Thrive Capital believed to be leading new multi-billion dollar investment in Stripe

Thrive Capital has reportedly committed $1 billion in fresh capital to payments giant Stripe as part of a new investment in the works that would value the fintech company at between $55 billion and $60 billion.

TechCrunch reported last week that Stripe was seeking to raise $2 billion but the number could actually be closer to $2.5 billion to $3 billion, according to reports from the New York Times and The Information. In an unusual twist, Stripe is believed to be raising new funds to, as The Information reported, “address the issue of expiring restricted stock units for some of its veteran employees—and a massive employee tax bill that will likely come with it.”

Neither Stripe nor Thrive Capital commented on the rumors when contacted by TechCrunch.

Thrive Capital is believed to be leading the new investment in Stripe. The New York-based firm, started by Joshua Kushner, also led the company’s $70 million Series C in 2014 when it was valued at $3.5 billion.

By 2021, Stripe would go on to achieve the highest-ever valuation for a private company when it raised $600 million at a $95 billion valuation. But Stripe has not been immune to the global downturn: In November, it laid off 14% of its staff, or around 1,120 people. And the company has slashed its internal valuation more than once over the past year. Earlier this month, TechCrunch reported that Stripe had cut its internal valuation to $63 billion. That 11% cut came after a prior internal valuation cut that valued the company at $74 billion.

Last week, Stripe apparently told employees that it had set a 12-month deadline for itself to go public, either through a direct listing, or by pursuing a transaction on the private market, such as a fundraising event and a tender offer. But most industry observers believe that a fundraise scenario is a far more likely one for the company.

Fintech analyst Alex Johnson told TechCrunch that Stripe may be pushing for an exit because it’s potentially “been hanging on to some really talented early employees by promising them a big ‘exit’ on their equity.”

He added: “My guess is that the market for Stripe secondaries has gone down quite a bit over the last year and those employees are feeling frustrated and putting pressure on Stripe’s management to make good.”

The decline in e-commerce as the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic eased most certainly led to less revenue for Stripe. Stripe reportedly notched gross revenues of $12 billion and was EBITDA profitable in 2021, according to Forbes. The company’s products, in its own words, “power payments for online and in-person retailers, subscriptions businesses, software platforms and marketplaces, and everything in between.”

In 2022, according to The Information, Stripe’s gross revenues totaled $14.2 billion.

The company has reportedly struggled in recent years in the face of increased competition. The Information also reported that Stripe has seen a number of initiatives not come to fruition as hoped. For example, according to that publication, the company last fall “scuttled a crucial project called Sonic, which was supposed to rewrite significant pieces of Stripe’s code in part to speed up transactions—an important step to reduce cloud computing costs and boost profit margins before a blockbuster public listing.”

Indeed, as a business that has traditionally derived revenue from variable transaction volume, Stripe appears to be exploring ways to generate meaningful — and predictable — revenue. For example, Amazon announced on January 23 that it plans to “significantly expand” its use of Stripe. Reported Pymnts: “Under the new agreement, Stripe will become a strategic payments partner for Amazon in the U.S., Europe and Canada, processing a significant portion of Amazon’s total payments volume. Stripe will be used across Amazon’s business units, including Prime, Audible, Kindle, Amazon Pay, Buy With Prime and more.” Also, TechCrunch recently reported on how new fintech startup Mayfair is paying Stripe a fee as part of its mission to offer businesses a higher yield on their cash.

Founded by Irish brothers John and his brother Patrick Collison (the CEO), Stripe has raised more than $2.2 billion in funding since its 2010 inception from investors such as Allianz (via its Allianz X fund), Axa, Baillie Gifford, Fidelity Management & Research Company, Sequoia Capital, General Catalyst, Base Partners, GV and an investor from the founders’ home country, Ireland’s National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).

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Thrive Capital believed to be leading new multi-billion dollar investment in Stripe by Mary Ann Azevedo originally published on TechCrunch

With a focus on patients with chronic illness, Nourish hopes to help Americans eat better

Many of us would feel better if we ate better. But for patients with chronic diseases, the issue is more pressing: Fixing their diet is often key to keeping their condition under control.

According to the CDC, six in 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease such as diabetes or heart conditions. Millions of these could benefit from professional nutrition guidance but don’t always have the time or means to seek care.

Enter Nourish, a U.S. startup that connects users with a registered dietitian (RD) via telehealth and helps them get their consultations covered by health insurance.

Telehealth is part of the appeal, both for patients and for nutritionists, but the RD qualification is an important point too.

“All registered dietitians are nutritionists — but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians,” the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warns. Unless you seek an RD or RDN (registered dietitian nutritionist), you won’t be sure that your nutritionist is properly qualified for the job — and your insurance will not cover it.

Insurance coverage is a big part of Nourish’s value add. The startup’s CEO, Aidan Dewar, told TechCrunch that “94% of our patients are fully covered by insurance and pay nothing out of pocket. Most of the rest just have a small co-pay.”

That’s because since 2002, medical nutrition therapy has fallen under the scope of Medicare under certain criteria, a move that led major private insurers to follow suit.

On paper, qualified patients who are aware of this could get reimbursed after seeing an outpatient RD, whether online or off. But as often with healthcare in the U.S., the process is cumbersome for practitioners, and many end up not accepting insurance.

In contrast, Nourish’s RDs are employed by the company, which took care of closing partnerships with Medicare and major U.S. healthcare companies Aetna, BCBS, Cigna, Humana and United Healthcare in exchange for a fee.

Nourish currently employs 50 RDs but has a waitlist of over 400 RDs interested in joining its team, Dewar said. Having launched in November 2021, the startup is pacing itself but already reports “millions in revenue” from “thousands of patients seeing dietitians each month.” And by the end of the year, it plans to employ 200 RDs and grow its non-RD team from 18 to around 30.

Nourish’s growth plans will be funded by a recent $8 million seed round that brought its total funding to $9.3 million. Led by Thrive Capital, it had participation from Susa Ventures, Operator Partners, Box Group and Y Combinator, whose accelerator the startup graduated from in 2021.

Dewar also highlighted that several of Nourish’s angel investors built exciting healthcare companies, such as Alto Pharmacy (Jamie Karraker), Headway (Andrew Adams), Rightway Healthcare (Jordan Feldman) and Spring Health (April Koh).

“Nutrition has largely been excluded from the healthcare system, despite its importance and connection to people’s health. We love that Nourish is changing that by bringing consumers, registered dietitians, and insurance companies together to build a more affordable and complete nutrition program,” Thrive Capital general partner Kareem Zaki said.

Expanding nutrition therapy

Nourish has big goals: By helping people to eat well, the startup is hoping to contribute to solving the American healthcare crisis. “More than half of Americans have a chronic condition related to what they eat, which has contributed to healthcare costs going up and quality-adjusted life expectancy going down,” its founders said.

Dewar and Nourish COO Sam Perkins are childhood friends and landed on Nourish’s mission after struggling with chronic conditions themselves (migraines and irritable bowel syndrome). After experiencing the positive impact of nutritional care, they co-founded their startup together with CTO Stephanie Liu, who had become close friends with Perkins at Princeton.

The founders knew firsthand that working with a dietitian was a long-term process, but this vision is also reinforced by the startup’s chief clinical officer, Adrien Paczosa. “We focus on a long-term, sustainable approach — truly a lifestyle change,” she said. “We will never put you on a fad diet that is impossible to maintain, tell you to only eat salad for every meal, make you track everything you eat, or give you some generic, one-size-fits-all meal plan.”

Because of this approach, the startup doesn’t see itself as directly competing with weight loss apps. However, it plans to use its seed round to launch an app of its own by the end of the quarter, but with different goals in mind.

“The mobile app will augment the core experience of seeing your dietitian, with features including high-quality nutrition content and resources, clinical outcome tracking, and features that help you acquire the food such as integrated grocery delivery (so your RD can prescribe you food in the same way an MD can prescribe medicine),” Nourish explained.

The app’s goal is to make sure that patients are achieving the desired outcomes. Indeed, Nourish has two priorities in 2023: growth and outcomes. This road map has to do with how Dewar and his team define success. “It’s [both] about how many people we help and how much we help them.”

There’s still plenty of room for Nourish to grow on both fronts: The vast majority of chronic illness patients who could benefit from seeing an RD currently don’t, and even when they do, eating well remains a struggle. Will an app help make their journey easier? Only time will tell.

With a focus on patients with chronic illness, Nourish hopes to help Americans eat better by Anna Heim originally published on TechCrunch

Airplane lands $32M in new cash to make it easier for companies to build internal dev tools

Software-as-a-service dev platform Airplane today closed a $32 million Series B funding round led by Thrive Capital with participation from Benchmark, bringing the startup’s total raised to $40.5 million. Ravi Parikh says that the new funds will be put toward growing Airplane’s 19-person team while expanding its product to new markets.

Airplane was founded in 2020 by Parikh and Josh Ma, who was formerly the CTO at Benchling, a cloud-based platform for biotechnology R&D. Parikh previously co-founded analytics startup Heap, which offers tools to analyze customer journeys online. Parikh and Ma left their respective companies in 2020 after realizing that one of the biggest challenges in software development is a lack of internal tooling.

It wasn’t just a hunch on their parts. According to one recent vendor survey, developers spent more than 30% of their time building internal apps in 2021. The pandemic worsened matters, with 87% of respondents saying that they increased or maintained their time spent on internal apps in response to the health crises.

“[We’ve spoken] to tons of engineers who spend 25% to 50% of their time responding to customer requests, building and maintaining internal admin panels, maintaining cron jobs, on-call runbooks and more instead of pushing the product forward … At Heap, we had tons of one-off customer requests, like deleting data, merging accounts, GDPR operations and billing operations,” Parikh said. “We created Airplane to make it easy to take these one-off engineering operations and turn them into tools anyone at a company can use.”


Building an app using Airplane. Image Credits: Airplane

Parikh acknowledges there are platforms already addressing these internal tooling challenges, like Retool and Superblocks — both of which recently secured tens of millions in venture capital backing. But he argues that Airplane is more developer-centric and “code-first,” eschewing a low-code, drag-and-drop approach to creating apps for more specialized tools and workflows.

With Airplane, developers can select from a library of tables, forms, charts and more to built apps, which can be integrated with APIs and custom components or libraries. The platform supports databases and messaging platforms out of the box and can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud, giving devs the raw tools to launch apps like billing dashboards and content moderation queues.

Airplane today launched Airplane Views, a framework for creating internal tooling visual interfaces. Airplane was previously focused on code-heavy internal apps for tasks like deleting user data, refunding a charge and banning a user. But Airplane Views allows developers to create app components that act like dashboards, for example to display certain key metrics.

“One of the most common use cases is software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies using Airplane Views to build internal admin panels for their customer success and support teams. SaaS companies use Airplane to create [interfaces] where they can look up customer data, view account metrics and make account changes like suspending users or upgrading a customer’s account,” Parikh said. “Another important use case is fraud detection … [W]ith Views, companies can build more sophisticated fraud monitoring [interfaces] where the right user data is displayed contextually next to these operations, making the lives of ops and risk teams significantly easier when using Airplane.”

Eric Vishria, a general partner at Benchmark who recently joined Airplane’s board of directors, highlighted what he sees as the other benefits of the platform, such as controls that allow engineers to grant access to data deletion requests to anyone in a business. In theory, these minimize the need for engineers to get involved with every such request — removing a common bottleneck.


Image Credits: Airplane

“Today, virtually every company runs a software service,” Vishria said via email. “Disney used to make content, now it also has to run Disney+. Banks used to store money, now they compete on their apps. Every one of these cloud services has an unmanaged mountain of scripts, cron jobs, SQL statements and internal dashboards that keep it running. Airplane is the first company taking a developer-first approach to bringing order to this 50% of ‘code’ that lives in the wilderness today.”

Parikh cautions that it’s early days; he declined to share revenue metrics. But he revealed that Airplane has almost 100 paying customers currently, including startups Vercel, Panther Labs and Flatfile.

“We’re not yet profitable, but this funding round plus our current revenue gives us several years of runway even with aggressive growth plans … We’re fortunate to have a product that can save a lot of engineering time as well as significantly improve customer experience. During a period when companies are tightening their belts and looking for ways to improve efficiency, Airplane is easy to justify,” Parikh said with confidence. “[But] our product today only solves a small portion of this huge problem and there’s a lot more we need to build to create a broad platform for internal tool development.”

Airplane lands $32M in new cash to make it easier for companies to build internal dev tools by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

TruckSmarter comes out of stealth with a free load board for truckers

Technological innovation has caused a rise in e-commerce that is crying out for more truck drivers to deliver our smartphones and Pelotons and pineapples. But the trucking industry, the backbone of all our hedonistic spending, has yet to see the same level of tech advancements needed to create a stable and resilient supply chain.

The industry is incredibly fragmented, with truckers, a large majority of whom are owner-operators, spending hours of their day searching for brokers and shippers who will give them their next gig. And when they find it, they’ll spend almost half their time sitting idly in clogged ports waiting to be loaded or unloaded — a task that is probably as boring as it is detrimental to a trucker’s bottom line, according to Daniel Kao, co-founder and CEO of TruckSmarter, who says truckers only get paid on a per-mile basis.

To help smooth out some of these kinks and thereby make trucking a more attractive job prospect, Kao and his co-founder Paolo Bernasconi just came out of stealth with TruckSmarter, a free platform that allows truckers, carriers and dispatchers to search and book loads — like the Zillow of the trucking world.

The ability to use the service for free is one of the things that differentiates TruckSmarter from the number of other trucking software platforms that are springing up to address the outdated, yet crucial, industry. CloudTrucks, SmartHop and Convoy have all launched in recent years to help connect truckers, carriers, shippers and brokers. They each offer a dispatch service or schedule optimizer, which TruckSmarter doesn’t yet, but there’s a reason for that.

“CloudTrucks is a virtual fleet, so their core business is being a carrier, and I think for drivers to be in their ecosystem, they have to give 15% of their revenue to move a load — which is a lot better than the industry standard of 30%, but you just end up being a driver for them,” said Kao. “Compared to that, our belief is that truck drivers want to own their own business and make as much revenue as they can — like the American dream of buying your own truck, running your own business and doing your own accounting with TruckSmarter.”

While TruckSmarter’s load board is free, the company makes its revenue by offering truckers same-day payments for each load. Truckers normally have to wait 30 to 45 days after a load is completed to get paid, which means they often front the bill for gas, maintenance or repairs, says Kao. TruckSmarter takes 1.5% off a load’s revenue for same-day pay, but based on the current and future scale of the platform, that small factor collectively turns into big bucks for the startup.

In the year TruckSmarter has been operating in stealth, the startup has brought on about 100,000 active users spending no money on marketing, according to the company.

“We’re already facilitating over $1 billion annualized just through our platform alone,” said Kao, who also noted the company is doing $1 million in loads per day. If every driver chooses same-day payment, TruckSmarter could pull close to $5.5 million in easy revenue each year. Basically, the company is betting on the psychological effects of delaying gratification, and as the marshmallow test taught us, it’s human nature to take the less desirable treat if we can have it immediately, rather than wait for the more desirable treat.

TruckSmarter is coming out of stealth with $44 million in funding to date. The company recently closed a $25 million Series B, which was led by Thrive Capital, with participating investors like Founders Fund, a16z, Bain Capital Ventures and Fin Capital. Some big tech names also signed on, like Tony Xu, CEO of DoorDash; Ryan Petersen, CEO of Flexport; Eric Glyman, CEO of Ramp; and Jett McCandless and Jason Duboe, CEO and chief growth officer of Project44, respectively.

TruckSmarter comes out of stealth with a free load board for truckers by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch

There’s always another nightmarish crypto hack around the corner

Welcome back to Chain Reaction.

Last week, we looked at the near-term future for crypto gaming as VCs zero in on where to place consumer bets. This week, we’re looking at hardware wallets and the endless journey towards feeling safe in the crypto world.

To get this in your inbox every Thursday, you can subscribe on TechCrunch’s newsletter page.

nowhere to hide

A weekly dispatch from the desk of TechCrunch crypto editor Lucas Matney:

The world of crypto can be a cruel and unforgiving place, and while VCs and crypto hedge funds have been happy to bail out institutions, sometimes consumers dabbling in the space find themselves left out in the cold. This week, a couple of pretty high profile hacks cost crypto investors millions, but it was the smaller, more mysterious one that likely left newbie buyers clutching their private keys and praying for the best.

Putting money anywhere is an exercise of trust, which sometimes makes it funny that the the word “trustless” has been a leading phrase in crypto religious creeds that investors use to gain converts. All a user must do is hold their private key near and dear and they can trust that their money will always be there without having to place any trust in a traditional financial institution. But consumers are discovering some of the long-known fine print to that promise.

This week, thousands of Solana users logged into their crypto wallet apps to discover that all of their funds had disappeared. Many of these users claimed they hadn’t used the wallets in weeks or months, ruling out some sort of mass signature of a malicious contract. While this ended up being a lowly seven-figure hack, the mystery was notable. Early-on, users weren’t sure whether this was an attack on the underlying Solana network or an underlying service provider that multiple wallets relied on. Amid all the confusion, wallets continued to be drained eventually emptying the contents of upwards of 8,000 individual accounts.

Investors in the Solana ecosystem (the network’s founder dropped some choice Twitter retweets) complained that the media was focusing more heavily on the single-digit millions exploit when the Nomad bridge had been hacked for $190 million just a day prior. But it was the nature of the attack that was scarier than the dollar amount.

While users across wallets reported the problem, the issue came down to a vulnerability in the Slope wallet which had– unbeknownst to users — been logging their private keys in the backend, leaving them vulnerable to bad actors if they had ever imported keys to the mobile app. This saga probably served as another severing point of trust in the system for new users who might have thought their funds were safer in a wallet than a centralized exchange’s coffers. But long-time crypto users shrugged and signified that this was yet another reason for users to hold their funds in so-called hardware wallets — physical devices which store a user’s private keys and dramatically cut down on the number of attack vectors for hackers outside of human error.

Now, pushing every new user to buy a ~$100 hardware wallet in order to truly secure their assets clearly isn’t the ticket to widespread near-term adoption and yet it seems to be a rule that those deepest in the space still cling to. While plenty of crypto’s richest are holding to strategies that promote security above most anything else, it also seems that plenty of them are investing and promoting projects which emphasize speed and seamless onboarding at the expense of security. Users finding their way onto the rails of flashy consumer apps may find themselves realizing that crypto’s early onboarding hurdles have been steep for a reason and that wealthy users buying air-gapped computers and keeping their keys on piece of papers have plenty of history framing their paranoia.

the latest pod

Chain Reaction is back again this week and better than ever! We announced two big changes to the pod this week. First and foremost, we have a new co-host, Jacquie Melinek, joining us weekly to talk about the biggest headlines in web3. Jacquie is a great friend of ours and as a reporter for TechCrunch+, she’s eager to get in the weeds to us help demystify all things crypto. 

Second, we’re splitting our weekly show into two separate episodes: a weekly news segment feat. Jacquie, the first of which came out today, and an interview segment hosted by Anita and Lucas. Stay tuned for the latest interview episode to drop next week, in which we talked to Uniswap COO MC Lader.

For this week’s news, we unpacked two high-profile hacks that happened in the first two days of the month (phew). We also discussed Robinhood’s latest round of layoffs and a $30 million fine the company paid to New York regulators.

Subscribe to Chain Reaction on Apple, Spotify or your alternative podcast platform of choice to keep up with us every week.

follow the money

Where startup money is moving in the crypto world:

  1. AO Labs raised $4.5 million from investors including Balaji Srinivasan and Sandeep Nailwal for its Spacebar web3 gaming platform.
  2. “Green” web3 platform OneOf closed an $8 million-plus strategic round from investors including Amex Ventures.
  3. Digital asset derivatives company OrBit raised $4.6 million from Matrixport, Brevan Howard and others.
  4. Crypto credit protocol Debt DAO snagged $3.5 million for its seed round led by Dragonfly Capital.
  5. Center, a crypto infrastructure startup, raised $11 million in a seed round from investors including Thrive Capital, Founders Fund and Volt Capital.
  6. Gary Vaynerchuk’s NFT project, VeeFriends, scored $50 million in an a16z-led financing.
  7. Quasar, a Cosmos-based DeFi protocol, raised $6 millon in seed capital from Polychain, Blockchain Capital and others.
  8. Stadium Live, a fantasy sports metaverse startup, nabbed $10 million for its Series A from KB Partners, Union Square Ventures, Dapper Labs and others.
  9. Decentralized data warehouse provider Space and Time bagged $10 million for its seed round from investors including Framework Ventures and Digital Currency Group.
  10. Play-to-earn fitness app Sweatcoin completed a $13 million fundraise, including a private token sale, from investors including Electric Capital and Jump Crypto.

the week in web3

A weekly window into the thoughts of web3 reporter Anita Ramaswamy:

It seems like a good time to talk about security in crypto in light of the recent hacks affecting both the Nomad crypto bridge and the Solana ecosystem. It’s becoming increasingly clear that no matter how many assurances a crypto company makes about how airtight its security standards are, investors should be watching their backs at all times. The pain can be even more acute for NFT holders, who are at risk of losing millions of dollars of value in one fell swoop if one of their pricey JPEGs gets stolen – just think back to what happened to actor Seth Green and his kidnapped Bored Ape.

There are a few different options for how people can store their crypto securely today, and they all have their tradeoffs. A “hot wallet” is connected to the internet, which leaves it vulnerable to outages or connectivity troubles. Furthermore, plenty of hot wallets are operated by centralized entities such as exchanges that hold users’ keys on their behalf – a transfer of power many crypto users are loathe to grant. A “cold wallet,” meanwhile, is considered far more secure, but involves clunky, hard-to-use hardware that could be misplaced just as easily as a “seed phrase,” which is a password used to unlock a crypto wallet. 

Upstream founder and CEO Alex Taub, who we had on last week’s pod, says his startup has a user-friendly solution that allows people to keep control of their own keys digitally without having to compromise on security. It’s a unique solution coming at a particularly opportune moment. For details on how it works and why it’s different from what’s already on the market, check out my article here

TC+ analysis

Here’s some of this week’s crypto analysis available on our subscription service TC+ from senior reporter Jacquelyn Melinek

Solana’s speedy approach to crypto is attracting developers, despite hiccups
Although the crypto market isn’t always sunshine and flowers, some prominent industry players, including Solana co-founder Raj Gokal, still have an optimistic outlook for growth — at least about their own projects. Despite Solana’s recent issues with 8,000 wallets hacked on Tuesday, the layer-1 blockchain has about 15 million to 20 million monthly active addresses, some of the highest in the crypto industry, Gokal said. “A question we get a lot is how is the market affecting the pace of development and the pace of building?” His answer? It’s not, really.

Why education is key to halting hacks like the $190M Nomad exploit
Following the loss of almost $200 million in a security exploit on crypto protocol Nomad, security experts insisted that more education and security protocols are necessary for protecting web3 communities from hackers. As the crypto ecosystem becomes larger over time, interchain operability will continue to grow, too, “at profound levels with a focus on security and decentralization,” Daniel Keller, co-founder at Flux, said to TechCrunch. “However, attention needs to be given to security and not only speed of development as we push DeFi products to the masses.”

Tiffany and Gucci’s dip into crypto is a balance of reputation and revenue
Are crypto integrations by household name brands and sports teams evidence of increasing use cases for digital assets and cryptocurrencies — or more of a marketing ploy? This week, Tiffany & Co., Gucci and FC Barcelona all dove deeper into the crypto sphere with partnerships in the digital asset world. But do these partnerships truly mean anything for the crypto ecosystem? A number of market players shared their thoughts on the financial upside, risk and business play behind these new integrations. 

Thanks for reading! And — again — to get this in your inbox every Thursday, you can subscribe on TechCrunch’s newsletter page.

Ex-Meta crypto chief David Marcus launches Bitcoin payments startup backed by a16z and Paradigm

After his departure from Facebook in November, many crypto industry insiders speculated where long-time executive David Marcus would land. Today, the former Messenger boss and Paypal executive offered some early details on his next company Lightspark which will be building on Bitcoin’s Lightning network.

Marcus will serve as CEO with a number of ex-Meta crypto team members serving in executive positions.

Details are scant on what exactly the startup is doing. A short press release notes that the startup is aiming “to explore, build and extend the capabilities and utility of Bitcoin.” Bitcoin’s lightning network allows for cheaper and faster transactions than the base level network allows, making it a more ideal platform to leverage for payments and decentralized apps.

The firm did not disclose funding amounts oddly but is sharing that their first round is co-led by a16z Crypto and Paradigm with participation from Thrive Capital, Coatue, Felix Capital, Ribbit Capital, Matrix Partners and Zeev Ventures.

The timing for the reveal could have been better as Bitcoin and the broader crypto market have sustained massive losses in recent days. A prolonged crypto bear market could mean reduced investor interest and a smaller potential hiring pool.

CommandBar lands $19M to inject in-app searches with smarts

Thanks to the explosion of low- and no-code development tools, building web apps from scratch has become easier — and cheaper — than it once was. But sophisticated search and navigation functions can complicate the process. A recent survey from IT research firm GoodFirms estimates the cost of a complex app to be between $91,550 and $211,000. That’s before any debugging, marketing and publishing expenses.

James Evans, Richard Freling and Vinay Ayyala encountered the problem themselves while prototyping a web-based grading tool — CodePost — for computer science assignments. They ran into a classic user interface challenge: new users couldn’t figure out how to use the tool, while existing users found it slow and difficult to navigate.

The trio was inspired by other developers that’d built “command palettes” — menu bars with shortcuts, essentially — to create their own custom solution. The result, CommandBar, aims to give users a way to search in their own words for what they’re trying to accomplish instead of having to wrestle with buttons and menus.

CommandBar soon evolved from a tool into a growing business, whose customers include ClickUp, HashiCorp, Gusto, Netlify and LaunchDarkly. In a show of investor confidence, CommandBar raised $19 million in Series A funding co-led by Insight Partners and Lightrights cofounder Itai Tsiddon with participation from existing investors Thrive Capital and BoxGroup.

To date, CommandBar has raised $23.8 million.

“It’s just such a natural idea to extend a pattern we use all the time — search — to software. Every app wants to make it easier for users to go from intent to action. But we also understood that building it well to take full advantage of this pattern was hard, and wasn’t something every company had to roll from scratch,” Evans told TechCrunch via email. “We raised our seed to validate that CommandBar could be broadly useful in different types of software and for different types of users. We now feel extremely confident that all apps will have an interface like CommandBar soon, so we’re now scaling up to seize that opportunity and get CommandBar into as many apps and in front of as many users as possible.”


Image Credits: CommandBar

CommandBar lives inside apps, serving as a search bar with results that include commands like opening a page, inviting a teammate or showing help center content. Beyond commands, CommandBar can deliver onboarding steps or highlight new features, as well as personalize the experience based on where users are and what they’ve done in the app recently.

Developers copy a code snippet to install CommandBar and set up or edit commands using a low-code editor. An analytics dashboard on the backend shows the most popular queries and synonyms for commonly-used terms, which developers can use it to identify and add missing commands.

“First-order, we improve user experience without requiring much work on behalf of our customers. After setup, which normally takes a few hours, CommandBar makes features easier to find and use, and the whole in-app experience faster,” Evans said. “Second-order, removing user experience friction flows through to the unit economics of our customers. Making it easier for a new user to find a feature they care about means that user converts to a paying customer. Giving loyal users a fast in-app experience makes them more likely to renew, grow their usage, and rave about the software to their networks. Those are revenue benefits we’ve seen, but on the cost side we also see customers spending less on support to answer questions like, ‘How do I do X.'”

CommandBar, which currently has 15 employees and plans to hire an additional 20 to 25 by the end of the year, claims to reach three million end users through its customers’ apps — up from “a few hundred thousand” in fall 2021. Going forward, Evans says, the focus will be both on bringing CommandBar to mobile apps and building recommendation features that help users wayfind and figure out what sorts of tasks an app can do.


Image Credits: CommandBar

“Today, companies have to create … recommendations explicitly: maybe you want to help new users on big teams invite the rest of their colleagues. But soon we’re going to deliver those recommendations automatically, based on what past users have done — kind of like a Netflix recommendation algorithm, but for in-product actions,” Evans added. “We’re expecting to reach a tipping point where this … becomes a user expectation.”

Daily Crunch: Salesforce, AWS collaborate to offer bundled services for streaming content providers

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PST, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Thursday, February 17, 2022! Heading into a long weekend here in the United States, you might think that the news is slowing down but, nope. It’s not. So we have major crypto-football news, European startup analysis, and even some notes on platform dynamics. It’s a busy day, so let’s dive in! – Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Free money is popular: Alternatively, advertising works. TechCrunch reports that data indicates that the crypto trading ad push during the big American football game led to a spike in downloads for the pertinent companies. Surprised? We’re not, as some of the ads had giveaways attached. Still, a bunch of new folks just got into the crypto game – we’ll be able to see more in Q1 earnings.
  • Europe’s deep tech boom: Diving more deeply into the 2021 startup boom is proving to be good fun, especially as we dial in our focus on key cohorts. Today TechCrunch dug into Europe and the deep tech market, a particular segment of the tech landscape that is often pitched as a U.S.-versus-China battle but could have a third hub, or series of hubs, in the mix.
  • See, not all SPACs are falling apart: The deal to take crypto-focused startup Circle public via a SPAC has dissolved. But wait! It has also been reforged at a far higher price. It’s rare these days to hear positive SPAC news, so the Circle update caught our attention. Read on for more, but stablecoins are proving to be a lucrative way to accrete reserves, it appears.


Before we dive into the day’s startup news digest, a bunch of academics wrote an op-ed for TechCrunch about Spotify, platform dynamics and clarity. It’s worth your time if you are building something that will depend on third-party content, and doubly so if you plan on blending first- and third-party material.

Now, the news:

  • TechCrunch Live is back! Our own Matt Burns chatted with Emmalyn Shaw of Flourish Ventures and Itai Damti, a co-founder at Unit. TechCrunch covered Unit in the middle of last year when it raised more than $50 million in a single round.
  • Today in good headlines: Haje Jan Kamps is back with his usual wordplay today, this time during a look at Metriport, which “aggregates all of your quantified-self data in one place, and adds clever features like mood tracking, medicine tracking and journaling,” he writes. The headline? Metriport helps you take your quantified self to the next increment. Even more, the URL of the story ended with the following string: ​​metriport merrily measures your me verse. All right, Haje, we get it, you’re clever!
  • $110M to commercialize Apache Arrow: That’s the news from Voltron Data, which just raised one of the largest Series A rounds that we can recall. How was Voltron able to raise so much money, so quickly? It was founded by “employees from NVidia, Ursa Computing, BlazingSQL and the co-founder of Apache Arrow,” which we are sure helped. And the company is working to commercialize an open source tool. Which, as we know, can really scale well.
  • Deel wants to pay you in crypto: The story of Deel, a young startup that got started on the issue of paying far-flung employees just before the pandemic, has been one of rapid growth and huge fundraises. And, lately, a little crypto as well. The startup is now offering a way for employees to get paid in stablecoins, which could cut down on currency-related fees, we reckon?
  • Beam me up, Beem: We are all very tired of Zoom calls and other flat-video services because we’ve been chained to them for years now. Beem, however, reckons that we’re not done with all video products, so it built a way to “livestream yourself in AR,” as TechCrunch puts it. It just raised $4 million; let’s see if it catches on.
  • Havenly buys The Inside: Here’s an acquisition for you, with Havenly, an “online interior design startup” buying “direct-to-consumer home furnishing brand The Inside,” as we put it. The price wasn’t disclosed, but Havenly last raised a $32 million Series C, so we reckon it had the cash on hand for the transaction.
  • Telemedicine for pets: The boom in remote-doctoring services continues, with Dutch bringing the model to the world of pets. And it just scored $20 million for its efforts. Anyone who has had to drag a pet to the vet IRL knows just how helpful this might be.

Still want more? How about Dealshare’s $45 million round led by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, or the fact that Thrive Capital just closed an eighth fund worth $3 billion?

3 keys that unlock data-driven fundraising

Three antique silver and gold-plated keys

Image Credits: Mario Marco (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

It’s an opportune moment to launch a new company, but rising interest rates, inflation and any other number of unknown factors could lead investors to become more judicious when it comes to placing bets.

Data-driven founders who can tell a sweet story with the right metrics are much more likely to get an investor’s attention, according to Blair Silverberg, co-founder and CEO of Hum Capital.

“Unfortunately, many companies lack an efficient way to gather, synthesize and interpret data into real-time insights, resulting in the default reliance on static, Excel-based samplings that may not capture the full picture of your company’s potential,” he says.

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

Big Tech Inc.

  • This will save Peloton: The at-home exercise company is getting into games. No, you can’t play Doom on your bike – not officially, though we suspect that someone, somewhere has done this already – but the bike shop has built an interactive title to spice up your cycling. I am already in tears in anticipation of it kicking my butt.
  • Ford and Volvo sign up for Redwood’s battery recycling tech: Electric cars are very cool and mostly good but not entirely. Making them requires mining all sorts of yucky stuff from the planet, and when that material is used, it needs to be disposed of safely. That’s what Redwood wants to work on, and it just landed some key partners.
  • And to close, you can now change your name on Snapchat.

TechCrunch Experts

dc experts

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

TechCrunch is recruiting recruiters for TechCrunch Experts, an ongoing project where we ask top professionals about problems and challenges that are common in early-stage startups. If that’s you or someone you know, you can let us know here.

New York’s Thrive Capital closes its eighth fund with a whopping $3 billion

Thrive Capital, the venture firm founded in 2009 by a then-25-year-old Joshua Kushner, says it has closed its eighth fund with approximately $3 billion in capital commitments, $500 of which it plans to invest in early-stage startups and another $2.5 billion that it has earmarked for later-stage companies.

The announcement comes almost a year to the day that Thrive took the wraps off its seventh fund, which it closed with $2 billion. Similarly, the idea with that fund was to plug $500 million into early-stage startups, and $1.5 billion into later-stage companies. The young outfit says it is now managing roughly $16 billion in assets across all of its funds.

Given that many firms are adopting a survival-of-the-biggest type mentality, the capital raise isn’t entirely shocking. Thrive has wedged its way into a lot of companies that have become big brands, too, including Instagram, Jet, Unity, Airtable, Affirm, Robinhood, Benchling, Spotify, GitHub, Slack, Gong, Hims, Fanatics, Plaid and Ramp.

Perhaps most notably, Thrive has a meaningful stake in the payments giant Stripe, where a former general partner at Thrive, Will Gaybrick, wrote a $30 million check to the company in 2014 — at the time Thrive’s biggest investment ever — and who later joined the startup full time. (Gaybrick is now Stripe’s Chief Product Officer. Stripe was valued at $95 billion by its investors last spring.)

Last fall, according to the WSJ, Thrive also joined numerous other venture firms in becoming a registered investment advisor, a move that gives it more flexibility than traditional venture firms are allowed, including to invest more aggressively in both public stocks and crypto tokens as it sees fit.

In a press statement, the firm didn’t disclose its backers, though earlier investors in Thrive’s funds include Princeton University, Hall Capital Partners, Wellcome Trust, and Peter Thiel. Of course, Kushner’s brother, Jared, is famously the son-in-law of former U.S. President Donald Trump, and the Kushner brothers are just as famously the sons of another real estate developer, Charles Kushner. (They have connections, in short.)

According to LinkedIn, Thrive now employs roughly 55 people, including general partners Kareem Zaki, who joined Thrive in 2014, and Jared Weinstein, who joined in 2011.

Another former general partner with the firm, Miles Grimshaw, was recruited away by Benchmark in late 2020.

Thrive has seen other partners come and go, including Chris Paik, who reportedly led deals in Twitch and Patreon while at Thrive and who left in 2018 to cofound his own firm, Pace Capital.

Some of the most recent checks to come out of Thrive went to Homebound, a tech-enabled home-building startup that just this week raised $75 million in fresh funding. (Thrive was a repeat investor.)

Thrive also participated in a recent, $240 million round for Skims, a shapewear brand co-founded by Kim Kardashian. (The firm was an earlier investor in Skims, too.)

Not last, in January, Thrive co-led a $175 million Series F round for Lattice, a now eight-year-old, San Francisco-based employee performance management software company. Thrive’s co-leads in the round included entrepreneur Elad Gil, Tiger Global, and Dragoneer.

Meet Imprint, the fintech that just raised $38M from the likes of Kleiner Perkins, Stripe and Affirm

Imprint, a one-year-old startup that offers branded payments and rewards products, today announced a $38 million Series A funding round co-led by Kleiner Perkins and Stripe. 

It’s not every day that a leading fintech player and top-tier venture capital firm co-lead an investment. Notably, Imprint was also co-founded by a VC — Thrive Capital partner Gaurav Ahuja (chairman) along with Daragh Murphy (CEO).

Thrive Capital, Affirm, Allen & Co., Late Show host James Corden, Lloyd Blankfein and unnamed CEOs of consumer brand companies also participated in the financing, which brings New York-based Imprint’s total raised since its 2020 inception to $53 million. The startup had previously raised about $15 million in seed money from Affirm and Thrive Capital.

These days, all sorts of cards abound — from virtual cards to co-branded credit cards. Imprint aims to stand out in the increasingly crowded space by partnering with businesses to provide branded rewards cards for customers. Those cards work like debit cards in that a user doesn’t have to undergo a credit check or pay interest and fees, and as they spend, their balance draws down over time. At the same time, a customer has access to a “rich” reward program while a brand “can take ownership of how their customers pay and significantly reduce their cost to process payments,” the company claims. A brand also can benefit from increased retention, notes Murphy.

“We’re really focused on the fact that all brands today have to pay an incredible amount of money for their top line revenue process of payment, and yet none of them get anything in return,” Murphy told TechCrunch. “But if you look back over the last 15 or 20 years one of the most valuable ways for you to get a customer to pay was with a branded card. It used to be credit cards, but we’ve kind of reinvented the model a little so it’s taken away the nastiness of the credit but giving brands the ability to really deepen the relationship with their customers.”

Imprint, instead, saves a brand somewhere between 60% and 90% of the cost of the process of payment. An advantage for merchants, according to Imprint, is that they can use the money they save in payment processing costs toward funding rewards, which in turn theoretically will foster greater loyalty from their customers. For example, each time a customer uses the card with that particular brand, he or she will get a minimum of 5% back. And each time they use it toward a purchase at another brand, he or she will get 1% back. Imprint says it works with each brand to tailor their rewards program. 

“We ask the brand to give some of that value back to their customers and so in effect, brands get stickier customers for free, and customers get a much better, much more rewarding way to pay,” Murphy said.

Image Credits: Imprint

The company’s commerce platform apps and APIs also will eventually give merchants a way to integrate their payment method at checkout or anywhere else on their site or in their app.

Chris Sperandio, corporate development lead at Stripe, believes that as consumers’ purchasing behavior continues to evolve, that it makes sense to offer them merchant-specific cards. Not only is Stripe investing in Imprint’s business, but its Issuing infrastructure is also powering its product.

Kleiner Perkins Partner Mamoon Hamid believes that Imprint is offering an “Apple Pay-like experience” for merchants and consumers.

“Imprint is the first company that extends the incredible innovation in fintech to co-branded credit cards,” he wrote via email. “There is an enormous opportunity for modern brands to deliver customer value with new co-branded payments and rewards products, and Imprint is offering a rewarding way to pay without the traditional strings attached.”

Thrive Capital Partner and Imprint Chairman Ahuja said the startup can empower brands by cutting out the middlemen, “pointing economic value traditionally captured by legacy banks back to brands and their customers.”

“This results in customers who are more loyal and higher spenders,” he said in a statement.