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Startups Weekly: The world is eating tech

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You could almost hear the internet cracking apart this week as international businesses pulled away from Hong Kong and the US considered a ban on TikTok. Software can no longer eat the entire world like it had attempted last decade. Startups across tech-focused industries face a new reality, where local markets and efforts are more protected and supported by national governments. Every company now has a smaller total addressable market, whether or not it succeeds in it.

Facebook, for example, appears to be getting an influx of creators who are worried about losing TikTok audiences, as Connie Loizos investigated this week. This might mean more users, engagement and ultimately revenue for many consumer startups, and any other companies that rely on paid marketing through Facebook’s valuable channels. But it means fewer platforms to diversify to, in case you don’t want to rely on Facebook so much for your business.

As trade wars look more and more like cold wars, it also means that Facebook itself will have a more limited audience than it once hoped to offer its own advertisers. After deciding to reject requests from Hong Kong-based Chinese law enforcement, it seems to be on the path to getting blocked in Hong Kong like it is on the mainland. But as with other tech companies, it doesn’t really have a choice — the Chinese government has pushed through legal changes in the city that allow it to arrest anyone in the world if it claims they are organizing against it. Compliance with China would bring on government intervention in the US and beyond, among other reasons why doing so is a non-starter. 

This also explains why TikTok itself already pulled out of Hong Kong, despite being owned by mainland China-based Bytedance. The company is still reeling from getting banned in India last week and this maneuver is trying to the subsidiary look more independent. Given that China’s own laws allow its government to access and control private companies, expect many to find that an empty gesture.

Startups should plan for things to get harder in general. See: the next item below.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Student visas have become the next Trump immigration target

International students will not be allowed to stay enrolled at US universities that offer only remote classes this coming academic year, the Trump administration decided this past week. As Natasha Mascarenhas and Zack Whittaker explore, many universities are attempting a hybrid approach that tries to allow some in-person teaching without creating a community health problem.

Without this type of approach, many students could lose their visas. Here’s our resident immigration law expert, Sophie Alcorn, with more details on Extra Crunch:

International students have been allowed to take online classes during the spring and summer due to the COVID-19 crisis, but that will end this fall. The new order will force many international students at schools that are only offering remote online classes to find an “immigration plan B” or depart the U.S. before the fall term to avoid being deported.

At many top universities, international students make up more than 20% of the student body. According to NAFSA, international students contributed $41 billion to the U.S. economy and supported or created 458,000 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year. Apparently, the current administration is continuing to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” when it comes to immigration.

Universities are scrambling as they struggle with this newfound untenable bind. Do they stay online only to keep their students safe and force their international students to leave their homes in this country? Or do they reopen to save their students from deportation, but put their communities’ health at risk?

For students, it means finding another school, scrambling to figure out a way to depart the States (when some home countries will not even allow them to return), or figuring out an “immigration plan B.”

Who knows how many startups will never exist because the right people didn’t happen to be at the right place at the right time together? What everyone does know is that remote-first is here to stay.

No Code goes global

A few tech trends seem unstoppable despite any geopolitics, and one seems to be the universal human goal of making enterprise software suck less. (Okay, nearly universal.) Alex Nichols and Jesse Wedler of CapitalG explain why now is the time for no code software and what the impact will bel, in a very popular article for Extra Crunch this week. Here’s their setup:

First, siloed cloud apps are sprawling out of control. As workflows span an increasing number of tools, they are arguably getting more manual. Business users have been forced to map workflows to the constraints of their software, but it should be the other way around. They need a way to combat this fragmentation with the power to build integrations, automations and applications that naturally align with their optimal workflows.

Second, architecturally, the ubiquity of cloud and APIs enable “modular” software that can be created, connected and deployed quickly at little cost composed of building blocks for specific functions (such as Stripe for payments or Plaid for data connectivity). Both third-party API services and legacy systems leveraging API gateways are dramatically simplifying connectivity. As a result, it’s easier than ever to build complex applications using pre-assembled building blocks. For example, a simple loan approval process could be built in minutes using third-party optical character recognition (a technology to convert images into structured data), connecting to credit bureaus and integrating with internal services all via APIs. This modularity of best-of-breed tools is a game changer for software productivity and a key enabler for no code.

Finally, business leaders are pushing CIOs to evolve their approach to software development to facilitate digital transformation. In prior generations, many CIOs believed that their businesses needed to develop and own the source code for all critical applications. Today, with IT teams severely understaffed and unable to keep up with business needs, CIOs are forced to find alternatives. Driven by the urgent business need and assuaged by the security and reliability of modern cloud architecture, more CIOs have begun considering no code alternatives, which allow source code to be built and hosted in proprietary platforms.

Photo: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Palantir has finally filed to go public

It’s 16 years old, worth $26 billion and widely used by private and public entities of all types around the world, but this employer of thousands is counted as a startup tech unicorn, because, well, it was one of the pioneers of growing big, raising bigger, and staying private longer. Aileen Lee even mentioned Palantir as one of the 39 examples that helped inspire the “unicorn” term back in 2013. Now the secretive and sometimes controversial data technology provider is finally going to have its big liquidity event — and is filing confidentially to IPO, which means the finances are still staying pretty secret.

Alex Wilhelm went ahead and pieced together its funding history for Extra Crunch ahead of the action, and concluded that “Palantir seems like the Platonic ideal of a unicorn. It’s older than you’d think, has a history of being hyped, its valuation has stretched far beyond the point where companies used to go public, and it appears to be only recently growing into its valuation.”

It also appears to be one of the unicorns that has seen a lot of upside lately. It has been in the headlines recently for cutting big-data deals with governments for pandemic work, on top of a long-standing relationship with the US military and other arms of the government. As with Lemonade, Accolade and a range of other IPOing tech companies that we have covered in recent weeks, it is presumably in a positive business cycle and primed to take advantage of an already receptive market.

(Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Meaningful change from BLM

In an investor survey for Extra Crunch this week, Megan Rose Dickey checked in with eight Black investors about what they are investing in, in the middle of what feels like a new focus on making the tech industry more representative of the country and the world. Here’s how Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital responded when Megan asked what meaningful change might come from the recent heightened attention on the Black Lives Matter movement.

I happen to be on the more optimistic side of things. I’m not at a hundred percent optimistic, but I’m close to that. I think that there’s an undeniable unflinching resolve right now. I think that if we were to go back to status quo, I would be incredibly surprised. I guess I would not be shocked, unfortunately, but I would be surprised. It would give me pause about the effectiveness of any of the work that we do if this moment fizzles out and doesn’t create change. I do think that there is going to be a shift. I can already feel it. I know that more people who are representative of this country are going to be writing checks, whether through being hired, or taken through the ranks, or starting their own funds, and our own funds. I think there’s more and more capital that’s going to flow to underrepresented founders. That alone, I think, will be a huge shift.

Around TechCrunch

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Hear from James Alonso and Adam Zagaris how to draw up your first contracts at Early Stage

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Kerry Washington is coming to Disrupt 2020

Amazon’s Alexa heads Toni Reid and Rohit Prasad are coming to Disrupt

Ade Ajao, Maryanna Saenko, Charles Hudson, Ulili Onovakpuri and Melissa Bradley are coming to Disrupt

Minted’s Mariam Naficy will join us at TechCrunch Early Stage

Across the week

TechCrunch

14 VCs discuss COVID-19 and London’s future as a tech hub

Societal upheaval during the COVID-19 pandemic underscores need for new AI data regulations

PC shipments rebound slightly following COVID-19-fueled decline

Here’s a list of tech companies that the SBA says took PPP money

Equity Monday: Uber-Postmates is announced, three funding rounds and narrative construction

Regulatory roadblocks are holding back Colombia’s tech and transportation industries

Extra Crunch

In pandemic era, entrepreneurs turn to SPACs, crowdfunding and direct listings

Four views: Is edtech changing how we learn?

VCs are cutting checks remotely, but deal volume could be slowing

GGV’s Jeff Richards: ‘There is a level of resiliency in Silicon Valley that we did not have 10 years ago’

Logistics are key as NYC startup prepares to reopen office

#EquityPod

From Alex:

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

We wound up having more to talk about than we had time for but we packed as much as we could into 34 minutes. So, climb aboard with DannyNatasha and myself for another episode of Equity.

Before we get into topics, a reminder that if you are signing up for Extra Crunch and want to save some money, the code “equity” is your friend. Alright, let’s get into it:

Whew! Past all that we had some fun, and, hopefully, were of some use. Hugs and chat Monday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PT and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Startups

EventGeek relaunches as Circa to help marketers embrace virtual events

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EventGeek was a Y Combinator-backed startup that offered tools to help large enterprises manage the logistics of their events. So with the COVID-19 pandemic essentially eliminating large-scale conferences, at least in-person, it’s not exactly surprising that the company had to reinvent itself.

Today, EventGeek relaunched as Circa, with a new focus on virtual events. founder and CEO Alex Patriquin said that Circa is reusing some pieces of EventGeek’s existing technology, but he estimated that 80% of the platform is new.

While the relaunch was only just became official, the startup says its software has already been used to adapt 40,000 in-person events into virtual conferences and webinars.

The immediate challenge, Patriquin said, is simply figuring out how to throw a virtual event — something that Circa offers a playbook for. But the startup’s goals go beyond virtual event logistics.

“Our new focus is really more at the senior marketing stakeholder level, helping them have a unified view of the customer,” Patriquin said.

He explained that “events have always been kind of disconnected from the marketing stack,” so the shift to virtual presents an opportunity to treat event participation as part of the larger customer journey, and to include events in the broader customer record. To that end, Circa integrates with sales and marketing systems like Salesforce and Marketo, as well as with video conferencing platforms like Zoom and On24.

Circa screenshot

Image Credits: Circa

“We don’t actually deliver [the conference] experience,” Patriquin said. “We put it into that context of the customer journey.”

Liz Kokoska, senior director of demand generation for North America at Circa customer Okta, made a similar point.

“Prior to Circa, we had to manage our physical and virtual events in separate systems, even though we thought of them as parts of the same marketing channel,” Kokoska said in a statement. “With Circa, we now have a single view of all our events in one place — this is helpful in planning and company-wide visibility on marketing activity. Being able to seamlessly adapt to the new world of virtual and hybrid events has given our team a significant advantage.”

And as Patriquin looks ahead to a world where large conferences are possible again, he predicted that there’s still “a really big opportunity for the events industry and for Circa.”

“As the in-person events start to come back, there’s going to be a phase where health and safety going to be paramount,” he continued. “During that health and safety phase, it’s going to be the age of hybrid events — where everything is virtual right now, hybrid will provide the opportunity to bring key [virtual] learnings into the back into the in-person world, to have a lot more data and intelligence and really be able to personalize an attendee’s experience.”

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0% interacción humana; MUY abre restaurante sin contacto en Colombia

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Contxto – La colombiana MUY está dando el siguiente paso para llevar tecnología a la industria de alimentos y bebidas. El miércoles pasado, la startup anunció el lanzamiento de su primer restaurante sin contacto en Bogotá. El local está en pruebas piloto en Colombia, sin embargo, MUY afirma que hasta ahora, la respuesta de los […]
The post 0% interacción humana; MUY abre restaurante sin contacto en Colombia appeared first on Contxto.

Don’t worry, we speak : English (Inglés), too!

Contxto – La colombiana MUY está dando el siguiente paso para llevar tecnología a la industria de alimentos y bebidas.

El miércoles pasado, la startup anunció el lanzamiento de su primer restaurante sin contacto en Bogotá.

El local está en pruebas piloto en Colombia, sin embargo, MUY afirma que hasta ahora, la respuesta de los usuarios excedió sus expectativas. Si los resultados son lo suficientemente favorables, reajustarán más locales bajo este modelo automatizado.

Un proyecto así no es barato. Pero la startup había levantado US$15 millones en una serie B liderada por ALLVP el año pasado y probablemente esos fondos ayudaron.

Actualmente la foodtech opera en México y Colombia, pero espera llevar a cabo pruebas piloto en Brasil.

muy opens contactless restaurant in colombia
MUY abre restaurante sin contacto en Colombia.

MUY y la nueva experiencia sin contacto

Según José Calderón, CEO y cofundador en MUY, es la primera vez que se lanza una tienda con cero interacción humana en América Latina. 

Los clientes solo hacen su pedido y pagan en una pantalla de autoservicio. Por el momento su sistema acepta efectivo, así como tarjetas de débito y crédito. Pero en el futuro, MUY espera implementar transacciones a través de códigos QR.

No cabe duda de que eso es indispensable para una experiencia verdaderamente sin contacto. 

Una vez que su comida está lista, la persona la recoge de un casillero inteligente dentro del establecimiento y a comer se ha dicho.

Si tienen preguntas o inquietudes, hay un timbre de ayuda para recibir asistencia del personal que trabaja en el restaurante. 

Balancear los sabores en un restaurante

El último proyecto de MUY suena eficiente si trabajas en una oficina y quieres comer algo rápido. También es un enfoque innovador para la reducción del riesgo de propagar el coronavirus. MUY asegura que sus pantallas de autoservicio se limpian constantemente. 

Han surgido otros enfoques para transformar a los restaurantes. Por ejemplo, a través de apps y sistemas que automáticamente comparten la contraseña del WiFi u ofrecen un menú digital.

¡Información exclusiva, data y análisis semanales sobre el ecosistema tecnológico de Latam directo a tu correo!

Pero este tipo de experiencia no es atractiva para todos los escenarios. 

Los chatbots y pantallas táctiles no proporcionan el cálido servicio que un ser humano sí, como ofrecer recomendaciones, hacer chistes, incluso una sonrisa sincera. Es decir, asumiendo que el personal fue capacitado adecuadamente para ofrecer un servicio de calidad.

De cualquier forma, las tareas correctivas pueden delegarse a la tecnología sin matar el momento.

Entonces al final, es como los platillos que prepara el restaurante: se trata de equilibrar los sabores entre la innovación y el contacto humano para una experiencia gastronómica placentera.

Artículos relacionados: ¡Tecnología y startups de Colombia! 

-ML

Traducido por Alejandra Rodríguez

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Extra Crunch Live: Join fintech legend Max Levchin for a live Q&A on August 6 at 4pm ET/1pm PT

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We’ve got a great Extra Crunch Live chat coming up on Thursday, August 4, that you won’t want to miss. The one and only Max Levchin, is Silicon Valley icon and entrepreneur extraordinaire, is joining us to talk all things tech and fintech. You might know him as the CEO of Affirm, one of the hottest finance startups around right now, but he’s actually been a significant figure in tech in the Valley — and globally — for decades, making his name back in the first dot-com boom, as one of the co-founders of a little startup that you might have heard of called PayPal. Join us this week as we talk about all the many ways that fintech has evolved, what Levchin thinks about the current state of play, and what he thinks is coming next. ear from the one and only Max Levchin .

The magic happens in our next installment of our Extra Crunch Live series, on Thursday, August 4.

Extra Crunch Live is open exclusively to Extra Crunch subscribers. If you’re not already an Extra Crunch member, you can join here.

The EC Live format is a unique one for us at TC. It’s an hour-long conversation, and that allows us to take a deep dive, covering not only some of the biggest issues in tech, building startups and investing today but getting to the heart of them. At the same time, it’s a lighter format that’s actually fun to watch.

Taking the talk out of the formal, hushed, darkened rooms where you usually sit to listen to people get interviewed, we’re Zooming it and keeping it a little more relaxed, and we’re peppering the conversation with questions from you, the audience, throughout. See past talks with Sequoia’s Roelof Botha and Homebrew’s Hunter Walk for a taste of how this works.  (See the whole schedule of Extra Crunch Live talks here.)

Max’s current company, Affirm, is trying to bring something new to the world of financing payments, inking deals with a wide plethora of e-commerce sites to give shoppers a way to make interest-free payments in installments, based on a schedule that works for them, and signing up for the service in no more steps than it takes to make an ordinary card payment.

But because this is fintech — behind the scenes the real story is much more complex. Of course. Building these services today and building them 20+ years ago gives Levchin some amazing perspective on the challenges and opportunities of working with data. And it also has given him some critical insights into what consumers want and need, versus what they’ll actually use — lessons definitely pertinent to other financial services and e-commerce entrepreneurs, but actually just as important for other categories, too.

The “modern world” is a moveable feast these days: who would have thought in, say, January that the market conditions we face today would have shifted so drastically? All the more reason to continue the conversation and create more context to make better choices for your own business.

Join Max and me this week. We’re looking forward to it.

Extra Crunch Live is open exclusively to Extra Crunch subscribers, and so if you want to watch, join here. You can find the full details of the call below the jump!

Details:

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