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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Thursday, September 2, 2021. TechCrunch is largely off tomorrow thanks to a pan-Yahoo corporate reprieve. But don’t worry, all systems will continue to function while we recharge ahead of the next chapter of TechCrunch’s varied history of corporate ownership. — Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
China is hacking U.S.-based Uyghurs: The campaign by China’s government to erase Uyghur culture and undermine the Uyghur population inside its borders doesn’t stop there. The Chinese state has been hacking Uyghurs while traveling, for example. And the FBI reports today that the Chinese Communist Party is doing the same thing inside the United States’ borders.
SEO is far from dead: A new $55 million funding round into startup Botify underscores how the era of search engine optimization is hardly behind us. The company said that despite seeing “more and more sections of the search results coming from first-party or paid results,” organic traffic is still growing. And everyone wants a piece of that clickstream.
Europe, where net neutrality lives on: Europe’s top court has dealt another blow to “zero rating,” TechCrunch reports. Zero rating is the practice by which internet providers don’t count certain content against bandwidth limits, giving certain materials — often their own — a leg up. It’s a practice frowned on by open-internet advocates, and the EU is apparently unwilling to bend on the matter.
We’ll have a huge digest of our Y Combinator coverage so that you can peruse a few hundred different startups tomorrow in Daily Crunch. But we could not resist adding in a teaser. How’s this for a headline: “Fintech startup Jeeves raises $57M, goes from YC to $500M valuation in one year.” Even in 2021 that’s rapid valuation creation for an early-stage startup.
Yet more capital for neobanks: Challenger bank Point has put together a $46.5 million Series B, pouring more fuel into the startup’s goal of building a debit card that offers credit-card-level perks. Point’s service isn’t free, but for folks who don’t want to use revolving consumer credit accounts that often come with high interest rates, its model could be a neat way forward.
Shepherd raises $6.2M for construction insurance: TechCrunch is tracking a number of B2B neoinsurance companies today, including Shepherd. The startup is working to offer excess liability insurance to construction companies, building technology usage data into its underwriting models. It’s a neat idea. Procore put capital into the funding round.
HomeLight raises $100M: The real estate technology upstart wants to connect buyers and sellers, and also provides title and escrow services. And after its latest funding event, it’s worth $1.6 billion. HomeLight managed such a large round after projecting that its revenues will “triple to over $300 million in 2021.” So, when’s the IPO?
Edtech’s boom is not done: That’s our takeaway from news that General Atlantic has helped pour $60 million into Panorama Education, which has built a “a K-12 education software platform,” per TechCrunch reporting. Edtech startups got a huge boost in 2020 when schools around the world went remote. It appears that that wave has yet to crest.
All the reasons why you should launch a credit or debit card
The ongoing fintech revolution continues to level the playing field where legacy companies historically dominated startups.
To compete with retail banks, many startups are offering customers credit and debit cards; developer-friendly APIs make issuance relatively easy, and tools for managing processes like KYC are available off the shelf.
To learn more about the low barriers to entry — and the inherent challenges of creating a unique card offering — reporter Ryan Lawler interviewed:
Michael Spelfogel, founder, Cardless
Anu Muralidharan, COO, Expensify
Peter Hazlehurst, founder and CEO, Synctera
Salman Syed, SVP and GM of North America, Marqeta
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
All hail the Googlebot: Alphabet has built an exoskeleton, our own Brian Heater reports in his Actuator series. It frankly looks rad. At times it’s easy to forget that Alphabet retains a large skunkworks effort despite being best known today for its Android mobile software, ad technology and online document editing services.
Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flight coming soon: After sending some folks to either space, or near-space the other month, Virgin Galactic is getting ready for commercial work. Per the company, that mission could come later this month, or in early October. For the company’s shareholders, it’s good news. Scratch that! After we wrote that blurb, news broke that the next Virgin flight is off after the FAA grounded the company. More here.
Today in Tesla: Two things from Elon-world today. First, Tesla has been told to share Autopilot data with the United States’ traffic safety agency. And Tesla’s hyper-quick Roadster car might not come until 2023. Follow-up question: When will the Cybertruck roll out?
And, finally, news from India: Eight banks in the country are soon rolling out “a system called Account Aggregator to enable consumers to consolidate all their financial data in one place.” India’s banking industry has a history of banding together to create products for consumers, including the “interoperable UPI rails” that many fintech companies in the country depend on, TechCrunch reports.
TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing
TechCrunch wants to help startups find the right expert for their needs. To do this, we’re building a shortlist of the top growth marketers. We’ve received great recommendations for growth marketers in the startup industry since we launched our survey.
We’re excited to read more responses as they come in! Fill out the survey here.
Join Danny Crichton and Mary Ann Azevedo Tuesday, September 7, at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT on Twitter Spaces as they talk with Jonathan Metrick about fintech and growth marketing.