Daily Crunch: Crypto custody provider Anchorage Digital valued at $3B after $350M Series D

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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for December 15, 2021! Big news from TechCrunch this week, namely that our events are returning to your neighborhood next year! For a rundown of what we have currently planned, head here. But Disrupt, many Sessions and more are going IRL in 2022. I will see you there! —Alex

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The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Katie Haun is leaving a16z: News is out today that Katie Haun is leaving a16z. She’s best known, TechCrunch notes, for co-leading the investing group’s $2.2 billion crypto fund. What’s she off to do? Starting a new crypto fund, of course, and she’s taking along some of her colleagues in the process. As far as crypto investing goes, this is seismic.
  • Are rich tech valuations set to fall? As interest rates rise and are set to further scale next year, valuation pressure evident in the back half of 2021 could grow next year. That could mean lower top-tier revenue multiples for tech’s highest fliers and perhaps compressed valuations for slower-growing public tech companies. For startups, the impact could be constrained comps and lower private-market pricing.
  • The final tech IPO of the year: Capping off a busy IPO year, Samsara’s IoT-themed public debut went well. The company priced at the top end of its range and traded up around 5% toward the end of its first day as a public company. Samsara is now worth comfortably more than $10 billion after raising hundreds of millions in its public offering.

Startups/VC

TechCrunch covered far more startup news in the last 24 hours than I can include for you in our normal format. So, I’ve written blurbs for some of the most interesting items of the day, and then included links to others, in case you are diving deep this afternoon.

  • This may be the largest party round we’ve seen: Crypto custody concern Anchorage has raised a $350 million round that values it at more than $3 billion. Everyone and their dog took part in the round, including KKR, Andreessen Horowitz, Goldman Sachs, Apollo (hey, it’s the parents!), Blockchain Capital, BlackRock, PayPal Ventures, Lux Capital and others. Why? “Because Anchorage received a federal banking charter, turning it into a digital asset bank,” TechCrunch reports.
  • Norwest raises its biggest fund yet: Speaking of the $3 billion number, that’s also the amount of money that investing group Norwest has raised for its 16th fund. It’s also the largest capital pool that the tenured firm has raised to date. Perhaps we should just call the current venture capital cycle the Super Size Me era.
  • Hong Kong accelerator raises $30M: While China figures out how to quash democratic voices and sentiment in Hong Kong, the city’s startup scene is not entirely moribund. Evidence of that fact can be found in Brinc’s recent Series B, worth some $30 million. The group is an accelerator that we’re most familiar with for its consumer hardware work, though it has expanded in scope in recent years.
  • SQream buys Panoply: SQream is what TechCrunch described as a “well-funded Israel-based data analytics platform.” And it has purchased “no-code data platform Panoply in an effort to expand its cloud services.” Panoply raised $24 million before selling to its new parent company. I would also like 10 points for not using the headline “You SQream, I SQream, we all SQream for startup-to-startup no-code acquisitions.”
  • Drone maker DJI makes the U.S. block list: Rising economic tensions between the United States and China are hitting more companies this week, with DJI and a half dozen other companies finding themselves on the U.S. naughty list. Why is DJI in trouble? Per TechCrunch, “alleged involvement in surveillance of Uyghur Muslims.” Seems like a pretty solid reason, frankly.
  • Pool sharing makes a splash: Yep, you read that correctly. A startup focused on pool rentals from the consumer supply, well, pool, just raised a bunch of money. The startup is called Swimply. Presumably the name is a hybrid of “swim” and “simply,” even if it sounds like a neat acne nickname.

Money, money, money:

Ample’s John de Souza on the merits of B2B, company culture and investors who get it

John de Souza, co-founder of Ample, EV battery swapping company

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Launching a startup is inherently risky, but scaling up a company to succeed where others have failed spectacularly is a very bold move.

San Francisco-based Ample is partnering with companies that manage EV fleets to swap its modular battery packs in and out of their vehicles. “Fourteen years ago, Better Place raised nearly a billion dollars to do what Ample’s doing, and it ended up declaring bankruptcy,” reports Rebecca Bellan.

In an extended interview with co-founder John de Souza, she asked about the company’s go-to-market strategy, its culture and why he’s certain Ample will succeed where others did not.

“The economics and operations work very well because you don’t need a large number at a single station to break even. With a small fleet, you’d have it at max 20 cars and it will break even. That’s what makes it so attractive. You don’t need to deploy the stations until you have a customer.”

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Big Tech Inc.

  • Amazon lowers Alexa cut: Developers building “skills” for the Alexa AI and smart-speaker line will see Amazon take a smaller cut of their revenues in the future, with the figure dropping from 30% to 20% “for Alexa skill developers who earn less than $1 million in revenue” for their work. A small change, but a welcome one.
  • Aurora, Uber team up for autonomous freight: Recall that self-driving startup Aurora once bought Uber’s self-driving assets. The pair is still teaming up, this time with “Aurora’s self-driving trucks [hauling] goods for Uber Freight customers in Texas.”
  • Apple backtracks on its CSAM scanning plan: After running into a wall of concern and complaint, Apple’s controversial plan to scan phones for child-abuse imagery has been removed from its website.

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