Finance

Category Archives — Finance

Revolut adds Ripple and Bitcoin Cash support – TechCrunch

Fintech startup Revolut is adding Bitcoin Cash and Ripple to its cryptocurrency feature. While cryptocurrency isn’t really Revolut’s focus point, it’s a good way to get started with cryptocurrencies.

If you have a Revolut account, you can now buy and hold Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Ripple and Bitcoin Cash. Behind the scene, the startup has partnered with Bitstamp to process the transactions. Revolut currently charges a 1.5 percent fee for cryptocurrency transactions. There are currently 100,000 cryptocurrency transactions per day.

Compared to a traditional cryptocurrency exchange, you can’t send or receive cryptocurrencies from your Revolut account. You don’t get a bitcoin address for instance. All you can do is buy tokens in the app. If you want to transfer those tokens somewhere else, you’ll have to sell them for USD, GBP, etc. and then buy cryptocurrencies on a traditional exchange using your fiat money.

Recently, the startup also announced a new feature called Vaults. Revolut users can set up a vault to save money over time.

You can round up your spare change every time you make a transaction. For instance, if you pay $3.47 for that delicious ice cream, you’ll save 53 cents in your vault. You can also multiple that amount so that you save multiple times your spare change with each transaction. Many fintech startups also provide this feature.

You can also set up recurring payments to set aside a bit of money each day, each week or each month. Interestingly, you get to choose the currency of your vault. So it means that you can decide to buy ethers with spare change and weekly payments for instance. It’s a great way to hedge against the volatility of cryptocurrencies.

Users don’t earn interests on vaults. It’s just a way to set some money aside that doesn’t appear in your main Revolut account. You can decide to close your vault whenever you want.

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Meet the speakers at The Europas, and get your ticket free (July 3, London) – TechCrunch

Excited to announce that this year’s The Europas Unconference & Awards is shaping up! Our half day Unconference kicks off on 3 July, 2018 at The Brewery in the heart of London’s “Tech City” area, followed by our startup awards dinner and fantastic party and celebration of European startups!

The event is run in partnership with TechCrunch, the official media partner. Attendees, nominees and winners will get deep discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.
The Europas Awards are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. But key to the daytime is all the speakers and invited guests. There’s no “off-limits speaker room” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs and speakers.

What exactly is an Unconference? We’re dispensing with the lectures and going straight to the deep-dives, where you’ll get a front row seat with Europe’s leading investors, founders and thought leaders to discuss and debate the most urgent issues, challenges and opportunities. Up close and personal! And, crucially, a few feet away from handing over a business card. The Unconference is focused into zones including AI, Fintech, Mobility, Startups, Society, and Enterprise and Crypto / Blockchain.

We’ve confirmed 10 new speakers including:

Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital


Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp


Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures


Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures


Nancy Fechnay, Blockchain Technologist + Angel


George McDonaugh, KR1


Candice Lo, Blossom Capital


Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners


Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel


Tina Baker, Jag Shaw Baker

How To Get Your Ticket For FREE

We’d love for you to ask your friends to join us at The Europas – and we’ve got a special way to thank you for sharing.

Your friend will enjoy a 15% discount off the price of their ticket with your code, and you’ll get 15% off the price of YOUR ticket.

That’s right, we will refund you 15% off the cost of your ticket automatically when your friend purchases a Europas ticket.

So you can grab tickets here.

Vote for your Favourite Startups

Public Voting is still humming along. Please remember to vote for your favourite startups!

Awards by category:

Hottest Media/Entertainment Startup

Hottest E-commerce/Retail Startup

Hottest Education Startup

Hottest Startup Accelerator

Hottest Marketing/AdTech Startup

Hottest Games Startup

Hottest Mobile Startup

Hottest FinTech Startup

Hottest Enterprise, SaaS or B2B Startup

Hottest Hardware Startup

Hottest Platform Economy / Marketplace

Hottest Health Startup

Hottest Cyber Security Startup

Hottest Travel Startup

Hottest Internet of Things Startup

Hottest Technology Innovation

Hottest FashionTech Startup

Hottest Tech For Good

Hottest A.I. Startup

Fastest Rising Startup Of The Year

Hottest GreenTech Startup of The Year

Hottest Startup Founders

Hottest CEO of the Year

Best Angel/Seed Investor of the Year

Hottest VC Investor of the Year

Hottest Blockchain/Crypto Startup Founder(s)

Hottest Blockchain Protocol Project

Hottest Blockchain DApp

Hottest Corporate Blockchain Project

Hottest Blockchain Investor

Hottest Blockchain ICO (Europe)

Hottest Financial Crypto Project

Hottest Blockchain for Good Project

Hottest Blockchain Identity Project

Hall Of Fame Award – Awarded to a long-term player in Europe

The Europas Grand Prix Award (to be decided from winners)

The Awards celebrates the most forward thinking and innovative tech & blockchain startups across over some 30+ categories.

Startups can apply for an award or be nominated by anyone, including our judges. It is free to enter or be nominated.

What is The Europas?

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with 1,000 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the Speakers

• Key Founders and investors speaking; featured attendees invited to just network

• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A directly from the main stage

• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics

• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking

• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters

• A parallel Founders-only track geared towards fund-raising and hyper-networking

• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene

• All on one day to maximise your time in London. And it’s PROBABLY sunny!

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That’s just the beginning. There’s more to come…

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Interested in sponsoring the Europas or hosting a table at the awards? Or purchasing a table for 10 or 12 guest or a half table for 5 guests? Get in touch with:
Petra Johansson
Petra@theeuropas.com
Phone: +44 (0) 20 3239 9325

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Real Vision, a media platform for finance and business, raises $10 million – TechCrunch

Real Vision is entering the crowded business and financial new space with a bang. The company, which recently raised a $10 million Series B after a $5 million A round, is working on a number of new initiatives including distribution on Apple TV, a content distribution partnership with Thomson Reuters and an upcoming documentary on PBS.

The documentary, “A World on the Brink,” will focus on threats to the global economy. The team is aiming at viewers ages 36-45 instead of the older Boomers who prefer cable financial news far.

“Unlike most video-based media businesses where short-form video is deemed to have the highest user engagement, Real Vision have found that almost 70% of their customers who start a half, or an hour-long, video will watch all of it. This engagement in long-form content is breaking boundaries within the industry,” said co-founder and CEO Raoul Pal. “Sensationalism and clickbait is at an all-time high. Traditional financial news has continued to degenerate into attention-seeking sound bites that are at best of little value and at worst, downright dangerous.”

Pal worked at Goldman Sachs before moving into media.

“I lamented on the state of financial media – how it had let the ordinary person down repeatedly in 2000 and 2008 and was busy treating finance as entertainment and not taking into account that this was people’s life savings they were dealing with. I also noted how far financial programming had become versus the fast-changing world of on line video. Viewing habits and content types were changing but the financial TV incumbents hadn’t changed,” he said “I decided that it was time for someone to disrupt the way in which television worked – particularly with regard to financial and business information.”

The team will use the cash to create programming aimed at “those who want to create new business opportunities and startups, manage new enterprises and leverage new technology.” The videos can run as long as 90 minutes but usually hit the five to thirty-minute mark. They are also distributing their content to Thomson Reuters . It uses a subscription-based model and costs $180 annually.

The team met at a bar in Jesus Pobre, Spain. Pal and his co-founder Damian Horner found each other during their travels and had drinks at a place called Rosita’s where Horner, a former ad exec, learned of Pal’s experience in finance and they both mapped out a new type of online news channel with some real energy. Thus was born a model that mixes on-demand with high-impact news, something that few cable stations can manage.

“Almost all traditional media outlets rely on an ever-dwindling advertising revenue model. Real Vision is subscription-based and built that way from the ground up,” said Pal. “Most media business are still trying to figure out a subscription model to diversify away from advertising. In a highly competitive digital world, the pressure ‘to get clicks’ has a massive impact on the tone, direction and quality of the editorial content itself. Real Vision’s subscriber model means there is no need to sensationalize, no dumbing down of ideas, no incessant ‘breaking news’ headlines, no clickbait soundbites and no cutting things short for commercial breaks.”

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Cryptocurrency and a stock market boom pushes TradingView to $37 million in new funding – TechCrunch

Fueled by last year’s greed-inducing visions of a cryptocurrency boom and a stock market largely untethered from classical economics, TradingView, a developer of social networking and data analysis tools for financial markets, has raised millions in new venture funding.

The New York-based company just scored $37 million in funding led by the growth-stage investment firm Insight Venture Partners .

TradingView has developed a proprietary, JavaScript-based programming language called PineScript, which lets anyone develop their own customized financial analysis tools. The company “freemium” software as a service model that lets most users connect and exchange trading tips and tricks for free, but begins charging when customers want access to more charts, data and real-time server-side alerts.

There are three payment plans beginning at $15, with a mid-tier at $30 and a high-end $60 per-month premium option.

The company had previously boosted its growth by offering its charting software for free to partner websites like SeekingAlpha, Bitfinex and the Nasdaq. That strategy helped it grow to 8 million monthly active users with around 61 percent coming from direct traffic as of March of this year.

These days the company derives nearly 75 percent of its revenue from those monthly subscription plans to individual traders. TradingView’s executives think the company still has an opportunity to expand its footprint among those retail investors, but it’s also planning to make a push to serve more institutional clients with its toolkit.

For the past seven years the company has enjoyed consistent growth, according to TradingView co-founder and chief operations officer, Stan Bokov.

For Paul Szurek, a vice-president at Insight Venture Partners, the investment in TradingView is building off of broad consumer interest in amateur speculative trading. Looking at RobinHood, Bux and eToro as gateways for new investors who eventually move on to more sophisticated tools, Szurek said that TradingView was often their next step into market investing.

“The rise of cryptocurrencies… and trading those assets… has flywheeled into a broader interest in investing across asset classes,” Szurek said.

While TradingView was never crypto-focused, according to Bokov, the company was supportive from the beginning and it’s been a boon to the broader business. “They came for crypto. They stayed for the other stuff,” Bokov said.

And crypto might just be the gateway drug for younger speculative traders to start investing in financial markets more broadly, according to Szurek. “October to January, during the real core of the crypto boom here, there were a lot of users coming in starting out researching that asset class broadly. Eighty percent move on to research other asset classes,” he said. “As TradingView kind of pushed through the [first quarter], trends in growth really diverged from what we were seeing in purely crypto-focused business and that’s a testament to users leveraging this one-stop-shop component of the platform.”

Additional investors in the new TradingView include DRW Venture Capital and Jump Capital. The company was a graduate of the 2013 Techstars Chicago batch and was seeded by Irish Angels, Techstars, iTech Capital and undisclosed angel investors.

“TradingView was built for non-professional traders, but its accessible trading tools and powerful-yet-intuitive charting capabilities have attracted the attention of institutional investors,” said Kimberly Trautmann, head of DRW Venture Capital, in a statement. “As an investor, we are excited about the diverse cross section of the industry that TradingView has reached and its rapid growth. As a proprietary trading firm on an institutional level, we’re looking forward to leveraging the platform and contributing to its further development.”

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Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong to talk the future of cryptocurrency at Disrupt SF – TechCrunch

Coinbase has come a long way since its launch in 2012. The company has raised more than $225 million and paved the way for cryptocurrencies to enter the mainstream by providing a digital currency exchange. Which is why we’re absolutely thrilled to have Coinbase co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong join us on the main stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF in September.

Armstrong worked as a developer for IBM and consultant at Deloitte before joining Airbnb as a software engineer in 2011. At Airbnb, Armstrong focused on fraud prevention, giving him the opportunity to learn about payment systems across the 190 countries Airbnb serves.

In 2012, Armstrong co-founded Coinbase and gave a budding demographic of cryptocurrency enthusiasts the opportunity to trade in their USD for bitcoins, and later the digital currency of their choice. Coinbase currently serves over 10 million customers across 32 countries, providing custody for more than $10 billion in digital assets.

In fact, Coinbase was valued at $1.6 billion following a $100 million funding round in August 2017.

In April, the company unveiled an early-stage fund for cryptocurrency startups, and acquired Earn.com for $100 million. As part of the acquisition, the company brought on Balaji Srinivasan as its first CTO.

There were also reports that Coinbase approached the SEC to become a licensed brokerage firm and electronic trading venue, which would allow the company to expand beyond the four coins (Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin) that trade on the platform now.

Just yesterday, Coinbase announced that it would offer a new suite of services aimed at institutional investors, who are beginning to warm up to cryptocurrencies.

There is plenty to discuss with Armstrong come September, and we’re absolutely thrilled to have him join the stellar Disrupt SF agenda. You can head over here to buy yourself tickets. See you there!

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Coinbase’s first investment, Compound, earns you interest on crypto – TechCrunch

Compound wants to let you borrow cryptocurrency, or lend it and earn an interest rate. Most cryptocurrency is shoved in a wallet or metaphorically hidden under a mattress, failing to generate interest the way traditionally banked assets do. But Compound wants to create liquid money markets for cryptocurrency by algorithmically setting interest rates, and letting you gamble by borrowing and then short-selling coins you think will sink. It plans to launch its first five for Ether, a stable coin, and a few others, by October.

Today, Compound is announcing some ridiculously powerful allies for that quest. It’s just become the first-ever investment by crypto exchange juggernaut Coinbase’s new venture fund. It’s part of an $8.2 million seed round led by top-tier VC Andreessen Horowitz, crypto hedge fund Polychain Capital and Bain Capital Ventures — the startup arm of the big investment bank.

While right now Compound deals in cryptocurrency through the Ethereum blockchain, co-founder and CEO Robert Leshner says that eventually he wants to carry tokenized versions of real-world assets like the dollar, yen, euro or Google stock. That’s because Leshner tells me “My thesis is that almost every crypto asset is bullshit and not worth anything.”

How to get Compound interest on your crypto

Here’s how Compound tells me it’s going to work. It’s an “overnight” market that permits super-short-term lending. While it’s not a bank, it is centralized, so you loan to and borrow from it directly instead of through peers, alleviating you from negotiation. If you loan, you can earn interest. If you borrow, you have to put up 100 percent of the value of your borrow in an asset Compound supports. If prices fluctuate and your borrow becomes worth more than your collateral, some of your collateral is liquidated through a repo agreement so they’re equal.

To set the interest rate, Compound acts kind of like the Fed. It analyzes supply and demand for a particular crypto asset to set a fluctuating interest rate that adjusts as market conditions change. You’ll earn that on what you lend constantly, and can pull out your assets at any time with just a 15-second lag. You’ll pay that rate when you borrow. And Compound takes a 10 percent cut of what lenders earn in interest. For crypto-haters, it offers a way to short coins you’re convinced are doomed.

“Eventually our goal is to hand-off responsibility [for setting the interest rate] to the community. In the short-term we’re forced to be responsible. Long-term we want the community to elect the Fed,” says Leshner. If it gets the interest rate wrong, an influx of lenders or borrowers will drive it back to where it’s supposed to be. Compound already has a user interface prototyped internally, and it looked slick and solid to me.

“We think it’s a game changer. Ninety percent of assets are sitting in people’s cold storage, or wallets, or exchanges. They aren’t being used or traded,” says Leshner. Compound could let people interact with crypto in a whole new way.

The Compound creation story

Compound is actually the third company Leshner and his co-founder and CTO Geoff Hayes have started together. They’ve been teamed up for 11 years since going to college at UPenn. One of their last companies, Britches, created an index of CPG inventory at local stores and eventually got acquired by Postmates. But before that Leshner got into the banking and wealth management business, becoming a certified public accountant. A true economics nerd, he’s the chair of the SF bond oversight committee, and got into crypto five years ago.

Compound co-founder and CEO Robert Leshner

Sitting on coins, Leshner wondered, “Why can’t I realize the time value of the cryptocurrency I possess?” Compound was born in mid-2017, and came out of stealth in January.

Now with $8.2 million in funding that also came from Transmedia Capital, Compound Ventures, Abstract Ventures and Danhua Capital, Compound is pushing to build out its product and partnerships, and “hire like crazy” beyond its seven current team members based in San Francisco’s Mission District. Partners will be crucial to solve the chicken-and-egg problem of getting its first lenders and borrowers. “We are planning to launch with great partners — token projects, hedge funds and dedicated users,” says Leshner. Having hedge funds like Polychain should help.

“We shunned an ICO. We said, ‘let’s raise venture capital.’ I’m a very skeptical person and I think most ICOs are illegal,” Leshner notes. The round was just about to close when Coinbase announced Coinbase Ventures. So Leshner fired off an email asking if it wanted to join. “In 12 hours they researched us, met our team, diligenced it and evaluated it more than almost any investor had to date,” Leshner recalls. Asked if there’s any conflict of interest given Coinbase’s grand ambitions, he said, “They’re probably our favorite company in the world. I hope they survive for 100 years. It’s too early to tell they overlap.”

Conquering the money markets

There are other crypto lending platforms, but none quite like Compound. Centralized exchanges like Bitfinex and Poloniex let people trade on margin and speculate more aggressively. But they’re off-chain, while Leshner says Compound is on-chain, transparent and can be built on top of. That could make it a more critical piece of the blockchain finance stack. There’s also a risk of these exchanges getting hacked and your coins getting stolen.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of peer-to-peer crypto lending protocols on the Ethereum blockchain, like ETHLend and Dharma. But interest rates, no need for slow matching, flexibility for withdrawing money and dealing with a centralized party could attract users to Compound.

Still, the biggest looming threat for Compound is regulation. But to date, the SEC and regulators have focused on ICOs and how people fundraise, not on what people are building. People aren’t filing lawsuits against actual products. “All the operations have flown beneath the radar and I think that’s going to change in the next 12 months,” Leshner predicts. How exactly they’ll treat Compound is up in the air.

One source in the crypto hedge fund space told me about forthcoming regulation: “You’re either going to get annihilated and have to disgorge profits or dissolve. Or you pay a fine and you’re among the first legal funds in the space. This is the gamble you take before asset classes get baptized.” As Leshner confirmed, “That’s the number one risk, period.”

Money markets are just one piece of the financial infrastructure puzzle that still needs to emerge around blockchain. Custodians, auditors, administrators and banks are still largely missing. When those get hammered out to make the space safer, the big money hedge funds and investment banks could join in. For Compound, getting the logistics right will require some serious legal ballet.

Yet Leshner is happy to dream big despite all of the crypto world’s volatility. He concludes, “We want to be like Black Rock with a trillion under management, and we want to have 25 employees when we do that. They probably have [tens of thousands] of employees. Our goal is to be like them with a skeleton team.”

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BRD crowdraises $32 million to build financial services into a mobile crypto wallet – TechCrunch

Crypto wallets can’t remain crypto wallets for long. There is so much competition and so many scammers that value-added features like financial services are de rigueur. BRD knows this quite well and is putting $32 million behind the platform to grow out the features and cryptocurrencies supported on their popular app.

Founded by Aaron Voisine, Adam Traidman, and Aaron Lasher, the company started out as a side product called Bread Wallet. BRD, say the founders, was the first iOS bitcoin wallet in the App Store.

The team has 1.1 million users in 170 countries and 76% of those are iOS. They’ve received 71% of their customers in the past year, a fact that attests to the recent popularity of cryptocurrencies. They have $6 billion of crypto assets under protection.

The team has also partnered with Changelly to help transfer more tokens than Bitcoin and Ethereum – including their own BRD token.

How did they raise the money? By token sale, of course. They ran a $12 million presale and a $20 million crowd sale, resulting in a combine Seed and A round that would make most fintech orgs blush.

The team is most proud of their focus on decentralization.

“We’ve made our name around security, first and foremost. That’s what most the miners and dev crowd know us for, as the most secure way to hold and protect all their cryptoassets,” said Voisine. “The assets themselves are not stored in any centralized system within BRD. A transaction on BRD connects directly to the blockchain and are synced in real-time. There is literally nothing to steal from BRD, since we’re not holding a single asset ourselves… even though we have over $6B USD under protection.”

Further, they are offering BRD Rewards that will let BRD users get discounts and other benefits. This is an effort to “bring a much better balance between fees and utilization.”

“We want to be the service for first-time buyers of crypto. We want to be the most popular onramp for consumers into the crypto economy,” he said.

Lasher feels that his mission is far more interesting than just making an iOS wallet. He sees this as a philosophical change that will bring new understanding of the importance of crypto.

“If sending money globally as easily as an email doesn’t impress you, how about the ability to store your life savings in your head, then walking your family across a war-torn border to safety?” he said.

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Cleveland offered $120 million in freebies lure Amazon to the city – TechCrunch

A Cleveland.com article detailed the lengths the small midwestern city would go to lure Amazon’s in 50,000-person HQ2. In a document obtained by reporter Mark Naymik, we learn that Cleveland was ready to give over $120 million in free services to Amazon including considerably reduced fares on Cleveland-area trains and buses.

The document, available here, focuses on the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA)’s ideas regarding the key component in many of Amazon’s decisions – transportation.

Ohio has a budding but often tendentious connection to public transport. Cities like Columbus have no light rail while Cincinnati just installed a rudimentary system. Cleveland, for its part, has a solid if underused system already in place.

That the city would offer discounts is not surprising. Cities were falling over themselves to gain what many would consider – including Amazon itself – a costly incursion on the city chosen. However, given the perceived importance of having Amazon land in a small city – including growth of the startup and tech ecosystems – you can see why Cleveland would want to give away plenty of goodies.

Ultimately the American Midwest is at a crossroads. It could go either way, with small cities growing into vibrant artistic and creative hubs or those same cities falling into further decline. And the odds are stacked against them.

The biggest city, Chicago, is a transport, finance, and logistics hub and draws talent from smaller cities that orbit it. Further, “smart” cities like Pittsburgh and Ann Arbor steal the brightest students who go on to the coasts after graduation. As Richard Florida noted, the cities with a vibrant Creative Class are often the ones that succeed in this often rigged race and many cities just can’t generate any sort of creative ecosystem – cultural or otherwise – that could support a behemoth like Amazon landing in its midst.

What Cleveland did wasn’t wrong. However, it did work hard to keep the information secret, a consideration that could be dangerous. After all, as Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn told reporters: “Our statement for HQ2 is we’ll provide whatever is necessary to Amazon when they need it. For all practical purposes, it’s a blank check.”

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The formula behind San Francisco’s startup success – TechCrunch

Why has San Francisco’s startup scene generated so many hugely valuable companies over the past decade?

That’s the question we asked over the past few weeks while analyzing San Francisco startup funding, exit, and unicorn creation data. After all, it’s not as if founders of Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Dropbox and Twitter had to get office space within a couple of miles of each other.

We hadn’t thought our data-centric approach would yield a clear recipe for success. San Francisco private and newly public unicorns are a diverse bunch, numbering more than 30, in areas ranging from ridesharing to online lending. Surely the path to billion-plus valuations would be equally varied.

But surprisingly, many of their secrets to success seem formulaic. The most valuable San Francisco companies to arise in the era of the smartphone have a number of shared traits, including a willingness and ability to post massive, sustained losses; high-powered investors; and a preponderance of easy-to-explain business models.

No, it’s not a recipe that’s likely replicable without talent, drive, connections and timing. But if you’ve got those ingredients, following the principles below might provide a good shot at unicorn status.

First you conquer, then you earn

Losing money is not a bug. It’s a feature.

First, lose money until you’ve left your rivals in the dust. This is the most important rule. It is the collective glue that holds the narratives of San Francisco startup success stories together. And while companies in other places have thrived with the same practice, arguably San Franciscans do it best.

It’s no secret that a majority of the most valuable internet and technology companies citywide lose gobs of money or post tiny profits relative to valuations. Uber, called the world’s most valuable startup, reportedly lost $4.5 billion last year. Dropbox lost more than $100 million after losing more than $200 million the year before and more than $300 million the year before that. Even Airbnb, whose model of taking a share of homestay revenues sounds like an easy recipe for returns, took nine years to post its first annual profit.

Not making money can be the ultimate competitive advantage, if you can afford it.

Industry stalwarts lose money, too. Salesforce, with a market cap of $88 billion, has posted losses for the vast majority of its operating history. Square, valued at nearly $20 billion, has never been profitable on a GAAP basis. DocuSign, the 15-year-old newly public company that dominates the e-signature space, lost more than $50 million in its last fiscal year (and more than $100 million in each of the two preceding years). Of course, these companies, like their unicorn brethren, invest heavily in growing revenues, attracting investors who value this approach.

We could go on. But the basic takeaway is this: Losing money is not a bug. It’s a feature. One might even argue that entrepreneurs in metro areas with a more fiscally restrained investment culture are missing out.

What’s also noteworthy is the propensity of so many city startups to wreak havoc on existing, profitable industries without generating big profits themselves. Craigslist, a San Francisco nonprofit, may have started the trend in the 1990s by blowing up the newspaper classified business. Today, Uber and Lyft have decimated the value of taxi medallions.

Not making money can be the ultimate competitive advantage, if you can afford it, as it prevents others from entering the space or catching up as your startup gobbles up greater and greater market share. Then, when rivals are out of the picture, it’s possible to raise prices and start focusing on operating in the black.

Raise money from investors who’ve done this before

You can’t lose money on your own. And you can’t lose any old money, either. To succeed as a San Francisco unicorn, it helps to lose money provided by one of a short list of prestigious investors who have previously backed valuable, unprofitable Northern California startups.

It’s not a mysterious list. Most of the names are well-known venture and seed investors who’ve been actively investing in local startups for many years and commonly feature on rankings like the Midas List. We’ve put together a few names here.

You might wonder why it’s so much better to lose money provided by Sequoia Capital than, say, a lower-profile but still wealthy investor. We could speculate that the following factors are at play: a firm’s reputation for selecting winning startups, a willingness of later investors to follow these VCs at higher valuations and these firms’ skill in shepherding portfolio companies through rapid growth cycles to an eventual exit.

Whatever the exact connection, the data speaks for itself. The vast majority of San Francisco’s most valuable private and recently public internet and technology companies have backing from investors on the short list, commonly beginning with early-stage rounds.

Pick a business model that relatives understand

Generally speaking, you don’t need to know a lot about semiconductor technology or networking infrastructure to explain what a high-valuation San Francisco company does. Instead, it’s more along the lines of: “They have an app for getting rides from strangers,” or “They have an app for renting rooms in your house to strangers.” It may sound strange at first, but pretty soon it’s something everyone seems to be doing.

It’s not a recipe that’s likely replicable without talent, drive, connections and timing. 

list of 32 San Francisco-based unicorns and near-unicorns is populated mostly with companies that have widely understood brands, including Pinterest, Instacart and Slack, along with Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. While there are some lesser-known enterprise software names, they’re not among the largest investment recipients.

Part of the consumer-facing, high brand recognition qualities of San Francisco startups may be tied to the decision to locate in an urban center. If you were planning to manufacture semiconductor components, for instance, you would probably set up headquarters in a less space-constrained suburban setting.

Reading between the lines of red ink

While it can be frustrating to watch a company lurch from quarter to quarter without a profit in sight, there is ample evidence the approach can be wildly successful over time.

Seattle’s Amazon is probably the poster child for this strategy. Jeff Bezos, recently declared the world’s richest man, led the company for more than a decade before reporting the first annual profit.

These days, San Francisco seems to be ground central for this company-building technique. While it’s certainly not necessary to locate here, it does seem to be the single urban location most closely associated with massively scalable, money-losing consumer-facing startups.

Perhaps it’s just one of those things that after a while becomes status quo. If you want to be a movie star, you go to Hollywood. And if you want to make it on Wall Street, you go to Wall Street. Likewise, if you want to make it by launching an industry-altering business with a good shot at a multi-billion-dollar valuation, all while losing eye-popping sums of money, then you go to San Francisco.

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SoFi founder Mike Cagney is back with a new startup and $50 million in funding, too – TechCrunch

Mike Cagney, who was ousted last summer from the lending company he founded, is back with a new startup and a whole lot of funding from at least one of his previous investors.

According to a new report in Bloomberg, Cagney, who earlier this year formed a new lending startup called Figure, has raised $50 million to grow the company, which plans to use the blockchain to facilitate loan approvals in minutes instead of days.

According to the company’s site, its lending products will include home equity lines of credit, home improvement loans and home buy-lease back offerings for retirement.

The round was led by DCM Ventures and Ribbit Capital and included participation from Mithril Capital Management, Cagney confirmed to Bloomberg.

Ribbit Capital in Palo Alto, Calif., has been leading investments in the world of fintech and digital currencies from its founding nearly six years ago. Others of its many bets include the online consumer lending company Affirm and Point, a startup that buys equity in U.S. homes.

Mithril, co-founded by Peter Thiel, prides itself on funding companies that take time to build, with funds that have longer investing timelines than do most traditional venture vehicles.

The cross-border firm DCM Ventures, meanwhile, is perhaps the most interesting participant in this round. The reason: Back in 2012, DMC began investing in Social Finance, or SoFi, the company that Cagney founded previously.

It isn’t uncommon for VCs to invest in founders with whom they’ve worked before, of course. And SoFi — which initially focused on refinancing student loans, today provides personal and mortgage loans and wealth management services, and appears to be pushing further into bank-like services — has grown by leaps and bounds since its August 2011 launch.

But Cagney was forced out of the company last summer, not long after a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed by a former employee who claimed he’d witnessed female employees being harassed by managers and was fired after he reported it.

Another former employer who’d worked at the company’s office in Healdsburg, Calif., told The New York Times that her work environment had been akin to a “frat house,” with employees “having sex in their cars and in the parking lot.” That same story, based on conversations with 30 then-current and former employees, also reported that Cagney himself had raised questions with staff because of his own behavior, including bragging about his sexual conquests.

Evidently, DCM and Figure’s other backers were able to brush aside concerns about anything of the sort happening again at Figure. (We’ve reached out to Cagney and Figure’s investors for more information and hope to have more for you soon.)

Employees are also signing up for Figure with the belief, ostensibly, that Cagney is well-positioned to create another financial services juggernaut. According to Bloomberg, Figure has already quietly assembled a team of 56 people. Among its new hires is the former chief risk officer of LendingHome, Cynthia Chen, and the former chief legal counsel of PeerStreet, Sara Priola.

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