Construction robotics firm Kewazo raises $10 million

Automating construction makes plain sense on the face of it. It’s one of the world’s biggest industries. It’s also among the most expensive and, often, dangerous. Certainly it checks off the three Ds (dull, dirty, dangerous) of automation quite plainly.

We encountered Kewazo several years back when the Munich-based startup participated in a TC Sessions: Robotics pitch-off. Sometimes startups take a lot of explaining off the bat. This isn’t one. At the center of the offering is the firm’s first product, Liftbot. The system is effectively an automated hoist system that ascends and descends scaffolding systems.

It takes two workers around 20 minutes to install (per the company), is fully battery powered and wireless and is able to arrive at its destination without manual interference. Like a number of construction robotics firms, Kewazo got a nice boost during the pandemic, as construction reopened, but many companies suddenly had trouble filling roles.

“Despite already existing labor shortages, it became impossible for foreign workers to commute back to their home countries and come back,” co-founder and CEO Artem Kuchukov tells TechCrunch. “Many sites in Europe, the Middle East, and Singapore massively suffered from that, as a large percentage of their workforce simply wasn’t there anymore. That was a huge catalyst for construction automation, as companies began to look for ways to sustain their businesses without relying on an uncertain labor supply.”

Image Credits: Kewazo

Today Kewazo is announcing a $10 million Series A. The round, which brings its full fundraising up to around $20 million, was led by Fifth Wall, with participation from Cybernetix Ventures, Unorthodox Ventures and Nemetschek. It follows a $5 million “Pre-Series A” back in September 2021.

“I think it is very useful that companies like Kewazo are disrupting our business,” Bart Gyssels, CIO of Altrad Services Benelux, says in a release tied to the news. ”We will have problems in finding and keeping good personnel — this will be our main focus in the coming years and decades. These innovations are very helpful in attracting and motivating our coworkers and help us to provide our customers with cost-effective and safe services.”

Image Credits: Kewazo

Kuchukov tells TechCrunch that, in spite of general bullishness around construction automation, raising in 2022 was no walk in the park.

“Series A in 2022 was tougher though. We started fundraising at the beginning of April, right when things started to slow down,” he says. “We had a founder’s camp organized by True Ventures in Napa Valley in March and nobody was even talking about the recession yet. But a few weeks later it started. Some of my fellow founders suggested waiting until fall with the raise, but we decided to not rely on the unstable economic situation in the world.”

Among the plans for the money is an increase in headcount. Kewazo currently employs 26 full-time and 11 part-time employees and plans to hire another 15 this year, largely in business and product development.

Construction robotics firm Kewazo raises $10 million by Brian Heater originally published on TechCrunch

McKinsey, eyeing the MLOps space, buys Tel Aviv-based Iguazio

The same day Microsoft invested billions in OpenAI, McKinsey snatched up an enterprise-focused AI firm, Iguazio, for a relative steal.

The consulting giant reportedly paid around $50 million for Iguazio, a Tel Aviv-based company offering an MLOps platform for large-scale businesses — “MLOps” referring to a set of tools to deploy and maintain machine learning models in production. In a press release, McKinsey says it plans to use the startup’s tech and team of 70 data scientists to bolster its QuantumBlack platform, McKinsey’s data analytics-focused group, with “industry-specific” AI solutions.

“We analyzed more than a 1,000 AI companies worldwide and identified Iguazio as the best fit to significantly accelerate our AI offering — from the initial concept to production, in a simplified, scalable and automated manner,” McKinsey senior partner Ben Ellencweig said in a statement. Over time, he added, the Iguazio and QuantumBlack teams will be fully integrated and work from a single product roadmap, combining the best of both worlds (with any luck).

“Iguazio has a state-of-the-art technology that has generated significant market traction with some of our marquee clients and earned them top-industry recognition,” Ellencweig continued.

Iguazio, whose customers included Payoneer, was co-founded in 2014 by Asaf Somekh, Orit Nissan-Messing, Yaron Haviv and Yaron Segev. The four previously served in senior roles at XtremIO (acquired by EMC), XIV (acquired by IBM), Mellanox (acquired by Nvidia) and Radvision (acquired by Avaya).

Iguazio’s product suite collects data and preps it offline or offline, accelerating and automating AI model training for deployment via APIs. Beyond this, Iguazio attempts to streamline machine learning pipeline steps like scaling, tuning and continuous delivery with features such as rolling upgrades, A/B testing, logging and monitoring.

Prior to the acquisition, Iguazio managed to raised $72 million in venture capital from investors including INCapital Ventures, Pitango VC, Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) and Magma Venture Partners according to CrunchBase data. TechCrunch previously reported that the startup was valued at $100 million.

MLOps might not be as sexy as, say, ChatGPT. But demand is growing. By one estimation, the market for MLOps could reach $4 billion by 2025.

Unsurprisingly, there’s no shortage of startups going after the space, such as Comet, which raised $50 million in November 2021. Other vendors with VC backing include ArizeTectonDiveplaneIterative, Galileo and Taiwan-based InfuseAI.

But for McKinsey, the price — and timing — was right where it concerned Iguazio, apparently. The firm notes that Iguazio is its first acquisition in Israel, and that the newly extended team will serve as the foundation for a new QuantumBlack location that McKinsey expects to grow in the coming years.

“Attracting exceptional tech talent and expanding our tech ecosystem will enable us to welcome colleagues from around the globe to Tel Aviv’s exciting tech scene,” McKinsey partner Matt Fitzpatrick said in a blog post.

Over the past year, McKinsey has made several acquisitions in the data analytics space, including Caserta, a firm specializing in data architecture and engineering. SCM Connections, another recent addition to the consultancy’s portfolio, offers services for digital transformation, including building tech stack infrastructure.

McKinsey, eyeing the MLOps space, buys Tel Aviv-based Iguazio by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

All that VC dry powder is damper than you think

Welcome back to Equity, the podcast about the business of startups, where we unpack the numbers and nuance behind the headlines. Natasha is back in the Bay, after five weeks away, so some could say, San Francisco is back.

Big tech: Real quick, you should know that Elliott Management took a multi-billion stake in Salesforce, while Thoma Bravo scooped up a digital forensics company for $1.34 billion. Beyond that, the big tech news this week is Microsoft’s multi-billion dollar, multi-year investment in Open AI. The extended partnership comes with lots of resources, quirks and legal headaches. 
Big idea: I’m still thinking about this Anna Heim analysis, “The mirage of dry powder.” I talk about wet capital and failed capital calls, as to contextualize (not shut down!) some of the optimism in the market right now. (Use code “EQUITY” for 50% an annual TC+ membership).
Big innovation (or in this case, reductions): Google’s in-house incubator, Area 120, was severely impacted by Alphabet layoffs and Spotify cut 6% of staff, two layoff stories that had me thinking all about the fact that tech seems to have forgotten its umbrella. We end with tongue-twister note on Quordle, which just got scooped up by Merriam-Webster. 

As always, you can support me by following me on Twitter and Instagram. The show also tweets from @equitypod, so follow us there!

Equity drops at 10:00 a.m. PT every Monday and at 7:00 a.m. PT on Wednesdays and Fridays, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify and all the casts. TechCrunch also has a great show on crypto, a show that interviews founders, one that details how our stories come together, and more!

All that VC dry powder is damper than you think by Natasha Mascarenhas originally published on TechCrunch

Cowboy Ventures goes bigger, with $260M across two new funds, including an opportunity fund

Cowboy Ventures, the now-10-year-old, Bay Area-based seed-stage focused fund founded by renowned investor Aileen Lee, has closed on two new funds totaling $260 million in capital commitments. The outfit garnered $140 million in commitments for its fourth flagship fund and another $120 million for its first opportunity-type fund (its “Mustang Fund”).

The amount is more than all the capital that the outfit has raised across its previous funds, which were sized at $40 million, $60 million, and $95 million, respectively. Then again, the team has grown over the years from being a one-person firm to an outfit with an investor team, including fintech specialist Jill Williams, who Lee recruited from Anthemis, and Amanda Robson, who was pulled out of Norwest Venture Partners, where she worked with numerous enterprise software companies, including some focused on AI and robotics. (Longtime Silicon Valley attorney Ted Wang is also closely associated with the fund as a “board partner” and advises more than a dozen of its portfolio companies.)

It’s easy to appreciate why LPs committed more capital to Cowboy, even in a market that seems to be actively shrinking given broader market turmoil. First and foremost are its numbers, which look good, particular given the size of its earlier funds. Cowboy was among the first investors in Guild Education, for example, an online education company that’s focused on upskilling frontline employees, and was valued at $4.4 billion when it closed its most recent round of funding in June of last year. Cowboy is also a seed investor in the security and compliance automation platform Drata, assigned a $2 billion valuation in December when it raised $200 million in Series C funding.

In conversation with Lee, Williams and Robson late last week, Lee noted that Cowboy thinks of itself as a generalist firm, but that 70% of its most recent fund was funneled into enterprise startups and 30% into consumer startups, given Cowboy has also enjoyed success with the latter. (Most notably, one of its first checks went to Dollar Shave Club, the men’s grooming company acquired by Unilever in 2016 for a reported $1 billion.)

Others of the firm’s bets include, a startup that’s automating accounting processes and just closed a $52 million Series C round in December; Homebase, a platform for small to mid-size businesses that helps with scheduling, payroll, cash advances and HR stuff and has raised roughly $100 million from investors to date; and SVT Robotics, whose software organizes robots in warehouses and factories (it closed on $25 million in Series A funding in late 2021).

Lee also said that Cowboy prefers to invest in “pre-product” startups (about 70% of its first checks fall into this category) and that, because from the outset it has cultivated a diverse community of founders, roughly half of its portfolio companies were either founded or cofounded by a woman and roughly one-third of them have been founded or cofounded by a person of color. While Cowboy is very much focused on the bottom line, says Lee, it also aims to “have a positive impact on the community around us. We’re not a social impact fund, but we get out of bed every day a little bit excited to prove that you can be great at this job and also be a thoughtful human being at the same time.”

Indeed, the three partners said the idea is to keep doing what it’s doing, with the added twist of operating an opportunity fund to back its breakout winners. Though LPs have said they’re less and less enthusiastic about such vehicles — it complicates their own portfolio construction when early-stage firms also operate later-stage pools of capital — Williams said Cowboy’s investors didn’t blink at the idea. It was time, she suggested.

“We’ve been writing follow-on checks to a lot of our companies just either through [special purpose vehicles] or through our existing funds, but not necessarily in the check size that we would have wanted or even [given the room] our founders were giving us,” she said last week. “Instead of leaving capital on the table of doing SPVs, this gives us the opportunity to pursue exactly the same strategy but double down on our winners, and our LPs really see this as an extension of that strategy.”

Cowboy Ventures goes bigger, with $260M across two new funds, including an opportunity fund by Connie Loizos originally published on TechCrunch

Babylist makes an even bigger bet on baby products with Expectful acquisition

Today, baby registry and product discovery platform Babylist announced that it has acquired health and wellness tool Expectful for an undisclosed price. The deal, announced today, brings together two companies focused on parental support, now helping people navigate everything from eco-friendly diapers to mental wellness around fertility.

The overlap, however, is in more than the mission. Both of the company’s CEOs invested in each other’s last venture capital round; Babylist’s CEO and founder Natalie Gordon wrote a check into Expectful’s $3 million seed round back in 2021; and Expectful CEO Nathalie Walton invested in Babylist’s last round, a $40 million Series C closed in the same year.

And while the two founders didn’t publicly disclose purchase price, both certainly have venture capitalists to answer to. Babylist has raised $50 million in known funding from investors including Norwest Venture Partners, Halogen Ventures, 500 Global, Next Play Capital, and Marcy Venture Partners. Expectful has raised over $4.2 million in funding from investors including Harlem Capital. Indicator Ventures, Sequoia Scout Fund, Break Trail Ventures and Chinagona Ventures.

The long-term vision for the newly-combined company is for Babylist to change its relationship with its audience and become a larger, health and wellness media property, Gordon said. While Expectful will stay as a standalone website, Gordon hinted that much of its content will eventually be free to access – different from its currently advertised subscriber-oriented business model.

“Having a baby is so wonderful – it’s also overwhelming and isolating,” Gordon said. “When you talk to people going through this – the stuff is one thing, but actually their physical and their mental and emotional health are like much more significant.” With Expectful, she said, the company can talk to its audience in a way that doesn’t make sense for the tech-powered registry side of the business to do so.

Babylist’s eye for expansion may be partially attributed to its revenue growth; the company grossed over $240 million in revenue in 2021, although it did not share 2022 revenue on the record. Over eight million people made purchases from Babylist this past year, the company said.

Walton went from a user of Expectful to its chief executive in less than a year. She first joined as an advisor to Expectful, seeing it as an opportunity to be entrepreneurial despite delivering her son just weeks prior in a stressful pregnancy. Soon, Expectful’s then-CEO and founder Mark Krassner saw her as a key fit to lead the business, as it pivoted its product strategy to grow beyond recorded meditations. In a past interview, Walton described Expectful’s plan to mimic Peloton’s playbook of matching premium content with community.

Now, the entrepreneur is staying on at Babylist as a board advisor. She says she always saw the company’s exit looking like a merger with a partner in the digital health space.

“This acquisition allows us to have a much bigger impact than if we were to stay focused on revenue even,” Walton said. “Women need our products and they need our solution now, we don’t have time to wait to go that route of let’s just keep on growing revenue and have an IPO – it was more like, let’s prioritize impact, and I don’t think enough startups are thinking” that way.

Babylist makes an even bigger bet on baby products with Expectful acquisition by Natasha Mascarenhas originally published on TechCrunch

With Starship testing, SpaceX moves one step closer to making science fiction a reality

SpaceX is poised to conduct a wet dress rehearsal of the Starship launch system from its Starbase site in southeastern Texas, a major milestone in CEO Elon Musk’s quest to turn long-haul interplanetary transportation from science fiction to reality.

It’s the strongest signal yet that Starship’s first orbital flight test could well and truly be imminent. The wet dress is a critical series of prelaunch tests that includes propellant loading of both the upper stage and booster, and a run-through of countdown to around T-10 seconds, or just before engine ignition. If no major issues crop up during the testing, the next step would be “de-stacking,” or the separation of the Starship second stage and Super Heavy booster. That would be followed by a full static fire test, where engineers would light up all 33 of the booster’s Raptor 2 engines. The launch system would then be re-stacked before the first orbital flight test.

This could all take place in a matter of weeks — March is not off the table for the orbital flight test — but that’s assuming that everything goes well and no major mishaps take place (they’re not unheard of). It also assumes that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the body that regulates commercial launches, issues SpaceX the all-important launch license fairly soon. The FAA has been basically mum about the status of its evaluation of SpaceX’s plans, though it’s been conducting extensive assessments of the Starship launch program for some time.

One can think about Starship as SpaceX’s raison d’être, the means by which the company will, as Musk puts it, preserve “the light of consciousness” in the cosmos. Given that Starship could have the potential to put as much as 100 tons into orbit — and given that there is not yet a robust market to support and exploit such a capability — it seems clear that Starship was designed with Mars in mind. The company will likely end up spending billions of dollars to work toward this goal.

It’s not just SpaceX that is betting big on Starship’s success. NASA is also counting on Starship to work, to the extent that the agency made it a central piece of its Artemis moon program. In April 2021, NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to develop a version of Starship to land on the moon for the Artemis III mission, which will take place no earlier than 2024. The agency later expanded that contract by $1.15 billion to include a second crewed Starship mission for later in the decade.

But before any of that can happen, Starship needs to reach orbit. And it may happen sooner rather than later.

With Starship testing, SpaceX moves one step closer to making science fiction a reality by Aria Alamalhodaei originally published on TechCrunch

Shopping app Temu is using TikTok’s strategy to keep its No. 1 spot on App Store

Temu, a shopping app from Chinese e-commerce giant Pinduoduo, is having quite the run as the No. 1 app on the U.S. app stores. The mobile shopping app hit the top spot on the U.S. App Store in September and has continued to hold a highly-ranked position in the months that followed, including as the No. 1 free app on Google Play since December 29, 2022. More recently, Temu again snagged the No. 1 position again on the iOS App Store on January 3 and hasn’t dropped since — even outpacing competitor Shein’s daily installs in the U.S.

Offering cheap factory-to-consumer goods, Temu provides access to a wide range of products, including fast fashion, and pushes users to share the app with friends in exchange for free products, which may account for some of its growth. However, the large majority of its new installs come from Temu’s marketing spend, it seems.

When TechCrunch covered Temu’s rise in November, the app had then seen a little more than 5 million installs in the U.S., according to data from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, making the U.S. its largest market. Now, the firm says the app has seen 5 million U.S. installs this January alone, up 19% from 4.2 million in the prior 22 days from December 10 through December 31.

According to Sensor Tower estimates, Temu has managed to achieve a total of 19 million lifetime installs across the U.S. App Store and Google Play, more than 18 million of which came from the U.S.

The growth now sees Temu outpacing rival Shein in terms of daily installs. In October, Temu was averaging around 43,000 daily installs in the U.S., the firm said, while Shein averaged about 62,000. In November, Temu’s average daily installs grew to 185,000 while Shein’s climbed to 70,000 and last month, Temu averaged 187,000 installs while Shein saw about 62,000.

The shopping app’s fast rise recalls how the video entertainment platform TikTok grew to become the most downloaded app worldwide in 2021, after years of outsized growth. The video app topped 2 billion lifetime downloads by 2020, including sister app Douyin in China, Sensor Tower said. Combined, the TikTok apps have now reached 4.1 billion installs.

Like Temu, much of TikTok’s early growth was driven by marketing spend. The video app grew its footprint in the U.S. and abroad by heavily leveraging Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat’s own ad platforms to acquire its customers. TikTok was famously said to have spent $1 billion on ads in 2018, even becoming Snap’s biggest advertiser that year, for instance.

By investing in user acquisition upfront, TikTok was able to gain a following which then improved its ability to personalize its For You feed with recommendations. Over time, this algorithm became very good at recognizing what videos would attract the most interest thanks to this investment, turning TikTok into one of the most addictive apps in terms of time spent. As of 2020, kids and teens began spending more time watching TikTok than they did on YouTube. And earlier this month, Insider Intelligence data indicated all TikTok users in the U.S. were now spending an average of nearly 1 hour per day on the app (55.8 minutes), compared with just 47.5 minutes on YouTube, including YouTube TV.

While Temu is nowhere near TikTok’s sky-high figures, it appears to be leveraging a similar growth strategy. The company is heavily investing in advertising to acquire users, which it uses to personalize the shopping experience. One of Temu’s key features, in fact, is its own sort of For You page that encourages users to browse trending items “Selected for You.” In addition to gamification elements, Temu also puts heavy emphasis on recommending shops and products on its home page, which is informed by its user data.

But the app’s growth doesn’t seem to be driven by social media. While the Temu hashtag (#temu) on TikTok is nearing 250 million views, that’s not really a remarkable number for an app as big as TikTok where something like #dogs has 120.5 billion views. (Or, for a more direct comparison, #shein has 48.3 billion views.) That suggests Temu’s rise isn’t necessarily powered by viral videos among Gen Z users or influencer marketing, but rather more traditional digital advertising.

According to Meta’s ad library, for instance, Temu has run some 8,800 ads across Meta’s various platforms just this month. The ads promote Temu’s sales and its extremely discounted items, like $5 necklaces, $4 shirts, and $13 shoes, among other deals. These ads appear to be working to boost Temu’s installs, allowing the app to maintain its No. 1 slot on the App Store’s “Top Free” charts, which are heavily influenced by the number of downloads and download velocity, among other things.

Of course, having a high number of downloads doesn’t necessarily mean Temu’s app will maintain a high number of monthly active users. Nor does it mean those users won’t churn out of the app after their initial curiosity has been abated. Still, Temu’s download growth saw it ranking as the No. 1 “Breakout” shopping app by downloads in the U.S. for 2022, according to’s year-end “State of Mobile” report. ( calculates “Breakout” apps in terms of year-over-year growth across iOS and Google Play.)

Because Temu’s growth is more recent, the app did not earn a position on the Top 10 apps in 2022 in either the U.S. or globally in terms of downloads, consumer spend, or monthly active users, on this report. Instead, most of those spots still went to social media apps, streamers, and dating apps like Bumble and Tinder. The only retailer to find a spot on these lists was Amazon, which was the No. 7 app worldwide by active users and the No. 8 most downloaded in the U.S.

Temu’s marketing investment may not pay off as well as TikTok’s did, though, as other discount shopping apps saw similar growth only to later fail as consumers found that, actually, $2 shirts and jeans were deals that were too good to be true. Wish famously fumbled as consumers grew frustrated with long delivery times, fake listings, missing orders, poor customer service, and other things consumers expect from online retail in the age of Amazon.

Temu today holds a 4.7-star rating on the U.S. App Store, but those ratings have become less trustworthy over the years due to the ease with which companies can get away with fake reviews. Dig into the reviews further and you’ll find similar complaints to Wish, including scammy listings, damaged and delayed deliveries, incorrect orders and lack of customer service. Without addressing these issues, Temu seems more likely to go the way of Wish, not TikTok, no matter what it spends.


Shopping app Temu is using TikTok’s strategy to keep its No. 1 spot on App Store by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

TechCrunch Live is back with top founders and investors, and you get to ask the questions each week

TechCrunch Live is entering its third season, and I’m thrilled to be leading the events again this year. The first event is on February 1, 2023, and will feature a timely discussion on what to do if your company can’t raise a Series A. We have Cambly’s Sameer Shariff and Benchmark’s Sarah Tavel speaking at the first event.

Of course, TechCrunch Live is free to attend. This weekly event/episode records live each Wednesday at 12:00/3:00 PST/EST. Register on Hopin to ask questions and network with guests and other attendees. The event also streams to Facebook Live and YouTube and will also be on Twitter Spaces.

TCL’s mission is still to help founders build better venture-backed businesses. But going into 2023, there’s new urgency behind this mission. TechCrunch Live started in the heady days of 2021, and now in early 2023, the startup world is experiencing radical changes. It’s harder to fundraise, sales cycles are much longer, and investors (and their LPs) have different expectations that are affecting all industries.

A few updates for 2023

TechCrunch Live is back on Hopin. Each event will have a dedicated Hopin room, allowing you, the viewer, to ask the guests questions. You have to register, and sign up for each event. But it’s worth the hassle. Trust me.
I’m also turning to Twitter to help source some questions for each week’s guest. It’s critical to me that you get to ask the questions you find most interesting, so if you can’t log in to Hopin, send me questions over Twitter at @mjburnsy.
The TCL Podcast! I got a producer, and the lackluster TCL Podcast is getting some serious love. Each Monday, we’ll upload an edited and condensed version of TCL. And the logo is changing thanks to @dicebourbon.
Pitch Practice is back! Apply to present your company using this form.

Upcoming guests

Sarah Tavel (Benchmark) and Sameer Shariff (Cambly) — 2/1/2023

Cambly looks like a sure bet right now, but as you’ll hear from Sameer, it was a struggle to get to this point. After failing to raise a Series A, the company had to change its model overnight. When VC after VC said no, Cambly had to find a way to make a profit to keep the doors open. Since then, the company went on to raise a $20 million Series A and a $60 million Series B, but only because the company took the hard steps to seek profitability earlier than expected.

Register Here

Christina Ross (Cube) and Rajeev Batra (Mayfield) — 2/8/2023

Christina Ross and her company, Cube, are on a mission to improve financial planning and analysis. Unlike competitors, Cube is not trying to replace internal spreadsheets, but rather live alongside these beloved sheets. Cube’s strategy is meeting its customers where they’re at. Hear how this novel approach was developed and how it attracted investments from major firms, including Rajeev Batra at Mayfield Fund.

Register Here

Christina Cacioppo (Vanta) and Andrew Reed (Sequoia) — 2/15/2023

Christina Cacioppo co-founded Vanta to help companies stay up-to-date with ever-changing compliances. And the industry responded enthusiastically. The company quickly raised over $200 million in venture capital, becoming a unicorn with its $150 million Series B in October 2022. Hear from Cacioppo and Sequoia Capital general partner Andrew Reed on Vanta’s growth trajectory and fundraising strategy.

Sagi Eliyahu (Tonkean) and Joanne Chen (Foundation Capital) — 2/22/2023

David Blumberg (Blumberg Capital) and Tanis Jorge (Trulioo) — 3/1/2023

Mark Goldberg (Index Ventures) and Rick Song (Persona) — 3/8/2023

Mamoon Hamid (Kleiner Perkins) and Arianna Huffington (Thrive Global) — 3/15/2023

Eric Tarczynski (Contrary) and Harshita Arora (AtoB) — 3/22/2023

TechCrunch Live is back with top founders and investors, and you get to ask the questions each week by Matt Burns originally published on TechCrunch

Meta expands its partnership with the NBA to offer 52 games in VR

Meta is expanding its partnership with the NBA and WNBA to offer more than 50 live games in VR on Meta Quest, the company announced on Monday. The Meta Quest is the official headset of the NBA, as the company signed a deal with the league back in 2020.

The company will deliver a package of 52 live NBA games, including five immersive 180-degree monoscopic VR games in 2880 on its Xtadium offering and on Meta Horizon Worlds. Meta will also offer a selection of WNBA, NBA G League and NBA 2K League games over the course of the season. In Meta Horizon Worlds, you’ll also be able to access game highlights, recaps and archival content.

Users can visit the dedicated NBA Arena in Meta Horizon Worlds starting today to watch NBA content with friends, compete in interactive mini-games and support their favorite teams. Meta says that in the future, fans will be able to watch even more content in the app with an NBA League Pass subscription.

Meta also announced that it’s partnering with the league to launch NBA-licensed apparel in Meta’s Avatar Store in the coming weeks. Users will be able to purchase their favorite NBA or WNBA team apparel for their avatar and showcase it across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and on Meta Quest.

“Meta’s immersive VR technology is opening up new opportunities for sports fans to engage and interact with their favorite NBA teams,” said Meta Director of Sports Media and League Partnerships Rob Shaw in a blog post. “Fans will be able to express their fandom by donning their favorite team’s gear on Avatars and enjoy more live NBA games and experience NBA League Pass in a much more social and immersive way.

The games available in VR on Meta Quest in January include Milwaukee Bucks vs. Detroit Pistons on January 23, Denver Nuggets vs. New Orleans Pelicans on January 24, Denver Nuggets vs. Milwaukee Bucks on January 24, Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder on January 27, Los Angeles Clippers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers on January 29 and Miami Heat vs. Cleveland Cavaliers on January 31.

Meta expands its partnership with the NBA to offer 52 games in VR by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

Founder and NFX VC James Currier vets startup ideas at TC Early Stage

You have a great idea for a startup, and you’re working hard to build, launch and scale. But, and stay with us here, is your idea truly good? According to James Currier — founding partner of NFX, a VC firm by and for entrepreneurs — good ideas have patterns, and 90% of the ideas he sees at the pre-seed/seed stage will not lead to large exits.

Currier — a five-time founder with significant exits across multiple sectors — is arguably the most well-equipped investor-operator to help answer this vital question. It’s why we’re excited to have him join us onstage at TechCrunch Early Stage on April 20 in Boston, Massachusetts.

In a session called “How to Make Sure Your Startup Idea Is Actually Good,” Currier will share different tactics, like how to:

Recognize platform shifts that make something newly possible.
Identify fast-moving markets — where the TAM is not large, but increasing.
De-risk your idea.
Iterate on concepts that already work and why you shouldn’t be afraid of competitors.

The session reserves plenty of time for Q&A, so bring your questions. Currier is passionate about helping entrepreneurs and new founders assess their companies early on to make sure they’re tackling the right problem and providing the right solution.

Want to dig deeper into this topic? During the show, Currier will also host a roundtable — a focused, small-group discussion — that gives founders even more time to ask questions.

A serial entrepreneur and angel investor in DoorDash, Lyft and Patreon, James Currier has led four VC-backed companies (Tickle, acquired by Monster; WonderHill, acquired by Kabam; IronPearl, acquired by PayPal; and Jiff (acquired by Castlight).

Currier’s an early pioneer of some of the most-used tactics in the tech startup world, including user-generated models, viral marketing, A/B testing and crowdsourcing. In 2015, he co-founded NFX, a $475 million early-stage venture firm focused on network-effect businesses.

Currier speaks regularly at numerous industry conferences. He’s also been featured in Forbes, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, TechCrunch and Silicon Valley Business Journal. You can read his analysis of network effects and growth at NFX.

TechCrunch Early Stage sessions give attendees plenty of time to engage, ask questions and walk away with a deeper, working understanding of topics and skills that are essential to startup success. Buy an early-bird founder ticket now and save $200.

Founder and NFX VC James Currier vets startup ideas at TC Early Stage by Lauren Simonds originally published on TechCrunch

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