Archive

Readying an IPO, Postmates secures $225M led by private equity firm GPI Capital

Postmates, the popular food delivery service, has raised another $225 million at a valuation of $2.4 billion, the company confirmed to TechCrunch on Thursday, ahead of an imminent initial public offering.

Private equity firm GPI Capital has led the investment, first reported by Forbes, which brings Postmates’ total funding to nearly $1 billion. GPI takes non-controlling stakes — between 2% and 20% — in both late-stage private companies and publicly listed ventures.

After tapping JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America to lead its float, Postmates filed privately with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO earlier this year. Sources familiar with the company’s exit plans say the business intends to publicly unveil its IPO prospectus this month.

To discuss the company’s journey to the public markets and the challenges ahead in the increasingly crowded food delivery space, Postmates co-founder and chief executive officer Bastian Lehmann will join us onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt on Friday October 4th.

As Forbes noted, last-minute financings are critical for companies poised to run out of cash and in need of an infusion prior to hitting the public markets. The motives for Postmates’ last-minute financing are unclear; however, the company will certainly begin trading on the stock market at an interesting time. 2019 has proven to be the year of unicorn listings, and former Silicon Valley darlings like Uber and Lyft have struggled to stabilize since their multi-billion-dollar debuts, despite years of support and coddling from venture capitalists.

Meanwhile, activity in the food delivery space has distracted from Postmates’ prospects. DoorDash, for one, recently purchased another food delivery service, Caviar, from Square in a deal worth $410 million. Uber is said to have considered buying Caviar, which had been looking for a buyer at least since 2016, according to Bloomberg. Postmates, for its part, has long been the subject of M&A rumors.

On-demand food delivery, undeniably popular, has yet to prove its long-term viability as a money-making business. At the very least, a sizeable check from a private equity firm ensures Postmates has the capital it needs, for the time being, to accelerate growth and double down on its autonomous robotic delivery ambitions.

Founded in 2011, Postmates is also backed by Spark Capital, Founders Fund, Uncork Capital, Slow Ventures, Tiger Global, Blackrock and others.

Readying an IPO, Postmates secures $225M from private equity firm GPI Capital

Postmates, the popular food delivery service, has raised another $225 million at a valuation of $2.4 billion ahead of an imminent initial public offering, the company confirmed to TechCrunch on Thursday.

Private equity firm GPI Capital has led the investment, first reported by Forbes, which brings Postmates total funding to nearly $1 billion. GPI takes non-controlling stakes — between 2% and 20% — in both late-stage private companies and publicly-listed ventures.

After tapping JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America to lead its float, Postmates filed privately with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO earlier this year. Sources familiar with the company’s exit plans say the business intends to publicly unveil its IPO prospectus this month.

To discuss the company’s journey to the public markets and the challenges ahead in the increasingly crowded food delivery space, Postmates co-founder and chief executive officer Bastian Lehmann will join us on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt on Friday October 4th.

As Forbes noted, last-minute financings are critical for companies poised to run out of cash and in need of an infusion prior to hitting the public markets. The motives for Postmates last-minute financing are unclear, however, the company will certainly begin trading on the stock market at an interesting time. 2019 has proven to be the year of unicorn listings and former Silicon Valley darlings like Uber and Lyft have struggled to stabilize since their multi-billion-dollar debuts, despite years of support and coddling from venture capitalists.

Meanwhile, activity in the food delivery space has distracted from Postmates prospects. DoorDash, for one, recently purchased another food delivery service, Caviar, from Square in a deal worth $410 million. Uber is said to have considered buying Caviar, which had been looking for a buyer at least since 2016, according to Bloomberg. Postmates, for its part, has long been the subject of M&A rumors.

On-demand food delivery, undeniably popular, has yet to prove its long-term viability as a money-making business. At the very least, a sizeable check from a private equity firm ensures Postmates has the capital it needs, for the time being, to accelerate growth and double down on its autonomous robotic delivery ambitions.

Founded in 2011, Postmates is also backed by Spark Capital, Founders Fund, Uncork Capital, Slow Ventures, Tiger Global, Blackrock and others.

Inside the pay-for-post ICO industry

In a world where nothing can be trusted and fake news abounds, ICO and crypto teams are further muddying the waters by trying – and often failing – to pay for posts. While bribes for blogs is nothing new, sadly the current crop of ICO creators and crypto projects are particularly interested in scaling fast and many ICO CEOs are far happier with scammy multi-level marketing tricks than real media relations.

The worst part of this spammy, scammy ecosystem is the service providers. A new group of media organizations are appearing where pay-to-post is the norm rather than the rare exception. I’ve been looking at these groups for a while now and recently found a few egregious examples.

But first some background.

Oh yeah, Mr. Smart Guy? How do I get press?

Say you’re trying to publicize a startup. You’ve emailed all the big names in the industry and the emails have gone unanswered. Your product is about to flounder on the market without users and you can’t get any because, in perfect chicken-or-egg fashion, you can’t get funding without users and you can’t get users without funding. So isn’t it a good idea to pay a few dollars for a little press?

No.

And isn’t most PR just pay-for-post anyway?

No.

PR people are consummate networkers and are paid to reach out to media on your behalf and their particular set of skills, honed over long careers, are dedicated to breaking down the forcefield between the journalist and the outside world. They are your surrogate hustlers, dedicated to getting you more exposure. A good PR person is worth their weight in gold. They can call up a popular journalist and make a simple pitch: “This cool new thing is happening. Can I put you in touch?”

If a journalist’s mission is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, a good PR person makes the comfortable look slightly afflicted in order to give the journalist a better story. Also, like velociraptors, they are tenacious and will follow up multiple times on your behalf.

A bad PR person, on the other hand, will cold-call hundreds of journalists and read a script that is half the length of Moby Dick. They produce little more than spam and their efforts begin and end with pressing the “Send” button. It’s also interesting to note that many bad PR people, of late, have found new life as ICO specialists.

Now meet the pay-for-post hucksters. As I wrote before, there is now a subset of the PR world that offers to get your press release or story on the top of various websites for the low, low price of between $500 and $13,000. For example, one set of hucksters created a small business selling posts on Harvard.edu by creating garbage WordPress blogs and posting press releases to increase SEO coverage. Further, I received a document that outlined the prices for placement in various blogs including this one. While it is impossible to buy a post on TechCrunch this way, it doesn’t stop many from trying.

What’s the difference between that price list and the job a PR person will do for you? The difference is trust. A pay-for-post huckster is dependent on convincing poorly paid freelance writers to add links and other dross to their posts in order to get a “placement.” I get requests like this almost every day and almost all the journalists I talked to reported the same.

Some entrepreneurs are savvy enough to avoid these scams. Even more aren’t.

“I’ve never paid since I think it’s almost always a waste of money but I’ve been offered this type of coverage many times,” said Rick Ramos, of HealthJoy.com. “The last offer was for Kathy Ireland’s Worldwide Business… A TV show that I’ve never heard of in my life. I’ve also been approached by niche publications like InsuranceOutlook and HealthCareTechOutlook that want $3,000 for a ‘reprint branding package.’ A quick Alexa.com search shows their rank as 1,725,207 and 1,054,501 globally. I think I get pitched at least every six months for one of these types of packages.

Unfortunately, many of these organizations hide their request for payment until the last minute. That said, how do you know when it’s someone selling pay-for-play vs. a real editor? It’s usually obvious.

“It’s usually pretty easy to sniff out based on their email blast. It’s pretty untargeted with no reference to what your company does or how it related to a story. Some people are up front about the payment but others want a ’15 min call to discuss.’ A quick LinkedIn search always shows them as a sales person versus a reporter or editor,” said Ramos.

It’s getting worse

This is a document I received from a company attempting an ICO. This sort of menu was quite uncommon until fairly recently when the “on-demand” economy melded with PR scammers. The completeness of the document is unique – you could feasibly plan your own PR efforts just by reaching out to journalists who work at all of these places. But you’ll also note that each spot has its own price, often in the low hundreds of dollars, which means that those spots are mostly pay-for-play anyway.


ICOLists by on Scribd


No PR company can promise coverage. In fact, many pay-for-play folks mention this in their communications, hiding it in plain sight. This snippet of text appeared in a contract for work from one of the pay-for-play providers. In short, you’re paying for something they cannot guarantee to get. Interestingly, the PR company below calls their product an IO – an insertion order – which is language used in ad sales. Further, they take great pains in explaining that it is almost impossible to achieve what they promise.

None of the pay-for-post folks I mentioned here would respond to my requests for comment.

Counter-point: Journalists are also at fault

Journalists should never expect money for coverage.

Yet many do.

“Lately I have worked on a number of blockchain technology pieces and I have encountered a wide variety of these asks,” said Brittany Whitmore, CEO at Exvera Communications. “A lot of the new, smaller blockchain-focused outlets seem to do a lot of pay-to-play, likely trying to capitalize on the ICO gold rush. The strangest request that I received was that the outlet would do a an article about the news for free but only if we paid them over $1,000 to promote the article with ads. I did not proceed.”

In one very detailed article on The Outline, Jon Christian explored this world and found that many writers received small sums for a single brand mention in a story, a sort of SEO flogging that rarely helps. He wrote:

An unpaid contributor to the Huffington Post, also speaking on condition of anonymity because, in his words, “I would be pretty fucked if my name got out there,” said that he has included sponsored references to brands in his articles for years, in articles on the Huffington Post and other sites, on behalf of six separate agencies. Some agencies pay him directly, he said, in amounts that can be as small as $50 or $175, but others pay him through an employee’s personal PayPal account in order to obfuscate the source of the funds. In a statement, Huffington Post said “Using the HuffPost Contributors Network to self-publish paid content violates our terms of use. Anyone we discover to be engaging in such abuse has their post removed from the site and is banned from future publication.”
The Huffington Post writer also described specific brands he’d written about on behalf of one of the agencies, which ranged from a popular ride-hailing app, to a publicly-traded site for booking flights and hotels, to a large American cell phone service provider.
“This is a classic example of payola,” he said of the brand mentions, invoking a term that’s been used to describe radio DJs who accept payments from record companies in order to play certain artists on the air.

Further, many influencers – folks who sell their Internet fame to the highest bidder – masquerade as journalists, asking for outrageous sums to flog an ICO on their YouTube channel or Instagram page. Pay-for-play services can also put out organic content like this in hopes of appearing in the news.

The rule of thumb? Paid posts and native advertising are not journalism. Ultimately, journalists who charge for coverage are marketers. No one at any reputable news organization will ask for cash but, sadly, there are a number of disreputable news organizations making the rounds.

ICO spamming/Don’t do it

All this still doesn’t answer the question: Should you pay-to-post?

“The short answer is no,” said Kevin Bourke of BourkePR. “I get asked all the time, and in fact, turned down another request just today. And I advise my clients to decline these offers as well.”

Pay-for-post disrupts journalism in a way that should be familiar and desirable to any modern-day entrepreneur. Middlemen are being knocked out everywhere and brands are approaching consumers from every angle including native ads in Instagram and Twitter. But the value of coverage – real coverage – from a journalists perspective is the opportunity to explain complex ideas to a ready audience. While posting a picture of a blockchain on Facebook and hoping for clicks is one strategy, explaining your views, opinions, and insights is far more important even if you approach it from a mercenary position.

“When you start paying for placement, you remove objectivity and credibility, and in my opinion, this is the reason you look for coverage of your company/products in the first place. That’s what influences readers/viewers. But I understand the temptation for startups. You come to believe that ‘all visibility is good visibility.’ I just can’t agree with that,” said Bourke. “I see the trend toward paid placements (now called sponsored content), paid awards and I can’t stand it – especially with the trade show awards in high tech. They’ve completely devalued the Best of Show awards in so many cases. Typically, only the big companies with budgets can afford them, so many of the smaller guys with no money but amazing products get left out. I understand that the publishing industry needs to figure out new revenue streams – these are very difficult times for them. But they need to figure out smarter business models and maintain the integrity of editorialized content, built on the opinions and perspectives of journalists and influencers.”

Startups Weekly: US companies raised $30B in Q1 2019

Let’s start this week’s newsletter with some data. Nationally, startups pulled in $30.8 billion in the first quarter of 2019, up 22 percent year-on-year, according to Crunchbase’s latest deal round-up.

A closer look at the numbers shows a big drop in angel funding and a slight decrease in mega-rounds, or financings larger than $100 million. The number of mega-rounds fell to 57 deals in Q1 and deal value was down too. With that said, mega-rounds still accounted for $16.4 billion, making Q1 2019 the second-best quarter on record for mega-rounds.

The bottom line is these monstrous deals represented a big chunk (29 percent) of all the dollars invested in U.S. startups in Q1. As investors move downstream and startups opt to stay private longer and longer, we’ll continue to see a greater pick up in mega rounds.

Want more TechCrunch newsletters? Sign up here.

OK, on to other news…

IPO corner

After the pink confetti was swept up off the floor, analysts and investors had a different story to tell about one of the first unicorns to make its public debut. Lyft began the week struggling to hit its IPO price, closing several days under that $72, despite opening with a 20 percent pop at $86. What’s going on? People are shorting the Lyft stock, looking to profit off the company’s sinking value. Things are looking up though; on Friday as I typed this newsletter, Lyft was trading at about $74 per share.

In other IPO, or shall I say, direct listing news, Slack has reportedly chosen the NYSE for its upcoming exit. A quick reminder why Slack has opted to go public via direct listing: The company doesn’t need any IPO cash thanks to the hundreds of millions of dollars on its balance sheet, but its longtime employees and investors need the liquidity. A direct listing allows it to go public without listing any new shares, with no lockup period and no intermediary bankers. The whole thing saves it some money and expedites the process. OK, that wasn’t as brief as I intended, moving on…

Saying goodbye to venture capital

In a story that sent the entirety of Silicon Valley into a frenzy, Forbes reported that Andreessen Horowitz was denouncing its status as a venture capital firm and would register all its employees as financial advisors. For those inclined, Crunchbase News’ Alex Wilhelm and I unpacked what this means in the latest episode of Equity; for those less inclined, here’s the TLDR: For a16z to have the freedom to make riskier bets, like buying public company stock or heaps of cryptocurrency, the title of financial advisor gives them that ability.

Femtech’s billion-dollar year

Femtech, defined as any software, diagnostics, products and services that leverage technology to improve women’s health, has attracted some $250 million in VC funding so far this year, according to PitchBook. That puts the sector on pace to secure nearly $1 billion in investment by year-end, greatly surpassing last year’s record of $650 million. For more historical context, startups in the space brought in only $62 million in 2012, $225 million in 2014 and $231 million in 2016.

The 20-Min Term Sheet

Alternative financier Clearbanc says it will invest $1 billion in 2,000 e-commerce startups in 2019. Here’s the catch: Until the companies have paid back 106 percent of Clearbanc’s investment, Clearbanc takes a percentage of their revenues every month. Clearbanc’s goal is to help companies preserve equity, favoring a revenue share model rather than the traditional VC model, which eats equity in startups in exchange for capital. I spoke to Clearbanc co-founder Michele Romanow to learn more about Clearbanc’s attempt to disrupt venture capital.

Startup capital

Extra Crunch

TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey authored the be-all-end-all story on the shared-electric-scooter business. Here’s a quick passage: “The startup ecosystem had become accustomed to the ethos of begging for forgiveness, rather than asking for permission. But that’s not the case with electric scooters. These companies have found their entire businesses to be contingent on the continued approval from individual cities all over the world. That inherently creates a number of potential conflicts.” Extra Crunch subscribers can read the full story here. 

Plus, we dropped the Niantic EC-1, in which Greg Kumparak dives deep into the history of the maker Pokemon Go, contributor Sherwood Morrison looked at remote workers and nomads, who represent the next tech hub.

Unicorns are investors, too

TechCrunch has confirmed that Airbnb has invested between $150 million to $200 million in Indian hotel startup Oyo. Airbnb confirmed the existence of the deal but not the exact amount. The home-sharing giant is continuing to widen its focus beyond “unconventional” hotels as it prepares to begin selling pubic market investors on its long-term vision. Remember, this deal comes right after its big acquisition of HotelTonight.

M&A

WeWork acquired Managed by Q this week, a VC-backed startup that helps office managers and other decision-makers handle supply stocking, cleaning, IT support and other non-work related tasks in the office by simply using the Managed by Q dashboard. The company was most recently valued at $250 million, having raised a total of $128.25 million from investors such as GV,  RRE and Kapor Capital.

#Equitypod

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase News editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I chat about the future of a16z, Jumia’s IPO, the Midas list and more of this week’s headlines.

The creator of Bitcoin might one day become the richest man on the planet

We don’t know the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin. We don’t know if Nakamoto is a singular person or a group of people. We don’t even know if Nakamoto is alive or dead.

But if Nakamoto is a single person, they’re currently the 52nd richest person in the world when measured against Forbes’ list of billionaires. And judging by the way Bitcoin’s price has exploded, they might soon sit on top of that list, potentially as the world’s first trillionaire.

Here’s the basics: Nakamoto is estimated to hold nearly 1 million bitcoins, giving him a net worth of more than $17 billion based on bitcoin’s price as of Tuesday. That would slot Nakamoto around 52nd near German retail overlord Dieter Schwarz.

Satoshi’s actual fortune isn’t easy to sum up, as his bitcoins — the first coins created on the Bitcoin network — are scattered over hundreds or thousands of addresses. But according to research by Sergio Demian Lerner, the figure is likely around 980,000 bitcoins (a debate on the Bitcointalk forums on this topic hasn’t reached a consensus, but most people agree the figure is around 1 million coins).

There’s plenty of skepticism around the future of Bitcoin’s price and whether or not Nakamoto will ever be able to cash out for even a fraction of that amount. Bitcoin proponents, however, are predicting that the 2017 explosion is just the start.

If they’re right, the notion that Nakamoto could become the world’s first trillionaire is suddenly not inconceivable.

A person of incredible restraint

The projection that Nakamoto could become the world’s first trillionaire comes with several caveats.

Save for some early test transactions, Satoshi’s bitcoins have never moved. For all we know, he’s never spent a single bitcoin. In his communication on forums and emails, they mostly focused on the development of Bitcoin, and they definitely never talked about Lamborghinis or yachts. And he’s been completely silent after his last email to former Bitcoin developer Mike Hearn in April 2011.

But there’s still a very real possibility that there is a Satoshi Nakamoto out there that’s very much alive. While sitting on $17 billion and never spending any of it would show a restraint few people possess, Nakamoto is probably better off being anonymous. Craig Wright, an Australian entrepreneur, “outed” himself as Nakamoto in May 2016, only to have his house raided by the authorities within hours.

Volumes were written about Nakamoto’s possible identities, and no theories have proven conclusive. And new theories arise all the time, especially as the price of bitcoin — and Satoshi’s potential fortune — skyrockets.

The first trillionaire?

What seemed impossible just a year ago, when the price of Bitcoin was $1,000 (after a stellar 500 percent growth), is suddenly a very real possibility.

Who’s to say the price of Bitcoin won’t hit $88,000? That would make Satoshi the richest man in the world, ahead of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, who sit atop Forbes‘ current billionaire list with net worths around $86 billion.

Bitcoin’s price would have to be a little over $1 million per coin for Satoshi to become the world’s first trillionaire.

In fact, I set out to write this very text just months ago and gave up after a few sentences. It seemed preposterous — yes, the price of Bitcoin was in the thousands, but for Satoshi to even enter the 500 richest people list (it takes about $3.7 billion to enter that club), it’d have to rise to $3,880. I didn’t think that would happen for quite a while.

Fast forward to today, and the price of Bitcoin is up 1,800 percent this year, far beyond the predictions of even the most bullish Bitcoin experts.

The way things are looking now, I’d be surprised if Satoshi didn’t break the top 10 list next year. But let’s, for a second, take this a step further. Bitcoin’s price would have to be a little over $1 million per coin for Satoshi to become the world’s first trillionaire.

It’s a crazy figure but one that has been thrown around before, for example, by hedge fund manager James Altucher. And Cameron Winklevoss recently called Bitcoin a “multitrillion-dollar asset,” which would imply a price of at least $100,000 per bitcoin (with the current coin supply).

If that sounds impossible, remember that one bitcoin was worth a dollar in 2011 and just $200 two years ago. This type of sustained growth does not happen often — even the most successful companies such as Apple or Google grew at a much slower pace. Sure, maybe Bitcoin’s price will plummet before it comes anywhere near the price of $1 million.

But look at that Forbes list and name one other person other than Nakamoto who has a better chance of becoming a trillionaire soon. Or later. Or ever.

The other Bitcoin billionaires

Satoshi is not the only person who owns enough bitcoins for his fortune to become noticeable. Recently, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who invested around $11 million into Bitcoin in 2013, became Bitcoin billionaires as its price reached $11,500. Assuming they haven’t sold any of their bitcoins, their crypto-fortune is probably well over $1.5 billion right now.

Prominent Bitcoin investors Barry Silbert and Tim Draper, both of whom bought a significant amount of bitcoins from the U.S. government at an auction, are also good candidates for that billionaires list based on their estimated bitcoin holdings.

And in an unusually amusing case, the Bulgarian government is likely sitting on roughly $3 billion worth of Bitcoin, which was seized from criminals in May. Whoever made the decision not to auction those bitcoins right away (or perhaps it was the slow grind of bureaucracy) potentially earned the Bulgarian government billions of dollars.

Catch 22

At some point, the price of Bitcoin will stop rising — or it will at least slow down considerably. But its growth in the last two years has been so extraordinary that no prediction seems entirely impossible.

And with each price jump, Satoshi’s possible fortune becomes more incredible — and more dangerous. What happens if Satoshi decides to move some of his coins? No one knows — but Bitcoin did, in part, thrive due to its founder’s anonymity. A single transaction, a fraction of a bitcoin sent from Satoshi’s address to some other address, could cause major ripples in the cryptocurrency world.

And therein lies the catch. If Satoshi tries to spend any of his fortune, they might cause irreparable damage to Bitcoin. Suddenly, there would be a head to cut off — or at least disagree with. And if they want to remain anonymous, all they get from his invention is watching as his potential fortune increases, a fortune that they cannot spend.

Given Satoshi’s silence in the last six years, it’s quite likely that we may never hear from him or her again. And it’s not unimaginable that one day the richest man in the world — perhaps even the first trillionaire — will head Forbes’ billionaires list with a placeholder photo.

Close

CONTACT US

Complete the form below and we will get back to you shortly.

    • Subscribe error, please review your email address.

      Close

      You are now subscribed, thank you!

      Close

      There was a problem with your submission. Please check the field(s) with red label below.

      Close

      Your message has been sent. We will get back to you soon!

      Close