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Welcome to Daily Crunch for May 21, 2021. Closing out the week, bitcoin dropped sharply today on (more?) news from China about possible restrictions on cryptocurrencies more broadly. Depending on your priors, the most recent news is purely FUD, or it’s indication that Bitcoin and friends are terrible inflation hedges. Pick your poison! Regardless, we have a grip of startup news to get to, so off we go! -- Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
Snap spends a half billion on AR: Yesterday’s news from consumer photo giant Snap didn’t stop with the company plunking down $500 million for WaveOptics, which we reported “makes the waveguides and projectors used in AR glasses.” That sure sounds like Snap gearing up for eventual mass production? Right?
Startups heart farming: TechCrunch covered a huge $65.5 million Series B for Indonesian startup TaniHub Group today. Part of what it does is loan capital to farmers ahead of their harvests. In related news, ProducePay raised $43 million earlier this week to do something similar in Latin America. There’s notable startup activity, then, at the intersection of agtech and fintech.
Mobile gaming is bigger than you thought: Did you know that former gaming darling Zynga is in the midst of a comeback? Mobile gaming, its core focus, had a huge 2020, leading to the company posting record Q1 results. Riding the same way is Jam City, another mobile gaming shop is going public. More here.
Startups and VC
To round out the week, how about a few smaller venture capital rounds? We have a number from today that are well worth our time:
Secai Marche raises $1.4M for farm-to-table food distribution: We don’t cover enough Japanese startups, frankly, but here’s to doing better. Tokyo-based Secai Marche is building a B2B “logistics platform for farmers that sell to restaurants, hotels and other” food and beverage companies, and we think it’s neat. Rakuten and Beyond Next supplied the capital.
Mio raises $1M to bring social commerce to rural Vietnam: Quickly growing e-commerce market Vietnam is seeing rising penetration in major cities. Mio wants to bring e-commerce to smaller cities and rural areas. Per our reporting, it is “building a reseller network and logistics infrastructure that can offer next-day delivery to Tier 2 and 3 cities.” Our present may be someone else’s future, so it’s swell to see startups bring the latest to more folks.
To round out our round coverage today, a slightly larger deal for a mental-health focused service:
Wysa raises $5.5M for AI-powered mental health: This is at a minimum cool on paper. We’ll have to get some time with the service as it evolves through time, but TechCrunch reports that “Jo Aggarwal, the founder and CEO of Wysa, is hoping you’ll find it easier to confide in a robot. Or, put more specifically, "‘emotionally intelligent’ artificial intelligence.” I, for one, welcome our robot mental-health overlords. Jokes aside, there is a therapist shortage in the world, and if Wysa can help more folks handle their mental health better, we’re all for it.
5 predictions for the future of e-commerce
The United States is one of the world's most advanced economies, but until quite recently, South Korea and China had much higher e-commerce penetration.
American consumers and companies are closing that gap. In 2016, the percentage of total retail spend where the goods were bought and sold online in the U.S. was about 8%. Today, that figure is closer to 17%.
Despite the last two decades of disruption, we're still in the early days of e-commerce. But as more merchants of every size start making their goods and services available online, we've reached an inflection point.
In an exclusive report for Extra Crunch, Ethan Choi, a partner at Accel, offers five well-researched predictions about where e-commerce is heading in terms of D2C and the overall enablement landscape.
"We’re entering what we at Accel believe is 'the golden age of D2C e-commerce,'" says Choi.
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
Today we have to stretch the Big Tech portion of this newsletter to include entities even larger than the largest technology companies, namely governments.
The Indian government is mad at tech companies yet again. This time it’s Twitter’s turn. Per TechCrunch, New Delhi “has expressed strong objection to Twitter for classifying tweets by Indian politicians as ‘manipulated media,’ and separately asked social media firms to remove posts that refer to an ‘Indian variant’ of the coronavirus.”
A few thoughts here: One, Twitter is going to have to navigate an increasingly complicated global climate for free speech in general. And figure out how to handle governments' reactions to its decisions on labeling content. That’s going to be hard. And asking a social service to blanket-ban a particular phrase is going to be essentially impossible. After all, even in China, where banned phrases on social media are common, individuals have found myriad ways around the restrictions. So, good luck, Indian government.
On a related note, if you are interested in privacy more generally, what’s going on in the European Union regarding data protection is fascinating.
Moving back to the world of corporate news, Spotify is finally bringing offline listening to the Apple Watch. For runners, this is big news. Our own Brian Heater is hype about the update.
To close us out today, the Equity podcast team has thoughts on the growth in corporate “media” and what it means for unicorns and other large technology companies.
Two quick things heading into the weekend: Ford’s new electric truck looks cool, but you, our readers, are hodling out for Tesla’s Cyber Truck. If you’re a founder of a startup of any stage and want to try your pitch out on some really cool investors … then Extra Crunch Live is the place to go. Check out this week’s pitch by Capri Money. From the audience to the stage, just like that! See you there next week.
TechCrunch Experts: Email Marketing
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We’re thrilled with the responses to our survey about the top email marketers. It’s not too late to weigh in: Fill out the survey here.
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If you’re a growth marketer, pass the survey on to your clients -- we’d love to hear from them!
To find out more details about this project and how we plan to use it to shape our editorial coverage, visit techcrunch.com/experts.
The Extra Crunch Live party carries on into June, with new episodes connecting you with some of tech’s biggest names.