Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.
This week we had Connie Loizos in the studio along with Kate Clark, myself and a special guest. The special guest was fitting, as it was a special episode. Why? Because this is our 100th episode, a milestone that would have probably seemed a silly idea back when we started the show.
This week our first guest, SaaStr founder and venture capitalist Jason Lemkin came back on the show. When he first showed up, we talked Elon Musk. This time it was ridesharing liquidity, ridesharing M&A and more.
Sadly two of our founding members (Katie Roof and Matthew Lynley) are elsewhere as we reach 100 shows, but a big cheers to them for their work. Hugs and thanks to Chris Gates for producing Equity with a rare mixture of kindness and patience. Material appreciation to TechCrunch’s Henry Pickavet and Yashad Kulkarni for approving and shepherding the project thus far, and a big round of appreciation for Connie Loizos, Danny Crichton and Kate Clark for joining the hosting crew.
Finally, thanks to you for sticking with us. Millions of downloads, live shows successful and not and three-figures of episodes later, we’re still here!
Alright, enough self-congratulation. Let’s talk tech. And money.
This week we had a bit of a laundry list of topics to get through. The first of which was Lyft’s now publicly known, but privately filed IPO document. The company is going public about going public while staying private about the same matter.
Regardless, Lyft’s decision to go public now should mean it’s the first out of the gate. Uber will go public second. Which company that order will assist isn’t super clear. In the past, it was thought that the first of Uber and Lyft to go public would expose itself to pricing pressure from its yet-private competitor. But this deep into the ridesharing saga, and with both companies still so unprofitable, perhaps that isn’t the case.
Uber may be scooter shopping regardless, so perhaps its IPO isn’t in the offing. Yes, reporting indicates that the company may be playing Duck Hunt because it could be taking aim at Bird. With an M&A gun? This analogy isn’t good.
If Uber buys Bird, say, does that mean Lyft buys Lime? Even though Uber is a Lime investor? Place your bets.
Next up we riffed on Utah’s tech scene, the well-known Silicon Slopes . The region’s 2018 has been big. Podium raised and posted big revenue growth figures. Pluralsight and Domo went public. And most recently, Weave raised $37.5 million. It’s a big year for the state. My view is that it is no longer up-and-coming. Our guest agreed.
And finally, Kate took us through the Huawei fiasco. The company’s CFO has been detained in Canada for what MSNBC calls “U.S. extradition.” Oof. This at a time when the American premier is rattling about in his barrel about trade. The stock market is worried. Maybe we should be as well.
Contentful, a Berlin- and San Francisco-based startup that provides content management infrastructure for companies like Spotify, Nike, Lyft and others, today announced that it has raised a $33.5 million Series D funding round led by Sapphire Ventures, with participation from OMERS Ventures and Salesforce Ventures, as well as existing investors General Catalyst, Benchmark, Balderton Capital and Hercules. In total, the company has now raised $78.3 million.
It’s only been less than a year since the company raised its Series C round and as Contentful co-founder and CEO Sascha Konietzke told me, the company didn’t really need to raise right now. “We had just raised our last round about a year ago. We still had plenty of cash in our bank account and we didn’t need to raise as of now,” said Konietzke. “But we saw a lot of economic uncertainty, so we thought it might be a good moment in time to recharge. And at the same time, we already had some interesting conversations ongoing with Sapphire [formeraly SAP Ventures] and Salesforce. So we saw the opportunity to add more funding and also start getting into a tight relationship with both of these players.”
The original plan for Contentful was to focus almost explicitly on mobile. As it turns out, though, the company’s customers also wanted to use the service to handle its web-based applications and these days, Contentful happily supports both. “What we’re seeing is that everything is becoming an application,” he told me. “We started with native mobile application, but even the websites nowadays are often an application.”
In its early days, Contentful also focuses only on developers. Now, however, that’s changing and having these connections to large enterprise players like SAP and Salesforce surely isn’t going to hurt the company as it looks to bring on larger enterprise accounts.
Currently, the company’s focus is very much on Europe and North America, which account for about 80% of its customers. For now, Contentful plans to continue to focus on these regions, though it obviously supports customers anywhere in the world.
Contentful only exists as a hosted platform. As of now, the company doesn’t have any plans for offering a self-hosted version, though Konietzke noted that he does occasionally get requests for this.
What the company is planning to do in the near future, though, is to enable more integrations with existing enterprise tools. “Customers are asking for deeper integrations into their enterprise stack,” Konietzke said. “And that’s what we’re beginning to focus on and where we’re building a lot of capabilities around that.” In addition, support for GraphQL and an expanded rich text editing experience is coming up. The company also recently launched a new editing experience.
In its 3,000-square-foot warehouse in San Francisco’s Mission District, Farmstead founders Pradeep Elankumaran and Kevin Li, a pair of former Yahoo product managers, plot the future of grocery shopping.
“Think of us as if Whole Foods was rebuilt from scratch by tech founders,” Elankumaran, Farmstead’s chief executive officer, told TechCrunch. “Of course we do delivery because it’s 2018 and no one wants to go to the store anymore.”
Elankumaran launched San Francisco-based Farmstead in 2016 after Amazon and Instacart’s food delivery services repeatedly disappointed him. The startup leverages artificial intelligence-powered predictive analytics and machine learning to accurately predict supply and demand of its inventory, a move Elankumaran says has helped the company significantly reduce waste, as well as complete deliveries to Bay Area residents in less than an hour.
“I had a lot of trouble getting food delivered consistently,” he said. “My daughter had just turned two and she started drinking a lot of milk and I found myself going to the grocery store three to four times a week to buy the same things.”
“So I posted on Nextdoor asking if anyone was interested in a milk, eggs and bread delivery service and in two days, 200 people said yes.”
Two-plus years later, the company is today announcing an additional seed round of $2.2 million, bringing its total raised to date to $7.5 million. ARTIS Labs, Resolute Ventures and Red Dog Capital participated in the round, along with Y Combinator . Farmstead completed the Silicon Valley accelerator program in 2016 shortly before its initial launch, similar to Instacart, which graduated from Y Combinator in 2012. Elankumaran said the company plans to use the capital to hire aggressively and expand beyond the Bay Area in 2019.
Farmstead’s business may sound a lot like Instacart, a very well-funded grocery delivery service worth an astounding $7.6 billion, but the startup says the differences are notable. Instacart is a tech layer on top of a supermarket that provides delivery, whereas Farmstead is the supermarket and the delivery service. Elankumaran says this — storing groceries in large, centralized warehouses and making the deliveries — is a highly scalable model destined to defeat Instacart.
Resolute Ventures general partner Mike Hirshland said in a statement that Farmstead could “become a monster company.”
“To replace a trip to the grocery store, so many things have to go right, from ordering the right inventory to last-mile delivery. Farmstead has cracked the code on making grocery delivery profitable and rapidly scalable,” he said.
The company has also recently partnered with Udelv, an autonomous vehicle startup, to make deliveries via the company’s modified GEM eL XD electric trucks.
Lyft has filed a draft registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for its long-awaited initial public offering, Lyft wrote in a press release today. However, the exact timing of the offering is unclear.
In a confidential filing with the SEC, Lyft did not state the number of shares it expects to offer, nor the price range. But Lyft says it expects to make its initial public offering after the SEC finishes its review process.
Lyft was last valued at about $15 billion, while competitor Uber is valued north of $100 billion. Uber, of course, is also expected to go public sometime next year. According to Reuters, Lyft’s IPO will happen during the first half of 2019 and be underwritten by JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse and Jeffries.
On Tuesday, New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to set a minimum pay rate for Uber, Lyft, and other on-demand ride-hailing drivers. The new rate will be set at $17.22 after expenses, or $26.51 per hour gross.
New York is believed to be the first city in the nation to implement such a pay floor. Four months ago, the Big Apple also imposed a cap on the number of such vehicles in the city.
The Independent Drivers Guild, a local affiliate of the Machinists Union, advocated for the change.