China’s cash-burning video sector: How Kuaishou lost $1B in 6 months


Rumors have been floating for months that ByteDance is going public with TikTok and Douyin separately. Just last night, Bloomberg reported that ByteDance is seeking a pre-IPO round of $2 billion at a staggering valuation of $180 billion.

Before any of that materializes, ByteDance Chinese rival Kuaishou moved ahead to file for an initial public offering in Hong Kong Thursday night, and its prospectus is shedding light on a race where both growth and costs are astronomical.

Launched by a former Google engineer in 2011 to share GIFs, Kuaishou has evolved into a nemesis of Douyin, TikTok’s sister in China. With 21.5% owned by Tencent, the company reported a net loss of 6.8 billion yuan ($1 billion) in the first six months of 2020 while operating loss stood at 7.57 billion yuan. In contrast, it logged an operating profit of 1.1 billion yuan in the same period just last year.

The increase was in part a result of the company’s aggressive promotion of its lite version, Kuaishou Express, which tailors to China’s less tech-savvy demographics. Unlike ByteDance, Kuaishou has had limited success overseas and relies on continuous domestic growth.

Its selling and marketing expenses skyrocketed 354.1%, from 3 billion yuan in H1 2019 to 13.7 billion yuan in H1 this year. But the splurge seemed to have paid off: the lite app gained 100 million DAUs within a year. It’s a game of pay-to-play.

The main app Kuaishou itself, as of June, reached 302 million daily users, who spent more than 85 minutes on the app per day engrossed in watching clips and live sessions. For comparison, Douyin crossed 400 million DAUs in January.

Though known as a “short-video app,” Kuaishou earns most of its revenue — 68.5% in H1 — from live streaming, during which audiences can send hosts virtual items priced anywhere between 1 and 2,000 yuan. Other monetization avenues include advertising, which accounted for 28% of its revenues, as well as less significant sources like e-commerce and games.

Douyin, on the other hand, pulled in about 67% of its revenues from advertising last year, a source told TechCrunch earlier, while live streaming made up 17%.

The revenue makeup reflects the core use case of the apps. Kuaishou often prides itself on user engagement; indeed, over a quarter of its 776 million monthly users are creators themselves. That makes Kuaishou more of a social app, where the viewers and creators interact frequently through means like live streaming and gifting.

Douyin, with algorithms that favor premium content, acts more like a form of media as some Chinese venture capitalists observed, making it a destination for showing ads.

In terms of revenue size, Kuaishou generated 39.1 billion yuan last year, about one-third of what ByteDance made last year. But one should keep in mind that ByteDance has another cash cow: its news and information aggregator, Jinri Toutiao.


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Rumors have been floating for months that ByteDance is going public with TikTok and Douyin separately. Just last night, Bloomberg reported that ByteDance is seeking a pre-IPO round of $2 billion at a staggering valuation of $180 billion.

Before any of that materializes, ByteDance Chinese rival Kuaishou moved ahead to file for an initial public offering in Hong Kong Thursday night, and its prospectus is shedding light on a race where both growth and costs are astronomical.

Launched by a former Google engineer in 2011 to share GIFs, Kuaishou has evolved into a nemesis of Douyin, TikTok’s sister in China. With 21.5% owned by Tencent, the company reported a net loss of 6.8 billion yuan ($1 billion) in the first six months of 2020 while operating loss stood at 7.57 billion yuan. In contrast, it logged an operating profit of 1.1 billion yuan in the same period just last year.

The increase was in part a result of the company’s aggressive promotion of its lite version, Kuaishou Express, which tailors to China’s less tech-savvy demographics. Unlike ByteDance, Kuaishou has had limited success overseas and relies on continuous domestic growth.

Its selling and marketing expenses skyrocketed 354.1%, from 3 billion yuan in H1 2019 to 13.7 billion yuan in H1 this year. But the splurge seemed to have paid off: the lite app gained 100 million DAUs within a year. It’s a game of pay-to-play.

The main app Kuaishou itself, as of June, reached 302 million daily users, who spent more than 85 minutes on the app per day engrossed in watching clips and live sessions. For comparison, Douyin crossed 400 million DAUs in January.

Though known as a “short-video app,” Kuaishou earns most of its revenue — 68.5% in H1 — from live streaming, during which audiences can send hosts virtual items priced anywhere between 1 and 2,000 yuan. Other monetization avenues include advertising, which accounted for 28% of its revenues, as well as less significant sources like e-commerce and games.

Douyin, on the other hand, pulled in about 67% of its revenues from advertising last year, a source told TechCrunch earlier, while live streaming made up 17%.

The revenue makeup reflects the core use case of the apps. Kuaishou often prides itself on user engagement; indeed, over a quarter of its 776 million monthly users are creators themselves. That makes Kuaishou more of a social app, where the viewers and creators interact frequently through means like live streaming and gifting.

Douyin, with algorithms that favor premium content, acts more like a form of media as some Chinese venture capitalists observed, making it a destination for showing ads.

In terms of revenue size, Kuaishou generated 39.1 billion yuan last year, about one-third of what ByteDance made last year. But one should keep in mind that ByteDance has another cash cow: its news and information aggregator, Jinri Toutiao.



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PUBG Mobile plots return to India with Microsoft deal


PUBG Mobile, the sleeper hit title that was banned in India two months ago over cybersecurity concerns, is plotting to make a return in the world’s second largest internet market, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The South Korean firm has engaged with global cloud service providers in recent weeks to store Indian users’ data within the country to allay New Delhi’s concerns about user data residency and security, one of the sources said.

Updated at 2.09PM IST on November 7: Krafton, the parent firm of PUBG Corporation, announced today it has inked a global partnership with Microsoft. As part of the deal, games including PUBG Mobile that are developed by Krafton or its subsidiaries will be hosted on Microsoft Azure. “With privacy and data security being a top priority for Krafton, the company will be working with Microsoft to ensure personal data protection through Azure,” said Krafton. Microsoft operates data center regions globally, including three in India. Our original story from Friday follows.

PUBG Corporation has privately informed some high-profile streamers in the country that it expects to resume the service in India before the end of this year, the other source said. Both the sources requested anonymity as they are not authorized to speak to the press. PUBG Corporation did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The company could make an announcement about its future plans for India as soon as this week. It also plans to run a marketing campaign in the country during the festival of Diwali next week, one of the sources said.

In recent weeks, PUBG has also engaged with a number of local firms, including SoftBank-backed Paytm and telecom giant Airtel, to explore whether they would be interested in publishing the popular mobile game in the country, an industry executive said. A Paytm spokesperson declined to comment.

Chinese giant Tencent initially published PUBG Mobile apps in India. After New Delhi banned PUBG Mobile, the gaming firm cut publishing ties with Tencent in the country. Prior to the ban, PUBG Mobile’s content was hosted on Tencent Cloud.

Late last month, two months after the ban order, PUBG Mobile terminated its service for Indian users. “Protecting user data has always been a top priority and we have always complied with applicable data protection laws and regulations in India. All users’ gameplay information is processed in a transparent manner as disclosed in our privacy policy,” it said at the time.

With more than 50 million monthly active users in India, PUBG Mobile was by far the most popular mobile game in the country before it was banned. It helped establish an entire ecosystem of esports organisations and even a cottage industry of streamers that made the most of its spectator sport-friendly gameplay, said Rishi Alwani, a long-time analyst of Indian gaming market and publisher of news outlet The Mako Reactor.

PUBG Mobile’s return, however, could complicate matters for several industry players, including some that are currently building similar games to cash in on its absence and their conversations with venture capital firms over ongoing financing rounds.

It would also suggest that more than 200 other Chinese apps that India has banned in recent months could hope to allay New Delhi’s concerns by making some changes to where they store their users’ data. (That was also the understanding between TikTok and Reliance when they engaged in investment opportunities earlier this year.)


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PUBG Mobile, the sleeper hit title that was banned in India two months ago over cybersecurity concerns, is plotting to make a return in the world’s second largest internet market, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The South Korean firm has engaged with global cloud service providers in recent weeks to store Indian users’ data within the country to allay New Delhi’s concerns about user data residency and security, one of the sources said.

Updated at 2.09PM IST on November 7: Krafton, the parent firm of PUBG Corporation, announced today it has inked a global partnership with Microsoft. As part of the deal, games including PUBG Mobile that are developed by Krafton or its subsidiaries will be hosted on Microsoft Azure. “With privacy and data security being a top priority for Krafton, the company will be working with Microsoft to ensure personal data protection through Azure,” said Krafton. Microsoft operates data center regions globally, including three in India. Our original story from Friday follows.

PUBG Corporation has privately informed some high-profile streamers in the country that it expects to resume the service in India before the end of this year, the other source said. Both the sources requested anonymity as they are not authorized to speak to the press. PUBG Corporation did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The company could make an announcement about its future plans for India as soon as this week. It also plans to run a marketing campaign in the country during the festival of Diwali next week, one of the sources said.

In recent weeks, PUBG has also engaged with a number of local firms, including SoftBank-backed Paytm and telecom giant Airtel, to explore whether they would be interested in publishing the popular mobile game in the country, an industry executive said. A Paytm spokesperson declined to comment.

Chinese giant Tencent initially published PUBG Mobile apps in India. After New Delhi banned PUBG Mobile, the gaming firm cut publishing ties with Tencent in the country. Prior to the ban, PUBG Mobile’s content was hosted on Tencent Cloud.

Late last month, two months after the ban order, PUBG Mobile terminated its service for Indian users. “Protecting user data has always been a top priority and we have always complied with applicable data protection laws and regulations in India. All users’ gameplay information is processed in a transparent manner as disclosed in our privacy policy,” it said at the time.

With more than 50 million monthly active users in India, PUBG Mobile was by far the most popular mobile game in the country before it was banned. It helped establish an entire ecosystem of esports organisations and even a cottage industry of streamers that made the most of its spectator sport-friendly gameplay, said Rishi Alwani, a long-time analyst of Indian gaming market and publisher of news outlet The Mako Reactor.

PUBG Mobile’s return, however, could complicate matters for several industry players, including some that are currently building similar games to cash in on its absence and their conversations with venture capital firms over ongoing financing rounds.

It would also suggest that more than 200 other Chinese apps that India has banned in recent months could hope to allay New Delhi’s concerns by making some changes to where they store their users’ data. (That was also the understanding between TikTok and Reliance when they engaged in investment opportunities earlier this year.)



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Amazon to invest $2.8 billion to build its second data center region in India


Amazon will invest about $2.8 billion in Telangana to set up a new AWS Cloud region in the southern state of India, a top Indian politician announced on Friday.

The investment will allow Amazon to launch an AWS Cloud region in Hyderabad by mid-2022, said K. T. Rama Rao, Minister for Information Technology, Electronics & Communications, Municipal Administration and Urban Development and Industries & Commerce Departments, Government of Telangana.

The new AWS Asia Region will be Amazon’s second infrastructure region in India, Amazon said ina press release. It did not disclose the size of the investment.

“The new AWS Asia Pacific (Hyderabad) Region will enable even more developers, startups, and enterprises as well as government, education, and non-profit organizations to run their applications and serve end users from data centers located in India,” the e-commerce giant said.

But there is a lot in it for Amazon as well. Jayanth Kolla, chief analyst at consultancy firm Convergence Catalyst, told TechCrunch that by having more cloud regions in India, it will be easier for Amazon to comply with the nation’s data localization policy. This compliance will also help Amazon, which currently leads the cloud market in India, attract more customers.

AWS has courted several high-profile businesses as customers in recent years. Some of these include automobile giant Ashok Leyland, life insurance firm Aditya Birla Capital, edtech giant Byju’s, Axis Bank, Bajaj Capital, ClearTax, Dream11, Edelweiss, Freshworks, HDFC Life, Mahindra Electric, Ola, Oyo, Policybazaar, RBL Bank, redBus, Sharda University, Swiggy, Tata Sky and Zerodha.

Kolla said there is a possibility that in the future several more states in India will introduce their own versions of data localization laws. “This is also a big win for the state government of Telangana, home of the high tech city Hyderabad, for attracting this level of investment,” he added. This is the largest foreign direct investment in Telangana, a state that was formed in 2014, said Rama Rao.

“Businesses in India are embracing cloud computing to reduce costs, increase agility, and enable rapid innovation to meet the needs of billions of customers in India and abroad,” said Peter DeSantis, senior vice president of Global Infrastructure and Customer Support, Amazon Web Services, in a statement. “Together with our AWS Asia Pacific (Mumbai) Region, we’re providing customers with more flexibility and choice, while allowing them to architect their infrastructure for even greater fault tolerance, resiliency, and availability across geographic locations.”

The investment illustrates the opportunities Amazon, which has poured more than $6.5 billion into its India operations to date, sees in the world’s second largest internet market.

Amazon, Google and Microsoft have explored various ways to expand the reach of their cloud services in India. Microsoft inked a long-term deal with telecom giant Jio Platforms last year to offer millions of businesses access to Office 365 and other Microsoft services at a more affordable cost. Earlier this year, Amazon formed a strategic alliance with Airtel, one of the largest telecom operators in India. As part of the deal, Airtel will sell AWS to many of its customers. Microsoft today has three data center regions in India, while Google has two.

At stake is India’s public cloud market, which, according to market research group IDC, is expected to be worth $7 billion by 2024.



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Amazon will invest about $2.8 billion in Telangana to set up a new AWS Cloud region in the southern state of India, a top Indian politician announced on Friday.

The investment will allow Amazon to launch an AWS Cloud region in Hyderabad by mid-2022, said K. T. Rama Rao, Minister for Information Technology, Electronics & Communications, Municipal Administration and Urban Development and Industries & Commerce Departments, Government of Telangana.

The new AWS Asia Region will be Amazon’s second infrastructure region in India, Amazon said ina press release. It did not disclose the size of the investment.

“The new AWS Asia Pacific (Hyderabad) Region will enable even more developers, startups, and enterprises as well as government, education, and non-profit organizations to run their applications and serve end users from data centers located in India,” the e-commerce giant said.

But there is a lot in it for Amazon as well. Jayanth Kolla, chief analyst at consultancy firm Convergence Catalyst, told TechCrunch that by having more cloud regions in India, it will be easier for Amazon to comply with the nation’s data localization policy. This compliance will also help Amazon, which currently leads the cloud market in India, attract more customers.

AWS has courted several high-profile businesses as customers in recent years. Some of these include automobile giant Ashok Leyland, life insurance firm Aditya Birla Capital, edtech giant Byju’s, Axis Bank, Bajaj Capital, ClearTax, Dream11, Edelweiss, Freshworks, HDFC Life, Mahindra Electric, Ola, Oyo, Policybazaar, RBL Bank, redBus, Sharda University, Swiggy, Tata Sky and Zerodha.

Kolla said there is a possibility that in the future several more states in India will introduce their own versions of data localization laws. “This is also a big win for the state government of Telangana, home of the high tech city Hyderabad, for attracting this level of investment,” he added. This is the largest foreign direct investment in Telangana, a state that was formed in 2014, said Rama Rao.

“Businesses in India are embracing cloud computing to reduce costs, increase agility, and enable rapid innovation to meet the needs of billions of customers in India and abroad,” said Peter DeSantis, senior vice president of Global Infrastructure and Customer Support, Amazon Web Services, in a statement. “Together with our AWS Asia Pacific (Mumbai) Region, we’re providing customers with more flexibility and choice, while allowing them to architect their infrastructure for even greater fault tolerance, resiliency, and availability across geographic locations.”

The investment illustrates the opportunities Amazon, which has poured more than $6.5 billion into its India operations to date, sees in the world’s second largest internet market.

Amazon, Google and Microsoft have explored various ways to expand the reach of their cloud services in India. Microsoft inked a long-term deal with telecom giant Jio Platforms last year to offer millions of businesses access to Office 365 and other Microsoft services at a more affordable cost. Earlier this year, Amazon formed a strategic alliance with Airtel, one of the largest telecom operators in India. As part of the deal, Airtel will sell AWS to many of its customers. Microsoft today has three data center regions in India, while Google has two.

At stake is India’s public cloud market, which, according to market research group IDC, is expected to be worth $7 billion by 2024.





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Challenger bank Starling is out raising a new £200M funding round


Starling founder Anne Boden recently told TechCrunch that the U.K. challenger bank is on track to be profitable by Christmas, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t out raising additional capital already.

According to well-placed sources, Starling has hired Rothschild with the aim of raising a new £200 million round. The draw is its expected profitability, which one source says is already creating private equity investor interest. Starling declined to comment.

Having raised £363 million to date, including a £100 million state-aid grant, Starling now boasts 1.9 million customers. Since launching business banking in March 2018 and subsequently taking part in the U.K. government’s bounce-back scheme for struggling businesses hit by the pandemic, this also now includes more than 280,000 business accounts for sole traders and small to medium-sized businesses.

In our recent interview with Boden to primarily talk about her tell-it-all book on Starling’s founding, she told TechCrunch that her ultimate aim is to get to an initial public offering. “I didn’t do all this to sell out to a big bank,” she told me. “I’ve got my sights on an IPO. I’d very much like to do that”.

However, to do that will almost certainly require additional capital injections for the next few years to continue telling an appealing story for future public investors, which will include further U.K. expansion and making meaningful in-roads into Europe.

In the shorter term, we might also see some M&A activity. Speaking at the LendIt Fintech Europe 2020 virtual conference in October, Boden said that Starling is continuing to expand the SME side of its business and SME loans now make up the largest segment of its overall book (approaching £1.5 billion of lending). As part of this, she didn’t rule out acquiring companies in the SME lending space.


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Starling founder Anne Boden recently told TechCrunch that the U.K. challenger bank is on track to be profitable by Christmas, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t out raising additional capital already.

According to well-placed sources, Starling has hired Rothschild with the aim of raising a new £200 million round. The draw is its expected profitability, which one source says is already creating private equity investor interest. Starling declined to comment.

Having raised £363 million to date, including a £100 million state-aid grant, Starling now boasts 1.9 million customers. Since launching business banking in March 2018 and subsequently taking part in the U.K. government’s bounce-back scheme for struggling businesses hit by the pandemic, this also now includes more than 280,000 business accounts for sole traders and small to medium-sized businesses.

In our recent interview with Boden to primarily talk about her tell-it-all book on Starling’s founding, she told TechCrunch that her ultimate aim is to get to an initial public offering. “I didn’t do all this to sell out to a big bank,” she told me. “I’ve got my sights on an IPO. I’d very much like to do that”.

However, to do that will almost certainly require additional capital injections for the next few years to continue telling an appealing story for future public investors, which will include further U.K. expansion and making meaningful in-roads into Europe.

In the shorter term, we might also see some M&A activity. Speaking at the LendIt Fintech Europe 2020 virtual conference in October, Boden said that Starling is continuing to expand the SME side of its business and SME loans now make up the largest segment of its overall book (approaching £1.5 billion of lending). As part of this, she didn’t rule out acquiring companies in the SME lending space.



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Netflix tests a programmed linear TV and movie channel in France


Netflix is testing out a programmed linear content channel, similar to what you get with standard broadcast and cable TV, for the first time (via Variety). The streaming company will still be streaming said channel — it’ll be accessed via Netflix’s browser-based website — and it will be initially available in France only, having rolled out to select areas on November 5, with plans to expand to more of France through December.

The channel is called Netflix Direct, and is exclusively available to subscribers of the regular Netflix streaming service. It will show TV shows and movies from France, the U.S. and other regions, selected from Netflix’s existing content library. The reasoning behind the launch in France in particular, according to the streaming giant, is that a lot of viewers in the country tend to like watching programming without having to select what it is specifically they’re going to watch next.

Netflix previously launched a test of a tool that provided that — a “Shuffle” button that would play stuff it thinks you’d like at random from its recommendation trove. That was individual per users, however — while the new Netflix Direct approach is a fixed slate of programming that’s the same for everyone who tunes in, much more like traditional TV.

For all its strengths, Netflix definitely doesn’t have the same ability to channel surf or essentially veg out and let the TV take away any decision fatigue, so this could be the answer to that. It’s definitely an interesting experiment for Netflix, but we’ll see if it catches on or expands to more geographies with different viewing preferences.

 


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Netflix is testing out a programmed linear content channel, similar to what you get with standard broadcast and cable TV, for the first time (via Variety). The streaming company will still be streaming said channel — it’ll be accessed via Netflix’s browser-based website — and it will be initially available in France only, having rolled out to select areas on November 5, with plans to expand to more of France through December.

The channel is called Netflix Direct, and is exclusively available to subscribers of the regular Netflix streaming service. It will show TV shows and movies from France, the U.S. and other regions, selected from Netflix’s existing content library. The reasoning behind the launch in France in particular, according to the streaming giant, is that a lot of viewers in the country tend to like watching programming without having to select what it is specifically they’re going to watch next.

Netflix previously launched a test of a tool that provided that — a “Shuffle” button that would play stuff it thinks you’d like at random from its recommendation trove. That was individual per users, however — while the new Netflix Direct approach is a fixed slate of programming that’s the same for everyone who tunes in, much more like traditional TV.

For all its strengths, Netflix definitely doesn’t have the same ability to channel surf or essentially veg out and let the TV take away any decision fatigue, so this could be the answer to that. It’s definitely an interesting experiment for Netflix, but we’ll see if it catches on or expands to more geographies with different viewing preferences.

 



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Spain’s All Iron Ventures closes €66.5M first fund


Spain’s All Iron Ventures (AIV), an investor in B2C marketplaces and e-commerce plays, has closed its first fund with commitments totalling €66.5 million (~$79 million) — which it touts as one of the largest first-fund raises in the country. 

Capital committed to the fund by its parent group’s founding partners and other investors brings its total investment capacity to around €110 million. 

Backing for the fund has come from private investors, with no public support sought. AIV aligns itself with what it dubs a “new breed” of entrepreneur-backed VCs emerging in Europe — which includes having its own incubation program.

The Bilbao headquartered fund has been operating since late 2017, run by co-directors Hugo Fernández-Mardomingo and Diego Recondo. It’s part of the All Iron Group — which includes a listed real estate holding company and was founded by the Ticketbis founders who sold their ticket reselling marketplace to eBay in 2016 for more than 165 million; a major exit success story for the Spanish ecosystem.

Among some 150 investors in AIV’s Fund I are local entrepreneurs such as Iñaki Ecenarro (who is also a partner); Salvador García, co-founder and CEO of fintech startup Ebury; and Jose Poza, founder of Ibercom, which later merged with MasMóvil (which was itself recently acquired by private equity in a multi-billion-euro deal).

The fund leads or co-invests mainly in Series A and pre-A funding rounds — though it notes it has flexibility to also invest at seed level. It typically cuts an initial check of up to €2 million, with the capacity to support portfolio companies in follow-on rounds too.

Its investment thesis is focused on B2C companies, with a stated preference for marketplaces, subscription and e-commerce models. “Capital efficiency and clear path to profitability play a significant part in AIV’s investment decisions,” it adds in a press release.

In terms of geography, AIV positions itself as a partner for international VCs wanting to invest in Spain and elsewhere — with an international focus on Europe and the Americas.

Recent investments include Ukraine-based online tutoring marketplace Preply and Spanish on-demand laundry service Mr Jeff.

Other portfolio startups include Lookiero, Lingokids, Spotahome and Seedtag (from Spain) — as well as Barkyn (Portugal), Refurbed (Austria), Paul Camper (Germany), Kodit (Finland), Rebag (U.S.) and Zenklub (Brazil).


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Spain’s All Iron Ventures (AIV), an investor in B2C marketplaces and e-commerce plays, has closed its first fund with commitments totalling €66.5 million (~$79 million) — which it touts as one of the largest first-fund raises in the country. 

Capital committed to the fund by its parent group’s founding partners and other investors brings its total investment capacity to around €110 million. 

Backing for the fund has come from private investors, with no public support sought. AIV aligns itself with what it dubs a “new breed” of entrepreneur-backed VCs emerging in Europe — which includes having its own incubation program.

The Bilbao headquartered fund has been operating since late 2017, run by co-directors Hugo Fernández-Mardomingo and Diego Recondo. It’s part of the All Iron Group — which includes a listed real estate holding company and was founded by the Ticketbis founders who sold their ticket reselling marketplace to eBay in 2016 for more than 165 million; a major exit success story for the Spanish ecosystem.

Among some 150 investors in AIV’s Fund I are local entrepreneurs such as Iñaki Ecenarro (who is also a partner); Salvador García, co-founder and CEO of fintech startup Ebury; and Jose Poza, founder of Ibercom, which later merged with MasMóvil (which was itself recently acquired by private equity in a multi-billion-euro deal).

The fund leads or co-invests mainly in Series A and pre-A funding rounds — though it notes it has flexibility to also invest at seed level. It typically cuts an initial check of up to €2 million, with the capacity to support portfolio companies in follow-on rounds too.

Its investment thesis is focused on B2C companies, with a stated preference for marketplaces, subscription and e-commerce models. “Capital efficiency and clear path to profitability play a significant part in AIV’s investment decisions,” it adds in a press release.

In terms of geography, AIV positions itself as a partner for international VCs wanting to invest in Spain and elsewhere — with an international focus on Europe and the Americas.

Recent investments include Ukraine-based online tutoring marketplace Preply and Spanish on-demand laundry service Mr Jeff.

Other portfolio startups include Lookiero, Lingokids, Spotahome and Seedtag (from Spain) — as well as Barkyn (Portugal), Refurbed (Austria), Paul Camper (Germany), Kodit (Finland), Rebag (U.S.) and Zenklub (Brazil).



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Review: Sony’s PlayStation 5 is here, but next-generation gaming is still on its way


The new generation of consoles is both a hard and an easy sell. With a big bump to specs and broad backwards compatibility, both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are certainly the consoles anyone should buy going forward. But with nearly no launch content or must-have features, they also fail to make a compelling case for themselves beyond “the same, but better.” What we’re left with is something more like a new iPhone: You’ll have to upgrade eventually, and it’ll be fine. Just don’t believe the hype for the new consoles… yet.

Disclosure: TechCrunch was provided consoles from both Microsoft and Sony ahead of release, as well as a handful of titles from first and third-party publishers.

In accordance with an elaborate (and ongoing!) series of embargoes for different features and games, impressions have been trickling out about the new platforms for a month now. For a launch that’s already lacking impact, this may have further blunted excitement: Few gamers will get excited when all anyone can write about is the exterior of the console itself, or the first level of the pack-in game. Some features wouldn’t even be available before launch, or are prohibited from coverage until long afterwards, leaving reviewers wondering whether day-one changes would make obsolete any impressions they had. (I’ll update this review when new information comes to light, or link to future coverage.)

But whatever the case, the shackles are finally removed and now we can talk about most (but not all) the new consoles have to offer. Unfortunately it’s… not that much. Despite the companies’ attempts to hype the next generation as a huge leap, there’s simply no evidence of that at launch and probably won’t be for many months.

That doesn’t mean the new platforms are a flop — or even that they aren’t great. But the new generation is a lot like the old one, and compatibility with it is actually the biggest thing the PS5 and Series X have going for them for the opening stretch. Here’s what I can tell you honestly about my time with the PS5.

The hardware: Conversation piece

A PS5 console with a PS4 on top

As you can see, the PS5 is CONSIDERABLY larger than the PS4 Slim. Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

The PS5 is a strange-looking beast, but I’ll give it this: No one is going to mistake it for any other gaming console. Though they may think it’s an air purifier.

The large, curvy device likely won’t fit with anyone’s decor, so it may be best to just bite the bullet and display it prominently (fortunately it sits comfortably vertically or on a stand horizontally). I look forward to getting custom shields for the side to make this thing a little less prominent.

The console is fairly quiet while playing games, but you’ll probably want it at least a few feet away from you, especially if you’re going to play with a disc, which is much louder than normal operation.

As for performance, it’s really impossible to say. The only “next-gen” (really cross-gen) game I got to play much of was Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and while it looked great (more impressions below), it’s incredibly hard to make any substantive comment on the machine’s computing and rendering chops.

Close up of the Sony logo on the PS5 and tiny characters making a pattern.

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

The prospect of gaming in 4K and HDR, and of advanced techniques like ray tracing changing how games look, is an exciting one. But in the first place you need a TV setup that’s capable of taking advantage of these features, and in the second — to be perfectly honest, they’re not all they’re cracked up to be. A high-quality 1080p TV from the last couple years will look very nearly as good despite not supporting Dolby Vision or what have you. (I know because I got a new TV during the review period. They both looked great.)

Load times — a factor of the much-lauded custom SSD in this thing — are similarly hard to evaluate, though certainly going from menu to game in Miles Morales was fast, fast-traveling faster, and the previous game was faster to load than on my regular PS4. This benefit will of course vary from game to game, however — some developers are announcing their performance gains publicly, while others with less impressive ones may just let sleeping dogs lie. Without more titles to get a feel for the console’s performance improvements, right now you’ll have to take Sony’s word on things.

The controller: DualSense makes sense

Close up image of a Sony DualSense controller

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey/TechCrunch

One place where Sony is attempting to advance the ball is in the new DualSense controller.

Not in the shape and color and slick, transparent buttons — those are not so hot. It feels like a DualShock that’s let itself go a bit, and I’m definitely not a fan of the “PS” shaped PlayStation button. This thing feels like a grime magnet.

And not in the built-in speaker and microphone, either; I struggle to think of any application for these that wouldn’t be better served by a headset or avoided altogether.

What’s actually a clear and impressive upgrade is the triggers, which feature incredibly precise mechanical resistance that serves all kinds of gameplay functions and sets the imagination running.

A Playstation 5 and 4 controller next to each other.

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

The new triggers are connected to a set of gears that impart actual pressure against your fingers, from a very light tap to, presumably (though I haven’t experienced it), actually pushing your fingers back.

The range is wide and it can impart the pressure anywhere along the trigger’s range, giving interesting effects like (the obvious one in violent games) resistance while you pull a gun’s trigger, which then clicks and releases when it fires. In Miles Morales, the triggers act as a very sensitive rumble, but also give you tactile feedback when you’re swinging, telling you when you’ve made contact and so on.

Honestly, I love it. I want to play games that use it well. I don’t want to play games that don’t have it! Hopefully developers will embrace the variable-resistance triggers, because it genuinely adds something to the experience and, if I’m not mistaken, even has the potential to make games more accessible.

The UI: More is more

The PS4’s interface had the illusion of simplicity, and the PS5 continues that with two steps forward and one step back.

For one thing, separating out the “games” and “media” portions of the machine is a smart move. As OTT apps and streaming services proliferate, they take up more and more space and it makes perfect sense to isolate them.

Screenshot of the PS5 menu.

As for the games side, it’s similar to the PS4 in that it’s a horizontal line that you click through, and when a game is highlighted it “takes over” the screen with a background, the latest news, achievements and so on. As before it works perfectly well.

Previously, when you pressed the PlayStation button, you’d return to the main menu and pause whatever you were playing. If you held down the button, it opened an in-game side menu where you could invite friends, turn off the console and other common tasks.

The PS5 reverses that: The long press now returns you to the home screen, while a short press brings up the in-game menu (now a row of tiny icons on the bottom of the screen — not a fan of this change).

The in-game menu now sports an in-depth “card” system that, while cool in theory, seems like one of those things that will not actually be used to great effect. The giant cards show recent screenshots and achievements, friend activity and, if the developer has enabled it, info about your current mission or game progress.

For instance, in Miles Morales, hitting pause told me I was 22% of the way through a side mission to rescue a bodega cat named Spider-Man, with an image of the bodega where I accepted it. Nice, but it’s redundant with the info presented in-game if I pause in the ordinary way. There’s more to it, though — the cards can also be used as “deep links” to game features like multiplayer, quests in progress, quick travel locations, even hints.

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

Sony showed off these advanced possibilities in a video of Sackboy: The Big Adventure, but since that game isn’t yet available I can’t yet speak to how well it works. More importantly, I can’t make any promises on behalf of developers, who may or may not integrate the system well. At the very least it could be nice, but I’m afraid it will be relegated to first-party games (of which Sony promises many), and be optional at that.

It’s hard to call the new UI an improvement over the old one — it’s different, in some ways more busy and in some ways streamlined. Where it may improve things is in reducing friction in things like organizing voice chat and joining friends’ games. But that capability wasn’t ready for launch.

A couple nice things I want to note: Setting up the PS5 to your own preferences is super easy. I downloaded my cloud saves in a minute or two, and there’s a great new settings page for things people often change in games: difficulty, language, inverting the camera and some other things. There are also accessibility options built-in: a screen reader, chat transcription and other goodies I wasn’t able to test but am glad to see.

The games: Well… the PS5 is the best PS4 you can buy

The chief reason for buying a new console is to play the new games on it. When the Switch came out, half the reason anyone bought it was to play the fabulous new Zelda. Sadly, the selection at this launch is laughably thin for both Sony and Microsoft fanboys.

As I noted above, the only game I was provided in time to get any real impressions (that I’m permitted to write about) was Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Having recently completed its predecessor on PS4, I can say that the new game looks and plays better, with shorter load times, improved lighting, more detailed buildings and so on. But the 2018 Spider-Man still looks and plays very well — this is the difference you’d expect in a sequel, not from one generation to the next. (To be clear, the PS5 version does look considerably better, it’s just not the night and day we’ve been led to expect.)

A screenshot of Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS5As far as a review goes, I’ll just say that if you liked the first, you’ll like the second, and if you didn’t play the original, play it first because it’s great. I also want to hand it to the new game for its commitment to diversity.

But that will also be coming out on the PS4… and Xbox One and Series X… In fact, almost all the big games of the next year will be.

They will, of course, play and look better on the PS5 than the PS4. But it’s a hard sell to tell someone to pay $500 so they can play the next Assassin’s Creed or Horizon: Zero Dawn in 4K HDR rather than 1080p.

Meanwhile, the few games you can only play on PS5 are for niche players. Sackboy looks to be a fun platformer but hardly a blockbuster; Demon’s Souls is my most anticipated title of the season, but a remake of a legendary but little-played and controller-bitingly difficult PS3 game isn’t going to break sales records; and Destruction All-Stars, an online-only racing battle royale game, got delayed until February, which suggests it’s not playing well.

Adding them all up there really isn’t much reason in terms of exclusives to pick the PS5 over the Xbox Series X or, at least for 2021, a PS4 Pro.

The good news is that the PS5 is now without question the best way to play the huge catalog of amazing PS4 games out there. Nearly all of them will look better, play better and load faster. Sony as much as admitted this when they bundled a dozen of the best games from the last generation with the PS5. Honestly, I’m looking forward to finally playing God of War (I know… don’t hassle me!) on this thing more than I am Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla.

Unfortunately I can’t speak to whether these PS4 games have much to speak of in terms of real improvements yet. As mentioned above, a lot of that depends on support from the developers. But as a simple test, loading the Central Yharnam area in Bloodborne took about 33 seconds on the PS4, and 16 on the PS5 (as you can see in the shots above, the game looks identical). I didn’t time them, but anecdotally other games showed improvements as well.

The verdict: The must-have console for the 2021 holidays

A PS5 console

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

No, that isn’t a typo. The PS5 (and I am joined in this opinion by our review of its rival, the Xbox Series X) simply isn’t a console anyone should rush out and purchase for any reason. Not least of which because it will be near-impossible to get one in the next month or so, making the possibility of unwrapping a PS5 a remote one for eager youths.

The power of the next generation is not much on display in any of the titles I have been able to play, and while a handful of upcoming games may show off its advantages, those games will likely play just as well on the other platforms they’re being released on.

Nor are there any compelling new features that make the PS5 feel truly next-gen, with the possible exception of the variable resistance triggers (the Series X has multi-game suspension at least, and I’d be jealous if there were any games to switch between). For the next 6-8 months, the PS5 will merely be the best way to play the same games everyone else is playing, or has been playing for years, but in 4K. That’s it!

The rush by Sony and Microsoft to get these consoles out by the holidays this year simply didn’t have the support of the publishers and developers that make the games that make consoles worth having. That will change late next year as the actual next-gen titles and meaningful exclusives start to appear. And a year from now the PS5 and Series X will truly be must-haves, because there will be things that are only available for them.

I’m not saying buy your kid a PS4 Pro for Christmas. And I’m not saying the PS5 isn’t a great way to play games. I’m just saying that outside some slight differences that many gamers don’t even have the setup to notice, there’s no reason to run out and buy a PS5 right now. Relax and enjoy the latest, greatest games on your old PS4 in confidence, knowing that you’ll save $50 when a Cyberpunk 2077 bundle goes on sale in the summer.

So don’t feel bad if you can’t lay your hands on a PS5 to keep you entertained this winter — a PS4 will do you just fine for the present while the next generation makes its lazy way toward the consoles it will eventually grace.


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The new generation of consoles is both a hard and an easy sell. With a big bump to specs and broad backwards compatibility, both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are certainly the consoles anyone should buy going forward. But with nearly no launch content or must-have features, they also fail to make a compelling case for themselves beyond “the same, but better.” What we’re left with is something more like a new iPhone: You’ll have to upgrade eventually, and it’ll be fine. Just don’t believe the hype for the new consoles… yet.

Disclosure: TechCrunch was provided consoles from both Microsoft and Sony ahead of release, as well as a handful of titles from first and third-party publishers.

In accordance with an elaborate (and ongoing!) series of embargoes for different features and games, impressions have been trickling out about the new platforms for a month now. For a launch that’s already lacking impact, this may have further blunted excitement: Few gamers will get excited when all anyone can write about is the exterior of the console itself, or the first level of the pack-in game. Some features wouldn’t even be available before launch, or are prohibited from coverage until long afterwards, leaving reviewers wondering whether day-one changes would make obsolete any impressions they had. (I’ll update this review when new information comes to light, or link to future coverage.)

But whatever the case, the shackles are finally removed and now we can talk about most (but not all) the new consoles have to offer. Unfortunately it’s… not that much. Despite the companies’ attempts to hype the next generation as a huge leap, there’s simply no evidence of that at launch and probably won’t be for many months.

That doesn’t mean the new platforms are a flop — or even that they aren’t great. But the new generation is a lot like the old one, and compatibility with it is actually the biggest thing the PS5 and Series X have going for them for the opening stretch. Here’s what I can tell you honestly about my time with the PS5.

The hardware: Conversation piece

A PS5 console with a PS4 on top

As you can see, the PS5 is CONSIDERABLY larger than the PS4 Slim. Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

The PS5 is a strange-looking beast, but I’ll give it this: No one is going to mistake it for any other gaming console. Though they may think it’s an air purifier.

The large, curvy device likely won’t fit with anyone’s decor, so it may be best to just bite the bullet and display it prominently (fortunately it sits comfortably vertically or on a stand horizontally). I look forward to getting custom shields for the side to make this thing a little less prominent.

The console is fairly quiet while playing games, but you’ll probably want it at least a few feet away from you, especially if you’re going to play with a disc, which is much louder than normal operation.

As for performance, it’s really impossible to say. The only “next-gen” (really cross-gen) game I got to play much of was Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and while it looked great (more impressions below), it’s incredibly hard to make any substantive comment on the machine’s computing and rendering chops.

Close up of the Sony logo on the PS5 and tiny characters making a pattern.

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

The prospect of gaming in 4K and HDR, and of advanced techniques like ray tracing changing how games look, is an exciting one. But in the first place you need a TV setup that’s capable of taking advantage of these features, and in the second — to be perfectly honest, they’re not all they’re cracked up to be. A high-quality 1080p TV from the last couple years will look very nearly as good despite not supporting Dolby Vision or what have you. (I know because I got a new TV during the review period. They both looked great.)

Load times — a factor of the much-lauded custom SSD in this thing — are similarly hard to evaluate, though certainly going from menu to game in Miles Morales was fast, fast-traveling faster, and the previous game was faster to load than on my regular PS4. This benefit will of course vary from game to game, however — some developers are announcing their performance gains publicly, while others with less impressive ones may just let sleeping dogs lie. Without more titles to get a feel for the console’s performance improvements, right now you’ll have to take Sony’s word on things.

The controller: DualSense makes sense

Close up image of a Sony DualSense controller

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey/TechCrunch

One place where Sony is attempting to advance the ball is in the new DualSense controller.

Not in the shape and color and slick, transparent buttons — those are not so hot. It feels like a DualShock that’s let itself go a bit, and I’m definitely not a fan of the “PS” shaped PlayStation button. This thing feels like a grime magnet.

And not in the built-in speaker and microphone, either; I struggle to think of any application for these that wouldn’t be better served by a headset or avoided altogether.

What’s actually a clear and impressive upgrade is the triggers, which feature incredibly precise mechanical resistance that serves all kinds of gameplay functions and sets the imagination running.

A Playstation 5 and 4 controller next to each other.

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

The new triggers are connected to a set of gears that impart actual pressure against your fingers, from a very light tap to, presumably (though I haven’t experienced it), actually pushing your fingers back.

The range is wide and it can impart the pressure anywhere along the trigger’s range, giving interesting effects like (the obvious one in violent games) resistance while you pull a gun’s trigger, which then clicks and releases when it fires. In Miles Morales, the triggers act as a very sensitive rumble, but also give you tactile feedback when you’re swinging, telling you when you’ve made contact and so on.

Honestly, I love it. I want to play games that use it well. I don’t want to play games that don’t have it! Hopefully developers will embrace the variable-resistance triggers, because it genuinely adds something to the experience and, if I’m not mistaken, even has the potential to make games more accessible.

The UI: More is more

The PS4’s interface had the illusion of simplicity, and the PS5 continues that with two steps forward and one step back.

For one thing, separating out the “games” and “media” portions of the machine is a smart move. As OTT apps and streaming services proliferate, they take up more and more space and it makes perfect sense to isolate them.

Screenshot of the PS5 menu.

As for the games side, it’s similar to the PS4 in that it’s a horizontal line that you click through, and when a game is highlighted it “takes over” the screen with a background, the latest news, achievements and so on. As before it works perfectly well.

Previously, when you pressed the PlayStation button, you’d return to the main menu and pause whatever you were playing. If you held down the button, it opened an in-game side menu where you could invite friends, turn off the console and other common tasks.

The PS5 reverses that: The long press now returns you to the home screen, while a short press brings up the in-game menu (now a row of tiny icons on the bottom of the screen — not a fan of this change).

The in-game menu now sports an in-depth “card” system that, while cool in theory, seems like one of those things that will not actually be used to great effect. The giant cards show recent screenshots and achievements, friend activity and, if the developer has enabled it, info about your current mission or game progress.

For instance, in Miles Morales, hitting pause told me I was 22% of the way through a side mission to rescue a bodega cat named Spider-Man, with an image of the bodega where I accepted it. Nice, but it’s redundant with the info presented in-game if I pause in the ordinary way. There’s more to it, though — the cards can also be used as “deep links” to game features like multiplayer, quests in progress, quick travel locations, even hints.

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

Sony showed off these advanced possibilities in a video of Sackboy: The Big Adventure, but since that game isn’t yet available I can’t yet speak to how well it works. More importantly, I can’t make any promises on behalf of developers, who may or may not integrate the system well. At the very least it could be nice, but I’m afraid it will be relegated to first-party games (of which Sony promises many), and be optional at that.

It’s hard to call the new UI an improvement over the old one — it’s different, in some ways more busy and in some ways streamlined. Where it may improve things is in reducing friction in things like organizing voice chat and joining friends’ games. But that capability wasn’t ready for launch.

A couple nice things I want to note: Setting up the PS5 to your own preferences is super easy. I downloaded my cloud saves in a minute or two, and there’s a great new settings page for things people often change in games: difficulty, language, inverting the camera and some other things. There are also accessibility options built-in: a screen reader, chat transcription and other goodies I wasn’t able to test but am glad to see.

The games: Well… the PS5 is the best PS4 you can buy

The chief reason for buying a new console is to play the new games on it. When the Switch came out, half the reason anyone bought it was to play the fabulous new Zelda. Sadly, the selection at this launch is laughably thin for both Sony and Microsoft fanboys.

As I noted above, the only game I was provided in time to get any real impressions (that I’m permitted to write about) was Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Having recently completed its predecessor on PS4, I can say that the new game looks and plays better, with shorter load times, improved lighting, more detailed buildings and so on. But the 2018 Spider-Man still looks and plays very well — this is the difference you’d expect in a sequel, not from one generation to the next. (To be clear, the PS5 version does look considerably better, it’s just not the night and day we’ve been led to expect.)

A screenshot of Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS5As far as a review goes, I’ll just say that if you liked the first, you’ll like the second, and if you didn’t play the original, play it first because it’s great. I also want to hand it to the new game for its commitment to diversity.

But that will also be coming out on the PS4… and Xbox One and Series X… In fact, almost all the big games of the next year will be.

They will, of course, play and look better on the PS5 than the PS4. But it’s a hard sell to tell someone to pay $500 so they can play the next Assassin’s Creed or Horizon: Zero Dawn in 4K HDR rather than 1080p.

Meanwhile, the few games you can only play on PS5 are for niche players. Sackboy looks to be a fun platformer but hardly a blockbuster; Demon’s Souls is my most anticipated title of the season, but a remake of a legendary but little-played and controller-bitingly difficult PS3 game isn’t going to break sales records; and Destruction All-Stars, an online-only racing battle royale game, got delayed until February, which suggests it’s not playing well.

Adding them all up there really isn’t much reason in terms of exclusives to pick the PS5 over the Xbox Series X or, at least for 2021, a PS4 Pro.

The good news is that the PS5 is now without question the best way to play the huge catalog of amazing PS4 games out there. Nearly all of them will look better, play better and load faster. Sony as much as admitted this when they bundled a dozen of the best games from the last generation with the PS5. Honestly, I’m looking forward to finally playing God of War (I know… don’t hassle me!) on this thing more than I am Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla.

Unfortunately I can’t speak to whether these PS4 games have much to speak of in terms of real improvements yet. As mentioned above, a lot of that depends on support from the developers. But as a simple test, loading the Central Yharnam area in Bloodborne took about 33 seconds on the PS4, and 16 on the PS5 (as you can see in the shots above, the game looks identical). I didn’t time them, but anecdotally other games showed improvements as well.

The verdict: The must-have console for the 2021 holidays

A PS5 console

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

No, that isn’t a typo. The PS5 (and I am joined in this opinion by our review of its rival, the Xbox Series X) simply isn’t a console anyone should rush out and purchase for any reason. Not least of which because it will be near-impossible to get one in the next month or so, making the possibility of unwrapping a PS5 a remote one for eager youths.

The power of the next generation is not much on display in any of the titles I have been able to play, and while a handful of upcoming games may show off its advantages, those games will likely play just as well on the other platforms they’re being released on.

Nor are there any compelling new features that make the PS5 feel truly next-gen, with the possible exception of the variable resistance triggers (the Series X has multi-game suspension at least, and I’d be jealous if there were any games to switch between). For the next 6-8 months, the PS5 will merely be the best way to play the same games everyone else is playing, or has been playing for years, but in 4K. That’s it!

The rush by Sony and Microsoft to get these consoles out by the holidays this year simply didn’t have the support of the publishers and developers that make the games that make consoles worth having. That will change late next year as the actual next-gen titles and meaningful exclusives start to appear. And a year from now the PS5 and Series X will truly be must-haves, because there will be things that are only available for them.

I’m not saying buy your kid a PS4 Pro for Christmas. And I’m not saying the PS5 isn’t a great way to play games. I’m just saying that outside some slight differences that many gamers don’t even have the setup to notice, there’s no reason to run out and buy a PS5 right now. Relax and enjoy the latest, greatest games on your old PS4 in confidence, knowing that you’ll save $50 when a Cyberpunk 2077 bundle goes on sale in the summer.

So don’t feel bad if you can’t lay your hands on a PS5 to keep you entertained this winter — a PS4 will do you just fine for the present while the next generation makes its lazy way toward the consoles it will eventually grace.



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Slintel grabs $4.2M seed to grow sales intelligence platform


As the pandemic rages on, companies are looking for an edge when it comes to sales. Having the right data about the customers most likely to convert can be a huge boost right now. Slintel, an early-stage startup building a sales intelligence tool, announced a $4.2 million seed round today.

The investment was led by Accel with help from Sequoia Capital India and existing investor Stellaris Venture Partners. The company reports it has now raised $5.7 million, including a pre-seed round last year.

Deepak Anchala, company founder and CEO, says that while sales and marketing teams are trying to target a broad market, most of the time their emails and other forms of communication with customers fall flat. As a sales person in previous startups, Eightfold and Tracxn, this was a problem Anchala experienced first hand. He believed with data, he could improve this, and he started Slintel to build a tool to provide the sales data that he was missing in these previous positions.

“We focus on helping our customers solve that [lack of data] by identifying people with high buying intent. So we are able to tell sales and marketing teams, for example, who is most likely to buy your product or your service, and who is most likely to buy your product today, as opposed to two months or six months from now,” Anchala explained.

They do this by looking at signals that might not be obvious, but which let sales teams know key information about these companies and their likelihood of buying soon. He says that every company leaves a technology footprint. This could be data from SEC filings, annual reports, job openings and so forth.

“In today’s world there is an enormous amount of footprint left online when a company uses a certain product. So what our algorithms do is we map that at scale for about 15 million companies to all the products that they’re using from the different sources we are able to identify — and we track it all from week to week,” he said.

The company has 45 employees today and expects to double that number by the end of 2021. As he builds the company, especially as an immigrant founder, Anchala wants to build a diverse and inclusive organization.

“I think one of the key successes for companies today is having diversity. We have a global workforce, so we have a workforce in the U.S. and India and we want to capitalize on that. In the next phase of hires we are looking at hiring more diverse candidates, more female employees and people of different nationalities,” he said.

The company, which was founded in 2018, and emerged from stealth last year, has amassed 100 enterprise customers and has seen most of the customers actually come on board this year as COVID has forced companies to find ways to be more efficient with their sales processes.


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As the pandemic rages on, companies are looking for an edge when it comes to sales. Having the right data about the customers most likely to convert can be a huge boost right now. Slintel, an early-stage startup building a sales intelligence tool, announced a $4.2 million seed round today.

The investment was led by Accel with help from Sequoia Capital India and existing investor Stellaris Venture Partners. The company reports it has now raised $5.7 million, including a pre-seed round last year.

Deepak Anchala, company founder and CEO, says that while sales and marketing teams are trying to target a broad market, most of the time their emails and other forms of communication with customers fall flat. As a sales person in previous startups, Eightfold and Tracxn, this was a problem Anchala experienced first hand. He believed with data, he could improve this, and he started Slintel to build a tool to provide the sales data that he was missing in these previous positions.

“We focus on helping our customers solve that [lack of data] by identifying people with high buying intent. So we are able to tell sales and marketing teams, for example, who is most likely to buy your product or your service, and who is most likely to buy your product today, as opposed to two months or six months from now,” Anchala explained.

They do this by looking at signals that might not be obvious, but which let sales teams know key information about these companies and their likelihood of buying soon. He says that every company leaves a technology footprint. This could be data from SEC filings, annual reports, job openings and so forth.

“In today’s world there is an enormous amount of footprint left online when a company uses a certain product. So what our algorithms do is we map that at scale for about 15 million companies to all the products that they’re using from the different sources we are able to identify — and we track it all from week to week,” he said.

The company has 45 employees today and expects to double that number by the end of 2021. As he builds the company, especially as an immigrant founder, Anchala wants to build a diverse and inclusive organization.

“I think one of the key successes for companies today is having diversity. We have a global workforce, so we have a workforce in the U.S. and India and we want to capitalize on that. In the next phase of hires we are looking at hiring more diverse candidates, more female employees and people of different nationalities,” he said.

The company, which was founded in 2018, and emerged from stealth last year, has amassed 100 enterprise customers and has seen most of the customers actually come on board this year as COVID has forced companies to find ways to be more efficient with their sales processes.



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Software companies are reporting a pretty good third quarter


What a difference a week makes.

This time last week, in the wake of earnings from tech’s five largest American companies and early results from other software companies, it appeared that tech shares were in danger of losing their mojo.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


But then, this week’s rally launched, and more earnings results came in. Generally speaking, the Q3 numbers from SaaS and cloud companies have been medium-good, or at least good enough to protect historically stretched valuations when comparing present-day revenue multiples to historical norms.

This is great news for yet-private startups that have had to deal with a recession, an uneven and at-times uncertain funding market, an election cycle and other unknowns this year. Wrapping 2020 with a market rally and strong earnings from public comps should give private software companies a halo heading into the new year, assisting them with both fundraising and valuation defense.

Of course, there’s still a lot more data to come in, markets are fickle and many SaaS companies will report next month, having a fiscal calendar offset by a month from how you and I track the year. But after spending time on the phone this week with JFrog’s CEO, BigCommerce’s CEO and Ping Identity’s CFO, I think things are turning out just fine.

Let’s get into what we’ve learned.

Growth and expectations

Kicking off, Redpoint’s Jamin Ball, a venture capitalist who unconsciously moonlights as the research desk for the The Exchange during earnings season, has a roundup of earnings results from this week’s set of SaaS and cloud stocks that reported. As you will recall, last week we were slightly unimpressed by its cohort of results.

Here’s this week’s tally:

As we can see, there was a single miss amongst the group in Q3. Unsurprisingly, that company, SurveyMonkey, was also one of three SaaS companies to project Q4 revenue under street expectations. My read of that chart is seeing a little less than 80% of the group that did project Q4 guidance that bests expectations is bullish, as were the Q3 results, which included a good number of companies that topped targets by at least 10%.

Inside of the data are two narratives that I want to explore. The first is about COVID-related friction, and the second is about COVID-related acceleration. Every company in the world is experiencing at least some of the former. For example, even companies that are seeing a boom in demand for their products during the pandemic must still deal with a sales market in which they cannot operate as they would like to.

For software companies, reportedly in the midst of a hastening digital transformation, the question becomes whether or not the COVID’s minuses are outweighing its pluses. We’ll explore the matter through the lens of three companies that The Exchange spoke with this week after they reported their Q3 results.

Ping Identity

Of our three companies this week, Ping Identity had the hardest go of it; its stock fell sharply after it dropped its Q3 numbers, despite beating earnings expectations for the period.

The company’s revenue fell 3%, while its annual recurring revenue (ARR) rose by 17%. Why did its stock fall if it came in ahead of expectations? You could read its Q4 guidance as slightly soft. In the above chart it’s marked as a slight beat, but its low-end came in under analyst expectations, creating the possibility of a projected miss.

Investors, betting on Ping’s move to SaaS being accretive both now and in the long-term, were not stoked by its Q4 forecast.



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