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Apple announces new projects related to its $100 million pledge for racial equity and justice – TechCrunch

Last June, Apple committed $100 million to a Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI). Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, is leading the initiative. Today, Apple is sharing some of its work as part of the initiative. “We’re launching REJI’s latest initiatives with partners across a broad range of industries […]

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Last June, Apple committed $100 million to a Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI). Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, is leading the initiative. Today, Apple is sharing some of its work as part of the initiative.

“We’re launching REJI’s latest initiatives with partners across a broad range of industries and backgrounds — from students to teachers, developers to entrepreneurs, and community organizers to justice advocates — working together to empower communities that have borne the brunt of racism and discrimination for far too long. We are honored to help bring this vision to bear, and to match our words and actions to the values of equity and inclusion we have always prized at Apple,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

The company will contribute $25 million to the Propel Center, an innovation and leaning hub for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. It is going to be both a virtual platform and a physical campus in the Atlanta University Center. Apple is sharing some early renderings of the new building (see above and below).

Students will be able to follow different educational tracks focused on artificial intelligence, agricultural technologies, social justice, entertainment, app development, augmented reality, design and create arts and entrepreneurship. This isn’t just a monetary investment for Apple as employees will help develop curricula and provide mentorship as well. There will be internship opportunities for students.

In Downtown Detroit, the company will also open an Apple Developer Academy focused on young Black entrepreneurs. This is a collaborative effort with Michigan State University. It’ll be open to all learners across Detroit and teach valuable skills for entrepreneurs, creators and coders.

There will be two programs. A 30-day introductory program will help you learn more about app economy careers. And if you’re willing to dive deeper, there’s an intensive 10- to 12-month program. Apple is trying to reach 1,000 students per year with these two programs.

The third effort is focused on investment opportunities for Black and Brown entrepreneurs. Apple will invest $10 million with Harlem Capital, a VC firm based in New York. There will be more collaboration between Harlem Capital and Apple down the road.

Apple is also investing $25 million in Siebert Williams Shank’s Clear Vision Impact Fund. Finally, Apple is making a contribution to The King Center.

As you can see, Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative is an on-going effort that requires evaluating new opportunities constantly. The company isn’t just trying to give money to everyone. It is evaluating each opportunity individually to find the best collaboration.

Image Credits: Apple

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/01/13/apple-announces-new-projects-related-to-its-100-million-pledge-for-racial-equity-and-justice/

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Northzone promotes Wendy Xiao Schadeck to partner – TechCrunch

Northzone‘s new partner Wendy Xiao Schadeck isn’t new to the firm — she actually joined back in 2015. Before entering the venture world, Schadeck co-founded co-working and childcare startup CoHatchery. And as a Northzone principal, she’s already been involved in the firm’s investments in Spring Health (mental health), 3box (cloud infrastructure), Livepeer (blockchain-based video transcoding), […]

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Northzone‘s new partner Wendy Xiao Schadeck isn’t new to the firm — she actually joined back in 2015.

Before entering the venture world, Schadeck co-founded co-working and childcare startup CoHatchery. And as a Northzone principal, she’s already been involved in the firm’s investments in Spring Health (mental health), 3box (cloud infrastructure), Livepeer (blockchain-based video transcoding), Magic.link (user authentication) and Main Street (helping companies apply for tax credits).

More broadly, Northzone says Schadeck helped to develop the firm’s investment theses around crypto, consumer technology, health, developer/web 3.0 infrastructure.

“Wendy has already proven herself through very insightful sector-driven thought leadership and has solidified our position in the New York ecosystem,” said General Partner Pär-Jörgen Pärson in a statement. “She has defined and redefined an honest, authentic and inspiring dialogue between herself as an investor and the entrepreneurs she supports.”

Schadeck told me that her interests have “crystallized” around three key areas — “open data, open finance and open community.” And she said that with her promotion to partner, she will be able to work even more closely with founders, a topic she’s become “obsessed” with.

“We’ve all seen this VC meme, ‘How can I be helpful?’ and I’ve sometimes accidentally literally said it,” Schadeck said. “But we mean it: Other than providing capital, first and foremost, on good terms, what other dimensions are there that are becoming more and more important? … How can I customize my approach to provide what the founder needs from me?”

While Schadeck is Northzone’s first New York-based partner (its other partners are in London and Stockholm), she said she will make investments outside the region.

“We’ve tried to do this matrix approach, where we both have sectors that we’re pretty excited about and build expertise and experience in, as well as relationships” she said. “And those relationships are better with local entrepreneurs.”

“Wendy has already proven herself through very insightful sector-driven thought leadership and has solidified our position in the New York ecosystem,” said General Partner Pär-Jörgen Pärson in a statement. “She has defined and redefined an honest, authentic and inspiring dialogue between herself as an investor and the entrepreneurs she supports.”

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/01/19/northzone-promotes-wendy-xiao-schadeck/

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Two ex-Sequoia VCs: the most ‘compelling emerging market’ may be America, outside of Silicon Valley – TechCrunch

Roughly eight years ago, investors Mark Kvamme and Chris Olsen left Silicon Valley to open a venture firm, Drive Capital, in Columbus, Ohio. It wasn’t an easy decision. Leaving California wasn’t exactly fashionable at the time. In fact, While Olsen had grown up in Cincinnati, the Yale grad had landed at Sequoia Capital a couple […]

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Roughly eight years ago, investors Mark Kvamme and Chris Olsen left Silicon Valley to open a venture firm, Drive Capital, in Columbus, Ohio. It wasn’t an easy decision. Leaving California wasn’t exactly fashionable at the time. In fact, While Olsen had grown up in Cincinnati, the Yale grad had landed at Sequoia Capital a couple of years out of college — a dream job — and had no interest in going anywhere. Meanwhile, Kvamme is a California native who attended UC Berkeley, grew up immersed in the world of startups (his dad was also a VC), and cofounded four companies before himself landing at Sequoia, where among his deals, he led the firm’s investment in LinkedIn.

Even after a series of developments would lead them to take the leap, the early ride was bumpy. There was no venture community. Midwestern startups were still few and far between. More, Kvamme, first lured to Ohio by his longtime friend John Kasich to take an economic development job that he thought would be temporary, was soon deemed a little too cozy with the state’s power players.

Looking back now, it’s a wonder they stayed. Yet it’s because they did that Columbus is primed for more VCs to join them, they convincingly argue. Indeed, Drive, which now manages $650 million and features nine investors, is receiving interest from 7,000 startups each year, and some of its portfolio companies are beginning to break out. The very first company to attract a check from Drive, an eight-year-old, Columbus-based hospital software maker called Olive AI, was assigned a $1.5 billion valuation just last month in a funding round led by Tiger Global. Another investment, in the five-year-old car insurance startup Root, also appears promising. Root, which went public in November, currently boasts a market cap of $4.7 billion, and Drive owns 26.6% of the company. (Olsen says it hasn’t sold a share.)

We talked late last week with Kvamme and Olsen about what they are building — and why VCs who may be thinking about leaving California for Austin or Miami might pay more attention. You can hear that conversation in full here. In the meantime, following are some excerpts from our chat edited lightly for length and clarity.

TC: Everyone is threatening to ditch California. What’s the argument for heading to Columbus? How did Mark convince you to join him, Chris?

CO: The early case that Mark made is: there’s an enormous amount of money that’s spent on research here. In Silicon Valley, the venture dollars ratio to research dollars is massively too many VC dollars for too little research; the opposite is true here in Ohio. This is more what Silicon Valley looked like in the late 1990s.

At first, I was like, “Nope, not falling for it. There’s no way I’m believing that data. It’s a terrible idea” to move. But I was very much a numbers guy — still am — and when I started looking at the data, [I could see the] economy of Ohio is bigger than Turkey. The economy of the Midwest would be the fourth-biggest economy in the world. It’s bigger than Brazil. It’s bigger than Russia. It’s bigger than India. And it has this legacy educational infrastructure that’s been producing more engineers than any other corner of the planet. It was kind of like, wait a minute. If this thesis is right, maybe emerging markets are the most compelling place for venture capitalists to invest. But maybe the most compelling emerging market is America, just outside of Silicon Valley.

TC: I imagine that you had your pick of companies when you first launched Drive. Is that true and has that changed in this new COVID era, when everybody is striking deals online? Who is showing up that you didn’t see a few years ago?

CO: It might surprise you but we actually didn’t have our pick of the companies when we first got here, largely because it was unusual to be a venture capitalist. In Ohio, there just aren’t a lot of them. And so a lot of entrepreneurs were in non-obvious places. Unlike in Silicon Valley, where you have entrepreneurs sign up on this superhighway of capital, where you go from Y Combinator to the seed investor and then to the A investor, that infrastructure didn’t exist here. What was a little bit surprising to us was how much we ended up having to work to originate investment opportunities here in the Midwest and not because people weren’t here but because that kind of activity just hasn’t been built yet.

We’ve had to spend a lot of time going into the universities and putting new seed managers in business and helping them fundraise and sort of building all of this infrastructure from scratch so that the next entrepreneur is out here [versus moves away], and it works. In our first year, we had inbound interest from 1,800 [startups], then it went to about 3,000 and now it’s up to about 7,000, which is more than I’ve heard any other venture firms say that they see in California. And I don’t think it’s because we’re great. I think that’s more [a reflection of the] scale of the opportunity that’s here now. One of the things that we would love to see more of is more venture capitalists coming here, because there’s certainly more opportunity than we can invest in.

TC: You don’t worry that you’ve teed up the market for other VCs to come and steal your deals?

MW: Not at all. I’m the old guy here, so I remember when Sequoia was started in 1972; my father worked with Don Valentine and National Semiconductor, and it was then Kleiner, Perkins, NEA, [just] a couple of firms. And what happens is you create this network effect. And the more capital, the more folks [who are building stuff in close proximity to you]. Right now, if we don’t invest in a Series A, there’s a couple of local folks, but primarily, [that capital has] got to come from the coasts.

CO: My attitude is, ‘Come on [over] because the worst thing that is happening right now is that I know for sure there are multibillion-dollar investments that are not getting made still because they’re based here. The problem that we have right now is [that] a Redpoint comes in and invests in one company in Ann Arbor, or Benchmark comes into this one company in Indianapolis, or, Sequoia comes in [for a deal here or there] but they aren’t making this their primary business. And until we see more venture capitalists showing up here saying, “This is all I do every single day,” I fear that that next opportunity that we’re missing won’t get its funding. We’re just out of whack in terms of the number of opportunities versus the number of venture capitalists here . . .

[Also] some of the very best investments in Silicon Valley are done with venture firms that can partner and then entrepreneurs have access to a larger Rolodex, a larger pool of capital, more diversity of thought — all the things that they need to grow their business.

TC: You’re competing with other hotspots like Austin for attention. Make the case for Columbus specifically.

MW: If you put a circle around Columbus, a one-day car drive, you’re talking about 60% of the GDP of American, over 50% or 60% of the population, and [access to] a huge percentage of all the top customers. Columbus is in the middle of it all. What we’re able to do then is easily travel to Chicago and Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati; it’s a quick flight to Minneapolis, and so on and so forth. And the Midwest is a spectacular place to build companies.

TC: Drive’s team includes a director of engineering and several software engineers. Why?

CO: One of the things you learn very quickly that’s different about the Midwest is, it’s not a city; it’s a nation. And you have to set up your infrastructure differently if you’re going to be successful investing into that nation [because] there’s just a lot of ground cover.

One of the things that we have been able to do is to look at venture capital and say, “Look, there are a lot of rote, repetitive tasks that venture capitalists do, and what if we could eliminate those tasks, so that we don’t need to hire the boiler room of Ivy League grads to cold call the entire phone book and annoy all the entrepreneurs and do all that kind of stuff. We can do more homework in an automated fashion.” So that was kind of the idea that we had. And so we built this software platform that we’re able to use now to not only identify which entrepreneurs have the highest probability of turning into an investment but also [who are] the people for our portfolio companies who have the highest probability of joining a certain startup, or, which venture capitalists have the highest probability of investing in that follow-on round of capital.

TC: You had the chance to reinvent the VC model when you started your own firm. Are there any things that you did in setting up Drive that were different than what you’d experienced at Sequoia?

MK: We were very fortunate to have worked at Sequoia. Sequoia is by far the best firm out there, in my opinion. And we often use the phrase, What would Sequoia do? And we built a lot of things around that. But we weren’t Sequoia, so there were many things that we had to do that Sequoia had maybe done 40 or 50 years ago but today doesn’t have to do. That includes building a lot of these capabilities Chris had mentioned before, building some of the infrastructure, helping lawyers understand how to do Series A term sheets or finding headhunters.

We’re also not in a situation where everyone is coming into the office [unlike at Sequoia]; they see a lot of wonderful companies that just ring them up. That’s why we had to be very focused on our outbound efforts. So I’d say that 60% to 70% of what we’ve done, we learned at Sequoia, but the rest we had to make specific to what we’re doing here at Drive.

TC: How big a net are you casting geographically?

CO: At this point, it’s massive. If you were to look at our portfolio, we have companies in Denver, Washington, Atlanta, Toronto, Austin. I think what we’re finding is that this opportunity is a broader phenomenon that we’re investing in.

Before we will invest into any of these cities, we’ve had to go in the same way we did into Columbus. And we’ve had to meet with the landlords, because landlords out here are not built for startups. They’re built for legacy companies, and they want to see five years of trailing financials, and they want a massive security deposit. And it’s like, “Well, I don’t have that.” So too with the headhunters. There are phenomenal headhunters in Ohio. They’re totally different than the ones who are successful in Denver or in Atlanta because those talent networks are very localized.

But now that done that and we’ve been invested in an infrastructure and we’ve got a density of companies in a lot of the cities that I just mentioned, now we can help and we can be very different from a venture firm that’s just going to zoom in for quarterly board meetings. We’ve got a partnership now that’s expanded where we’re investing people resources, and we’re in the cities on a weekly basis.

CO: The early case that Mark made is: there’s an enormous amount of money that’s spent on research here. In Silicon Valley, the venture dollars ratio to research dollars is massively too many VC dollars for too little research; the opposite is true here in Ohio. This is more what Silicon Valley looked like in the late 1990s.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/01/11/columbus-drivecapital/

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Vision Fund backs Chinese fitness app Keep in $360 million round – TechCrunch

As Chinese fitness class provider Keep continues to diversify its offerings to include Peloton-like bikes, health-conscious snacks among other things, it’s bringing in new investors to fund its ambitions. On Monday, Keep said it has recently closed a Series F financing round of $360 million led by SoftBank Vision Fund. Hillhouse Capital and Coatue Management […]

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As Chinese fitness class provider Keep continues to diversify its offerings to include Peloton-like bikes, health-conscious snacks among other things, it’s bringing in new investors to fund its ambitions.

On Monday, Keep said it has recently closed a Series F financing round of $360 million led by SoftBank Vision Fund. Hillhouse Capital and Coatue Management participated in the round, as well as existing investors GGV Capital, Tencent, 5Y Capital, Jeneration Capital and Bertelsmann Asia Investments.

The latest fundraise values the six-year-old startup at about $2 billion post-money, people with knowledge told TechCrunch. Keep said it currently has no plans to go public, a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Keep started out in 2014 by providing at-home workout videos and signed up 100 million users within three years. As of late, it has served over 300 million users, the company claims. It has over time fostered an ecosystem of fitness influencers who give live classes to students via videos, and now runs a team of course designers, streaming coaches and operational staff dedicated to its video streaming business.

The company said its main revenue driver is membership fees from the 10 million users who receive personalized services. It’s also expanding its consumer product line. Last year, for instance, the firm introduced an internet-connected stationary bike that comes with video instructions like Peloton . It’s also rolled out apparel, treadmills and smart wristbands.

The company launched foreign versions of its Keep app in 2018 as it took aim at the overseas home fitness market. It was posting diligently on Western social networks including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter up until the spring of 2019.

According to Keep, the purpose of the latest funding is to let it continue doing what it has focused on in recent years: improving services and products for users and serving fitness professionals against a backdrop of the Chinese government’s campaign for “national fitness.”

“We believe fitness has become an indispensable part of Chinese people’s everyday life as their income rises and health awareness grows,” said Eric Chen, managing partner at SoftBank Vision Fund .

The company said its main revenue driver is membership fees from the 10 million users who receive personalized services. It’s also expanding its consumer product line. Last year, for instance, the firm introduced an internet-connected stationary bike that comes with video instructions like Peloton . It’s also rolled out apparel, treadmills and smart wristbands.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/01/10/vision-fund-keep-360-million-funding/

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