Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by what the weekday Exchange column digs into, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.
Hey friends! This week was more than hectic, so we have a lot of ground to cover. Below are more notes on the Brazilian IPO market, more coverage of the Chicago startup scene and a host of numbers from startups concerning their recent growth results. So, if you like early-stage or later-stage startups, international startups or domestic startups, we have just what you want!
Another week, another Twitter conversation about funding rounds. To catch you up, this week saw more folks complaining about the media covering funding rounds over other examples of startup activity. My contention for years has been that we, the scribbling classes, cover funding rounds because they are the rare moment that startups are willing to actually share results of their operations.
That VCs will occasionally complain about this is particularly rich, given that investors would hardly be willing to invest in a company based on a short call with a founder about how they came up with an idea. And yet they tell founders to not tell the media anything at all. Alas.
Regardless, all this shook out to me saying, "Hey startups, send in your data!" And some folks did! Others sent in notes about stuff that they had announced before, but that we’d missed.
So here’s a digest of startup growth from a number of stages, markets and the like:
CopyAI: The company recently crossed the $2 million ARR threshold. CopyAI is busy building its business in public, which we love, sharing metrics as it goes. And it has raised external capital and grown rapidly while doing so, providing a proof point that you can share information and not have your startup instantly burst into flames.
I asked CEO Paul Yacoubian if growth has kept up with his expectations, and he said that it has. Our next question: How long until the company can double in size yet again? CopyAI reached $1 million ARR earlier this year.
TextNow: Now over the $100 million ARR mark. The company, essentially bootstrapped after raising less than $2 million during its life, also recently hired a CFO. You know what that means -- an IPO is coming. Frankly TextNow is not a company I know well, but thanks to it sharing information, I now want to learn more about it. See!
Kalendar AI: This company helps folks book sales meetings using AI, it appears. And the model is showing some traction, according to founder and CEO Ravi Vadrevu. He shared a host of metrics with The Exchange, including its bank balance and growth charts. (Hell yeah, data!) The company is generating ARR in the six figures and raised $700,000 in a recent round.
And per its charts, subscriber signups appear to be accelerating. Per a different dataset shared, August is going to be the company’s busiest month yet when it comes to meetings booked, the key non-GAAP metric for its business. That figure is growing at 30% monthly, the startup said.
In Vadrevu’s own phrasing, Kalendar AI wants to “democratize growth for companies like how AWS democratized innovation with virtualization.”
Balto: Balto is a St. Louis-based startup that has raised just over $50 million. The company reached out with some neat data from its recent round, a $37.5 million Series B. Per the company’s COO Chris Kontes, “Jump Capital, OCA Ventures and Sandalphon” took part in the round. Which matters if you read our recent dig into the Chicago market.
Regardless, Balto said that it grew its customer base by 84% and its revenue by 200% since it raised its Series A in Q3 2020. I asked if the ∆ between the company’s customer and revenue growth was driven by net dollar retention (NDR) or larger customers. Per Kontes, “the answer is a bit of both” with a bias toward NDR. He didn’t share an absolute number, but did say that Balto’s “NDR is north of 150%.” Hot dang.
The company, by the by, built tech to help support agents know what to say during calls. Which, it appears, is big business.
HostiFi: Headquartered near Detroit, HostiFi helps customers “remotely monitor and manage UniFi Network devices.” I do not know what that means, sadly, and don’t have the minutes right now to dig in more deeply.
But in better news, HostiFi’s founder Reilly Chase dropped a grip of metrics into our inbox. His company will reach $1 million in ARR in the “next few weeks,” and wants to hit $10 million ARR in “the next 3 years,” which we dig. The company raised $100,000 from what was previously known as Earnest Capital, a group that we’ve covered. HostiFi has 1,700 customers, it says, and a fully remote team of six.
Fun, yeah? Private companies being more open with their financial performance is good for the world as the activity has a way of making the opaque startup world just a bit more limpid.
Our dive into the Brazilian startup market and its impending IPOs was good fun to write. But as we went to press, Brazil’s B3 stock exchange got back to our questions with answers. They just missed our timeline, but we’d be remiss to not share some of their notes here.
Regarding the present state of the Brazilian technology IPO market, B3’s Rafaela Vesterman Araujo wrote the following (minor edits for clarity):
We are passing through a period of records in the Brazilian Capital Markets. Through the first half of August 2021 we had 44 IPOs (for comparison purposes, in all of 2020 we had 28) and around 30% of these IPOs were technology companies, which is very interesting, considering that before 2020, the technology sector was underrepresented at B3.
This is precisely the trend that we were trying to highlight, and note, so it’s nice to see the data back us up.
Next up, how big does a company have to be to list on B3? Here’s Vesterman Araujo (minor edits for clarity):
Around 70% of 2020 and 1H21 technology IPOs raised between [$110 million] and [$367 million]. In addition, 70% of these companies had a net income up to [$55 million]. In some of the cases, even with a lower net revenue compared to other sectors, we have noticed that many of them have been raising a greater amount of capital, probably reflecting the growth expectations.
Hello, growth premium! That’s great news for local Brazilian startups hoping to get public in their home market. With Nubank and Nuvemshop growing huge while private, where the country’s companies will go public is no small matter.
We dug into the Chicago boom this week, tracking the Windy City’s huge venture capital results from the past few quarters and asking locals precisely what was driving the wave of funding and startup activity. As we got that into WordPress, another set of answers came in that we want you to read.
Techstars’ Neal Sáles-Griffin, managing director of its Chicago operations, had this to say about why Chicagoland startups have excelled in attracting capital since late 2020:
It’s a flight to quality. For too long, there’s been a concentration of capital in one hub and VCs following the decentralization of innovation after the COVID [lockdowns]. The pandemic broke old habits and brought investors to mature markets like Chicago. [ … ] For years, Chicago has grown as a national, top-tier destination for startups. The national VC community is finally catching up, exploring our amazing community of founders who are scaling fast in the Midwest.
I went to school in Chicago, so am pretty aware of the density of schools in the area. I was curious if that fact was beneficial to local startups. Per Sáles-Griffin, the answer is a hard yes:
Absolutely, we’re home to two of the top five MBA programs (UChicago, Northwestern), home to a top-five engineering college (UIUC) and [to] one of the most diverse engineering colleges in the country (UIC). But we’re also home to one of the largest city college districts in the region (City Colleges) and historically Black institutions like Chicago State — both home to several engineering and IT programs, training the next generation of talent.
Where should we look for the next generation of startups from Chicago? The Techstars denizen listed healthcare and life sciences as a key market, as well as food tech and companies building in the larger transit space.
So many other things!
Sadly, we are way over our word count for this newsletter, so we have to stop. But lots of other things out there are worth your attention. Like Indianapolis-based Lessonly being acquired by Seismic. Lessonly had raised just under $30 million while operating on its own, helmed by the dynamo-like Max Yoder. And Aspiration Partners -- backed by a number of well-known actors -- is going public via a SPAC. The deal will provide hundreds of millions in fresh capital to the company.
More next week.