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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Tuesday, March 15, 2022! Well, we’ve done it. We made it through earnings season and nearly all of Q1. Now it’s just the final two weeks until we rock into the second real period of 2022. Time flies, but the fact that we’re toward the end of March means that Early Stage is coming up. I, for one, cannot wait. (And, fine, I’m looking forward to Q1 earnings as well.) – Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3 4

  • All Raise hires new CEO: A nonprofit focused on “increasing diversity within venture capital deals and decision-makers” per our reporting, All Raise now has a new boss. Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon comes into the role after running Founder Gym, which helped train underrepresented founders around the world.
  • Challenges in China: The technology landscape in China is being squeezed as the country’s government continues a regulatory barrage, COVID policies lock down key cities, and potential delisting looming over the country’s U.S.-listed companies. Markets have reacted negatively to the uncertainty.
  • The venture result: The tough market is starting to show up in venture capital results, early data indicates. Tracking the Chinese venture capital market, once a challenger for the global top slot, was an interesting adventure last year as VCs kept writing checks despite more government oversight. Now, however, the numbers could be shifting. And not for the better.
  • How European startups are aiding Ukrainian refugees: While the world’s governments grapple with how to blunt and push back the Russian invasion of Ukraine, startups and more mature tech companies in Europe are stepping up with a host of efforts to ameliorate human suffering. TechCrunch has a running list of who is doing what that is worth reading.

Startups and VC

What crypto slowdown? Last week TechCrunch noted that the NFT market appeared to be slowing. But that and generally uninspiring price movements in major crypto tokens are not slowing venture interest in the space. The parent company of well-known crypto wallet MetaMast just raised at a $7 billion valuation, and the team that was working on crypto at Facebook just raised a mint for their own project. Which is, notably, a new blockchain, and not something built atop an existing decentralized network.

Before we dive into the rest of the startup news, there’s an essay up on TechCrunch regarding BNPL (consumer lending fintech, essentially) regulation that’s worth reading. I have yet to finish digesting it, but the concept of laggy regulation in the face of rapid innovation is never something to ignore.

  • Astra manages to ad astra: Flying to space is a pretty binary activity. You either make it and deliver whatever it is you were tasked with transporting, or you don’t, and everyone watches your rocket fail on YouTube. In good news for the burgeoning space transit game, “space startup-turned-public-company Astra reached orbit for a second time, in its debut mission for new customer Spaceflight Inc.,” TechCrunch reports. (I’m keeping Astra in the startup section for now as it is still a startup despite public-company status, just as Databricks is a public company despite private-company status.)
  • Enterprise software is still big business: Sure, VCs want to fund crypto exchanges and whatnot, but the work of building software for large companies is still ticking along. Evidence of that can be found today in Run:ai raising a $75 million round. Tiger and Insight Partners led the investment, giving the AI workload orchestrator a huge capital base from which to grow.
  • Employee engagement is also big business: Sticking to the enterprise theme for a moment, Staffbase just raised a huge $115 million round at a $1.1 billion valuation, TechCrunch reports. The company’s software “helps internal teams craft, send out and measure the impact of their communications with their organizations,” we write.
  • Plaid for commerce? Plaid became famous for building APIs to help knit the world of fintech together. TechCrunch reckons that Rutter is running a similar playbook, but for e-commerce. And after raising a $1.5 million round last year, the company is back in 2022 with a $27 million Series A.
  • Battery-powered, island-hopping cargo ships: Here’s a fun one. FleetZero wants to shake up the carbon-heavy and generally old-fashioned global blue-water shipping world with electric boats, using smaller ports and battery swapping. Um, hell yeah?
  • Insurtech isn’t dead: Yes, the value of many insurtech startups has fallen in recent quarters, but that doesn’t mean that the sector is kaput. A good example is the latest Cowbell Cyber round, worth $100 million, to deliver cyber insurance to SMEs. Given the deluge of ransomware around the world, we doubt that Cowbell will lack for TAM.

And there was more. Bobbie raised $50 million for its infant formula venture, Zomato and Blinkit are merging, and we have more reporting on the world of e-commerce aggregation.

How to pitch me: 4 VCs share what they’re looking for in March 2022

Poring over public information will not tell you exactly which kinds of deals VCs are looking for at the moment or how they prefer to be approached by founders.

To dispel some of these mysteries and learn more about where top VCs are searching for opportunities, we polled the following investors:

  • Christine Choi, partner, M13
  • Arvind Gupta, partner, Mayfield Fund
  • Mike Ghaffary, general partner, Canvas Ventures
  • Sarah Kunst, managing director, Cleo Capital

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

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