Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Tuesday, February 22, 2022! We are back! Yes, after a lovely long weekend, your entire TechCrunch team is back in the saddle. Which is good because everything appears to be going on at once. So it was perfect that Slack decided that it actually wanted a four-day weekend and failed to make it to its desk on time. Oof.
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Stalkerware is bad, leaks: Stalkerware is software for consumers to keep tabs on the devices of other people. Parents and kids are the canonical example. There are other uses for the same code, naturally. And it turns out, per Zack Whittaker’s reporting for TechCrunch, that there’s a serious security flaw in some of the code of a popular set of stalkerware apps that share a backend. Here’s how to stay safe.
- Unicorns are worth trillions: New data indicates that the value of unicorns today is north of $4 trillion, or about the value of the U.S. Big Five technology companies. And the value of these unexited, pricey private-market companies is growing at a pace of about a trillion dollars per year. Which works out to about $2.7 billion per day.
- And speaking of unicorns: Hasura, the company behind the eponymous GraphQL service, has raised a $100 million round at a valuation of around $1 billion. Welcome to the very, very crowded unicorn club, Hasura. Per our reporting, the company has seen its growth accelerate, which helps explain its new valuation. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t note that the company’s open source model is something that we’re seeing more and more of.
- Minded raises $25M for DTC mental health meds: One good thing about the DTC model is that it’s a great way to remove middlemen from one industry or another. Minded, however, is taking the concept to the mental health space, which is a medical domain. It will be interesting to see how the company balances patient care with DTC economics.
- Zenjob’s temp employment model finds new backers: The work of connecting temp workers to businesses is a global rush. Zenjob is working on it in Europe, and just raised $50 million to help students get work. Here in the States, Fiverr is public, and Rhode Island-based Pangea is working along similar lines to Zenjob.
- Alloy Automation proves that a16z invests in non-crypto companies (still): And we thought it had become Token Time over at the investing group. Alloy indicates that SaaS still has a home there! Alloy works in the e-commerce automation market, where it wants to build a central hub for a brand’s various software services.
- Language learning app EWA raises first external capital: Want to know how to raise outside cash? It’s simple. First, find a huge human problem. Say, learning languages. And then blast past 50 million downloads and rack up a few million monthly active users. Bingo, you just raised $2.7 million.
- Search isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Vector search: SeMi Technologies CEO Bob van Luijt is a good egg, in that he’s been patient with me as I struggle to learn more about vector search. Anyhoo, Christine Hall has notes up on the company’s progress and recent fundraising.
And for fun, what price would you pay for salmon that wasn’t killed? Well, investors are betting $100 million on the idea – coming to a food spot near you!
Advice and strategy for early-stage sex tech startup founders
The old saying, “build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door,” does not apply to startups in the sexual wellness category.
Pleasure has a very large TAM, but “vice clauses” prevent many VC firms from even considering a sex tech startup.
To learn how other entrepreneurs faced these challenges, Anna Heim interviewed founder/angel Andrea Barrica, entrepreneur Lora DiCarlo, and Carli Sapir, founding partner at Amboy Street Ventures.
“Fundraising is only one hurdle in the industry. There’s also the problem[s] of advertising, marketing, consumer education and medical expertise in this field,” Sapir said.
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
- Behold the new Sony nerd helmet: What do we want? Not a future in which one company owns the VR hardware market. So, it’s good that Sony has a new VR headset to gawk at – if only Meta makes VR gear, we are going to have live in a Facebook walled garden, which sounds a bit lame.
- Google will now help you ‘Checks’ to see if your app is privacy compliant: There’s a new tool out from Google, which we report “leverages A.I. technology to identify possible privacy and compliance issues within apps, amid a rapidly changing regulatory and policy landscape.” It’s called Checks, and frankly, it sounds like a bop. Slowly but surely we’re moving toward a more privacy-friendly world. All we can hope is for an acceleration, and perhaps Checks will help.
Are you all caught up on last week’s coverage of growth marketing and software development? If not, read it here.
TechCrunch is recruiting recruiters for TechCrunch Experts, an ongoing project where we ask top professionals about problems and challenges that are common in early-stage startups. If that’s you or someone you know, you can let us know here.