Sick of managing your Airbnb? Vacasa raises $64M to do it for you

Airbnbing can be a ton of work. Between key pickups, tidying, and maintenance emergencies, renting out your place isn’t such a passive revenue source. But Vacasa equips owners with full-service vacation home management, including listings on top rental platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway, as well as local cleaners who come between guests. It now manages […]

Airbnbing can be a ton of work. Between key pickups, tidying, and maintenance emergencies, renting out your place isn’t such a passive revenue source. But Vacasa equips owners with full-service vacation home management, including listings on top rental platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway, as well as local cleaners who come between guests. It now manages 10,000 vacation rental properties in over 16 countries.

With the peer-to-peer housing market maturing and Airbnb looking to go public, private equity firms see an opportunity in who controls the end relationship with home owners like Vacasa does. So today the startup is announcing it’s raised $64 million in a Series B bridge round led by Riverwood, and joined by Level Equity, Assurant, and Newspring. The cash will fuel Vacasa’s expansion into real estate as it seeks to sell property to people who want to own and rent out a vacation home.

Vacasa was impressively bootstrapped from 2009 until 2015. “I’ve always been passionate about vacation rentals. When traveling with friends or family, I love having common spaces to come together in” says CEO Eric Breon. He founded the company after owning a vacation cabin on the Washington Coast. He’d go up in the Spring, spend a weekend fixing up the place, it’d sit idle all summer, and then he’d have to spend another weekend closing it up. He considered a local property manager, but they massively underestimated how much he could earn off renting it out. So Breon built Vacasa to make it easy for home owners to earn the most money without a hassle.

After years growing the business organically, Vacasa raised a $35 million series A from Level Equity in 2015, then $5 million more from Assurant. Then in fall of 2017, it raised an $103.5 million series B. Now it’s topping up that round with $64 million and a new valuation warranted by the startup’s growth this past year. That brings Vacasa to a total of $207.5 million in funding

While that’s just a fraction of the over $4.4 billion Airbnb has raised. But Vacasa caters to a more upscale market that don’t want to manage the properties themselves. With plenty of popular listings sites out there, Vacasa gets easy distribution. But eventually as the other giants in the space become public companies, they’ll be forced to chase bigger margins that could see them compete with Vacasa after years of partnership.

Breon remains confident, though. When I ask him the biggest existential threat to the business, he declares that “We’ve reached a point where failure isn’t a realistic outcome. We have great retention of our homeowners, and strong recurring revenue. The question is more about how quickly we can continue scaling into the huge $32 billion market we’re focused on.” Getting to an exit might not be quite so straightforward, but with life seeming to get more stressful by the year, there’ll be no shortage of people seeking a getaway.

These are the most successful companies to emerge from Y Combinator

A look at the 20 most successful companies to come out of Y Combinator.

Earlier this month, Brex, a credit card provider to startups, announced it had raised $125 million at a $1.1 billion valuation.

The round was impressive for a couple of reasons: The founders are a pair of 22-year-olds that had set out to build a virtual reality company before pivoting to payments, and they had only completed Y Combinator, a well-known Silicon Valley startup accelerator, the year prior.

Y Combinator is responsible for many successes in the startup world, certainly more than its fellow accelerators, which are all known to provide early-stage companies with a seed investment — in YC’s case, $150,000 — mentorship and educational resources through a short-term program that culminates in a demo day.

Today, YC has released the latest list of its most successful companies since it began backing startups in 2005. Ranked by valuation and/or market cap, Brex, sure enough, is the youngest company to crack the top 20:

  1. Airbnb: An online travel community and room-sharing platform founded by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk. Valuation: $31 billion. YC W2009.
  2. Stripe: A provider of an online payment processing system for internet businesses founded by John and Patrick Collison. Valuation: $20 billion. YC S2009.
  3. Cruise: Acquired by GM in 2006, the company is building autonomous vehicles. It was founded by Kyle Vogt and Daniel Kan. Valuation: $14 billion. YC W2014.
  4. Dropbox: A file hosting service and workplace collaboration platform founded by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi that went public in March. Market cap: >$10 billion. YC S2007.
  5. Instacart: A grocery and home essentials delivery service founded by Apoorva Mehta, Max Mullen and Brandon Leonardo. Valuation: $7.6 billion. YC S2012.
  6. Machine Zone: A mobile games company, founded by Mike Sherrill, Gabriel Leydon and Halbert Nakagawa, known for “Game of War.” Valuation: >$5 billion. YC W2008.
  7. DoorDash: An app-based food delivery service founded by Tony Xu, Stanley Tang and Andy Fang. Valuation: $4 billion. YC S2013.
  8. Zenefits: The provider of human resources software for small and medium-sized businesses founded by Laks Srini and Parker Conrad. Valuation: $2 billion. YC W2013.
  9. Gusto: The provider of software that automates and simplifies payroll for businesses, founded by Josh Reeves, Tomer London and Edward Kim. Valuation: $2 billion. YC W2012.
  10.  Reddit: An online platform for conversation and thousands of communities founded by Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman. Valuation: $1.8 billion. YC S2005.
  11.  Coinbase: A digital cryptocurrency exchange and wallet platform founded by Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam. Valuation ~$1.6 billion. YC S2012.
  12.  PagerDuty: A digital ops management platform for businesses founded by Baskar Puvanathasan, Andrew Miklas and Alex Solomon. Valuation: $1.3 billion. YC S2012.
  13.  Docker: A platform for applications that gives developers the freedom to build, manage and secure business-critical applications, founded by Solomon Hykes and Sebastien Pahl. Valuation: $1.3 billion. YC S2010.
  14.  Ginkgo Bioworks: A biotech company focused on designing custom microbes founded by Reshma Shetty, Jason Kelly, Barry Canton and others. Valuation: >$1 billion. YC S2014.
  15.  Rappi: A Latin American on-demand delivery startup founded by Felipe Villamarin, Simon Borrero and Sebastian Mejia. Valuation: >$1 billion. YC W2016.
  16.  Brex: A B2B financial startup that provides corporate cards to startups. Its founders include Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi. Valuation: $1.1 billion. YC W2017.
  17.  GitLab: A developer service founded by Sid Sijbrandij and Dmitriy Zaporozhets that aims to offer a full lifecycle DevOps platform. Valuation: $1.1 billion. YC W2015.
  18.  Twitch: An Amazon-acquired live-streaming platform for video games used by millions. Its founders include Emmett Shear, Justin Kan, Michael Seibel and Kyle Vogt. YC W2007.
  19.  Flexport: A logistics company that moves freight globally by air, ocean, rail and truck founded by Ryan Petersen. Valuation: ~$1 billion. YC W2014.
  20.  Mixpanel: A user analytics platform that helps each person at a business understand its users, founded by Suhail Doshi and Tim Trefren. Valuation: >$865 million. YC S2009.

The full list of Y Combinator’s 100 most successful companies is available here.

These are the most successful companies to emerge from Y Combinator

A look at the 20 most successful companies to come out of Y Combinator.

Earlier this month, Brex, a credit card provider to startups, announced it had raised $125 million at a $1.1 billion valuation.

The round was impressive for a couple of reasons: The founders are a pair of 22-year-olds that had set out to build a virtual reality company before pivoting to payments, and they had only completed Y Combinator, a well-known Silicon Valley startup accelerator, the year prior.

Y Combinator is responsible for many successes in the startup world, certainly more than its fellow accelerators, which are all known to provide early-stage companies with a seed investment — in YC’s case, $150,000 — mentorship and educational resources through a short-term program that culminates in a demo day.

Today, YC has released the latest list of its most successful companies since it began backing startups in 2005. Ranked by valuation and/or market cap, Brex, sure enough, is the youngest company to crack the top 20:

  1. Airbnb: An online travel community and room-sharing platform founded by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk. Valuation: $31 billion. YC W2009.
  2. Stripe: A provider of an online payment processing system for internet businesses founded by John and Patrick Collison. Valuation: $20 billion. YC S2009.
  3. Cruise: Acquired by GM in 2006, the company is building autonomous vehicles. It was founded by Kyle Vogt and Daniel Kan. Valuation: $14 billion. YC W2014.
  4. Dropbox: A file hosting service and workplace collaboration platform founded by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi that went public in March. Market cap: >$10 billion. YC S2007.
  5. Instacart: A grocery and home essentials delivery service founded by Apoorva Mehta, Max Mullen and Brandon Leonardo. Valuation: $7.6 billion. YC S2012.
  6. Machine Zone: A mobile games company, founded by Mike Sherrill, Gabriel Leydon and Halbert Nakagawa, known for “Game of War.” Valuation: >$5 billion. YC W2008.
  7. DoorDash: An app-based food delivery service founded by Tony Xu, Stanley Tang and Andy Fang. Valuation: $4 billion. YC S2013.
  8. Zenefits: The provider of human resources software for small and medium-sized businesses founded by Laks Srini and Parker Conrad. Valuation: $2 billion. YC W2013.
  9. Gusto: The provider of software that automates and simplifies payroll for businesses, founded by Josh Reeves, Tomer London and Edward Kim. Valuation: $2 billion. YC W2012.
  10.  Reddit: An online platform for conversation and thousands of communities founded by Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman. Valuation: $1.8 billion. YC S2005.
  11.  Coinbase: A digital cryptocurrency exchange and wallet platform founded by Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam. Valuation ~$1.6 billion. YC S2012.
  12.  PagerDuty: A digital ops management platform for businesses founded by Baskar Puvanathasan, Andrew Miklas and Alex Solomon. Valuation: $1.3 billion. YC S2012.
  13.  Docker: A platform for applications that gives developers the freedom to build, manage and secure business-critical applications, founded by Solomon Hykes and Sebastien Pahl. Valuation: $1.3 billion. YC S2010.
  14.  Ginkgo Bioworks: A biotech company focused on designing custom microbes founded by Reshma Shetty, Jason Kelly, Barry Canton and others. Valuation: >$1 billion. YC S2014.
  15.  Rappi: A Latin American on-demand delivery startup founded by Felipe Villamarin, Simon Borrero and Sebastian Mejia. Valuation: >$1 billion. YC W2016.
  16.  Brex: A B2B financial startup that provides corporate cards to startups. Its founders include Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi. Valuation: $1.1 billion. YC W2017.
  17.  GitLab: A developer service founded by Sid Sijbrandij and Dmitriy Zaporozhets that aims to offer a full lifecycle DevOps platform. Valuation: $1.1 billion. YC W2015.
  18.  Twitch: An Amazon-acquired live-streaming platform for video games used by millions. Its founders include Emmett Shear, Justin Kan, Michael Seibel and Kyle Vogt. YC W2007.
  19.  Flexport: A logistics company that moves freight globally by air, ocean, rail and truck founded by Ryan Petersen. Valuation: ~$1 billion. YC W2014.
  20.  Mixpanel: A user analytics platform that helps each person at a business understand its users, founded by Suhail Doshi and Tim Trefren. Valuation: >$865 million. YC S2009.

The full list of Y Combinator’s 100 most successful companies is available here.

TravelPerk grabs $44M to take its pain-free SaaS for business travel global

Only six months ago Barcelona-based TravelPerk bagged a $21M Series B, off the back of strong momentum for a software as a service platform designed to take a Slack-like chunk out of the administrative tedium of arranging and expensing work trips. Today the founders’ smiles are firmly back in place: TravelPerk has announced a $44M Series […]

Only six months ago Barcelona-based TravelPerk bagged a $21M Series B, off the back of strong momentum for a software as a service platform designed to take a Slack-like chunk out of the administrative tedium of arranging and expensing work trips.

Today the founders’ smiles are firmly back in place: TravelPerk has announced a $44M Series C to keep stoking growth that’s seen it grow from around 20 customers two years ago to approaching 1,500 now. The business itself was only founded at the start of 2015.

Investors in the new round include Sweden’s Kinnevik; Russian billionaire and DST Global founder Yuri Milner, and Tom Stafford, also of DST. Prior investors include the likes of Target Global, Felix Capital, Spark Capital, Sunstone, LocalGlobe and Amplo.

Commenting on the Series C in a statement, Kinnevik’s Chris Bischoff, said: “We are excited to invest in TravelPerk, a company that fits perfectly into our investment thesis of using technology to offer customers more and much better choice. Booking corporate travel is unnecessarily time-consuming, expensive and burdensome compared to leisure travel. Avi and team have capitalised on this opportunity to build the leading European challenger by focusing on a product-led solution, and we look forward to supporting their future growth.”

TravelPerk’s total funding to date now stands at almost $75M. It’s not disclosing the valuation that its latest clutch of investors are stamping on its business but, with a bit of a chuckle, co-founder and CEO Avi Meir dubs it “very high”.

Gunning for growth — to West and East

TravelPerk contends that a $1.3tr market is ripe for disruption because legacy business travel booking platforms are both lacking in options and roundly hated for being slow and horrible to use. (Hi Concur!)

Helping business save time and money using a slick, consumer-style trip booking platform that both packs in options and makes business travellers feel good about the booking process (i.e. rather than valueless cogs in a soul-destroying corporate ROI machine) is the general idea — an idea that’s seemingly catching on fast.

And not just with the usual suspect, early adopter, startup dog food gobblers but pushing into the smaller end of the enterprise market too.

“We kind of stumbled on the realization that our platform works for bigger companies than we thought initially,” says Meir. “So the users used to be small, fast-growing tech companies, like GetYourGuide, Outfittery, TypeForm etc… They’re early adopters, they’re tech companies, they have no fear of trying out tech — even for such a mission critical aspect of their business… But then we got pulled into bigger companies. We recently signed FarFetch for example.”

Other smaller sized enterprises that have signed up include the likes of Adyen, B&W, Uber and Aesop.

Companies small and big are, seemingly, united in their hatred of legacy travel booking platforms. And feeling encouraged to check out TravelPerk’s alternative thanks to the SaaS being free to use and free from the usual contract lock ins.

TravelPerk’s freemium business model is based on taking affiliate commissions on bookings. While, down the road, it also has its eye on generating a data-based revenue stream via paid-tier trip analytics.

Currently it reports booking revenues growing at 700% year on year. And Meir previously told us it’s on course to do $100M GMV this year — which he confirms continues to be the case.

It also says it’s on track to complete bookings for one million travellers by next year. And claims to be the fastest growing software as a service company in Europe, a region which remains its core market focus — though the new funding will be put towards market expansion.

And there is at least the possibility, according to Meir, that TravelPerk could actively expand outside Europe within the next 12 months.

“We definitely are looking at expansion outside of Europe as well. I don’t know yet if it’s going to be first US — West or East — because there are opportunities in both directions,” he tells TechCrunch. “And we have customers; one of our largest customers is in Singapore. And we do have a growing amount of customers out of the US.”

Doubling down on growth within Europe is certainly on the slate, though, with a chunk of the Series C going to establish a number of new offices across the region.

Having more local bases to better serve customers is the idea. Meir notes that, perhaps unusually for a startup, TravelPerk has not outsourced customer support — but kept customer service in house to try to maintain quality. (Which, in Europe, means having staff who can speak the local language.)

He also quips about the need for a travel business to serve up “human intelligence” — i.e. by using tech tools to slickly connect on-the-road customers with actual people who can quickly and smartly grapple with and solve problems; vs an automated AI response which is — let’s face it — probably the last thing any time-strapped business traveller wants when trying to get orientated fast and/or solve a snafu away from home.

“I wouldn’t use [human intelligence] for everything but definitely if people are on the road, and they need assistance, and they need to make changes, and you need to understand what they said…” argues Meir, going on to say ‘HI’ has been his response when investors asked why TravelPerk’s pitch deck doesn’t include the almost-impossible-to-avoid tech buzzword: “AI”.

“I think we are probably the only startup in the world right now that doesn’t have AI in the pitch deck somewhere,” he adds. “One of the investors asked about it and I said ‘well we have HI; it’s better’… We have human intelligence. Just people, and they’re smart.”

Also on the cards (it therefore follows): More hiring (the team is at ~150 now and Meir says he expects it to push close to 300 within 18 months); as well as continued investment on the product front, including in the mobile app which was a late addition, only arriving this year.

The TravelPerk mobile app offers handy stuff like a one-stop travel itinerary, flight updates and a chat channel for support. But the desktop web app and core platform were the team’s first focus, with Meir arguing the desktop platform is the natural place for businesses to book trips.

This makes its mobile app more a companion piece — to “how you travel” — housing helpful additions for business travellers, as nice-to-have extras. “That’s what our app does really well,” he adds. “So we’re unusually contrarian and didn’t have a mobile app until this year… It was a pretty crazy bet but we really wanted to have a great web app experience.”

Much of TravelPerk’s early energy has clearly gone into delivering on the core product via nailing down the necessary partnerships and integrations to be able to offer such a large inventory — and thus deliver expanded utility vs legacy rivals.

As well as offering a clean-looking, consumer-style interface intended to do for business travel booking feels what Slack has done for work chat, the platform boasts a larger inventory than traditional players in the space, according to Meir — by plugging into major consumer providers such as Booking.com and Expedia.

The inventory also includes Airbnb accommodation (not just traditional hotels). While other partners on the flight side include include Kayak and Skyscanner.

“We have not the largest bookable inventory in the world,” he claims. “We’re way larger than old school competitors… We went through this licensing process which is almost as difficult as getting a banking license… which give us the right to sell you the same product as travel agencies… Nobody in the world can sell you Kayak’s flights directly from their platform — so we have a way to do that.”

TravelPerk also recently plugged trains into its directly bookable options. This mode of transport is an important component of the European business travel market where rail infrastructure is dense, highly developed and often very high speed. (Which means it can be both the most convenient and environmentally friendly travel option to use.)

“Trains are pretty complex technically so we found a great partner,” notes Meir on that, listing major train companies including in Germany, Spain and Italy as among those it’s now able to offer direct bookings for via its platform.

On the product side, the team is also working on integrating travel and expenses management into the platform — to serve its growing numbers of (small) enterprise customers who need more than just a slick trip booking tool.

Meir says getting pulled to these bigger accounts is steering its European expansion — with part of the Series C going to fund a clutch of new offices around the region near where some of its bigger customers are based. Beginning in London, with Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris slated to follow soon.

Picking investors for the long haul

What does the team attribute TravelPerk’s momentum to generally? It comes back to the pain, says Meir. Business travellers are being forced to “tolerate” horrible legacy systems. “So I think the pain-point is so visible and so clear [it sells itself],” he argues, also pointing out this is true for investors (which can’t have hurt TravelPerk’s funding pitch).

“In general we just built a great product and a great service, and we focused on this consumer angle — which is something that really connects well with what people want in this day and age,” he adds. “People want to use something that feels like Slack.”

For the Series C, Meir says TravelPerk was looking for investors who would be comfortable supporting the business for the long haul, rather than pushing for a quick sale. So they are now articulating the possibility of a future IPO.

And while he says TravelPerk hadn’t known much about Swedish investment firm Kinnevik prior to the Series C, Meir says he came away impressed with its focus on “global growth and ambition”, and the “deep pockets and the patience that comes with it”.

“We really aligned on this should be a global play, rather than a European play,” he adds. “We really connected on this should be a very, big independent business that goes to the path of IPO rather than a quick exit to one of the big players.

“So with them we buy patience, and also the condition, when offers do come onto the table, to say no to them.”

Given it’s been just a short six months between the Series B and C, is TravelPerk planning to raise again in the next 12 months?

“We’re never fundraising and we’re always fundraising I guess,” Meir responds on that. “We don’t need to fundraise for the next three years or so, so it will not come out of need, hopefully, unless something really unusual is happening, but it will come more out of opportunity and if it presented a way to grow even faster.

“I think the key here is how fast we grow. And how good a product we certify — and if we have an opportunity to make it even faster or better then we’ll go for it. But it’s not something that we’re actively doing it… So to all investors reading this piece don’t call me!” he adds, most likely inviting a tsunami of fresh investor pitches.

Discussing the challenges of building a business that’s so fast growing it’s also changing incredibly rapidly, Meir says nothing is how he imagined it would be — including fondly thinking it would be easier the bigger and better resourced the business got. But he says there’s an upside too.

“The challenges are just much, much bigger on this scale,” he says. “Numbers are bigger, you have more people around the table… I would say it’s very, very difficult and challenging but also extremely fun.

“So now when we release a feature it goes immediately into the hands of hundreds of thousands of travellers that use it every month. And when you fundraise… it’s much more fun because you have more leverage.

“It’s also fun because — and I don’t want to position myself as the cynical guy — the reality is that most startups don’t cure cancer, right. So we’re not saving the world… but in our little niche of business travel, which is still like $1.3tr per year, we are definitely making a dent.

“So, yes, it’s more challenging and difficult as your grow, and the problems become much bigger, but you can also deliver the feedback to more people.”

Origin launches protocol for building cheaper decentralized Ubers & Airbnbs

The sharing economy ends up sharing a ton of labor’s earnings with middlemen like Uber and Airbnb . $38 million-funded Origin wants the next great two-sided marketplace to be decentralized on the blockchain so drivers and riders or hosts and guests can connect directly and avoid paying steep fees that can range up to 20 […]

The sharing economy ends up sharing a ton of labor’s earnings with middlemen like Uber and Airbnb . $38 million-funded Origin wants the next great two-sided marketplace to be decentralized on the blockchain so drivers and riders or hosts and guests can connect directly and avoid paying steep fees that can range up to 20 percent or higher. So today Origin launches its decentralized marketplace protocol on the Ethererum mainnet that replaces a central business that connects users and vendors with a smart contract.

“Marketplaces don’t redistribute the profits they make to members. They accrue to founders and venture capitalists” Origin co-founder Matt Lie, who was the third product manager at YouTube. “Building these decentralized marketplaces, we want to make them peer-to-peer, not peer-to-corporate-monopoly-to-peer.” When people transact through Origin, it plans to issue them tokens that will let them participate in the governance of the protocol, and could incentivize them to get on these marketplaces early as well as convince others to use them.

Origin’s in-house marketplace DApp

Today’s mainnet beta sees Origin offering its own basic decentralized app that operates like a Craigslist on the blockchain. Users can create profile, connect their ethereum wallet through services like MetaMask, browse product and service listings, message each other to arrange transactions through smart contracts with no extra fees, leave reviews, and appeal disputes to Origin’s in-house arbitrators.

Eventually with the Origin protocol, developers will be able to quickly build their own sub-marketplaces for specific services like dog walking, house cleaning, ride sharing, and more. These developers can opt to charge fees, though Origin hopes the cost-savings from its blockchain platform will let them undercut non-blockchain services. And vendors can offer a commission to any marketplace that gets their listing matched/sold.

It might be years before the necessary infrastructure like login systems and simple wallets make it easy for developers and mainstream users to build and adopt DApps built on Origin. But it has plenty of runway thanks to $3 million in seed token sale funding from Pantera Capital, $6.6 million raised through a Coinlist token sale, plus $26.4 million in traditional venture funding from Pantera Capital, Foundation Capital, Garry Tan, Alexis Ohanian, Gil Penchina, Kamal Ravikant, Steve Jang, and Randall Kaplan.

“Marketplaces are at the core of what makes the internet so valuable and useful and the Origin team has one of the most promising blockchain platforms for the new sharing economy — with currency baked in — this could be really disruptive (and one of the best utilizations of the ethereum blockchain)” says Ohanian, the Reddit and Initialized Capital co-founder.

Liu and co-founder Josh Fraser came up with the idea after trying to imagine the downstream effects of Ethereum. Liu recalls thinking, “What if we could replace dozens of multi-million and multi-billion dollar companies with open source protocols that aren’t owned or controlled by anyone?”

Origin co-founders (from left): Matthew Liu and Josh Fraser

So why would marketplaces want to build on Origin instead of creating their own blockchain or traditional proprietary system? Fraser tells me smart contracts can save money, but that “these individual pieces are incredibly difficult to build” so he sees Origin as “analogous to Stripe — able to abstract away all the friction of building on the blockchain.” 40 marketplaces have already signed letters of intent to build on the protocol.

If Origin reaches critical mass, it could also benefit from the concept of shared network effect. Users only have to sign up once, and can then interact with any marketplace built on Origin. That means new marketplaces the builds on the protocol instantly has a registered user base.

Origin will face some stiff challenges, though. There’ll be a chicken-and-egg problem of getting the first marketplaces signed up before there are users on its self-sovereign identity platform, or geting those users aboard when there’s little for them to do. Liu admits that timing is the startup’s biggest threat. “We believe that decentralized marketplaces are inevitable, but a lot of smart people seem to think we’re too early and that we should be focused on building lower-level infrastructure instead” the co-founder says. For us, we’d rather be too early than too late.”

There’s also the trouble of leaving actors in a capitalist system to treat each other properly without a centralized authority. If an Uber driver treats you terribly, you can complain and get them kicked off the platform. Even with Origin’s review system, abusers of the system may be able to continue operating. It’s easy to imagine its arbitration service becoming completely overwhelmed with disputes. Luckily, Origin has made some strong hires to tackle these challenges, including Yu Pan who it says was a PayPal co-founder, former head of Dropbox’s NYC engineering tream Cuong Du, and Franck Chastagnol who previously led engineering teams at Paypal, YouTube, Google, and Dropbox.

Origin’s success will all come down to usability. Your average Uber driver or Airbnb host is no blockchain expert. They vend through those apps because it’s easy. Those centralized organizations are also highly incentivized to fulfill transactions quickly and smoothly in ways prohibited by eliminating fees. Origin will have to effectively make the blockchain aspects of its service disappear so all users and vendors know is that they’re paying less or earning more.

Meet the woman leading Accel’s consumer growth investments

Accel has hired Maya Noeth to lead its consumer growth investing efforts. The firm typically promotes from within; Noeth is its first outside hire in over two years.

As it approaches its 35th year in the venture capital business, Accel is staying true to its promise to continue passing the torch to the younger generation of investors.

This week, the firm brought on Maya Noeth as a principal leading its consumer growth investing efforts. Accel typically promotes from within; Noeth is its first outside hire since Amit Kumar joined over two years ago.

Noeth has an impressive track record. She’s spent the last nine years at TCV, most recently as a vice president of its B2C group, where she invested in Facebook, LinkedIn, Netflix and Spotify, as well as Airbnb, Rent The Runway, Rover and VICE Media.

At Accel, she’ll be writing checks sized between $30 million and $100 million in growth-stage startups focused on digital and social media, subscription e-commerce, gaming and vertical marketing. Noeth and the rest of Accel’s growth team are pulling capital out of the firm’s fourth flagship growth fund, which closed on $1.5 billion in 2016. 

In a conversation with TechCrunch, Noeth explained what she’s looking for in a B2C company.

“At a high-level, whenever I meet a new company, I’m interested in how big and attractive the market size is, who the team leading it is — execution is one of the most important attributes of a business — does the businesses have a great product that is differentiated with great competitive moats, what is the revenue model, what is the financial profile and is it really good unit economics?”

As a new mom, Noeth says she is especially interested in identifying companies in the kids-focused digital media sector.

“I think a lot of people are scratching their heads wondering what is there beyond YouTube Kids,” she said. “There is potential for really disruptive businesses to take over.”

Before joining TCV in late 2009 at the age of 23, Noeth began her career at Morgan Stanley as an investment banking analyst specializing in the technology, media and telecom vertical.

Accel invests in companies at all stages, counting Spotify, Jet and Etsy among its investments. The firm’s recent exits include cybersecurity company Tenable’s summer IPO, Flipkart’s momentous sale to Walmart and Amazon’s nearly $1 billion purchase of PillPack, an online pharmacy startup Accel first backed in 2014.

Accel currently has 11 partners and five principals in the U.S. writing checks. According to PitchBook, it has $10.8 billion of assets under management.

GoodTime raises $5 million to bring artificial intelligence into the interview process

GoodTime, the algorithmically enhanced interview process management platform, has raised $5 million in a new round of funding led by Bullpen Capital. The company uses natural language processing to link interview candidates with the right interviewers inside an organization. The idea is to make the hiring process run more smoothly for large organizations and give […]

GoodTime, the algorithmically enhanced interview process management platform, has raised $5 million in a new round of funding led by Bullpen Capital.

The company uses natural language processing to link interview candidates with the right interviewers inside an organization. The idea is to make the hiring process run more smoothly for large organizations and give overworked human resources staffers a new organizational tool in their toolbox to build better staffing processes.

To do this Ahryun Moon, Jasper Sone and Peter Lee, the co-founders of GoodTime, have built a tool that uses the calendar as its organizing principle. The idea is that the sooner interviews can be booked with the right people, the better it is for an organization.

Staffing is about more than just setting up an interview, though, so GoodTime also factors in relevant information about both an applicant and an interviewer including data like gender, ethnicity, and relevant university and previous work-history information.

Recruiting coordinators can manage the entire process and make it as frictionless as possible for companies — and in this competitive hiring environment, companies may run the risk of losing out if they can’t pull the trigger on a potential applicant quickly enough.

It’s a problem that GoodTime’s chief executive, Moon, knows all too well. As a former recruiting coordinator at Mulesoft, Airbnb and Dropbox, Moon is well-versed in the problems of recruiting professionals.

She even managed to convince her former employers at Airbnb and Dropbox to adopt the new platform. Those companies have seen their applicants confirm interviews within three hours by using the platform and seen their time-to-hire rates reduced by 40%, according to a statement from the company.

GoodTime, which was seed funded last year with a $2 million investment from Walden Ventures and Big Basin Capital, managed to attract the education and staffing focused investment GSV Accelerate, and Array.vc to its latest round. GoodTime is also a graduate of the Alchemist Accelerator program. 

Based in San Francisco, GoodTime currently has 18 employees on staff and has reached profitability on the strength of its existing customers.

Ne-Yo wants to make Silicon Valley more diverse, one investment at a time

Ne-Yo made his first investment in the coding academy Holberton School about a year ago. This month, he visited the campus for its grand opening and spoke to TechCrunch about his Silicon Valley ambitions.

Dressed in a Naruto t-shirt and a hat emblazoned with the phrase “lone wolf,” Ne-Yo slouches over in a chair inside a Holberton School classroom. The Grammy-winning recording artist is struggling to remember the name of “that actor,” the one who’s had a successful career in both the entertainment industry and tech investing.

“I learned about all the things he was doing and I thought it was great for him,” Ne-Yo told TechCrunch. “But I didn’t really know what my place in tech would be.”

It turns out “that actor” is Ashton Kutcher, widely known in Hollywood and beyond for his role in several blockbusters and the TV sitcom That ’70s Show, and respected in Silicon Valley for his investments via Sound Ventures and A-Grade in Uber, Airbnb, Spotify, Bird and several others.

Ne-Yo, for his part, is known for a string of R&B hits including So Sick, One in a Million and Because of You. His latest album, Good Man, came out in June.

Ne-Yo, like Kutcher, is interested in pursuing a side gig in investing but he doesn’t want to waste time chasing down the next big thing. His goal, he explained, is to use his wealth to encourage people like him to view software engineering and other technical careers as viable options.

“Little black kids growing up don’t say things like ‘I want to be a coder when I grow up,’ because it’s not real to them, they don’t see people that look like me doing it,” Ne-Yo said. “But tech is changing the world, like literally by the day, by the second, so I feel like it just makes the most sense to have it accessible to everyone.”

Last year, Ne-Yo finally made the leap into venture capital investing: his first deal, an investment in Holberton School, a two-year coding academy founded by Julien Barbier and Sylvain Kalache that trains full-stack engineers. The singer returned to San Francisco earlier this month for the grand opening of Holberton’s remodeled headquarters on Mission Street in the city’s SoMa neighborhood.

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Holberton, a proposed alternative to a computer science degree, is free to students until they graduate and land a job, at which point they are asked to pay 17 percent of their salaries during their first three years in the workforce.

It has a different teaching philosophy than your average coding academy or four-year university. It relies on project-based and peer learning, i.e. students helping and teaching each other; there are no formal teachers or lecturers. The concept appears to be working. Holberton says their former students are now employed at Apple, NASA, LinkedIn, Facebook, Dropbox and Tesla.

Ne-Yo participated in Holberton’s $2.3 million round in February 2017 alongside Reach Capital and Insight Venture Partners, as well as Trinity Ventures, the VC firm that introduced Ne-Yo to the edtech startup. Holberton has since raised an additional $8 million from existing and new investors like daphni, Omidyar Network, Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang and Slideshare co-founder Jonathan Boutelle.

Holberton has used that capital to expand beyond the Bay Area. A school in New Haven, Conn., where the company hopes to reach students who can’t afford to live in tech’s hubs, is in development.

The startup’s emphasis on diversity is what attracted Ne-Yo to the project and why he signed on as a member of the board of trustees. More than half of Holberton’s students are people of color and 35 percent are women. Since Ne-Yo got involved, the number of African American applicants has doubled from roughly 5 percent to 11.5 percent.

“I didn’t really know what my place in tech would be.”

Before Ne-Yo’s preliminary meetings with Holberton’s founders, he says he wasn’t aware of the racial and gender diversity problem in tech.

“When it was brought to my attention, I was like ‘ok, this is definitely a problem that needs to be addressed,'” he said. “It makes no sense that this thing that affects us all isn’t available to us all. If you don’t have the money or you don’t have the schooling, it’s not available to you, however, it’s affecting their lives the same way it’s affecting the rich guys’ lives.”

Holberton’s founders joked with TechCrunch that Ne-Yo has actually been more supportive and helpful in the last year than many of the venture capitalists who back Holberton. He’s very “hands-on,” they said. Despite the fact that he’s balancing a successful music career and doesn’t exactly have a lot of free time, he’s made sure to attend events at Holberton, like the recent grand opening, and will Skype with students occasionally.

“I wanted it to be grassroots and authentic.”

Ne-Yo was very careful to explain that he didn’t put money in Holberton for the good optics.

“This isn’t something I just wanted to put my name on,” he said. “I wanted to make sure [the founders] knew this was something I was going to be serious about and not just do the celebrity thing. I wanted it to be grassroots and authentic so we dropped whatever we were doing and came down, met these guys, hung out with the students and hung out at the school to see what it’s really about.”

What’s next for Ne-Yo? A career in venture capital, perhaps? He’s definitely interested and will be making more investments soon, but a full pivot into VC is unlikely.

At the end of the day, Silicon Valley doesn’t need more people with fat wallets and a hankering for the billionaire lifestyle. What it needs are people who have the money and resources necessary to bolster the right businesses and who care enough to prioritize diversity and inclusivity over yet another payday.

“Not to toot the horn or brag, but I’m not missing any meals,” Ne-Yo said. “So, if I’m going to do it, let it mean something.”

Y Combinator is changing up the way it invests

To keep up with the growing sizes of early-stage funding rounds, Y Combinator announced this morning that it will increase the size of its investments to $150,000 for 7 percent equity starting with its winter 2019 batch. Based in Mountain View, Calif., YC funds and mentors hundreds of startups per year through its 12-week program that […]

To keep up with the growing sizes of early-stage funding rounds, Y Combinator announced this morning that it will increase the size of its investments to $150,000 for 7 percent equity starting with its winter 2019 batch.

Based in Mountain View, Calif., YC funds and mentors hundreds of startups per year through its 12-week program that culminates in a demo day, where founders pitch their companies to an audience of Silicon Valley’s top investors. Airbnb, Dropbox and Instacart are among its greatest successes.

Since 2014, YC has invested $120,000 for 7 percent equity in its companies. It has increased the size of its investment before — in 2007, a YC “standard deal” was just $20,000 — but the amount of equity the accelerator takes in exchange for the capital has been consistent.

“We thought a $30K increase was necessary to help companies stay focused on building their product without worrying about fundraising too soon,” Y Combinator chief executive officer Michael Seibel wrote in a blog post this morning. “Capital for startups has never been more abundant, and we’ll continue to focus on the things that remain hard to come by — community, simplicity, advice that’s systematic and personal, and above all, a great founder experience.”

Seibel was named CEO in 2016. Co-founder Sam Altman serves as YC’s president.

YC is also changing the way it crafts its investments. It will now invest in startups on a post-money safe basis rather than on a pre-money safe. YC invented the fundraising mechanism, safe, in 2013. A safe, or a simple agreement for future equity, means an investor makes an investment in a company and receives the company stock at a later date — an alternative to a convertible note. A safe is a quicker and simpler way to get early money into a company and the idea was, according to YC, that holders of those safes would be early investors in the startup’s Series A or later priced equity rounds.

In recent years, YC noticed that startups were raising much larger seed rounds than before and those safes were “really better considered as wholly separate financings, rather than ‘bridges’ into later priced rounds.” Founders, in the meantime, were struggling to determine how much they were being diluted.

YC’s latest change, in short, will make it easier for founders to know exactly how much of their company they are selling off and will make capitalization table math, which can be extremely grueling for founders, a whole lot easier.

The pre-money safe has been criticized by founders and investors alike.

Last year, a pair of venture capitalists who’d worked with YC companies, Dolby Family Partners’ Pascal Levensohn and Andrew Krowne, wrote that the safe method was screwing over founders.

“Entrepreneurs who don’t do the capitalization table math end up owning less of their company’s equity than they thought they did. And when an equity round is inevitably priced, entrepreneurs don’t like the founder dilution numbers at all. But they can’t blame the VC, they can’t blame the angels, so that means they can only blame… oops!”

A transition to a post-money safe will eliminate that cap table math headache while still being simple and efficient. The trade-off, YC says, “is that each incremental dollar raised on post-money safes dilutes just the current stockholders, which is often the founders and early employees.” So it’s not perfect, but it’s an improvement.

Recent YC grad Deepak Chhugani, the founder of The Lobby, which announced a $1.2 million investment this week, had a positive response to the changes and said either way, most of the resources provided by YC are priceless to a first-time founder, like himself.

“I think given rising costs in the Bay Area and most startup hubs, the new YC deal is going to be great for founders, regardless of whether they stay in the Bay Area afterward or not,” Chhugani told TechCrunch.

YC is also tweaking its policy around pro-rata follow-ons. You can read about that here.

 

How to Manage Your Airbnb Wishlist (And 10 Incredible Places to Add)

airbnb-wishlist

It’s hard to find a person who hasn’t heard about Airbnb today. Thanks to this best-of-the-best travel network, you can book a living space online directly from a host. Airbnb essentially connects people who have a spare room (or a house, or maybe a boat) with those looking for a place to stay. The process is so easy and transparent, people now often choose to book an AirBnb over a hotel room. There are many reasons why people choose Airbnb over hotels and other hospitality establishments. For example, Airbnb membership that comes with many perks. Like maintaining a wishlist with…

Read the full article: How to Manage Your Airbnb Wishlist (And 10 Incredible Places to Add)

It’s hard to find a person who hasn’t heard about Airbnb today. Thanks to this best-of-the-best travel network, you can book a living space online directly from a host.

Airbnb essentially connects people who have a spare room (or a house, or maybe a boat) with those looking for a place to stay. The process is so easy and transparent, people now often choose to book an AirBnb over a hotel room.

There are many reasons why people choose Airbnb over hotels and other hospitality establishments. For example, Airbnb membership that comes with many perks. Like maintaining a wishlist with all the places you’ve ever dreamt about staying in. It’s basically Airbnb’s version of a bucket list, only for accommodation.

How to Manage Your Airbnb Wishlist

So you’ve decided to start collecting your Airbnb dream homes. Let’s start with logging into your profile. Then, in order to access your wishlist, go to Saved on the top right of the Airbnb page.

Airbnb-screenshot-wishlist-001

Click on View Lists, and on the right side of the page, you’ll find the button to Create a list. When creating a new list, you can set it to be public or to be visible only to specific people that you choose to share it with.

After that’s done, you can continue browsing the site. When you stumble upon a house that you’d like to have on your wishlist, click on the heart symbol on the top right of the picture, where it says Save. You can also have multiple wishlists if you’d like to keep different Airbnb places separately.

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If you decide to remove a place from one of your wishlists, once again go to Saved at the top of the page. Then click View Wish List and select the listing you want to remove. Click the heart symbol on the listing to remove it permanently.

Places to Add to Your Airbnb Wishlist

Airbnb probably impressed you before with comfortable accommodation offered at a much cheaper price than the surrounding hotels. Maybe you’ve heard about their new luxury option for top-shelf rentals called Airbnb Plus? This time, however, we went on Airbnb to look for something special, and here’s what we found.

Below you’ll find our list of the most wonderful (and weird) places for your Airbnb wishlist.

1. The World Famous Seashell House

airbnb-seashell house

Where? Isla Mujeres, Mexico

How much? $299/night

This quirky seashell house is a perfect dream accommodation for someone who enjoys spending vacations on the beach. The house itself will make you feel like you are one with the ocean. And it’s not just the outside part—the beds, tables and even shower heads are all themed around shells and life of the ocean.

2. Secluded Intown Treehouse

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Where? Atlanta, GA, United States

How much? $375/night

If you’re tired of living in a big city and are craving some peace and quiet, this place should definitely be on your list.

This tree house looks like something straight out of a fairytale. Get ready for lots of green on the outside, and beautiful decorations with fairy lights and antique furniture on the inside. And nothing but the sound of the trees around you.

3. A-Frame Rustic Off-Grid Cabin

airbnb-a-frame cabin

Where? Gasquet, CA, United States

How much? $58/night

Looking for something different but don’t believe that you have to spend a fortune on a vacation home? We’ve found just the right place for you.

Set in California, the land of sandy beaches but also rustic wilderness, this beautiful hand-built cabin is the perfect balance of unusual and comfortable. However, one thing that you need to prepare yourself for is the facilities placed outdoors, including kitchen, and wood-fired sauna. There’s also a beautiful organic garden right by your beautiful escape home.

4. Geodesic Dome in the Woods

airbnb-geodesic dome

Where? Bethlehem, CT, United States

How much? $46/night

For those who are feeling adventurous and looking for a real challenge, we have found this geodesic dome right in the middle of Bethlehem, Connecticut.

Entirely made of wood, it doesn’t have heat or power—a perfect getaway from civilization. At the same time, it’s still a little home on the inside, a much more comfortable option than pitching a tent when you want to be one with nature.

5. Live Like a King in a Castle

airbnb-galway castle

Where? Galway, Galway, Ireland

How much? $174/night

Enough with the budget options. What do you say we look at some exotic luxury options some more? How about an actual Celtic castle in Galway, Ireland?

Ever imagined yourself living in a castle? Maybe when you were a kid. Well, dreams come true. This castle was built in the 1400-s and has been refurbished with a toilet, a bath, and other modern day facilities. And today it welcomes new kings and queens on an everyday basis.

6. Night on a Yacht

airbnb-yacht

Where? Sóller, Balearic Islands, Spain

How much? $1,395/night

Now, if you decide to really splash out on something both unique and also all-inclusive, look no further.

You can spend a beautiful day on board this beautiful luxury yacht cruising on the South of Mallorca. Then you get to watch the sunset from the dock and spend a night in a luxury cabin inside. What’s the catch, you’ll ask? No catch if you don’t count how much you’ll have to pay for your romantic marine getaway.

7. Glass Cabin

airbnb-glass cabin

Where? Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil

How much? $58/night

If you happen to be traveling in Brazil, this little one-of-a-kind house is a must try. In order to create this glass cabin, the owners spent years collecting recycling glass bottles that they later turned into the most wonderful colorful home decoration ever.

8. Snow Igloo

airbnb-snow igloo

Where? Pelkosenniemi, Finland

How much? $211/night

For those who prefer romantic snowy landscapes over sandy beaches, there’s this out-of-the-box Airbnb holiday home.

Yes, it’s a real live ice-cold igloo located in Finland. Is there a more beautiful and poetic way to watch Northern Lights than from an actual authentic igloo? There’s a double bed inside with two sleeping bags. And according to the previous guests’ reviews, those should keep you warm at night. But as an emergency backup, the host promises a warm apartment being available to you 24/7.

9. The Airplane House

airbnb-airplane house

Where? Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef, France

How much? $145/night

Are you a big fan of traveling? So much that you’d love the idea of spending a night on the plane while it’s on the ground? Good news is, it’s now possible. This airplane house includes a kitchen, a shower, and a bathroom. There’s enough room inside to accommodate up to 4 people.

10. The Bubble Lodge

airbnb-bubble lodge

Where? Dournazac, France

How much? $252/night

If you enjoy the idea of being one with nature, but still prefer sleeping in a warm bed over a sleeping bag in a tent, this might be the listing just for you.

This eco bubble lodge is available for rent in France. You get all the perks of sleeping outdoors, like stargazing and absence of city lights and noises, but without getting cold in the wind or bugs bothering you all night long.

What’s Your Airbnb Wishlist Like?

Hopefully, some of these places inspire you to choose something different and unique next time you go on vacation. If you love using Airbnb, check out these Airbnb clones for other rental services.

However, if you’re not completely sold on the benefits of this system, there are plenty of high-quality Airbnb alternatives for any budget.

Read the full article: How to Manage Your Airbnb Wishlist (And 10 Incredible Places to Add)