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Robinhood raises $200M more at $11.2B valuation as its revenue scales

Robinhood announced this morning that it has raised $200 million more at a new, higher $11.2 billion valuation. The new capital came as a surprise.

Astute observers of all things fintech will recall that Robinhood, a popular stock trading service, has raised capital multiple times this year, including an initial $280 million round at an $8.3 billion valuation, and a later $320 million addition that brought its valuation to $8.6 billion.


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Those rounds, coming in May and July, now feel very passé in the sense that they are frightfully cheap compared to the price at which Robinhood just added new funds. D1 Partners — a private capital pool founded in 2018 — led the funding.

The unicorn’s new nine-figure tranche, a Series G, values the firm at $11.2 billion. A $2.6 billion bump in about a month is an impressive result, one that points to an inescapable conclusion: Robinhood is still growing, and fast.

How fast is the question. There are three things to bring up in this regard: Trading growth at Robinhood, the company’s soaring incomes from selling order flow to other financial institutions, and, oddly enough, crypto. Let’s peek at each and come up with a good why as to the new Robinhood valuation.

After all, we’re going to see an IPO from this company before the markets get less interesting, if it’s smart.

Growth

Robinhood is currently walking a line between enthusiasm that its trading volume is growing and conservatism, arguing that its userbase is not majority-comprised of day traders. The company is stuck between the need for huge revenue growth and keeping pedestrian users from tanking their net worth with unwise options bets.

It’s worth noting that Robinhood spent a lot of its funding round announcement email to TechCrunch talking about its users safety and education work. It makes sense given that we know that the company is seeing record trades, and record incomes from options themselves. After a Robinhood user killed themself after misunderstanding an options trade on the platform, Robinhood pledged to do better. We’re keeping tabs on how well it manages to meet the mark of its promise.

But back to the revenue game, let’s talk volume. On the trading front Robinhood has lots of darts. And by darts we mean daily average revenue trades. Robinhood had 4.31 million DARTs in June, with the company adding that “DARTs in Q2 more than doubled compared to Q1” in an email.

The huge gain in trading volume does not mean that most Robinhood users are day trading, but it does imply that some are given the huge implied trading volume results that the DARTs figure points to. Robinhood saw around 129,300,000 trades in June, which is 30 days. That’s a lot!

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How to time your Series A fundraise

Emergence Capital’s Jake Saper walks through the basics

When founders start fundraising is as important as how they make their pitch to investors.

Timing matters and it’s more complicated than founders might realize, but it’s not just about picking the right month or time of day. Finding the right time to fundraise requires a micro- and macro-level strategy, according to Jake Saper of Emergence Capital, who joined TechCrunch’s virtual Early Stage event last week.

“There are really two angles to think about,” Saper said. The first is the macro perspective that takes into account the general flow of deals in the industry. Then there’s the micro timing that is specific — and different — for every startup, he added.

While Saper was particularly focused on giving advice to startup founders who have already raised a seed round and are preparing to raise a Series A, he said that most of his guidance can be applied to companies at a variety of funding stages. Let’s get started with the basics.

Peak pitch deck

The reality is that founders fundraise in all times of the year. However, there are certain times of the year when investors are more actively reviewing pitch decks.

January and February, followed by September, are the most active months for investors, based on data from DocSend that measured visits per pitch deck sent out by entrepreneurs each month.

Image Credits: Jake Saper/Emergence Capital

This fits with Emergence’s anecdotal evidence. The firm sees founders who spend a lot of December preparing for a big launch or fundraise in January and February, Saper said. By the time founders begin sending decks out in January, VCs are back from holiday vacations or other tech-related events, like CES. The same rhythm begins in summer with founders using these months to prep for fundraising in the fall.

While this is a common time to pitch VCs, keep in mind that you’re also fighting for their attention, Saper said.

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Watch the first TechCrunch Early Stage ‘Pitch Deck Teardown’

Accel’s Amy Saper and Bessemer’s Talia Goldberg gave great advice

Have you ever taken something apart, like a clock or a motor?

The method is particularly useful when it comes to learning how things work — or how they don’t, in some cases.

During TechCrunch’s Early Stage event, two venture capitalists took pitch decks and evaluated them with a critical eye on content, presentation and overall messaging. If you missed it the first time through, watch it below in its entirety.

The session was a blast. This was the first time we’ve hosted this event, but we’re working on bringing this session to TechCrunch’s main event, Disrupt, this September.

Accel’s Amy Saper and Bessemer’s Talia Goldberg gave great advice as we clicked through each deck. First impressions are everything, and pitch decks are often the first glimpse of companies by potential investors and business partners. It’s critical that these decks properly present and illustrate in a concise and effective manner the goals and potential of a company.

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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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How $20 billion health care behemoth Blue Shield of California sees startups

In the two years since Jeff Semenchuk took the reins in the newly created position of chief innovation officer for Blue Shield of California, the nonprofit health insurer with $20 billion in revenues has stepped up its investments in startup companies.

As one of California’s largest insurance providers with more than four million members, Blue Shield plays an outsized role in technology adoption among physicians, hospital networks and patients. With that in mind, and with the acceleration of entrepreneurial activity around the multitrillion health care market, Semenchuk was brought on board after serving as chief executive of Yaro (now Virgin Plus) and CIO of Hyatt Hotels and Citi Ventures.

Semenchuk said he sees Blue Shield as working to create a new health care system: “It’s not to perpetuate the health care system we have today.” Increasingly, startups have a role to play in that revisioning of health care services in America, according to Semenchuk.

“What I would say has happened over the last two years is that we have really focused on transformational innovation,” he added.

Investing in those transformational technologies involves taking cash directly from Blue Shield’s balance sheet for investments. The company doesn’t operate a corporate venture capital fund in the traditional sense, instead making strategic investments under the auspices of Semenchuk or Chief Financial Officer Robert Kolodgy.

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Volcker Rule reforms expand options for raising VC funds

It’s time to put on our thinking caps so we can discuss an esoteric but important policy change and how it is going to impact the VC world.

The 2008 financial crisis devastated the global economy. One of the reforms that came from the detritus of that situation was a policy known as the Volcker Rule.

The rule, proposed by former Fed chairman Paul Volcker and passed into law with the Dodd-Frank reform bill, was designed to limit the ways that banks could invest their balance sheets to avoid the kind of cataclysmic systemic risks that the world witnessed during the crisis. Many banks faced a liquidity crunch after investing in mortgage-backed securities (MBSs), collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), and other even more arcane speculative financial instruments (like POGs, or Piles Of Garbage) in seeking profits.

A number of reforms are underway to the Volcker Rule, which has been a domestic regulatory priority for the Trump administration since Inauguration Day.

One of the unintended consequences of the Rule is that it limited banks from investing in certain “covered funds,” which was written broadly enough that it, well, covered VC firms as well as hedge funds and other private equity vehicles. Reforms to that policy (and to the Rule in general) have been proposed for a decade with little traction until recently.

Now, a number of reforms are underway to the Volcker Rule, which has been a domestic regulatory priority for the Trump administration since Inauguration Day.

First, a a simplification to some of the Rule’s regulations was passed late last year and went into effect in January. Now, a final rule to reform the Volcker Rule’s applications to VC firms among other issues was agreed to by a group of U.S. regulatory agencies, and will go into effect later this year.

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Brazil’s BizCapital raises $12 million for its online lending service

BizCapital, an online lender based in Brazil, has raised $12 million from a clutch of investors including the German development finance institution, the corporate venture capital fund of MercadoLibre and existing investors Quona Capital, Monashees, Chromo INvest and 42K Investments.

“This latest round reinforces investors’ confidence in BizCapital’s ability to innovate in the Latin American credit market amid challenging circumstances caused by Covid-19,” said Francisco Ferreira, the company’s chief executive, in a statement. “We have seen four times as many business credit inquiries on our site year over year, and we are ready to serve them.” 

Founded in 2016, the company pitches itself as a fast and reliable way to access financing for working capital. It already has more than 5,000 customers across 1,200 cities in Brazil, according to a statement.

The company said it would use the money to develop new products for Brazilian small and medium-sized businesses and will expand into new distribution channels.

“With this new round of capital, we will continue to widen our product lineup, helping entrepreneurs during the entire lifecycle of their companies,” said Ferreira, in a statement. “There’s never been a more important time for innovation.” 

In a reflection of their American counterparts, Brazil’s venture capital firms had slowed down the pace of their investments, but now it seems like a slew of new deals are coming to market.

The investment reflects the longterm confidence that investors have in the increasingly central position e-commerce and technology-enabled services will have in the future of the Latin American economy.

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European VC firm Pale Blue Dot plans to fund 40 ‘planet-positive’ startups

Pale Blue Dot, a newly outed European venture capital firm focused on climate tech, announced this week the first closing of its debut fund at €53 million.

Targeting pre-seed and seed stage startups, the firm says it will consider software and technology investments with a strong positive climate impact. Current areas of focus include food/agriculture, industry, fashion/apparel, energy and transportation, with plans to back up to 40 companies out of fund one.

Founding partners Hampus Jakobsson, Heidi Lindvall and Joel Larsson are stalwarts of the Nordic tech ecosystem and beyond: Jakobsson co-founded TAT (The Astonishing Tribe), which was sold to Blackberry in 2012, and is a prominent angel investor in Europe, most recently a venture partner at BlueYard Capital . Lindvall is the former head of accelerator and investment team at Fast Track Malmö, with a background in human rights and media. Larsson was previously managing director at Fast Track Malmö, with a technical background and prior fund management experience.

I put questions to all three, delving deeper into Pale Blue Dot’s remit and the firm’s investment thesis. We also discussed the macro trends that warrant a fund specializing in climate tech and why Europe is poised to become a leader in the space.

Pale Blue Dot is a new VC fund specializing in climate tech, but in a sense — and to varying degrees — isn’t every venture capital fund a climate tech fund these days?

Heidi Lindvall: We think all funds should be “planet-positive” and working for a better world, but it will take time until it is a focus. Still, most funds look at a potential positive impact late in their assessment and will not decline the deal if the startups wouldn’t be significantly pulling the world in a good direction.

Hampus Jakobsson: Focus has both upsides and downsides.

The negative part with being niche is that we won’t do investments in amazing people or startups that we don’t think are “climate-contributing enough” or that the founders aren’t doing it in a genuine way (as the risk of them to paying attention to the impact might lead them to become a noncontributing company).

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The complicated calculus of taking Facebook’s venture money

Facebook is reportedly getting into the venture capital game, but for young entrepreneurs working in social media, ignoring or deleting that particular friend request could be the right call.

According to a report in Axios, the company is building up a corporate fund under the auspices of its “New Product Experimentation” team, which launched last year. The company posted a job opening looking for a “head of investments” for the new division and now has new job openings in the group for two “founder” positions in New York City and Menlo Park, California. 

Axios reported that the role would “manage a multimillion dollar fund that invests in leading private companies alongside top venture capital firms and angel investors,” according to a now-deleted post. The new hire will join Shabih Rizvi, a former partner at the Alphabet-backed corporate venture firm, Gradient Ventures, who began his career in venture at KPCB.

While Facebook said that the new investment arm would complement the work that the company already does to support startups through accelerators and hackathons, investors at some of Silicon Valley’s venture capital firms were skeptical. Perhaps with good reason, since the group that houses Facebook’s new investment team is hiring its own “founders” and has already developed a few apps that could compete with existing startups.

“[Money] of last resort,” one investor wrote in a text. Another said it would be a way for Facebook to spot potential acquisitions early enough to avoid triggering antitrust concerns, which may be good for Facebook, but bad for startups. “[Facebook] can’t buy 100 million-user apps any more,” this investor wrote in a direct message. “It needs to buy them closer to 10 million.”

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Some investors turn to cutting fully remote checks while sheltering in place

By March 16, founder Janine Yancey was tired of playing the waiting game. After watching the stock market take yet another unprecedented nosedive due to coronavirus, she called up a potential investor.

“If this isn’t going to happen, let’s call it now,” Yancey said, referring to the close of her Series A round, the first capital her culture tech company, Emtrain, would have accepted in 14 years. “At that point, I put my nose to the grindstone; I didn’t have a lot of bandwidth in engaging in conversation that wasn’t going anywhere.”

She had the conversation on Monday, and the deal closed on Friday. “I remember thinking, ‘this is the only deal that is happening this month,’ ” she recalled.

As lockdowns extend to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, investors and startups are searching for new ways to connect with each other. At this moment, deals are happening between screens instead of over drinks at The Battery or coffee at The Creamery. A number of investors have already cut fully remote checks, saying it impacts everything from the due diligence process, to appetite, to who gets to access capital in the first place.

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