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Ann Miura-Ko’s framework for building a startup

As an early-stage investor, Floodgate’s Ann Miura-Ko looks for two breakthroughs in order to invest in a startup: The first happens in the value-seeking stage of a startup’s journey and the second occurs in its growth-seeking phase.

“There are really two stages to building a company,” Miura-Ko said at the TechCrunch Early Stage virtual event earlier this week. “One is what we call value-seeking mode, and this is where you’re really trying to figure out what the company actually looks like, including what’s the product? Who are you selling to? How do you price it? All of these things are still being discovered in the value-seeking mode.”

After founders have answered those questions, they can move into growth-seeking mode, she said. That’s the point when startups are trying to attract as many customers as possible.

Throughout these two distinct stages, Miura-Ko says she looks for the two breakthroughs: the inflection insight and product-market fit.

Inflection insights

The idea of an inflection insight, Miura-Ko said, is a relatively new framework Floodgate is exploring. Often times, she said founders need to ride some massive, exponential curves that allow their businesses to grow sustainably and scale.

These inflections have two parts to it: cause and impact. The causes are generally either technological (cloud, 5G), regulatory (GDPR, AV regulation) or societal (belief or behavior shifts). On the impact side, products and distribution may become cheaper or faster, while also presenting new use cases or customers, she said.

“Or even more interesting, you have something that was impossible that now is possible,” she said. “And that is an exponential impact that you could ride on.”

But simply finding that inflection insight doesn’t mean you should create a business. What founders must do next is determine if the insight is right and nonconsensus.

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Popshop Live gets $3 million to bring live streaming to shopping

Streaming video has become a huge part of our lives, whether it’s watching your favorite shows on Netflix or getting live TV through Hulu or YouTube or checking out your favorite gamers on Twitch. But streaming is trickling into other facets of our lives, too, whether it’s fitness or the move from physical events to virtual ones.

The next frontier? For Popshop Live, it’s shopping.

Popshop Live is an ecommerce platform that uses streaming video to let sellers both connect with their shoppers and sell their wares in a new way. The company has today announced the close of a $3 million funding round, led by Floodgate and Abstract Ventures, with participation from Long Journey Ventures, Cyan and Scott Banister, Shrug Capital, Backend Capital and Halogen Ventures. This brings the company’s total funding to $4.5 million.

Founded by Danielle Li, Popshop Live is a reimagining of the Home Shopping Network, or QVC, for the year 2020. Individual sellers, or established brands and stores, can get on the platform to create and host their own shows. The product also integrates with Shopify to help sellers manage their inventory and POS during the show without any additional hassle.

Popshop Live provides sellers with a playbook for best practices on running their own show. Sellers also get access to gamification features, show templates, real-time performance stats, and metrics reports to give them a complete picture of how their show is performing across a wide range of data points.

Japan LA, one of the biggest stores on the platform, did more sales on Popshop Live than its offline and online sales combined on an average Saturday before the pandemic. Popshop Live told TechCrunch that Japan LA did $17,000 in sales with more than 1,500 individual checkouts in a single show. The company has even started reserving a portion of its inventory specifically for sale via Popshop.

“What I love most about our Popshop Live shows is that, with the live videos and interactive features, I’m able to respond to customers’ requests in real-time, such as adding any products that the audience sees in the show on the fly,” said Jamie Rivadeneira, Owner of Japan LA. “I also love that I’m able to bring the same energy as helping customers in person, but to hundreds of people at once.”

She added that Japan LA is considering setting up a dedicated studio space for Popshop Live shows.

[embedded content]

Popshop Live 1 min reel from Popshop on Vimeo.

Sellers can share the link to their show on their social platforms or on their website and direct shoppers to the platform. Once users are on the platform they can browse other shows that they might be interested in.

Cyan Banister, an investor in the platform, also started her own show to sell stuff she had sitting around in her house. She chose to give the profits to charity and matched all sales through her show. In total, she sold $8,000 worth of stuff, and with the matching, gave $16,000 to charities.

I asked Banister if the pandemic, which has stalled offline retail sales significantly, had any impact on her decision to invest in Popshop Live.

“No,” said Banister concisely. “What Danielle is building can shine in or out of a pandemic. It might have been harder to get customers on board, so in a pandemic she benefits from that in that all of these stores need a way to sell their products.”

Banister added that it goes beyond giving businesses a new way to sell their products, as both sellers and shoppers are finding a community within Popshop Live.

The Popshop Live team consists of 17 people, with 70 percent people of color and 40 percent women.

The app is currently invite-only and available on iOS. However, readers can download the app here using the code “TECH20”.

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IRL, the calendar app for virtual events, launches a web product

IRL, the recently pivoted calendar app that aggregates live virtual events, has today launched a web version of the platform.

The company, which has $11 million in funding from Goodwater Capital, Founders Fund and Floodgate, started as a social planning app that helped folks find each other in the real world, based on interest and geography.

Over time, the company realized the power of the calendar itself. No one has successfully made the calendar social, explained cofounder Abe Shafi. Where you can follow someone’s music on SoundCloud or follow their updates on Twitter, how can you follow their events?

Pre-pandemic, those events were physical events, with people communing in a venue. But the coronavirus may have split open a much wider world for the startup, which recently pivoted into virtual events.

Through API partnerships with YouTube, Twitch and Spotify, as well as user-generated content, IRL (which now stands for In Remote Life) wants to aggregate all the virtual events across the globe into a curated, categorized home page. That may include an esports tournament, a virtual concert, a Zoom cocktail party or a webinar.

Critical to this push is a web presence, which launches today. Folks can follow content producers, or simply get alerts on individual events. Importantly, IRL is also launching an ‘add to calendar’ button that content producers can add to their own websites.

For now, that ‘add to calendar’ button embed is only available to select partners, with a waitlist for others interested in adding the button to their website.

Co-founder and CEO Abe Shafi explained the company’s monetization plans with TechCrunch, though warned that the current focus is gaining a critical mass before flipping on the monetization switch.

“The way we think about making money is around monetizable intent,” said Shafi. “When you’re on Facebook or Instagram, your monetizable intent is pretty low because you’re interested in what your friends are up to. Whereas, when you’re on Google your monetizable intent is really high because your intent is to find something and go somewhere else. Our monetizable intent is much closer to a Google search than it is to a Facebook or an Instagram in the sense that people come to IRL to go to other people’s content that they’re monetizing in one way or another.”

Importantly, content producers must use the app to add their own events to the platform, but Shafi told TechCrunch that the company has plans to add that same functionality to the web product.

When asked whether IRL would get into content creation itself, Shafi said that the premise of that “gives him a headache.”

“We want to be the bank,” said Shafi. “So many great people are creating content. Getting into the content business is its own beast. If we can be seen as the best place to discover it all, that’s a huge win.”

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Around is the new floating head video chat multitasking app

You have to actually get work done, not just video call all day, but apps like Zoom want to take over your screen. Remote workers who need to stay in touch while staying productive are forced to juggle tabs. Meanwhile, call participants often look and sound far away, dwarfed by …

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