Daily Crunch: Cellino wins TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield 2021

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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for September 23, 2021. We just put the final bow on Disrupt, which went pretty damn well. Thanks to everyone who came out, and, of course, a big huzzah to the winner of Startup Battlefield (more below).

TechCrunch’s next event is SaaS-focused, so be sure to mark your calendars! — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Cellino wins Disrupt Battlefield: From an incredibly competitive group of finalists, Cellino took home the top prize. The startup’s platform to automate stem cell production brings together lasers and AI, it turns out. Its vision impressed the judges during today’s final presentations, besting other strong competitors like Nth Cycle, which was the runner-up. Congrats, Cellino!
  • Twitter’s product team pounds Red Bull, moves deeper into crypto: The drumbeat of new products from Twitter continued today, with the company announcing “support for tipping with crypto, NFT authentication” and more. The social network has also moved into email newsletters and social audio in recent quarters. And, notably, it has managed the product deluge while not harming its core service — thus far, at least.
  • The limits of edtech: The CEO of Duolingo joined TechCrunch at Disrupt this year, sitting down with our own edtech expert Natasha Mascarenhas. The two dug into the ethics of paywalling education content and how to make money without sacrificing core values.


While Cellino won our yearly Battlefield competition, it was joined in the finals by four other startups that we found impressive:

Now, the rest of the startup news:

  • Fintech valuations are red-hot: Thanks to a few recent IPOs, the public market is making it clear that the value of fintech revenues at tech startups is greater than many expected. For startups, it’s good news.
  • Clubhouse kinda takes on Discord: Clubhouse is best known for public chats. Discord is best known for private chats. So when Clubhouse released work on private rooms, we took note. The service has a new feature called “Wave” that “makes it easier to start private rooms with friends when you see that they’re online,” per TechCrunch.
  • Syng closes ​​$48.75M Series A for at-home spatial audio: If you are content to listen to music with your laptop speakers, Syng is not for you. But if you are the sort of person who tinkers with the music setup of your home for max oomph, Syng’s “triphonic” hardware that wants to bring spatial audio to the home could be your jam.
  • Open-banking startup Vyne raises $15.5M: According to our own Ingrid Lunden, the concept of open banking is enjoying a moment in the spotlight. Per my colleague, open banking is “a new approach to payments and other financial services that disrupts traditional card-based infrastructure by linking directly into banks,” and Vyne wants a piece of the action. Focused on merchants, the company just locked down eight figures of new capital for its vision.
  • There’s infinite capital for grocery delivery startups: Many grocery delivery companies in Europe are working to get deliveries done more quickly. Jiffy is one of them. Jiffy is also racing through its capital raises, putting $28 million on to its balance sheet after being founded this April.

To close out our startup section, here’s the latest TechCrunch rundown of robotics news. Apple’s Foundation show comes out tomorrow, so this feels somewhat timely for the Asimov fans out there.

Duolingo doesn’t want to disrupt the college degree

Duolingo CEO and co-founder Luis von Ahn has appeared at TechCrunch Disrupt before, but this year was his first time representing a public company.

A few months ago, reporter Natasha Mascarenhas described Duolingo’s debut as the “bellwether edtech IPO of the year,” so she was well equipped with questions about the company’s plans for boosting revenue. For example, is premium content in the cards?

“If we wanted to make more money in the short term, we could probably start paywalling things, but I think that would stifle our growth,” said von Ahn.

“If we start charging for some aspects of language learning, eventually we’re just gonna charge for everything.”

Here’s a recap, along with a video that captures the entire interview.

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