Why San Francisco is still the gold mine for tech startups

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where each week we discuss other people’s copious dollars and lacking sense.

This week was special! Kate and Alex at Disrupt where they recorded live in front of an audience. Equity has recorded at Disrupt before. Equity has taped before an audience before. But this was the first time that we taped it at Disrupt and in front of an audience that actually had chairs. Progress!

Charles Hudson of Precursor Ventures joined us as well, making for an excellent show. Astute listeners among us will recall that Hudson is a former guest on the show, having taken part back in mid-2017.

Onto the topics, we discussed the impending Precursor Ventures opportunity fund (more here). We wanted to know why it was of modest size, especially in an era of ever-larger venture capital funds.

Next, we turned to a trio of startup stories, starting with Rhino, a company that is working to shake up the rental deposit market. Hate paying deposits for an apartment? Would you rather pay a small, regular fee? Rhino hopes that you would, and has raised $21 million to build out the idea.

Also on our list of topics was a small upstart by the name of Knowable, our colleague Josh Constine profiled the business here. The company sells educational audio bits, and they want you to know, they are not a podcasting business. We’re still a bit unclear of the difference between educational audio and podcast but VCs seem confident enough in the company’s prospects, funneling $3.75 million in the project.

The last startup we riffed on is called oollee. The company provides people with an unlimited supply of filtered drinking water for a small monthly fee. It’s raised $1 million in pre-seed funding from investors, including Mission Gate Inc. and Columbus Holdings, and, of course, we have thoughts!

After that we touched on the most valuable Y Combinator companies, including Stripe (more here and here), Airbnb and DoorDash. The list of YC’s hits is getting long. And, it provided the perfect segue to Airbnb.

Airbnb intends to go public via a direct listing, according to a whole bunch of recent reports. Every VC in town seems to have opinions about direct listings as the next best path to the public markets, maybe they’re right. Finally, WeWork is selling off a bunch of stuff that it bought recently. Here’s a list of what it bought, but SpaceIQ, Teem, Conductor and more are said to be on the chopping block.

All that and we had fun! Back to normal next week.

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WeWork makes its third-biggest acquisition to date, shelling out $100 million for a software startup called Teem

WeWork, the eight-year-old, 800-pound gorilla in the co-working space, hasn’t been known for being terribly acquisitive, despite the billions of dollars it has raised and its valuation, which one of its biggest investors, SoftBank, apparently believes to be approaching $35 billion. To wit, it made just one small acquisition in 2015 (Case), and one other in 2016 (Welkio).

Yet the company is clearly beefing up its efforts to, well, beef up.

Last year, it acquired five companies, including Meetup, a site for organizing group trips and events for which WeWork paid a reported $200 million. It meanwhile acquired three companies earlier this year, including the Chinese co-working startup Naked Hub, for which it paid $400 million.

Now, WeWork is announcing its fourth acquisition of 2018 — and its third-biggest purchase to date — with Teem, a maker of office management software for which a source says WeWork paid $100 million in cash.

The six-year-old, Salt Lake City, Utah-based outfit had raised $21.5 million from investors, including Origin Ventures, Greycroft and NGP Capital.

WeWork appears to have picked up the company for several reasons, beginning with its ongoing quest to provide its growing base of corporate customers with bells and whistles like “insights” to help make their spaces more productive.

The two also share numerous customers, including GE, whose CTO of digital workplace technology, Jeff Monaco, went so far as to issue a statement about the tie-up, saying that Teem’s “suite of workplace software tools helps make our day-to-day more seamless, so our employees can focus on innovating new projects, not trying to find a conference room.” (GE, along with GM, Samsung, Salesforce, Bank of America and Bacardi are among a growing list of corporate giants to plunk their employees, or their portfolio companies, in WeWork locations.)

The move also extends the general evolution of WeWork into more of a software company and not simply a real estate play. Another aspect of its business, for example, is helping design, construct and manage services on behalf of enterprises that want some of that WeWork je ne sais quoi but would rather lease their own offices.

Either way, we’re told that Teem will continue to operate as an independent business, serving its current customers from its Salt Lake City offices while also providing its services as part of WeWork’s offerings — which, based on recent history, you can expect to expand even further, and fast.