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Hello and welcome back to Daily Crunch for September 28, 2021. A big thanks to y'all for the response to yesterday’s TechCrunch+ rebrand. It was a real treat. Next up from TechCrunch is our killer SaaS-focused event, which you can save some money on here. I am hosting, so I promise a retinue of medium-quality jokes to go along with the day’s panels and chats. It’s going to be a real good time! -- Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
Amazon releases a metric fuckload of hardware: Including a robot, it turned out. The company also dropped a video calling device along with a fitness wearable. The company’s $999 Astro robot is driving the most attention today, but the company’s list of new hardware was extensive. On the heels of the Microsoft Surface event, it’s important to remember that every major software company also has a hardware effort.
The Rivian EV truck is good: TechCrunch’s inimitable transportation guru Kirsten Korosec has notes on the 2022 Rivian R1T electric truck on the blog today, and she’s largely impressed. What did she like? Terrain flexibility, acceleration speed and internal details. Not to mention that the R1T is “no delicate flower” despite its premium finishes.
The huge opportunity in climate tech: Korosec dropped another major piece recently, this one focused on the “enormous challenges and abundant opportunities” for startups amid the rising climate crisis. Startups have shown a strong ability to drive software revenues. Perhaps upstart tech companies will also play a role in keeping our planet -- our home! -- cool in the coming years.
Before we get too deep into the day’s venture capital roundup, TechCrunch took a look ahead to the third quarter’s venture capital results, detailing the five questions we are most curious about. Those include what’s up with venture investment in China, what Latin American tallies will tell us about the spread of startup activity in the region and more.
TechCrunch’s Tage Kene-Okafor dug into Backdrop, a startup that has built a “photo-sharing app that merges tech, social media and travel,” asking if we really need another mobile application to help us find gorgeous places while we travel. Perhaps Instagram has real competition on the horizon?
Highnote wants to take on Marqeta: The world of card issuance is a busy one -- more here from TechCrunch+ -- and is about to get busier. Flush with $54 million in capital, Highnote just dropped its stealth tag and showed the world what it is building, namely what we described as a way to make it “easy for any company of any size to provide virtual payment cards to their customers.”
Stark wants to make software more accessible: It’s not just Microsoft that is busy making technology products more accessible. Stark is building tech to help lots of companies get in on the work. The company’s product is now in private beta, allowing users to upload designs, which Stark will then parse to identify possible accessibility issues along with suggesting possible changes. Cool!
Heydoc raises $8.3M for medical data management: Heydoc’s work to build a “system for managing the medical data and admin tasks” that healthcare workers run into all the time is now flush and has designs to break out of its current market in the U.K. to other locales.
Today’s Tiger round is Lifebit: Another day, another huge check from Tiger. This time it’s Lifebit, which works to provide access to biomedical data that could help in drug discovery. This reminds me a bit of what Cellino is up to, albeit from a different angle. See, not all startups have to build enterprise-focused software. How nice to be reminded of that!
Rize raises $11.4M for embedded fintech, with a twist: Embedded banking solutions are pretty common these days. What sets Rize apart, in its view, is a method of uniting different account types under a single user profile. Synthetic accounts, in its own verbiage.
Which form of venture debt should your startup go for?
Startup founders have more options than in years past when it comes to fundraising, thanks in large part to a surplus of liquidity. Besides traditional VC, crowdfunding, venture banks and venture debt funds are all viable options.
In a detailed overview of venture debt options, Andy Weyer, managing director of technology at Runway Growth Capital, shares three use cases depicting how debt capital can benefit borrowers hoping to retain leverage for future rounds or access working capital.
"Think of capital availability as a spectrum, from low risk and low return (venture banks) to high risk and high return (venture capital), with venture debt funds sitting somewhere in the middle," advises Weyer.
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
Today in application store drama, Microsoft: The sound and fury of app marketplaces’ take rates and level of openness took on a new tune today with news from Microsoft. The Redmond-based software giant’s store will now allow for third-party storefronts. If this is more sea change than PR effort, we leave to your discretion.
Blue Prism sells for £1.095B: The RPA market is seeing some consolidation, it appears, in the wake of the UiPath IPO. Vista is buying Blue Prism for just under 1.1 billion pounds, with an intention to unite the company with another of its own portfolio entities. Blue Prism is a public company, mind, so you should have heard of it.
And, finally, Cloudflare takes on AWS: Cloudflare is best known for its content delivery work, not for providing the sort of cloud infra that Amazon’s AWS is famous for selling. And yet Cloudflare intends to poke the dragon with R2, a forthcoming service from the public company that will take on Amazon’s S3 storage product. Notably, R2 will delete data egress fees, perhaps putting Amazon into something akin to a pricing tight spot.
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