olsen. A “junior person was there for the venture firm” — a co-investor in the startup — but that individual was “not allowed to vote because they're not the board member. And so we had this dynamic where all of a sudden, the founder is like, ‘Well, wait a minute, so I can't my budget approved because people aren't showing up to my board meeting?'”
Olsen calls the whole thing “super, super frustrating.” He also says that it isn't the first time a board meeting hasn't happened as planned lately. Asked whether he is routinely seeing co-investors showing up less frequently or canceling board meetings altogether, he says “I've definitely seen that. For sure I've seen other venture firms where participation is definitely reduced.”
Why are startup board meetings happening less and less? There are a whole host of reasons, suggest industry players, and they say the trend is an alarming one for both founders and the institutions whose money VCs invest.
Jason Lemkin, a serial founder and the force behind SaaStr, a community and early-stage venture fund that both focus on software-as-a-service outfits, is among the worried. Lemkin says he has to plead with founders he knows to schedule board meetings because no one else is asking them to do this.
Lemkin says the issue ties to the early days of the pandemic, when after a brief pause in the action in April 2020, startup investing — done virtually for the first time — shifted into overdrive.
“A little bit of math that people missed is that between the latter half of 2020 and the first quarter of this year, not only did valuations go way up, but VCs. . . would deploy these funds in a year instead of three years. So two years go by, and you may have invested in three or four times more companies than you did before the pandemic, and it's too many.”
Indeed, according to Lemkin, overcommitted VCs began to focus solely on portfolio companies whose valuations were soaring, and they began to ignore — because they thought they could afford to — startups in their portfolio that were not enjoying as much velocity on the valuation front. “Until the market crashed a bit a quarter or so ago, valuations were crazy and everyone was a little drunk on their ‘decacorns,'” Lemkin says. “So if you're a VC, and your top deal is now worth $20 billion instead of $2 billion, and you have a $1 billion or $2 billion position in that company, you don't care anymore if you lose $5 million or $10 million” on some other startups here and there. “People were investing in deals at a furious pace, and they [stopped caring] as much about write offs, and a corollary was that people just stopped going to board meetings. They stopped having them.”
Not everyone paints such a stark picture. Another VC who invests in seed- and Series A stage companies — and who asked not to be named in this piece — says that in his world, Series A- and B-stage companies are still holding board meetings every 60 days or so — which has long been the standard so that management can keep investors apprised of what's happening and also (hopefully) receive support and guidance from those investors.
This person agrees, however, that boards have become “broken.” For one thing, he says that most that he attends have slackened into virtual Zoom calls that feel even more perfunctory than in pre-COVID days. He also says that in addition to frenetic deal-making, two other factors have conspired to make formal meetings less valuable: late-stage investors who write checks to younger companies but don't take board seats, leaving their co-investors with a disproportionate amount of responsibility, and newer VCs who've never served as executives at big companies — and sometimes weren't even mentored — and so aren't quite as useful in boardrooms.
One question begged by all of these observations is how much it really matters.
Privately, many VCs will concede that they play a much smaller role in a company's success than they would have you believe on Twitter, where signaling involvement in positive outcomes is the norm. One could also argue that, from a returns standpoint, it makes all the sense in the world for VCs to invest the majority of their time in their more obvious winners.
Besides, board meetings can be a distraction for startup teams who often spend days in advance preparing to present to their board, days they could otherwise spend strengthening their offering; it's no mystery why not all founders relish these sit-downs.
Still, the trend isn't a healthy one for senior managers who may want more, not less, face time with investors. Board meetings are often one of the rare opportunities that other executives on a team get to spend with a startup's venture backers, and as it becomes less clear for many startups what the future holds, it's perhaps more important than ever for those startup executives to form such bonds.
The trend isn't healthy for founders trying to ensure they're getting the most of their team, either. Lemkin argues that routine board meetings keep startups on track in a way that more casual check-ins, and even written investor updates, cannot. Before 2020, he notes, top staffers would “have to present on each area of the company — cash, sales, marketing, product — and the leaders would have to sweat it. They would have to sweat that they missed the quarter in sales. They would have to sweat that they didn't generate enough leads.” Without board meetings, “there's no external forcing function when your team misses the quarter or the month,” he adds.
And the trend isn't good for startups that haven't been through a downturn before and might not appreciate all that downturns entail, from employees who start looking for other jobs, to the ripple effects of having to suddenly clamp down on innovation. While Aileen Lee, founder of the seed-stage firm Cowboy Ventures, believes that “good Series A firms and native venture firms are doing a good job of showing up to meetings,” she notes that founders who chased valuations from big funds could be missing needed guidance just as help has grown more critical. “There was always a concern about what happens in a downturn,” she says. “Are these [bigger funds] going to be there for you? Are they giving you advice?”
Of course, perhaps the biggest risk of all is that institutional investors like universities, hospital systems and pension funds that invest in venture firms — and represent millions of people's interests — will ultimately pay the price.
“Anyone that tells you they did the same amount of diligence during the peak of the COVID boom times is lying to you, including myself,” Lemkin says. “Everyone cut diligence corners, deals got done in a day over Zoom. And if you did the same level of diligence, you at least had to do it very quickly [after offering a] term sheet because there was no time, and that inevitably led to cutting corners.”
Maybe it doesn't matter right now to institutional investors, given how much venture investors returned to them in recent years. But with fewer checks coming back to them now, that could change.
Once a “few million bucks goes into a company, someone has to represent that money so that fraud doesn't happen,” says Lemkin, who, it might be worth noting, has a law degree.
“I'm not saying it would happen,” he continues, “but shouldn't there be checks and balances? Millions and millions are invested by pension funds and universities and widows and orphans, and when don't when you don't do any diligence on the way in, and you don't do continual diligence at a board meeting, you're kind of abrogating some of your fiduciary responsibilities to your LPs, right?”
When it comes to types of venture capital instruments, party rounds are as controversial as they come. A party round is an early-stage financing round, usually occurring between the pre-seed and Series A stages, that includes a laundry list – or “party” – of individual investors. It’s different from a more traditional round, which may look like it’s led by one or two institutional investors with a few participating investors also taking part.
The investment vehicle has been around for over a decade and has been a subject of debate for just as long. The positives are obvious: With more investors on their cap table, startups have more avenues for distribution, introductions and advice throughout their lifecycle.
The cons are more complicated. Is the party-round investment as helpful as capital from fewer, more commitment sources? Are there too many cooks in the kitchen? Is it a negative signal that this startup had to raise from dozens of people instead of one high-conviction partner? During a downturn, is a party round all about the confetti and no allergen-friendly appetizers?
While the argument is nothing new, the current market introduces dynamics that make party rounds a little more complex than just bringing a few of your favorite founders and thought leaders onto your cap table.