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Welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups and venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I wrote about U.S. VC activity in Europe. Before that, I noted Chinese investor activity in Africa.
Hello from Berlin, where we’ve just wrapped our annual conference, TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. Top investors shared insight into European venture capital, well-known individuals and firms made announcements (large and small), and entrepreneurs pontificated about the future of startups in their respective regions.
As I spoke with various early-stage startup founders presenting at the event, chatted with U.S. and European venture capitalists and brain-stormed with my colleagues, I reflected on my last 12 months inside the tech bubble. Soon, I’ll be publishing an extended look at what I see as the 10 biggest themes in startups and VC in 2019. But for now, here’s a sneak peek at my top picks.
- SoftBank screw ups. From WeWork to Wag to Fair.com, SoftBank made headlines over and over again this year—for all the wrong reasons.
- WeWork woes. SoftBank’s star portfolio company struggled the most. This was the biggest story of the year and its complete with drugs, private jets, burned cash and upset employees.
- CEO exodus. From Away co-founder Steph Korey to WeWork’s Adam Neumann, a whole lot of executives exited their posts this year.
- Unicorn IPO struggles. Uber, Lyft, Pinterest, Zoom and more unicorns went public this year. Some fared better than others.
- The fight for seed. There was more competition than ever at the earliest stage of venture capital. As a result, investors got creative, hired fresh faces, raised new funds and even gave founders lavish gifts.
- Y Combinator growth. Everyone’s favorite accelerator got a whole lot bigger this year. Not only did its cohorts swell, but its president, Sam Altman, stepped down and the firm cemented changes to its investment process.
- VCs + direct listings = <3. When venture capitalist weren’t busy gossiping about WeWork and SoftBank, they were debating a new and innovative path to the public markets: direct listings.
- Every startup is a bank. Brex raised hundreds of millions, Stripe launched a corporate card, credit card startup Deserve nabbed $50 million. 2019 was the year that consumer banking upstarts became the new e-scooter businesses.
- VC isn’t the only option. While VCs were going crazy for consumer financial services, companies like Clearbanc and Capital expanded to give founders alternatives to venture capital, like revenue-based financing and venture debt.
- The diversity disaster persists. Women still only raise 2.8% of venture capital in the U.S., up from 2.2%. Enough said.
If you like this newsletter, you will definitely enjoy Equity, which brings the content of this newsletter to life — in podcast form! Join myself and Equity co-host Alex Wilhelm every Friday for a quick breakdown of the week’s biggest news in venture capital and startups.
This week, I sat down with Chris Mayo, head of primary markets at the London Stock Exchange, to discuss the rise of direct listings.