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CVS becomes first national retailer to offer support for PayPal and Venmo QR codes at checkout

PayPal announced this morning that its customers can now use either PayPal or Venmo QR codes when checking out at over 8,200 CVS retail stores across the U.S. This is the first national retailer to integrate PayPal’s QR code checkout technology at point-of-sale, the company noted. The additional checkout option will also expand the number of ways customers can pay “touch-free” at CVS — a way to transact that’s become increasingly popular as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the country.

CVS and PayPal announced their plans to cooperate on a point-of-sale solution back in July. At the time, they pegged the timeframe for the rollout as sometime in Q4 2020.

The QR code checkout process itself will pull the funds needed for the purchase from the customer’s existing PayPal or Venmo account balance, bank account, or from a debit or credit card, just as it would if the transaction was taking place online. Venmo users will additionally have the option to utilize their Venmo Rewards.

Image Credits: PayPal

The transaction does not include any fees, PayPal says. Plus, CVS’ ExtraCare Rewards Program members will still be able to redeem and apply savings using their ExtraCare account when using PayPal’s QR code checkout.

The entire transaction can be touch-free, as it involves QR code scanning as opposed to using a card that has to be swiped or inserted into a terminal or numbers punched into a keypad.

The new option arrives at a time when CVS says it’s seeing increased demand for contactless payments.

Since January, CVS has seen a 43% increase in touch-free transactions, according to data from Forrester. In addition, 11% of the U.S. population says they’re now using a digital payment method for the first time as a result of the pandemic, PayPal noted. The company’s own research also indicated that 57% of consumers said merchants’ digital payment offerings impacted their decisions to shop in their stores.

To use the new QR code checkout option, customers will first launch either their PayPal or Venmo app, click the “Scan” button, then select the “show to pay” option.

The new checkout experience was made possible through PayPal’s partnership with payments technology provider InComm, which distributed the PayPal QR code technology through its cloud-based software updates to make the feature available at point-of-sale.

While CVS is the first national retailer to rollout PayPal’s QR code checkout, PayPal said it has 10 other major retailers signed up for a similar rollout, including Nike, Tumi, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Samsonite, among others. It’s in discussions with well over 100 large retailers about the technology, as well.

“The launch of PayPal and Venmo QR codes in CVS Pharmacy stores will not only provide health-conscious customers with a touch-free way to pay at checkout, but also brings the safety and security of PayPal and Venmo transactions into the store with shoppers,” said Jeremy Jonker, PayPal Senior Vice President Head of Consumer In-Store and Digital Commerce, in a statement. “We are thrilled that PayPal and Venmo QR codes will help to maintain the safety of CVS customers and employees, especially in the essential pharmacy retail environment as we go into the winter months.”

In addition to the CVS news, PayPal today also noted that its recently announced “Pay in 4” option for splitting purchases across four installments is now fully live across millions of retailers.

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Extra Crunch roundup: Inside DoorDash’s IPO, first-person founder stories, the latest in fintech VC and more

One of my favorite series of Monty Python sketches is built around the concept of surprise:

Chapman: I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.

[JARRING CHORD]

[Three cardinals burst in]

Cardinal Ximénez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!

I was reminded of this today when I needed to reschedule a few stories so we could cover DoorDash’s S-1 filing from multiple angles. First, Managing Editor Danny Crichton looked at how well the company’s co-founders and many investors stand to make out. Alex Wilhelm covered the IPO announcement in depth on TechCrunch before writing an Extra Crunch column that studied the role the COVID-19 pandemic played in the home-delivery platform’s recent growth.

Our all-hands-on-deck coverage of DoorDash’s S-1 is a good illustration of Extra Crunch’s mission: timely analysis of current and future technology trends that serves founders and investors. We have a talented team, and as today’s coverage shows, they’re just as good as they are fast.

The stories that follow are an overview of Extra Crunch from the last five days. The full articles are only available to members, but you can use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one or two-year subscription. Details here.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week. I hope you have a great weekend!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist


What I wish I’d known about venture capital when I was a founder

Why I left edtech and got into gaming

Image Credits: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

We frequently run posts by guest contributors, but two stories we published this week were written in the first person, which is a bit of a departure.

In Why I left edtech and got into gaming, Darshan Somashekar brought us inside his decision to pivot away from a sector that’s been growing hotter in 2020.

His post is a unique take on two oft-discussed categories, but it also examines one founder/investor’s thought process when it comes to evaluating new opportunities.

Andy Areitio, a partner at early-stage fund TheVentureCity, wrote What I wish I’d known about venture capital when I was a founder, a reflection on the “classic mistakes” founders tend to make when it’s time to fundraise.

“Error number one (and two) is to raise the wrong amount of money and to do it at the wrong time,” he says. “They can also put all their eggs in one basket too early. I made that mistake.”

You can find business writing that explores best practices anywhere, which is why we hunt down stories that are firmly rooted in data or personal experience (which includes success and failure).

How COVID-19 accelerated DoorDash’s business

Image Credits: DoorDash

The coronavirus pandemic looms large in DoorDash’s S-1 filing.

According to the food-delivery platform, “58% of all adults and 70% of millennials say that they are more likely to have restaurant food delivered than they were two years ago,” and “the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated these trends.”

As in other sectors, the pandemic didn’t wave a magic wand — instead, it hastened trends that were already in play: consumers love convenience, which means DoorDash’s gross order volume and revenue were tracking well before the virus started to shape our lives.

“It’s your call on how to balance the factors and decide whether or not to buy into the IPO, but this one is going to be big,” writes Alex Wilhelm in a supplemental edition of today’s The Exchange.

The VC and founder winners of DoorDash’s IPO

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 05: DoorDash CEO Tony Xu speaks onstage during Day 1 of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 at Moscone Center on September 5, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

None of us knew DoorDash would release its S-1 filing today, but Danny Crichton jumped on the story “so we can see who is raking in the returns on the country’s delivery startup champion.”

After estimating the value of the respective ownership stakes held by DoorDash’s four co-founders, he turned to the investors who participated in rounds seed through Series H.

Some growth funds are about to look very good after this IPO, and each founder is looking at hundreds of millions, he found.

But even so, their diminished haul of about $1.3 billion is “a sign of just how much dilution the co-founders took given the sheer amount of capital the company fundraised over its life.”

Fintech VC keeps getting later, larger and more expensive

Investors sent stacks of cash to late-stage fintech companies in Q3 2020, but these sizable rounds may also point to shrinking opportunities for early-stage firms, reports Alex Wilhelm in this morning’s edition of The Exchange.

2020 could be a record year for fintech VC in Europe and North America, but are these “huge late-stage dollars” actually “a dampener for new fintech startups trying to get off the ground?”

Accelerators embrace change forced by pandemic

Devin Coldewey interviewed the leaders of three startup accelerators to learn more about the adaptations they’ve made in recent months:

  • David Brown, founder and CEO, Techstars
  • Cyril Ebersweiler, founder HAX, venture partner at SOSV
  • Daniela Fernandez, founder, Ocean Solutions Accelerator

Due to travel bans, shelter-in-place orders and other unknowns, they’ve all shifted to virtual. But accelerators are intensive programs designed to indoctrinate founders and elicit brutally honest feedback in real time.

Despite the sudden shift, that boot-camp mindset is still in effect, Devin reports.

“Cutting out the commute time in a busy city leaves founders with more time for workshops, mentor matchmaking, pitch practice and other important sessions,” said Fernandez. “Everybody just has more flexibility and tranquility.”

Said Ebersweiler: “People are for some reason more participative and have more feedback than physically — it’s pretty strange.”

Greylock’s Asheem Chandna on ‘shifting left’ in cybersecurity and the future of enterprise startups

Image Credits: Greylock

In a recent interview with Greylock partner Asheem Chandna, Managing Editor Danny Crichton asked him about the buzz around no-code platforms and what’s happening in early-stage enterprise startups before segueing into a discussion about “shift left” security:

“Every organization today wants to bring software to market faster, but they also want to make software more secure,” said Chandna.

“There is a genuine interest today in making the software more secure, so there’s this concept of shift left — bake security into the software.”

Square and PayPal earnings bring good (and bad) news for fintech startups

If you missed Wednesday’s The Exchange, Alex scoured earnings reports from PayPal and Square to see what the near future might hold for several fintech startups currently waiting in the wings.

Using Square and PayPal’s recent numbers for stock purchases, card usage and consumer payment activity as a proxy, he attempts to “see what we can learn, and to which unicorns it might apply.”

Conflicts in California’s trade secret laws on customer lists create uncertainty

Image Credits: jayk7 (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images

In California, non-competition agreements can’t be enforced and a court has ruled that customer contact lists aren’t trade secrets.

That doesn’t mean salespeople who switch jobs can start soliciting their former customers on their first day at the new gig, however.

Before you jump ship — or hire a salesperson who already has — read this overview of California’s trade secret laws.

“Even without litigation, a former employer can significantly hamper a departing salesperson’s career,” says Nick Saenz, a partner at Lewis & Llewellyn LLP, who focuses on employment and trade secret issues.

As public investors reprice edtech bets, what’s ahead for the hot startup sector?

Image: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

News of a highly effective COVID-19 vaccine appeared to drive down prices of the three best-known publicly traded edtech companies: 2U, Chegg and Kahoot saw declines of about 20%, 10% and 9%, respectively after the report.

Are COVID-19 tailwinds dissipating, or did the market make a correction because “edtech has been categorically overhyped in recent months?”

Dear Sophie: What does a Biden win for tech immigration?

Image Credits: Sophie Alcorn

What does President-elect Biden’s victory mean for U.S. immigration and immigration reform?

I’m in tech in SF and have a lot of friends who are immigrant founders, along with many international teammates at my tech company. What can we look forward to?

— Anticipation in Albany

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Extra Crunch roundup: B2B marketplaces, edtech M&A, breaking into the $1M ARR club

I’ve worked at TechCrunch for a little over a year, but this was one of the hardest weeks on the job so far.

Like many people, I’ve been distracted in recent days. As I write this, I have one eye on my keyboard and another on a TV that sporadically broadcasts election results from battleground states. Despite the background noise, I’m completely impressed with the TechCrunch staff; it takes a great deal of focus and energy to set aside the world’s top news story and concentrate on the work at hand.

Monday feels like a distant memory, so here’s an overview of top Extra Crunch stories from the last five days. These articles are only available to members, but you can use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one or two-year subscription. Details here.


B2B marketplaces will be the next billion-dollar e-commerce startups

Marketplaces created for B2B activity are surging in popularity. According to one report, transactions in these venues generated around $680 billion in 2018, but that figure is predicted to reach $3.6 trillion by 2024.

The COVID-19 pandemic is helping startups that innovate in areas like payments, financing, insurance and compliance.

Even so, according to Merritt Hummer, a partner at Bain Capital Ventures, “B2B marketplaces cannot simply remain stagnant, serving as simple transactional platforms.”

The startups that are first to market with innovative “adjacent services will emerge as winners in the next few years,” she advises.

Software companies are reporting a pretty good third quarter

For this morning’s edition of The Exchange, Alex Wilhelm interviewed three executives at cloud and SaaS companies to find out how well Q3 2020 has been treating them:

  • Ping CFO Raj Dani
  • JFrog CEO Shlomi Ben Haim
  • BigCommerce CEO Brent Bellm

As one Twitter commenter noted, Alex doesn’t just talk to the best-known tech execs; he reaches out to a wide range of people, and it shows in the quality of his reporting.

Will new SEC equity crowdfunding rules encourage more founders to pass the hat?

New Regulation Crowdfunding guidelines the SEC released this week allow companies to directly raise up to $5 million each year from individual investors, an increase from the previous limit of $1.07 million.

“Life has gotten easier in other ways as well for founders pursuing this fundraising type and the platforms that seek to simplify it,” reports Lucas Matney, who interviewed Wefunder CEO Nicholas Tommarello.

Funding for seed-stage startups slumped 32% last quarter compared to 2019, so “the tide could be turning” for founders who were reluctant to raise from a giant pool of small dollars, Lucas found.

3 tips for SaaS founders hoping to join the $1 million ARR club

Reaching scale is paramount for software companies, so growth is a top priority.

In a guest post for Extra Crunch, Drift CEO David Cancel explains that too many SaaS and cloud companies waste time trying out a number of solutions before finding the right recipe.

“I can tell you that there absolutely is a repeatable process to building a successful SaaS business,” he says, “one that can reliably guide you to product-market fit and then help you quickly scale.”

Implementing a data-driven approach to guarantee fair, equitable and transparent employee pay

Companies that hope to eliminate longstanding inequities in the workplace can’t just rely on doing what they think is right. Without a data-driven approach, subjective judgments and implicit bias tend to negate good intentions.

Many startups don’t hire full-time HR managers until they’ve reached scale, but this comprehensive post lays out several critical factors for creating — and maintaining — a fair pay model.

4 questions as Airbnb’s IPO looms

News broke this week that Airbnb plans to to raise approximately $3 billion in a public filing that would allow it to reach a valuation in the $30 billion range.

Our expert unicorn wrangler Alex Wilhelm says curious investors should ask themselves the following:

  • Will Airbnb be able to show a near-term path to profitability?
  • How high-quality is Airbnb’s revenue after the pandemic?
  • Is there anything lurking in its recent financings that public investors won’t like?
  • Will Airbnb be able to show year-over-year revenue gains?

Starling Bank founder Anne Boden says new book ‘isn’t a memoir’

“People at the end of their career write memoirs,” Starling Bank founder Anne Boden told TechCrunch’s Steve O’Hear. “I’m at the beginning.”

In Boden’s new book, “Banking On It,” she shares the story of how (and why) she decided to found a challenger bank, eventually parting with colleagues who launched competitor Monzo.

“This is really putting down on paper where we are at the moment,” she said. “It’s been written over several years, and I’m hoping to use this to inspire a generation of entrepreneurs.”

Pandemic’s impact disproportionately reduced VC funding for female founders

Natasha Mascarenhas and Alex Wilhelm collaborated on Monday’s edition of The Exchange to report on how investors became less likely to fund female founders since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drawing on data from multiple sources, Alex and Natasha found that startups led by women and mixed-gender founding teams received 48% less VC funding in Q3 2020 than in Q2, even though overall funding bounced back.

“From fear in late Q1, to a middling Q2, to a boom in Q3,” they wrote. “It was an impressive comeback. For some.”

Booming edtech M&A activity brings consolidation to a fragmented sector

Natasha Mascarenhas has owned TechCrunch’s edtech beat since she came aboard at the start of 2020, just a few months before the pandemic led to widespread school closures.

She’s reported on countless funding rounds and interviewed founders and investors who are active in the space, but she recently spotted a new trend: “M&A activity is buzzier than usual.”

4 takeaways from fintech VC in Q3 2020

Alex Wilhelm shrugged off his Election Day distractions long enough to write a column that comprehensively examined fintech investment activity over the last quarter.

In Q3 2020, “60% of all capital raised by financial technology startups came from just 25 rounds worth $100 million or more,” he reports.

Are these mega-rounds funding “the next crop of unicorns?” It’s too early to say, but it’s clear that pandemic-fueled uncertainty is driving consumers into the arms of companies like Robinhood, Chime, Lemonade and Root.

In 1,316 words, Alex captures the state of play in insurtech, banking, wealth management and payments investing: “Now, we just want to see some ******* IPOs.”

New GV partner Terri Burns has a simple investment thesis: Gen Z

Five years ago, Terri Burns was a product manager at Twitter. Today, she’s the first Black woman — and the youngest person — to be promoted to partner at Google Ventures.

In a Q&A with Natasha Mascarenhas, Burns talked about her plans for the new role, as well as her investment thesis.

“I don’t know what it actually means to build a sustainable business and venture is a really great way to sort of learn that,” said Burns.

GV General Partner MG Siegler talks portfolio management and fundraising 6 months into the COVID-19 pandemic

Are founders and investors really leaving Silicon Valley for greener pastures? Now that investors are limited to virtual interactions, are they being more hands-on with their portfolio companies?

In an Extra Crunch Live chat hosted by Darrell Etherington, GV General Partner MG Siegler talked about how the pandemic is — and is not — shaping the way he does business.

“I do feel like things are operating in a pretty streamlined manner, or as much as they can be at this point,” he said.

“But, you know, there’s always going to be some more wildcards — like we’re a week away, today, from the U.S. election.”

Thank you very much for reading Extra Crunch; I hope you have a great weekend.

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Is fintech’s Series A market hot, or just overhyped?

According to industry reports, venture capital deal-making has notably rebounded since dropping off briefly in March as shelter-in-place orders gripped much of the country.

As seed-stage fintech investors, this has certainly been our experience: “Hot” deals are getting funded faster than ever, and we increasingly see the large multistage global funds competing for the earliest access to companies. However, in our experience and anecdotal conversations with other early-stage investors, that excitement has not been translating to the Series A stage.

We’ve increasingly wondered if the Series A market in fintech is really as hot as it seems. As pre-seed and seed-stage investors, we know that the health of the Series A market is of critical importance.

In early October 2020, the Financial Venture Studio put together a brief survey of the Series A market in fintech and shared it with more than 100 investors with whom we work closely. Despite the high-level numbers indicating a healthy market, our research indicates a market that remains in flux, with significant ramifications for early-stage founders.

Why Series A is so interesting

Although the seed and pre-seed fintech market continues to attract substantial entrepreneurial and investor interest, it is also in some ways one of the easiest parts of the market to fund. The check size is smaller, the velocity of new deals is highest, and while the potential returns are also the highest, this is also the part of the market where information is most scarce. Perhaps counterintuitively, the fact that there is so little information on a business — aside from a plan, a team and maybe some early anecdotal evidence to support the vision — actually makes it easier to “pull the trigger” on deals where those data points align. There just often isn’t a lot more to dig into.

Similarly, by the time a company is raising Series B capital, they typically have some objective evidence that the idea is working. Companies are typically generating revenue, small teams have grown and become more sophisticated in how they operate, and importantly, the governance functions of a company have (hopefully) begun to take shape. The simple existence of a board member with invested capital at stake means that some of the more existential risks of the earliest stage have been mitigated.

In contrast, one of the big milestones for any startup has been to raise a Series A from an institutional investor. Besides an infusion of capital (which is often 2-3x the aggregate capital a company may have raised since its inception), this “stamp of approval” lends credibility to a small company that is trying to hire talent, sell to customers, and, in most cases, raise substantial subsequent capital.

Thus, it’s critical that Series A investors remain active; if not, many of these upstart companies may fail due to a lack of investment, even if they are able to demonstrate early market traction. The Series A funding market is one of — if not the most — critical funding stage in the innovation economy because it acts as a bridge between scrappy early innovation and commercialization at scale.

It stands to reason, then, that dollar amounts invested may not be the best barometer of the ecosystem’s health. What really matters is the volume of companies being funded and the variety of product approaches being pursued.

The post-COVID Series A

Once the initial shock of the pandemic wore off, the VC community had to get back to business, which admittedly is harder to do for funds that write $10 million+ checks and like getting to know founders in person. Still, Series A investors made it a point to let entrepreneurs know they were, and continue to be, “open for business.”

As investors have gotten more comfortable with the new normal, they have been more open to a virtual diligence process. Of the firms we surveyed, only 15% stated they have not completed a Series A investment during COVID-19 work restrictions. Of the firms who completed a Series A investment during COVID-19 (~85%), about half invested in a company whose founder(s) they had a limited or no relationship with prior to the onset of shelter-in-place orders.

The shift to a virtual environment means that process is more important than ever. Numerous investors have cited their renewed focus on following a structured approach to sourcing and diligence. The interpersonal aspect remains important to close a deal, but customer references, referrals from trusted seed-stage investors and a heightened scrutiny of metrics are all at the forefront of investors’ evaluations.

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