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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Tuesday, December 14! Our Space event is underway and kicking maximum Q thus far, I am happy to report. In other TechCrunch news, I just hit my two-year mark being back at the blog. Time flies! Thanks to everyone for reading my rambling so that I can stay aboard the good ship TechCrunch. Now, the news! —Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Apple’s Siri-only music plan launches: I had forgotten all about Apple’s cheaper, more limited music plan announced earlier this year. But it’s not only real, it’s here. So, if you are big into Apple speaker tech and want to save a few bucks, here’s a music streaming option for you. Notably, part of the innovation is a lower price, which, frankly, given streaming economics, is not the direction I want to see music services go.
- This may be peak SPAC: To cap 2021’s more silly stories off with a cherry, a metaverse-themed company with around $1 million in revenue is going public via a SPAC. Naturally, it has big expectations for future revenue growth. The company is betting that public-market investors are sufficiently smitten with all things metaverse to bid up its equity. Let’s see.
- Big Cartel unionizes: In the wake of news that Amazon workers died in their facility after a tornado hit it, you might be curious about the progress of unionization among workers for tech companies. Slowly, is the answer to that. But startups are taking the lead again, with Big Cartel choosing to voluntarily recognize its employee union. Confused? Yes, leadership has been scarce in this area from the corporate perspective.
Kicking off today, here’s a guide from our own Sarah Perez concerning what gifts to buy if you are looking to cut your, or your loved one’s, screen time. I need this.
- How many stars does your doctor have? Garner Health is betting that you want to look up doctor reviews before picking your provider. The company’s work landed a $45 million Series B, TechCrunch reports. Given just how big the healthcare market is, the company’s TAM is effectively infinite.
- The new webcam status symbol: Everyone’s talking about Opal, at least on my Twitter feed. The company built a $300 webcam that looks nifty, and, we presume, will actually be in stock. This deep into the pandemic, lots of folks still have spotty internet, poor lighting and more. Perhaps the startup didn’t miss its window.
- a16z backs PleasrDAO: The decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) PleasrDAO has collected backing from a16z, which TechCrunch notes is not the first time that the investing group has backed a DAO. Pleasr’s claims to fame appear to be that it bought a doge NFT for $4 million and spent millions more on a Wu-Tang Clan album.
- Pair raises $60M: While we’re sufficiently far past the Warby Parker founding story now that the company is public, startups aren’t letting the eyeglasses game rest. Pair, which builds eyewear that allows for inexpensive modification, just closed its second round of the year. Previously, the company raised $12 million in April. A quick perusal of its service while writing this newsletter for you left me wanting a pair, for whatever my limited fashion sense is worth. It’s worth noting that Warby Parker remains above its $40 per-share IPO price. More on the Warby DTC IPO from earlier this year.
- Mixhalo raises Series B for live audio mixing: The live events business may have been little more than moribund during the last few years, but Mixhalo is far from dead, it turns out. The company, focused on live audio for, well, live events just closed a Series B.
- Mapping data is big business: If you go back into the depths of startup time, there was once this big moment for “mashups.” The idea was to take two data sets and smush them together. This led to sites like Mashable — get it? — being formed. The mashup movement wound up subsumed into other tech work. Or was it? Carto just raised a $61 million Series C for what TechCrunch describes as helping companies display “data on interactive maps so that you can more easily compare, optimize, balance and make decisions.” Maps plus data? Sounds like a mashup.
- Today’s Tiger round is Mesh Payments: Helping companies manage their spend is a simply huge startup category. Ramp, Brex, Airbase and others are working on the issue in the United States, for example. International competitors abound as well. Today TechCrunch noted that Mesh Payments, another player in the space, just raised a $50 million round led by the ever-present Tiger.
- Luxembourg-based IBISA raises microround for microinsurance: I dig this one. Focused on providing coverage for “small farmers whose livelihoods might be affected by adverse climate events,” IBISA just raised about $1.7 million in a new capital round. The company, despite its European roots, focuses on developing markets.
- Vertical SaaS remains an investable category: In the wake of Squire raising successive rounds for its barbershop vertical SaaS play, we should not be shocked that Fresha has raised a $52.5 million round of capital today. The company sells software for the beauty and wellness industry.
Finally, as we segue into today’s TechCrunch+ feature story, our own Ron Miller is not as convinced as some about the web3 hype. Others are more excited:
7 investors discuss web3’s present and peer into its future
We’re years away from web3 capturing major market share, and there are valid concerns that its complexity will daunt consumers and regulators.
However, our research indicated that the investment landscape is growing increasingly competitive as venture capitalists become more educated and less skeptical.
To get a clearer sense of where the market is, we reached out to several active investors to find out where web3 stands and what the future holds:
- Lior Messika, founder and managing partner, Eden Block
- Atul Ajoy, partner, Horseshoe Capital
- David Chreng-Messembourg, founding partner, LeadBlock Partners
- Randy Glein, founder/partner, and Sam Shapiro, principal, DFJ Growth
- Mercedes Bent, partner, Lightspeed Venture Partners
- Jai Das, co-founder, president and partner, Sapphire Ventures
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
- Coinbase adds image viewing feature: If you use Coinbase Wallet on desktop, you can now check out your NFTs. We’d normally make some jokes here about the tech required to view images on computers, but we don’t want to get into a Twitter war with Bored Ape fans.
- Snap paid out a quarter billion this year to support its TikTok clone: Snap’s Snapchat service is an interesting social product to watch. It has never given up on its slight angle on the social world, and its parent company has not been shy in using its capital resources — the company raised debt some years ago — to keep the platform well stocked. Today the company announced that it has paid creators $250 million to make content for Spotlight, which is similar to TikTok.
- Cash App now lets users gift stock, crypto: The ability to gift crypto is not new per se, but to see Cash App roll out the capability could allow for more mass-market crypto gifting. Recall that Cash App is no longer owned by Square, it’s owned by Block, its newly rebranded parent company.
- The UK is looking to shake up Google, Apple: The war between third-party developers and the major mobile app store companies continues around the world, with news out today that the “U.K.’s antitrust watchdog has given the clearest signal yet that interventions under an upcoming reform of the country’s competition rules will target” Apple (iOS) and Google (Android).
- A self-driving setback: Daily Crunch has made much mention of self-driving milestones this year, covering new commercial partnerships and tentative in-market movements. But there was some negative progress today, namely that Chinese autonomous driving startup Pony.ai has had its California test permit revoked following a crash.
- Netflix cuts prices in India: We’ve noted in this missive that Netflix is getting into the games business. Why? Because there are only so many people with enough money and internet access out there for Netflix to sell streaming services to. Evidence of the company starting to bump up against its natural market size is that the American streaming service is cutting prices in India. As our own Manish Singh notes, this is not the first time that the company has tinkered with its pricing in the country.
TechCrunch wants to know which software consultants you’ve worked with for anything from UI/UX to cloud architecture. Let us know here.
If you’re curious about how these surveys are shaping our coverage, check out this interview by Anna Heim: “From Ph.D. to boutique software developer: An interview with Solwey’s Andrew Drach.”