Snap exec and head of growth Jacob Andreou heads to Greylock

Snap’s head of growth and previously longtime product head Jacob Andreou is leaving the social media company after 8 years to join Greylock as a General Partner. The exec announced his transition plans via a Twitter post noting he would be leaving Snap in May to focus on partnering with the “next generation of consumer founders.”

After starting as a Design Engineer, Andreou had served in various roles at Snap over the years, from May 2015 through July 2022, including also Vice President of Product, Director of Product and Growth, and Director of Growth. In July 2022, he was shifted to Senior Vice President of Growth as part of a broader reshuffling of Snap’s executive team. In this position, Andreou was responsible for Snapchat’s monetization products, growth operations and data science.

As Axios reported last year, the shakeup had been designed to prioritize monetization and growth at the Snapchat maker. Among the changes, Snap also moved Jack Brody, VP of Product, to a role that would have him overseeing all of Snap’s product innovation, including teams across the Snapchat app and the hardware division, Snap Lab. In addition, the company had hired ex-Googler Biswanath Panda as its VP of ads engineering and Lars Hirsch as its VP of ads product, who had spent time in ad product divisions at Microsoft, Amazon and Google.

Before working at Snap, Andreou co-founded and led product at analytics platform ThinkAkili from May 2012 through March 2015.

In his departure announcement, the exec thanked the team and Evan [Spiegel, CEO of Snap] for the “honor of a lifetime” and for getting to “help build such an impact full product” adding the company had changed his life.

A profile with Fortune noted Andreou, who is 29, had already done some angel investing while at Snap, including in startups like In Search Of and with creator app Captions.AI, which had been founded by former Snap employees. But he will now be able to focus on consumer technology, and particularly the influencer and creator market and other AI startups. Greylock has investments in a number of consumer tech companies, including Discord, Figma, Coinbase, Nextdoor, Roblox and others.

Snap exec and head of growth Jacob Andreou heads to Greylock by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

Why this consumer investor is switching VC firms after making partner last year

Maria Salamanca, one of the few Latina investors at a partner level within the often homogenous world of venture capital, is shaking things up. The investor tells TechCrunch that she is leaving Unshackled Ventures, a pre-seed venture firm that bets on immigrant founders, after seven years to become a partner at Ulu Ventures, a seed-stage firm focused on data-driven decision-making and diversity.

In a world where some of venture’s best talent is starting new funds, Salamanca’s job change is an example of how prominent investors may be finding more benefit in joining firms at a partnership level. And it’s also a look at how investors may be rethinking their employment as the market changes and “the generalist VC” perspective isn’t as enticing.

TechCrunch spoke to Salamanca about the job move and more in a Q&A. The answers have been edited slightly for clarity.

TechCrunch: Let’s start with your decision to leave Unshackled. What about the firm changed and made you decide to look outward?

Maria Salamanca: Nothing about the firm changed. It was more of my own growth and trajectory. The fund is fantastic at what it is: we’re generalists and pre-seed. We’ve stayed disciplined through all three funds on that with very few opportunistic bets. The true core of Unshackled is pre-seed bets, huge focus on immigrants, entrepreneurs and even more so when those immigrants still have visa issues and concerns and barriers. And that’s kind of the sweet spot of the fund.

What became very clear to me in the past couple of months, if not year, was I have grown in my areas of interest that I want to spend a lot of time on. That tends to be consumer general, web3, a lot of next-gen platforms, whether it be the metaverse, web3 or gaming. To be a really great partner of this fund, I have to stay generalist, I have to stay pre-seed.

There were a couple opportunities that came my way and those conversations…made me reassess my excitement on those verticals. I wasn’t thinking that way. It was just like it organically happened, which is why it is still very incredibly bittersweet.

Why not start your own fund?

After spending seven years building at Unshackled, I am keenly aware of how difficult it is to start a fund and the balancing act it is with investing time. At this point in my career, I want to spend more time growing as an investor and further the thesis building I have been doing for years in a more concrete manner. I will get to do that building consumer strategy at Ulu.

You mentioned earlier this tension between wanting to do what’s best for LPs versus being self-serving. Can you tell me more about how you balance those different tensions when it comes to your career?

I think really great investors are obsessive about portfolio construction. And everything is kind of backwards from there. You know where you want to focus, where the returns are and what successful portfolio construction looks like. And that’s kind of core to like discipline long term unless you kind of end up being on a multi-stage fund.

My guess is that in the market, where we’re heading, LPs are fairly over indexed in venture and private money and their portfolios. They’re going to have to make some tough decisions on which managers were disciplined and which ones weren’t. As an investor who cares deeply about that fiduciary duty to your LPs and ultimately, like, you are a steward of capital, you have to occasionally check yourself on, ‘Am I still in the right stage, am I still in the right fund size, am I still in the right fund where the areas I want to focus on are beneficial to the portfolio construction, or is it going to be taking away or creeping up on it in a way that is distracting?’

That’s kind of the way that I thought about it. It became clear to me, honestly…that being at a seed or Series A fund was probably the best place for me to be writing that first check and into consumer companies. It’s a very different personality type and approach to be a consumer versus enterprise investor, from sourcing to portfolio support it’s very different playbooks. Being at a fund where that is acknowledged and accepted and encouraged is pretty important.

Everyone does not need to be a generalist, it’s okay for us to have some verticals and some specialization kind of plays well into that.

Let’s talk about Ulu Ventures. What do you want to do differently between the Unshackled phase of your career and now, this new phase of your career as a partner at Ulu Ventures?

If I hadn’t been at Unshackled, I would have probably gone to be an operator because I love building. And that’s kind of what I did for the past seven years at Unshackled. I helped build a fund, from sourcing strategy to portfolio management to portfolio support.

We had two investments when I joined, now we have 75 and are three funds in. Neither of the three partners, including myself, were previously from venture careers so we couldn’t copy and paste things. I loved that part of the past seven years because I just felt like I was learning at a ridiculous pace.

As I go to a fund that, in terms of size and portfolio with more history, a smaller percentage of my time will be going toward building and fund building. A lot more of my time is gonna go to probably what I think is the highest ROI for me personally which is really devoting my time to being a really good decision maker, and a good investor. And so like, I am so excited because Ulu is all about decision-making analysis, with two of the world-renowned decision-making analysts.

It’s that internal time to focus on me as an investor. It’s going to be a rebalancing.

The title partner can look so different depending on the venture firm. Talk to me about this and how you navigate those nuances? What kind of partner are you?

I bought into the partnership. Everyone who is a partner by title, is a partner in terms of actual carry and economics as well. Once you enter a partnership, you’re buying into an actual partnership and returns.

With the partnership, you end up having to have this hard conversation. Because I come from an emerging manager fund, I have full awareness that going to a vintage 15 fund is very different from a vintage 2 fund. How you answer the question of a partner is very different: a16z answered in a different way from Benchmark, which answered differently from Sequoia. That is so kind of core to who the team is, as well as what the team strengths are because not every fund is able to match the Andreessen model long term.

There are partnerships where people are both fund builders and strategic persons, and there are partnerships where people come in, everything is built out and the job is just to focus on one stage. Those jobs are not great for people who are builders; some people would like to get that wisdom on their own.

There’s significant value in your career to being in a place where there’s massive amounts of institutional knowledge. And then there’s also like incredible learning from being at a place where you’re building that institutional knowledge. I personally feel like as my career evolves, I’d like to move from that side of the spectrum closer to the other side.

How does this fit in with your campaign for school board in Florida?

Both my former team at Unshackled and the new team at Ulu know how formative education has been to my journey and with everything that is going on in Florida, why running in the district where I grew up was important to me. Education powers our economy and I am so excited to be closer to one of the most diverse school districts in the country. The board itself is not a full-time commitment so it is a role many VCs have done in the past.

You said to me previously that you never want to be chasing the same deals as everyone else in the industry. What are you going to be looking at while working for Ulu Ventures?

The truth is that I’m gonna probably be spending the first couple months building out a lot of how consumers intersect with Ulu’s framework. Historically, Ulu has been focused on enterprise, and a lot of the models that they have built on decision-making has been reflective of the enterprise. So I’m coming in, for the first time ever, and I’d like to think that I would be one of the first people to ever do this in venture by bringing that decision-making analysis to consumer investing.

Tell me more about Ulu’s decision-making analysis?

When you get a deal, you think about all the different pathways and probabilities that a company can go through and the different factors that influence that company’s ability to, you know, exit or succeed. You’re basically weighing the probability, statistically, on how likely that company has to make it through all those.

It’s kind of like a sensitivity analysis equivalent of all the different things that can impact whether that company is successful. When a founder is deciding what to stress out more about, is it customer acquisition or is it a pricing model? The idea behind decision analysis is that you can actually have an answer to what is more impactful to that company’s success long term, and you can tell a founder: your pricing is not going to make or break your success, but your customer acquisition and owning up-market is going to actually increase your chances of success and on the market by 5X. So, Ulu has done that at the enterprise level and that’s probably why they have 10 unicorns, but it hasn’t been done yet on consumers.

Last question. Add in the downturn, and volatility in crypto, does your job get easier or harder?

I personally am excited about the downturn because I think that when there’s so much money in the market, there’s so much more noise, that it’s actually really hard to kind of get the real value of who you’re talking to. The price point on the value of a company isn’t everything, but it is one of the factors that plays into if this is going to return the capital that I’m putting into it. And as that goes up, dilution starts mattering more and more. So you just get to make a lot better bets in really great founders if it’s not so noisy when it comes to valuations.

You don’t have to make an investment in two days, you can take a week. Which is a luxury. And that hasn’t been the case in venture for the past couple of years.

Why this consumer investor is switching VC firms after making partner last year by Natasha Mascarenhas originally published on TechCrunch

Kim Kardashian becomes a private equity dealmaker in collab with ex-Carlyle partner

America’s favorite reality star is leveling up her repertoire and levering up businesses. Kim Kardashian, who passed the “baby bar” exam in preparation to become a lawyer last year, just added another job title to her lineup — private equity investor.

Kardashian is launching private equity firm SKKY Partners in conjunction with ex-Carlyle consumer head Jay Sammons to invest in business across consumer products, hospitality, luxury, digital commerce and media, The Wall Street Journal first reported. SKKY will take both control and minority stakes in its target companies, according to the Journal.

Sammons, who left Carlyle this summer after spending 16+ years at the top private equity firm, is known for his bets on brands including Supreme and Beats by Dre. A longtime friend of the Kardashians, Sammons apparently approached Kardashian and her mom-ager, Kris Jenner, with the idea to start the business. Jenner will be joining SKKY as a partner, the Journal reported.

Sammons plans to oversee the firm’s daily operations from Boston, where he lives, while SKKY’s second office will be in Kardashian’s hometown of Los Angeles. Kardashian told the Journal that the firm is aiming to make its first investment before the end of 2022 and plans to go out to institutional investors to raise capital shortly. Neither Sammons nor Kardashian shared any details on the expected fund size they hope to raise.

Kardashian is the latest celebrity to make inroads in the world of private capital management, following tennis sensation Serena Williams’ pivot to working full-time in venture capital last month. For Kardashian, though, private equity is just another side hustle rather than her main area of focus, at least for now.

Kardashian’s foray into launching an undergarment and loungewear brand, Skims, made her a billionaire — the business was most recently valued at $3.2 billion with her stake at over $1 billion. She also launched a nine-product skincare line this year in collaboration with consumer conglomerate Coty, an investor in her beauty company, and announced earlier this week that she is debuting her own true crime podcast called “The System” in a cover story with Interview Magazine. 

Kim Kardashian becomes a private equity dealmaker in collab with ex-Carlyle partner by Anita Ramaswamy originally published on TechCrunch

Robin Games enters the market with Playhouse, an interior design game you can both play and shop

Women-led mobile gaming startup Robin Games raised funding around the idea of carving out a new niche in the market of “lifestyle gaming.” The idea, the company explained at the time of its 2020 public debut, was to create a fantasy gaming experience that’s more sophisticated and stylish — something more in line with the sort of content you’d typically find in a lifestyle magazine or Instagram influencer’s profile. Today, the startup is releasing its first title to tackle this concept with the launch of a mobile game, PLAYHOUSE, which combines both gameplay and shopping in one experience.

Available on iOS and Android, PLAYHOUSE is a DIY design game that allows players to drag-and-drop furniture and décor into spaces to create original looks for rooms using elements like wall art, sofas, chairs, tables, plants, and more. This alone doesn’t make the app unique — the interior design genre is a popular sub-genre within the Simulation Games category on today’s app stores where competitors like Playtika’s Redecor, SayGames’ Decor Life — Home Design Game, and Crowdstar’s Design Home: Dream Makeover can be found in the Top Charts.

Instead, where PLAYHOUSE differentiates itself from others is in both its technology and its partnerships.

The company allows users to drag-and-drop pieces into the space but also move, rotate, resize and even layer items as they style the space in a much more freeform manner than some other games allow. In addition, the company is working with real-life furniture brands to make the items in its game shoppable in real life.

At launch, PLAYHOUSE features shoppable experiences that connect players to brands like Arhaus, Article, 1stDibs, Chairish, One Kings Lane, ABC Carpet & Home, Jenni Kayne, Society6, Bloomscape, Room & Board, and Lulu & Georgia, among others. In other words, the game’s goal isn’t just to provide a creative outlet for art and interior design fans, but to also drive the discovery of new furniture and decor.

Image Credits: Robin Games

Robin Games says that, at launch, there are over 6,000 pieces of real furniture and décor available from more than 100 home design brands available inside the app. Players can choose to purchase the actual items they’re using to create their designs by visiting the retailer’s website.

This concept is somewhat like Pinterest’s new collage-making app Shuffles, which allows its players to create custom art experiences using their own photos and Pinterest Pins. While the Shuffles app is primarily being used as a creative tool before publishing to TikTok or Instagram, the items featured in the collages link to their Pin’s page on Pinterest — where they’re also connected with the retailer’s website and can be purchased, similar to PLAYHOUSE.

“One of the main reasons we wanted to make PLAYHOUSE, and ‘Lifestyle Games’ in general, is because we see a hole in the market for truly expressive, creative games,” Robin Games co-founder and CEO Jill Wilson told TechCrunch. “It’s unusual to think of an interior design-focused game as a fantasy game but we do — it’s a different type of fantasy from what is typically explored in games. Getting to design spaces with beautiful pieces as if you are an interior designer is a real-world fantasy for many people, and our company is devoted to giving players that experience,” she added.

In addition, PLAYHOUSE users can submit their design projected to be rated by other players, which allows them to earn tickets, coins and gems as well as other décor pieces that help them to level up. The company also partnered with content creators including design enthusiasts, artists, Airbnb hosts and others to create limited-time “hosted projects” aimed at inspiring players’ own designs.

And it’s working with editorial publishing houses Condé Nast, Hearst (House Beautiful), Leaf Group (Hunker), and Design Milk who will be active hosts who create design challenges and other inspiring content, the company says. House Beautiful, for instance, will host a series of design challenges based on the articles it publishes on its website.

Image Credits: Robin Games

During its soft launch period, the team refined the game mechanics, play controls, onboarding experience and the in-game economy, which is free-to-play with in-app purchases. While you can move forward without playing, players can choose to pay to unlock additional pieces with gems they purchase instead of waiting to earn them in the game through achievements. Limited-timed bundles around a particular theme are also sometimes available for purchase — like a bundle of special plants and plant-themed items that are only available in the bundle.

So far, over 1 million design challenges were submitted with the most devoted players participating in every project released daily and sticking around long-term, Wilson says.

Following its $7 million seed, Robin Games closed on a $14 million Series A in 2020 and continued to develop PLAYHOUSE in the months that followed. While being a women-led startup has given them an advantage in a game that’s marketed primarily to women, Wilson believes it’s the team’s diversity that will help it to get ahead.

Image Credits: Robin Games

“I like to make games that I’d want to play myself and believe that surrounding myself with a diverse group of talented people who also want to play the game we’re making gives us the best chance of success,” Wilson explains. “At Robin Games, we have over 50% women on our board, management team, and team overall — and the majority of all our team members are passionate about design. Putting creative decision-making in the hands of potential players is the key to our authenticity and why we believe true design lovers will love what we’ve made. While we anticipate our audience will be primarily women, we have tried to make it as inclusive as possible and hope that everyone who loves design will enjoy it,” she says.

PLAYHOUSE is live today on both iOS and Android as a free download.

Netflix explores cloud gaming as it looks for new hires

Netflix requests the help of cloud gaming specialists in its recent job listing posts, a possible hint at what’s to come for its ongoing gaming venture. As noted by Protocol, the company is on the hunt for a security product manager with experience handling “cloud gaming challenges,” a rendering engineer who can support Netflix’s “cloud gaming service,” and other related positions.

If the company were to launch a cloud gaming service similar to PlayStation Now, Google Stadia, or Amazon Luna, this would help it branch out beyond mobile, bringing its games to TVs and PCs without relying on game consoles.

Netflix told TechCrunch, “We are always looking for great talent to join our teams and are constantly exploring new product opportunities to enhance our member experience. We have nothing else to share at this time.”

The streamer is still expanding its mobile games library with the recent launches of “Into the Breach” and “Behind Your Eyes,” among others. According to Apptopia, less than 1% of Netflix’s subscriber base play its mobile games, even though they’re free for those with a Netflix login. The streaming service has around 221 million subscribers, and only an average of 1.7 million daily users play Netflix games.

While its mobile games aren’t exactly popular, maybe a cloud gaming service will catch the attention of more gamers.

The cloud gaming market continues to grow as gamers flock to cloud gaming services since they can access games without paying for expensive hardware. In fact, the global cloud gaming market size is expected to reach a whopping $20.94 billion by the year 2030, according to market research store Research and Markets. Last year, the global cloud gaming market had $1.6 billion in revenue.

Apple kicks off fundraising effort to support U.S. National Parks via Apple Pay donations

Apple is introducing a handful of new ways to support U.S. National Parks. The company announced today it’s continuing its annual National Park donation initiative that allows Apple customers to send money to the National Park Foundation in several ways. Starting today, August 21 and running through August 28, the company will donate $10 to the National Park Foundation for every purchase made using Apple Pay on Apple’s website, within the Apple Store mobile app, or in any U.S.-based Apple retail store.

Proceeds from the donations will be sent to the National Parks Foundation and aid in its mission to protect national parks. In order to garner support, Apple will encourage users to engage with curated content on Apple Maps and Apple Podcasts.

Despite the initiative’s positive undertones, the company will be capping its donation once it hits $1 million (or 100,000 purchases), which falls in line with years past. 

“America’s national parks are a gift we share,” said Will Shafroth, the National Park Foundation’s president and CEO, in Apple’s press release. “Apple’s partnership and generous commitment help to ensure that all people see themselves in national parks and feel welcome in these places that belong to all of us.”

Image Credits: Apple

National Parks-focused content on Apple Maps and Apple Podcasts, this year, is centering on Indigenous peoples and their mark on the nation. For example, Apple Maps users can find a list of national parks curated by the National Park Foundation in the app’s “Guides We Love” section. The parks include those that highlight Native history and heritage, Apple says, like those that were the ancestral lands for many Indigenous nations, or where remnants of their settlements can be found. 

The listings include photos, operating hours, distance, and a description of what you can expect to find at the park. A link to the National Park Foundation’s website lets you learn about the park in more detail. 

Although Apple wants users to engage with this content, its own National Parks podcast has not dropped a new episode since March 2022. However, the company did compile a list of podcasts featuring Native voices in light of today’s announcement. 

In addition to this news, Apple Watch users are being encouraged to participate in a new activity challenge held on August 27. Users completing a hike, walk, run or wheelchair workout that is at least equivalent to one mile will earn a virtual achievement and sticker inspired by national parks — though there is no need to actually be in a national park to gain this digital reward. 

“We’re proud to partner with the organizations and communities who maintain our parks, educate us about their history, and share them with the world. These treasures are well worth protecting, today and for every generation to come,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a statement

The company also took time to highlight last year’s donation, though it did not provide a figure. According to the company, donations allowed Indigenous youth to attend service corps programs at national parks and provided continued support for the Leaders of Color service corps crew, a BIPOC conservationist group. 

‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ to premiere on Disney+ next month on ‘Disney+ Day’

Disney+ revealed that “Thor: Love and Thunder” will be coming to the streaming service on September 8. The announcement is a part of this year’s Disney+ Day — an annual celebration that debuted in 2021 to mark the anniversary of the streaming service’s launch. On Disney+ day, subscribers are rewarded with tons of new content, sneak peeks, as well as exclusive experiences at Disney theme parks.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” will be one of many titles that will premiere on the streamer’s third birthday, along with extra perks for subscribers like culinary experiences, photo opportunities, meet-and-greets, screenings, and more.

If you weren’t able to catch the god of thunder’s latest in theaters, “Thor: Love and Thunder” will be a nice addition to the streaming service.

Viewers will be able to watch the movie in IMAX’s expanded aspect ratio. “Thor: Love and Thunder” is joining the list of various MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movies streaming in IMAX Enhanced on Disney+. There are 15 other titles already available in this format, including “Iron Man,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Doctor Strange,” “Captain Marvel,” “Black Panther,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” and more.

Because “Thor: Love and Thunder” premiered on July 8, many predicted the Marvel title would hit the platform as early as August 24. However, Disney has decided to wait until Disney+ Day to launch the film, much like it did with “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” last year.

The movie follows Thor (Chris Hemsworth) as he tries to find inner peace. His journey to self-discovery is interrupted when a galactic killer, Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), is on a mission to eradicate all gods. Thor, along with King Valkryie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi), and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalia Portman) — the new goddess of thunder — team up to defeat him.

Other titles heading to Disney+ on September 8 are behind-the-scenes specials “Assembled: The Making of Thor: Love and Thunder” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi: A Jedi’s Return,” as well as Brie Larson’s short film “Remembering,” “Tierra Incógnita,” “Dancing with the Stars: The Pros’ Most Memorable Dances,” movie-musical sing-alongs for “Frozen” and “Frozen 2,” and a new short from The Simpsons “Welcome to the Club.”

Previously announced titles are “Pinocchio,” “Cars on the Road,” Brie Larson’s docuseries “Growing Up,” and National Geographic’s “Epic Adventures with Bertie Gregory.”

As part of Disney+ Day, there will be special screenings of Disney titles at select AMC Theatres from September 8 to September 19. These include “Encanto,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Cars,” and “Newsies.” Tickets are $5 per screening and are available for anyone to purchase. The tickets will go on sale on September 1. And if you’re lucky, moviegoers have the chance to receive a free Disney+ poster and special concessions offers.

Disney+ Day will also give extra perks to visitors at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resorts in California, Paris, and Hong Kong.

On September 8, guests that verify that they are a Disney+ subscriber will be able to enter the theme parks a half hour before it opens up to regular visitors. Hong Kong Disneyland will allow guests to enter the park 30 minutes early on September 10.

Guests staying in select Walt Disney World Resort Hotels and Disneyland Resort Hotels can enter the theme parks an hour before the regular park opening times.

Other perks include movie screenings for hotel guests, Disney+ character meet-and-greets, a complimentary Disney PhotoPass digital download at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disneyland Resort theme parks, a blue-themed dessert for Disneyland Resort visitors, and lots more.

YouTube launches a dedicated podcasts homepage for U.S. users

Earlier this year, reports emerged that YouTube would soon add a dedicated podcasts homepage — a signal the company was getting more serious about its investments in podcasts and the potential ad revenue they could deliver. Today, YouTube confirmed to TechCrunch the new podcasts destination is now live for U.S. users, after the URL was discovered to be live ahead of any formal announcement.

According to a report by 9to5Google, the dedicated podcast page went live sometime last month and is now linked, at least for some users, on YouTube’s existing Explore page alongside other top destinations like Gaming, Sports, Learning, Fashion and others. It did not appear in the website’s sidebar navigation, however.

Reached for comment, YouTube told TechCrucnh the URL is not globally available at this time.

“The podcast destination page on YouTube helps users explore new and popular podcast episodes, shows and Creators, as well as recommend podcast content,” said YouTube spokesperson, Paul Pennigton. “It’s currently available in the U.S. only.”

YouTube declined to answer further questions about the company’s plans for podcasts in general or the destination itself — hinting that a broader announcement was still to come. (It’s possible this will be one of the announcements planned for a YouTube creator event scheduled for next month, if we had to guess.)

Before today, there were already a number of hints that YouTube was getting more serious about podcasts — particularly after Spotify entered the space with its support for video podcasts.

Last year, YouTube hired a podcast executive, Kai Chuk, to lead its efforts in the space and has been offering cash to popular podcasters to film their shows, reports said. This March, a site called Podnews leaked an 84-page presentation that detailed YouTube’s podcast roadmap. In the document, YouTube revealed it had plans to pilot the feature by ingesting RSS feeds. It also mentioned a new URL, but the link didn’t work at the time.

The document also help to clarify some of YouTube’s thinking around podcasts, as it suggested YouTube had plans to feature audio ads sold by Google and other partners. This could present a potential new revenue stream for the tech giant at a time when the younger generation has shifted their search behavior from Google to other platforms, like TikTok.  The document said YouTube planned to roll out audio-first metrics to creators and integrate YouTube data into podcast measurement platforms including Nielsen, Chartable and Podtrac, as well.

The addition of a top-level landing page for podcasts is a fairly significant move for the company.

As different YouTube verticals have grown in importance and popularity, YouTube would highlight these categories by offering them their own homepages on its site and feature them as a link in its main navigation. Notably, it did this with YouTube Gaming back in 2015 and with YouTube Fashion (now Fashion & Beauty) in 2019. On mobile, it also features a prominent link to YouTube Music that opens the companion app for YouTube’s Music service. Presumably, it could do the same with podcasts in the future, it it wanted to capitalize on its ability to drive traffic from its flagship app to its streaming service.

YouTube’s advances in podcasting follow significant investments on Spotify’s part into the medium. The company has spent more than $1 billion on related acquisitions. It brought studios and exclusive shows in-house, launched paid podcast subscriptions, and developed podcast ad tech platforms and services. Spotify hyped the revenue potential for its podcast efforts this June, noting that its podcasting business generated roughly €200 million last year, up 300% from 2020.

eBay is acquiring trading card marketplace TCGplayer for up to $295M

eBay is acquiring TCGplayer, an online marketplace for collectible trading card games, in a deal valued up to $295 million, the company announced on Monday. The deal is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023. eBay says the acquisition furthers its commitment to trading card enthusiasts and also noted that trading cards are currently showing “substantial growth.”

Founded in 2008, TCGplayer has grown from Syracuse-based hobby stores into an e-commerce platform. TCGplayer, which currently employs more than 600 people, will continue to operate autonomously following the acquisition

“eBay continues to build on our 26 years of experience in trading cards, powering local hobby stores and Main Street retailers to deliver an online destination that collectors love,” said Dawn Block, the Vice President of Collectibles at eBay, in a press release. “eBay has always fueled our customers’ passion in this space and facilitated connections between buyers and sellers, and with TCGplayer, we can enhance the customer experience across categories, forge even more relationships, and cater to enthusiasts around the world.”

In a statement, TCGplayer founder and CEO Chedy Hampson said the acquisition will give the company a chance to benefit from eBay’s industry experience and resources while TCGplayer continues to operate independently. Hampson noted that he will remain in his position as CEO of TCGplayer. He also said the company will keep its headquarters in downtown Syracuse after the deal closes.

“With eBay’s support, we will advance our purpose, and expand our tools and services to improve the collecting experience online and in your favorite local hobby store,” Hampson said in the press release.

eBay has long been a place for trading card enthusiasts to buy and sell, and the company has recently been working to solidify its place in the market. In January, the company expanded its authentication service to include support for authenticating valuable trading cards worth at least $750. At the time, eBay said it saw the value in adding authentication support for trading cards due to the volume of activity in the category on its site. The company said the trading cards category is growing “significantly faster” than its total marketplace, and that the category saw $2 billion in transactions in the first half of 2021. That’s equal to all of the trading card transactions that took place in 2020, for comparison.

As eBay deals with increased competition from services like Facebook Marketplace and other local buying apps, the company has been working to better establish itself as a place where people can seek out collectibles. The company’s latest acquisition shows that eBay sees increased potential in trading cards, as the company notes that the agreement offers a way for it to “maintain its position as a desirable platform for trading card sellers.”

Today’s announcement comes two months after eBay said it was acquiring Manchester-based NFT marketplace KnownOrigin for an undisclosed sum. The platform enables artists and collectors to create, buy and resell NFTs. eBay said it’s acquiring the entire company, including IP and the team. Earlier this year, eBay launched its first collection of NFTs in partnership with web3 platform OneOf.

What’s a crypto exchange worth?

Hello and welcome back to Equity, a podcast about the business of startups, where we unpack the numbers and nuance behind the headlines.

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