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Why startups are going public now

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After all those years of startups not going public, 2020 is a little bit different. It feels like more companies are filing, and more companies are seeing their debuts through. We’re even seeing direct listings and SPAC-led deals, along with a trove of traditional IPOs.

Data backs up how we feel about this year’s IPO market. Notably, however, the year did not start out too hot.

Quite a lot of 2020’s IPO results came in Q3, with the quarter’s IPO tally setting a record in terms of IPO volume and dollars raised since at least the start of 2016, according to data from PwC. But on the back of the third quarter, 2020 is going to be a good year for tech debuts, at least compared to recent history.

Why? It’s a good question. Parsing through the Root IPO filing this morning a TechCrunch reader asked why we’re seeing so many IPOs after they were out of vogue for so long; after a decade of staying private being the hot thing, why are so many companies trying to get public now?

There are a few reasons, I think. Here are some good ones:

  • In today’s market, public valuations now regularly outstrip private valuations. This is something a startup exec told me recently, and I heartily agreed. One only needs to look at, say, the Snowflake IPO to understand this dynamic. Or the recent JFrog debut. Or how investors initially responded to Lemonade’s IPO. You get the idea. Public investors, and especially their retail investing cadre, are content to bid the value of unicorns up in anticipation of future growth. Much like private investors have long done.
  • This means that it is a good time to go public if you eventually have to, as public equities are near all-time highs. If you are a company that is going to go public in the next few years, why not do so now, when there is demonstrated demand for growth-oriented shares, and you can probably defend your valuation? It just makes sense!
  • That fact is compounded by the sheer number of private companies that are old as hell and need to get the frak out of the private sandbox. If you are a company that really needs to go public, like Airbnb (for technical reasons relating to expiring options), now is great and now is good, as tomorrow may well be worse.
  • And good news, there are so many ways to go public now! Finally, there are myriad options available to companies looking to list. Don’t want to price via a traditional IPO? No worries. How about a direct listing? Don’t want that or a traditional IPO? No worries. How about one of around a dozen SPACs that are hunting for companies to take public?

You gotta make hay while the sun is out, and with the Nasdaq still over 11,000 and rumor of more federal relief ever present to keep markets high, it’s a fine time to list. Hence the wave.

In closing, it’s worth noting that the average 2020 pace of unicorn IPOs is still not nearly enough to clear the rolls. There are going to be a lot of unicorns stuck in their pen once the public market, inevitably, turns.

This is going to come up on the podcast, probably soon. So make sure you’re tuned in

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Republican lawmakers are furious after Twitter asks users to read stories before retweeting

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House Judiciary Committee Republicans and committee member Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) are spreading a misleading claim about a new Twitter feature that asks users to read articles before retweeting them. Earlier this year, Twitter started testing a prompt to discourage knee-jerk retweets. It appears on links across the entire service, but Republican lawmakers have cited individual warnings on right-leaning articles as the latest of many censorship accusations.

Twitter announced last month that it would roll out the feature across its mobile apps, describing it as a way to “help promote informed discussion.” When you hit the retweet button on a link you haven’t visited, Twitter adds a label above the confirmation menu, warning that “headlines don’t tell the full story” and offering a chance to check the story out.

This is optional; you can ignore it and simply confirm the retweet if you want, and it doesn’t add any extra taps. But some conservative Twitter users expressed fury at the warning. Former PJ Media editor David Steinberg claimed that Twitter “placed a headline warning label” on a Wall Street Journal article about Republican congressional candidate Kimberly Klacik, saying the prompt “should disturb every American.” The label appears if you try to retweet many other WSJ articles on a variety of topics as well as stories from The Verge and other media outlets.

The claim was amplified by Republican members of Congress. Collins claimed that Twitter was “censoring” all tweets from Sean Hannity, citing labels on links to Hannity.com. The Twitter account for Judiciary Committee Republicans made a similar claim about a Hannity article, insinuating that Twitter had specifically added the warning to a story about allegedly leaked emails from Hunter Biden.

Twitter’s communications team tweeted a somewhat exasperated response. “We’re doing this to encourage everyone to read news articles before Tweeting them, regardless of the publication or the article,” a spokesperson wrote. “If you want to retweet or quote tweet it, literally just click once more.”

It’s not necessarily surprising that Twitter’s new feature would raise hackles since it comes on the heels of two unpopular Twitter decisions. Twitter blocked a link to New York Post articles about Hunter Biden’s emails last week, citing a ban on “hacked content,” before apologizing and changing its policy. It also started temporarily asking users to quote tweets instead of retweeting them, another attempt to encourage more engagement. Today, a Senate committee approved subpoenas for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, calling them to testify about restricting the Post story’s reach.

Twitter doesn’t seem to apply the warning to every link either, and that’s caused some confusion online. As the National Republican Senatorial Committee noted, you can retweet links to Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue without a warning. However, we also received no warning when retweeting a link to Republican equivalent WinRed. We’ve asked Twitter for more clarification on when the label appears. But whatever its answer, the feature is far more widespread than these lawmakers suggest.

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Google Maps launches a new developer solution for on-demand ride and delivery companies

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The Google Maps Platform, the developer side of Google Maps, is launching a new service for on-demand rides and delivery companies today that ties together some of the platform’s existing capabilities with new features for finding nearby drivers and sharing trip and order progress information with customers.

This isn’t Google Maps Platform’s first foray into this business. Back in 2018, the company launched a solution for in-app navigation for ridesharing companies, for example. At the time, the team didn’t really focus on delivery solutions, though, but that’s obviously one of the few booming markets right now, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Building on 15 years of experience mapping the world, the On-demand Rides & Deliveries solution helps businesses improve operations as well as transform the driver and customer journey from booking to arrival or delivery–all with predictable pricing per completed trip,” Google senior product manager Eli Danziger writes in today’s announcement.”

At the core of the service is the Google Maps routing service, which developers can tweak for deliveries by bike or motorcycle, for example, and to find optimized routes with the shortest or fastest path. The team notes that this so-called ‘Routes Preferred’ feature also enables arrival time predictions for time-sensitive deliveries and pricing estimates.

The other new feature of this platform is to enable developers to quickly build an experience that helps users find nearby drivers. Imaginatively called ‘Nearby Drivers,’ the idea here is about as straightforward as you can imagine and allows developers to find the closest driver with a single API call. They can also add custom rankings, based on their specific needs, to ensure the right driver is matched to the right route.

Unsurprisingly, the platform also features support for in-app navigation, and that’s tied in closely with the rest of the feature set.

Developers can also easily integrate Google’s real-time trip and order progress capabilities to “keep customers informed from pickup to drop-off or delivery, with a real-time view of a driver’s current position, route, and ETA.”

All of this is pretty much what any user would expect from a modern ride-sharing or delivery app, so for the most part, that’s table stakes. The technology behind it is not, though, and a lot of delivery companies have set up large tech operations to build out exactly these features. They aren’t likely to switch to Google’s platform, but the platform may give smaller players a chance to operate more efficiently or enter new markets without the added expense of having to build this tech stack from the ground up — or cobble it together from multiple vendors.

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Psycke secures Seed funding to match consumer personalities to fashion products

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In an overcrowded market of online fashion brands, consumers are spoilt for choice on what site to visit. They are generally forced to visit each brand one by one, manually filtering down to what they like. Most of the experience is not that great, and past purchase history and cookies aren’t much to go on to tailor user experience. If someone has bought an army-green military jacket, the e-commerce site is on a hiding to nothing if all it suggests is more army-green military jackets…

Instead, Psycke ( it’s brand name is ‘PSYKHE’) is an e-commerce startup that uses AI and psychology to make product recommendations based both on the user’s personality profile and the ‘personality’ of the products. Admittedly, a number of startups have come and gone claiming this, but it claims to have taken a unique approach to make the process of buying fashion easier by acting as an aggregator that pulls products from all leading fashion retailers. Each user sees a different storefront that, says the company, becomes increasingly personalized.

It has now raised $1.7 million in seed funding from a range of investors and is announcing new plans to scale its technology to other consumer verticals in the future in the B2B space.

The investors are Carmen Busquets – the largest founding investor in Net-a-Porter; SLS Journey – the new investment arm of the MadaLuxe Group, the North American distributor of luxury fashion; John Skipper – DAZN Chairman and former Co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and President of ESPN; and Lara Vanjak – Chief Operating Officer at Aser Ventures, formerly at MP & Silva and FC Inter-Milan.

So what does it do? As a B2C aggregator, it pools inventory from leading retailers. The platform then applies machine learning and personality-trait science, and tailors product recommendations to users based on a personality test taken on sign-up. The company says it has international patents pending and has secured affiliate partnerships with leading retailers that include Moda Operandi, MyTheresa, LVMH’s platform 24S, and 11 Honoré.

The business model is based around an affiliate partnership model, where it makes between 5-25% of each sale. It also plans to expand into B2B for other consumer verticals in the future, providing a plug-in product that allows users to sort items by their personality.

How does this personality test help? Well, Psycke has assigned an overall psychological profile to the actual products themselves: over 1 million products from commerce partners, using machine learning (based on training data).

So for example, if a leather boot had metal studs on it (thus looking more ‘rebellious’), it would get a moderate-low rating on the trait of ‘Agreeableness’. A pink floral dress would get a higher score on that trait. A conservative tweed blazer would get a lower score tag on the trait of ‘Openness’, as tweed blazers tend to indicate a more conservative style and thus nature.

So far, Psycke’s retail partnerships include Moda Operandi, MyTheresa, LVMH’s platform 24S, Outdoor Voices, Jimmy Choo, Coach, and size-inclusive platform 11 Honoré.

It’s competitors include The Yes and Lyst. However, Psycke’s main point of differentiation is this personality scoring. Furthermore, The Yes is app-only, US-only, and only partners with monobrands, while Lyst is an aggregator with 1,000s of brands, but used as more of a search platform.

Psycke is in a good position to take advantage of the ongoing effects of COVID-19, which continue to give a major boost to global ecommerce as people flood online amid lockdowns.

The startup is the brainchild of Anabel Maldonado, CEO & founder, (along with founding team CTO Will Palmer and Lead Data Scientist, Rene-Jean Corneille, pictured above), who studied psychology in her hometown of Toronto, but ended up working at in the UK’s NHS in a specialist team that made developmental diagnoses for children under 5.

She made a pivot into fashion after winning a competition for an editorial mentorship at British Marie Claire. She later went to the press department of Christian Louboutin, followed by internships at the Mail on Sunday and Marie Claire, then spending several years in magazine publishing before moving into e-commerce at CoutureLab. Going freelance, she worked with a number of luxury brands and platforms as an editorial consultant. As a fashion journalist, she’s contributed industry op-eds to publications such as The Business of Fashion, T The New York Times Style, and Marie Claire.

As part of the fashion industry for 10 years, she says she became frustrated with the narratives which “made fashion seem more frivolous than it really is. I thought, this is a trillion-dollar industry, we all have such emotional, visceral reactions to an aesthetic based on who we are, but all we keep talking about is the ‘hot new color for fall and so-called blanket “must-haves’.”

But, she says, “there was no inquiry into individual differences. This world was really missing the level of depth it deserved, and I sought to demonstrate that we’re all sensitive to aesthetic in one way or another and that our clothing choices have a great psychological pay-off effect on us, based on our unique internal needs.” So she set about creating a startup to address this ‘fashion psychology’ – or, as she says “why we wear what we wear”.

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