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Valon closes on $50M a16z-led Series A to grow mobile-first mortgage servicing platform – TechCrunch

If you’ve ever applied for a mortgage, you know it’s one of the most painful processes out there. Keeping up with payments and dealing with customer service over the course of the loan is no picnic either. So it’s no surprise that big bucks are being poured into the space with the goal of making […]

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If you’ve ever applied for a mortgage, you know it’s one of the most painful processes out there. Keeping up with payments and dealing with customer service over the course of the loan is no picnic either.

So it’s no surprise that big bucks are being poured into the space with the goal of making the process easier, more digital and more transparent.

To that end, Valon, a tech-enabled mortgage servicer, announced this morning it has raised $50 million in a Series A round of funding — which is large for its stage even by today’s standards.

Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) led the round for the New York-based company formerly known as Peach Street. Returning backers Jefferies Financial Group, New Residential Investment Corporation – an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group LLC – and 166 2nd LLC also participated in the financing.

Valon previously raised $3.2 million from seed investors such as serial entrepreneur Kevin Ryan’s Alley Corp, Soros, Kairos, and Zigg Capital.

Andrew Wang, Eric Chiang and Jon Hsu founded Valon in June 2019 with the mission of breaking up what it sees as “a monopoly in the market,” with “the largest mortgage servicing software company” (software giant Black Knight) controlling more than half of all U.S. residential loans.

“We’re on the cusp of a mortgage foreclosure crisis comparable to 2008, and the majority of homeowners struggling to make their loan payments are unaware of their options,” Valon CEO Wang said. “This stranglehold has driven servicing costs up nearly 250% in the past decade, and the fees are passed on directly to the borrower.”

Concurrent with the raise, Valon recently got the green light from Fannie Mae to service its government sponsored home loans. (For the unacquainted, servicing loans means doing things like collecting payments on behalf of a lender). The approval will only continue to fuel Valon’s rapid growth, according to Wang.

“We went from no contracts committed to $10 billion in mortgages committed to be serviced in one year,” he told TechCrunch.

Valon operates in 49 states, and expects to add New York this year.

As a former investor in mortgage servicing space, Wang was frustrated by “the lack of service” provided by other servicers. So he teamed up with Chiang and Hsu, who had prior product and engineering experience at Google and Twilio, to launch Valon.

The company’s cloud-native platform aims to deliver what it describes as a borrower-oriented experience. Lenders also can request access to real-time API data feeds to view performance of their borrowers and reconcile transaction data.

Unlike mortgage originators, which lend money to the borrower, a mortgage servicer interfaces with the borrower for the duration of their loan – and that can be anywhere from 15 to 30 years.

“This includes things like collecting payments on behalf of the lender and providing assistance and guidance to the borrower in moments of stress,” Wang said. “Traditional mortgage servicers use antiquated technology and provide poor service to borrowers. Valon looks to change that dynamic by providing transparency and full self-service capabilities to homeowners.”

The company also claims that its technology has the potential to reduce mortgage servicing costs by up to 50% by vertically integrating the entire process. Its platform is built on Google Cloud with security as a “first-principle” with features such as default encryption and intrusion detection, the company said.

Millions of Americans stopped paying their mortgages in 2020 due to the economic strain of the coronavirus pandemic. This led to requests for forbearance (postponement of payments) and foreclosure moratoriums.

“The pandemic highlighted the stress in the market and greatly accelerated the need for a new age mortgage servicer,” Wang said. “Homeowners faced a great deal of financial stress and had difficulty getting the right option and assistance from existing servicers due to their antiquated technology and inability to process requests… In 2021 we will see forbearance and foreclosure leniency come to an end and this need will be even more acute.”

Angela Strange, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz who joined Valon’s board in mid-2020, says Valon has built a mobile-first mortgage servicer from the ground up.

“Homeowners are faced with clumsy websites, call centers, and often misinformation,” she said in a written statement. “In Valon, they have a trusted software driven advisor who can provide clear, transparent, regulatory compliant information in good times and bad – without needing to pick up the phone.”

The Fannie Mae approval only serves as further validation of the platform the team has created, she added.

Valon plans to use its new capital to triple headcount to about 100 by year’s end as well as to acquire more mortgage servicing rights (MSR) contracts to service.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/02/02/valon-closes-on-50m-a16z-led-series-a-to-grow-mobile-first-mortgage-servicing-platform/

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Common Sense Networks launches Sensical, a free, hand-curated streaming service for kids – TechCrunch

Common Sense Media has made a name for itself among parents as a useful resource for vetting entertainment and technology in terms of its age-appropriateness. Now, the organization’s for-profit affiliate, Common Sense Networks, is taking inspiration from those kid-friendly recommendations with the launch of new streaming service called Sensical. The service offers age-appropriate, entertaining, and […]

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Common Sense Media has made a name for itself among parents as a useful resource for vetting entertainment and technology in terms of its age-appropriateness. Now, the organization’s for-profit affiliate, Common Sense Networks, is taking inspiration from those kid-friendly recommendations with the launch of new streaming service called Sensical. The service offers age-appropriate, entertaining, and educational videos for children ages 2 through 10.

At launch, the free, ad-supported service includes over 15,000 hand-curated videos and over 50 topic-based channels for children to explore. And unlike other platforms, like Netflix or YouTube, Sensical doesn’t use algorithms to make content recommendations. Instead, kids are encouraged to follow their own interests and passions across over 50 topic-based channels. This includes things like Adventures, Animals, Arts & Crafts, Music, Science, Sports, Video Games, and other sorts of kid-friendly topics.

Kids can star these channels, or individual videos or series, in order to keep up with their favorite content in a dedicated Favorites section within the app.

Kids will see a selection of these channels based on their age, but the company is working to expand the channel lineup so there will be even more specific categories in the future. For example, instead of just “sports,” there could be channels like “soccer” or “gymnastics.” Instead of “Arts,” there could be “drawing” or “origami.” Instead of just “science,” it could include channels like “geography” or “robotics,” and so on.

Image Credits: Common Sense Networks

The app also features a Live TV section, which is programmed throughout the day with kid-friendly content so kids don’t have to browse to find something to quickly watch.

While other streaming services on the market offer kid-friendly content — as that’s a huge selling point for subscribers — it’s not always organized in a way that makes sense. Sometimes, all the content gets lumped into a general “Kids” category where videos for little kids are mixed in with content for older children. Sensical, meanwhile, curates the content recommendations into three different experiences, including preschool (2-4), little kids (5-7), and big kids (8-10).

What the child sees is based on how parents configure their profile. Plus, parents can use the service’s ParentZone in-app dashboard to set screen time limits, extend limits as needed, and view daily reports on what the child has watched.

The service’s best feature, however, is that the content is assured to be age-appropriate — even the ads.

This is possible because the curation approach Sensical takes, which is very different from YouTube Kids. YouTube’s app for kids leans on algorithms to filter out adult content from YouTube’s broader library, but the company doesn’t manually review all the videos it includes. It warns parents that some inappropriate content could slip through. (And it has). Common Sense Networks, meanwhile, says dozens of trained child development experts view, vet, and rate “every single frame of video” that goes live on its service using its proprietary IP and patent pending process. This system involves tagging content with specific child developmental benefits, too.

Sensical also vets its advertising, which is how the service is supported, with similar direct oversight. Its experts review the sponsor’s content to ensure it’s appropriate for children — an area that’s often overlooked on other services.

Image Credits: Common Sense Networks

To fill its library, Common Sense Networks partnered with dozens of studios and distribution partners as well as digital-first creators.

Studio and distribution partners include CAKE (Poppy Cat), Cyber Group Studios (Leo The Wildlife Ranger), The Jim Henson Company (The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, Jim Henson’s Animal Show with Stinky and Jake), Mattel (Kipper, Pingu, Max Steel), Raydar Media (Five Apples’ limited series, Apple Tree House), Superights (Bo Bear, Handico), WildBrain (Teletubbies, Rev & Roll), Xilam Animation (Learn and Play with Paprika, Moka’s Fabulous Adventures), ZDF Enterprises (Lexi & Lottie, School of Roars), Zodiak Kids (Mister Maker, Tee and Mo), ABC Commercial, CBC & Radio-Canada Distribution, Jetpack Distribution, Nelvana, 9 Story Distribution International, Sesame Workshop, Serious Lunch, and Studio 100.

Digital creators, meanwhile, include ABCMouse, Aaron’s Animals, Alphabet Rockers, batteryPOP, California Academy of Sciences, GoldieBlox, The Gotham Group’s Gotham Reads, Guggenheim Museum, Howdytoons, Kids’ Black History, MEL Science + Chemistry, N*Gen, Pinkfong, Penguin Random House’s Brightly Storytime, Studio71 (Parry Gripp, Maymo, Hyper Roblox), Tankee, Ubongo Kids, Vooks, Bounce Patrol, Hevesh5, Mother Goose Club, StacyPlays, Super Simple Songs and The Whistle.

The service abides by the U.S. children’s privacy laws (COPPA), and is certified by the kidSAFE Seal Program.

Image Credits: Common Sense Networks

Having briefly toyed around with the mobile app, it appears Sensical works as described. If I had any complaints personally, it would only be that the experience could be dismissed as “baby stuff” by older kids approaching their tween years, due to the cute pictures and youthful iconography used in the app’s design. Kids in older age groups take issue with being treated as if they’re younger — and they take particular notice of anything that does so. The same complaint goes for the Live TV programming, which was clearly aimed at littler kids when we checked it out, despite testing the app as child profile whose age was set to “10.”

I also think it would be nice if there was a better way to track Favorite channels and see when they’re updated with new videos, as kids moving to Sensical from YouTube will want to “feel” like they’re still connected to new and fresh content, not a library. But Sensical isn’t YouTube. There’s a trade-off between hand-curation and timeliness, and Sensical is favoring the former.

Sensical had been first introduced this spring during a closed beta, but is now publicly available to stream across web and mobile on iOS, Android, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV. This summer, it will expand to more distribution platforms, including VIZIO.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/30/common-sense-networks-launches-sensical-a-free-hand-curated-streaming-service-for-kids/

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This Week in Apps: Android apps on Windows 11, App Store Search Ads hit China, Apple argues against sideloading – TechCrunch

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy. The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices […]

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Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This week, there’s big news with the expansion of Android apps to Windows. Apple also came out swinging against sideloading and expanded its profitable Search Ads business to China…with more than a few caveats. Meanwhile, TikTok launched its own take on mini-apps after tests, making its videos more interactive.

This Week in Apps will soon be a newsletter! Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Microsoft brings Android apps to Windows 11

Image Credits: Microsoft

Microsoft surprised industry observers this week at its Windows 11 event with news that it will make Android apps available on the next version of its operating system. The apps will run natively on Windows 11 and can be downloaded from Amazon’s Appstore through the new Windows Store included in the updated OS. They’ll also be able to be integrated into the Start menu and pinned to the taskbar, and can tile or “window” as part of the OS’s new application placement user interface.

The Amazon partnership will bring increased attention to the Amazon Appstore, whose importance has somewhat fizzled over the years given the general lack of investment and its close ties to Amazon Fire devices, which are outsold by iPad. App developers today tend to focus initially on the App Store and Google Play, not Amazon’s Appstore. However, bringing some 3 million Android apps to Windows users opens up a huge new potential market for Android. But could it actually make coding for “iOS first” less of a given for certain types of applications — like those that complement the productivity environment enabled by a Windows PC, perhaps?

In the near-term, more consumers may begin to sideload the Amazon Appstore app on their Android devices for their paid app installs in order to gain access to the cross-platform support a Google Play version would not necessarily provide.

Microsoft noted during the event that it’s partnering with Intel to use its Intel Bridge technology to make this Appstore integration possible on x86 systems. However, the Intel-powered apps will also run on AMD and Arm processors, The Verge noted, though the technical details of how that will work were not immediately available.

Microsoft during the event demonstrated how the app integration would work by showing off TikTok running in a vertical format on the new Windows OS. This may not have been the best example, as TikTok has a fairly usable website for watching videos. Meanwhile, the image of the Amazon Appstore in the Windows Store showed other apps including those from Ring, Uber, Yahoo, Khan Academy, Kindle, Game of War: Fire Age, My Talking Tom Friends, and more, which indicates this is a comprehensive rollout.

Ahead of this news, Amazon announced it would soon lower its cut on app developer revenues from 30% to 20%, as part of a new program for small businesses. The program, which also includes promotional credits for AWS, could help boost developer support for the Appstore. Plus, on the larger Windows Store, non-game developers can keep 100% of their revenue if they use their own payment platforms for in-app purchases. Apps and games using Microsoft’s payment platform split revenue with the company at 85%/15% and 88%/12%, respectively. This sort of commission structure combined with the introduction of Android apps makes the Windows Store seem more developer-friendly than Apple’s App Store, which Microsoft likely hopes will keep it out of antitrust crosshairs.

Apple launches Search Ads in China

Apple this week brought its search advertising business to China five years after its U.S. debut. The system allows developers to bid on an advertising slot based on keywords users search for in the App Store. Though the move opens up a major new market for app developers, the system in China is fairly complex and comes with several caveats. Developers will need to upload documents, including business licenses and other files, that confirm their account has been approved before being able to run ads. Apple may then submit these documents to third-party databases and government entities for validation.

According to Apple’s guidelines, the industry-specific licenses required exclude most foreign businesses from directly advertising in mainland China. Instead, they’ll need to work with local partners who will run ads on their behalf.

The expansion for now only includes the Search Ads in the App Store and not the newly added Search Tab ads, where developers can bid on a slot directly on the Search tab in the App Store itself.

Platforms: Apple

Apple released iOS 15 beta 2 and iPadOS 15 beta 2 for app developers. New features include support for SharePlay, updated Memoji outfits, a new Maps icon, a welcome screen in the updated Weather app, access to launch Quick Note with a swipe from bottom-right on iPad, Shortcuts improvements, bug fixes for iCloud Private Relay, and more. WatchOS 8 beta 2 was also released.

The iOS 15 beta code also revealed Apple is working on a feature that will allow users to update to a beta release when restoring a device from backup instead of being told that you can’t use backups of newer iOS versions.

iOS and iPad apps will now be able to request privileged access to more RAM in iOS 15, exceeding normal system memory limits, 9to5Mac also discovered.

✨ Apple this week published a white paper (PDF) where it presents its argument against any legislation that would force the company to allow sideloading of apps on iOS or iPadOS devices outside its App Store. While there are consumer benefits to allowing for choice — like getting your hands on apps that don’t fit Apple’s rules, for example — Apple makes the case that sideloading could compromise user privacy and security in a number of ways, including potentially opening up users to being scammed and making it more difficult for parents to lock down kids’ iPhones, among other things. Pirated apps could also eat into legitimate developer revenue, not to mention Apple’s own. Apple’s Director of User Privacy Erik Neuenschwander went into further detail with Fast Company about Apple’s position, noting attackers could even trick users into thinking they were downloading from the App Store when they were not.

Platforms: Google

Google’s Android Essentials is now generally available through additional partners in the U.S., the U.K, Japan, France and Germany, with more countries coming soon after a more limited testing period. Essentials makes it easier for companies to manage and secure Android devices in the workplace by enabling features like remote wiping of lost or stolen devices, enforcing a screen lock, and preventing sideloading of applications.

Google opened its Play Media Experience Program globally. The program allows developers to invest in scaling their services beyond mobile to reach other devices including experiences across Video (Android TV, Google TV, Google Cast); Audio (Wear OS, Android Auto, Android TV, Google Cast); and Books (tablets, foldables, integration with the new Entertainment Space.)

E-commerce

Facebook announced a trio of new commerce features this week, including the expansion of its Shops service to WhatsApp as well as Marketplace in the U.S.; Shop Ads, including AR try-on ads in the U.S., and an A.I.-based Visual Search feature on Instagram, where users can upload photos to find similar items.

Augmented Reality

Apple launches an AR-enabled Snapchat Lens to promote Apple Pay Express Transit in New York. The Lens lets users ride the subway through Kings Theater in Flatbush, the Sea Glass Carousel in Battery Park, and the Great Hall at the New York City Hall of Science.

TikTok and Spotify teamed up with makeup brand MAC on a digital campaign that offers an AR lens with lip colors users can virtually try on. The campaign involves MAC’s Love Me Liquid Lipcolor and is running in the U.K. across both apps.

Social

TikTok launched its own mini-app integrations. With its new Jump feature, creators can add interactive third-party integrations to their videos from services like Whisk, Quizlet, Breathwrk, StatMuse, Tabelog, BuzzFeed, Jumprope, IRL and WATCHA.

Instagram said it’s testing a new feature in English-speaking markets that will mix Suggested Posts into your Feed. The company will use its algorithmic suggestions to help point people to accounts they may want to follow, with an apparent goal of increasing time spent in the app.

Twitter announced a new feature will make it possible to share tweets directly to Instagram Stories. To use the feature, which is only on iOS for now, you’ll tap the share icon on a tweet and select “Instagram Stories.” When the Instagram app opens, you can resize or reposition the tweet sticker before posting.

Snap made a deal with Universal Music Group. The deal allows Snapchat users to add song clips from the UMG catalog to their Snaps and on Spotlight, Snap’s TikTok rival.

Twitter has opened up applications for U.S. users who want to test its Ticketed Spaces and Super Follows features. The company said only a “small group” will be able to test the features for the time being. Super Follows lets creators charge $2.99, $4.99, or $9.99 per month for exclusive content. Ticketed Spaces lets creators charge between $1-$999 for access to live audio rooms.

Messaging

Newly relaunched mobile app Squad debuted an audio-based mobile messenger that allows friends to send voice messages to one another that expire after 14 hours.

Dating

After a handful of competitors took on Tinder with video-based dating, Tinder this week introduced a feature that allows daters to upload up to nine videos to their profiles. It also added a speed-dating feature called “Hot Takes” that lets unmatched users chat for a short period before swiping left or right, from 6 pm to midnight on weekdays.

Streaming & Entertainment

YouTube for iOS is officially gaining support for picture-in-picture in the U.S. The feature will allow all users, both free and paid, to watch YouTube while using other apps on their iPhone.

Clubhouse was spotted working on DM text chat feature called Backchannel that would allow users a new way to connect.

Kuaishou, the operator of China’s second-largest short-form video app behind TikTok (Douyin in China), reaches 1 billion monthly active users. The company says the MAU figure includes all of its existing platforms in China, plus its Kwai and Snack Video apps in international markets.

Wattpad and WEBTOON merged their studio divisions to create Wattpad WEBTOON Studios. The deal follows South Korea-based Naver’s recent acquisition of Wattpad in a transaction estimated to be more than USD$600 million, which aligns the two storytelling and entertainment divisions. Both will benefit from the company’s data-driven approach to sourcing content from storytelling apps to turn into TV shows, movies and books.

Gaming

New titles came to Google Stadia, including Madden NFL 2022 — the first sports title to launch on a cloud gaming platform. Google Stadia’s Android TV app also launched on the Play Store with a “Coming Soon” message.

Player spending in U.S. mobile sports games rose 16% year-over-year to $648.8 million, according to Sensor Tower data. The top app by player spending in the U.S. between June 1, 2020 and May 31, 2021 was Golf Clash from Playdemic, which generated $132.8 million. The No. 2 and No. 3 grossing Sports titles were 8 Ball Pool from Miniclip and Fishing Clash from Ten Square Games.

More than half of the $175 billion earned by the games industry this year will come from mobile games, per Newzoo and Arm’s annual report. Mobile games will be increasingly high-fidelity and cross-platform, the report said.

Classic mobile game Jetpack Joyride is also being added to Apple Arcade, following a recent announcement that more classic games would be soon added to the subscription gaming service.

Health & Fitness

Google and the state of Massachusetts got busted by silently installing the state’s COVID-tracking service, MassNotify, on users’ devices without consent. The auto-installed version isn’t an app and instead is only available as a setting users could enable or disable.

Government & Policy

Indian microblogging app Koo is selling itself as a partisan Twitter alternative in Nigeria by supporting government restrictions on social media platforms.

A French court has set a date in the case over allegedly abusive App Store developer contracts brought by the finance ministry against Apple. The hearing will take place Sept 17, 2021, and could influence Apple’s decision to change developer terms and agreements.

Google may soon face antitrust claims over its Play Store from several U.S. states, Reuters reported. A group of state attorneys general may file a lawsuit against Google as early as next week, the report claims, citing sources. The investigation is being led by Utah, Tennessee, North Carolina and New York.

Security & Privacy

Enterprise customers using Jamf to manage Macs gained access to a new Jamf Unlock app for iPhone, which allows users to unlock their Macs using Face ID on their iPhone.

💰 MAJORITY raised $19 million in seed funding for its mobile banking service for migrants. The app offers a $5 per month subscription that offers an FDIC-insured bank account, debit card, mobile credit, and at-cost international calls. The round was led by Valar Ventures, with participation from Avid Ventures, Heartcore Capital and several Nordic fintech founders.

💰 Mobile commerce startup Via raised $15 million in Series A funding for its suite of mobile marketing tools for e-commerce apps. The round was led by led by Footwork, the new venture firm co-founded by former Stitch Fix COO Mike Smith and former Shasta Ventures investor Nikhil Basu Trivedi. The startup has generated $51 million in sales since May 2020.

💰 Viva Republica, the maker of Korean financial super app Toss, raised $410 million at a $7.4 billion valuation. The app offers standard neobanking features, as well as P2P payments, money transfers, loans and more.

💰 Sporttrade raised $36 million for its sports betting and stock trading combo service, which is set to release its app in New Jersey later this year. Investors included former heads of Nasdaq and MGM Resorts.

🤝 EA is acquiring Warner Bros. Games’ Playdemic mobile games studio for $1.4 billion in cash. Playdemic is best known for “Golf Clash,” a top mobile game in the U.S. and U.K. with over 80 million installs to date.

💰 Charlotte, N.C.-based mobile payments platform Payzer raised $19.5 million according to an SEC filing. The company offers an end-to-end management platform for contractors on a subscription basis.

💰 Happs raised $4.7 million in post-seed funding for its multicast livestream platform aimed at the creator economy. Users can broadcast live to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Twitch simultaneously via the app, and view live comments from all supported social media sites.

🤝 Amazon’s AWS is acquiring the secure messaging app Wickr, which has been providing services to government and military groups and enterprises. Wickr had raised just under $60 million in funding, per Pitchbook data.

Brave

Image Credits: Brave

Alternative browser Brave this week introduced its own search service, Brave Search, now available in beta across all platforms — including web, Android and iOS. The service is different from other search engines because it does not track or profile users, and it leverages its own search index for answering queries instead of relying on other providers. Its ranking algorithms will be community-curated and open. Soon, it will also offer options for both an ad-free paid search and an ad-supported search option, allowing users to decide how they want to proceed.

Brave Search was announced in March when Brave acquired Tailcat. The company says the new service will later this year become the default in the Brave browser.

Moonbeam

Image Credits: Moonbeam

Kayak’s co-founder Paul English this week officially launched Moonbeam, a podcast discovery app that leverages a combination of machine learning and human curation to create a newsfeed-style stream of audio content, similar to Podz. Podcasters can also select clips of their shows to feature on the app. Plus, the app allows fans to tip creators directly — and Moonbeam doesn’t take a cut. The app learns what sort of podcasts you may like based on how you interact with those it features, so your recommendations improve over time. Moonbeam can also serve as your podcast player, offering the ability to play back full episodes.

Gives a boost to Amazon for more developers who will want apps there to leverage Windows. Probably most important partnership announced

— Michael Gartenberg (@Gartenberg) June 24, 2021

App Store revolution has been temporarily delayed.
Screenshots are back for the installed apps in the search results in iOS 15.0 beta 2 pic.twitter.com/DDvk1brQgK

— ilia kukharev (@ilyakuh) June 25, 2021

(Quick, painful aside: On the podcast I explained that Apple completely broke the method @LaunchCenterPro has been using for Home Screen customization. We now have to remove the feature from the app and somehow explain it to our users who paid for that feature. It’s crushing.) pic.twitter.com/k5nOVZHDXz

— David Barnard (@drbarnard) June 23, 2021

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/26/this-week-in-apps-android-apps-on-windows-11-app-store-search-ads-hit-china-apple-argues-against-sideloading/

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Dollars, deals and the importance of nondilutive capital – TechCrunch

Today, on Juneteenth, we recognize the efforts this nation still needs to put toward addressing structural racism and disparities, including in the world of tech. This week, HBCUvc, a nonprofit that aims to diversify the world of venture capital, launched a million-dollar fund. Founder Hadiyah Mujhid told me that the capital would provide nondilutive financing […]

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Today, on Juneteenth, we recognize the efforts this nation still needs to put toward addressing structural racism and disparities, including in the world of tech.

This week, HBCUvc, a nonprofit that aims to diversify the world of venture capital, launched a million-dollar fund. Founder Hadiyah Mujhid told me that the capital would provide nondilutive financing to overlooked founders, which they define as Black, Indigenous and LatinX entrepreneurs, replacing the traditional angel round. But she also admitted that supporting founders wasn’t the only primary goal. Instead, she explained to me the importance of what she defines as “teaching capital.”

Similar to how teaching hospitals give aspiring doctors a way to practice and learn their craft before formally entering the field, the fund wants to do that for their some 230 aspiring investors that they already work with, many stemming from historically Black colleges and universities. Notably, nondilutive capital provides entrepreneurs with funding sans equity and a learning experience with lower stakes.

There are a lot of organizations right now that are starting funds [with] the primary goal of supporting founders. And that’s a goal of ours, but we’re hoping to have a ripple effect of training and really providing on-ramps for the next best-in-class investors … and in order to do that, they have to have a training vehicle.

While I’m not always a fan of rebranded names for capital, “teaching capital” is certainly a compelling framing. Track record is everything in this industry, and underrepresented folks often don’t have the benefit or privilege of access on their side — from a dollar or deals perspective. Scout programs have long existed to fill this gap, but I think that there is still a lacking of intentionality around who feels empowered to write an investment memo, ask questions and be new. This week, BLCK VC launched its scout program and Google for Startups launched a nondilutive financing instrument for Black founders, underscoring a growing focus in seeding diverse entrepreneurs.

HBCUvc’s fund was announced nearly one year after it almost shut down due to a lack of capital. Mujhid explained how the unjust killing of George Floyd led to the biggest one-day donation in her nonprofit’s lifetime, which “changed the trajectory of programming.” She also said that a lot of interest was a knee-jerk reaction, urging people to view this work as a long-term commitment.

Down the creative capital rabbit hole we go:

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll get into Waymo’s latest raise, the Nubank EC-1 and a Pittsburgh event that I can’t wait to nerd out about.

Waymo gets way more

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving arm, raised $2.5 billion in its second-ever institutional round. Investors include Alphabet, Andreessen Horowitz, AutoNation, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Fidelity Management & Research Company, Temasek and, of course, Tiger Global.

Here’s what to know: Waymo is going external after some internal shuffling. The funding comes only months after CEO John Krafcik stepped down from his title after spending five years in that position. Last month, Waymo lost its CFO and head of partnerships.

For more, here are my favorite recaps of TC Sessions: Mobility:

The Nubank EC-1

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman

Another week, another EC-1! Marcella McCarthy wrote about Nubank, a Brazillian credit card and banking fintech company that just last week raised at a $30 billion valuation. It’s one of the most valuable startups in the world, with over 40 million users.

Here’s what to know: As McCarthy puts it in the piece, Nubank started by trying to solve a massive challenge: “How to rebuild the concept of a bank in a country where banking is widely hated, all while the incumbents heavily entrenched with the state worked to block every move.” Maybe, the story goes on to tell, it would start with California Street.

Check out each installment of the series below:

Around TC

In May, thousands of you read my Duolingo EC-1, a deep dive into Pittsburgh’s favorite edtech unicorn. Now, we’re taking you to Pittsburgh to hear from Karin Tsai, the head of engineering there, as well as Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian, Mayor Bill Peduto and a smattering of local startups.

Our TC City Spotlight: Pittsburgh event will be held on June 29, so make sure to register here (for free) to listen to these conversations, enjoy the pitch-off and network with local talent.

Also, a friendly reminder that we’re making a list of the best growth marketers for startups. You can help us by nominating your favorites into this survey.

Across the weekSeen on TechCrunch

Seen on Extra Crunch

Thanks for reading, as always. Take care everyone!

N

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/19/dollars-deals-and-the-importance-of-nondilutive-capital/

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