Inside the rise and reign of supergiant venture capital rounds

There was a time not so long ago when nine-figure venture capital rounds weren’t a near-daily feature of tech business news.

But now funding rounds of $100 million or more cross the wires with stunning frequency.

The era of supergiant rounds is now the new normal. This is attributable, in part, to billions of dollars flowing into new venture capital funds — the largest of which are raised by the oldest, most entrenched firms — and competition from relative newcomers, like SoftBank.

Q2 2018 may have set new records for worldwide VC deal and dollar volume in this post-dot com cycle, but that belies an important fact: Investors are dumping the bulk of capital into a relatively small number of companies. The rise of supergiant rounds wound up in a “takeover” of the market.

The chart below shows the proportion of capital raised in rounds of $100 million or more, tracing the period between Q1 2017 and the end of Q2 2018.

Just a little over a year ago, in Q1 2017, nine and 10-figure venture capital deals accounted for a healthy 35 percent of global dollar volume. Five quarters later, in Q2 2018, $100 million-and-up deals accounted for a majority — some 61 percent — of equity funding into upstart technology companies.

It’s not just that these mega-rounds are eclipsing smaller counterparts as a percent of dollar volume totals. Supergiant rounds also appear to be driving most of the growth in reported dollar volume, as the chart below shows.

Between Q1 2017 and Q2 2018, reported dollar volume in sub-$100 million deals grew by around 42 percent. By that same token, dollar volume in nine and 10-figure venture deals ballooned by about 325 percent over that stretch of time.

Granted, this is all based on recorded data in Crunchbase. And like all private-market databases, Crunchbase is subject to some reporting delays. Those delays primarily affect seed and early-stage rounds, which tend to be smaller. Still though, unless billions of dollars in small rounds get added to recent quarters, these figures are likely to remain relatively stable.

Why the takeover?

The obvious question to ask here: Why are $100+ million rounds more prevalent these days, and what explains their slow-motion takeover of the global venture capital market?

As with most things, the answer is, “it’s complicated, and it depends.” The rise and reign of supergiant rounds is a phenomenon that emerges from a confluence of different factors:

  • The SoftBank effect. Much hay has been made about SoftBank’s ludicrously large $100 billion Vision Fund, a pool of capital raised partly from large sovereign wealth funds in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. With this pool of capital, SoftBank can commit hundreds of millions of dollars to each deal, and the fund intends to invest in 70-100 unicorns over its five-year investment period. In doing so, SoftBank is building an index fund of emerging technology companies.
  • The rise of supergiant funds. This is a related but separate phenomenon from the SoftBank effect. Venture firms are raising ever-larger funds to compete with SoftBank for room in attractive venture deals. It’s likely that investors are trying to outdo each other by offering more money to companies. Why take money from Investor A when Investor B is offering more capital on comparable terms?
  • Companies are able to stay private longer. Although the IPO window is very much open for tech companies, it’s not like there is a line out the door. Many of the most highly valued companies are still far from profitable and simply aren’t ready for the scrutiny brought on by going public. With more capital available, companies can raise more in late-stage venture rounds now than what many companies raise in their IPOs.
  • A shift toward preemptive funding. Because of all this money floating around, investors may be investing more money earlier than they have in the past. Rather than using a catalyzing event, or some marked improvement in metrics to justify raising a new round, some companies raise money from their existing investors just because they can. Venture investor Elad Gil calls these “preemptive rounds.”

It really does seem like mega-rounds are here to stay. And, based on just the last couple of weeks, it looks like the third quarter is likely to see a continuation of the trend.

Here are just a few examples from the first weeks of Q3: e-cigarette maker Juul is raising $1.2 billion, self-driving car company Zoox just raised $500 million, Chinese cafe chain Luckin Coffee raised $200 million and scooter and bike giant Lime raised $335 million in a Series C round.

Bigger funds are able to invest in bigger rounds. And as competitors raise big rounds, it becomes more strategically important for companies to also raise big rounds. It’s a positive feedback loop. What stops the fundraising arms race, though, remains to be seen.

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Snapchat will shut down Snapcash, forfeiting to Venmo

Snapcash ended up a way to pay adult performers for private content over Snapchat, not just a way to pay your friends. But Snapchat will abandon the peer-to-peer payment space on August 30th. Code buried in Snapchat’s Android app includes a “Snapcash deprecation message” that displays “Snapcash will no longer be available after %s [date]”. Shutting down the feature would bring an end to Snapchat’s four-year partnership with Square to power the feature for sending people money.

Snapcash may have become more of a liability than a utility. With apps like Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, and Square Cash itself, there were plenty of other ways to split bills with friends for drinks or Ubers, so Snapcash may have seen low legitimate usage. Meanwhile, a quick Twitter search for “Snapcash” surfaced plenty of offers of erotic content in exchange for payments through the feature. It may have been safer for Snapchat to ditch Snapcash than risk PR problems over its misuse.

TechCrunch tipster Ishan Agarwal provided the below screenshot of Snapchat’s code to TechCrunch. When presented with the code and asked if Snapcash would shut down, a Snapchat spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that it would: “Yes, we’re discontinuing the Snapcash feature as of August 30, 2018. Snapcash was our first product created in partnership with another company – Square. We’re thankful for all the Snapchatters who used Snapcash for the last four years and for Square’s partnership!” The spokesperson noted that users would be notified in-app and through the support site soon.

Snapcash gave Snapchat a way to get users to connect payment methods to the app. That’s increasingly important as the company aims to become a commerce platforms where you can shop without leaving the app. Having payment info on file is what makes buying things through Snapchat easier than the web and draws brands to use Snapchat storefronts. We’ll see how Snapchat plans evolve its commerce strategy without this driver.

Given Snapchat’s cost-cutting efforts including layoffs, its desperate need to attract and retain advertisers to hit revenue estimates its missed, and its persistent bad rap as a sexting app, it couldn’t afford to support unnecessary features or another scandal.

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Here are some of the movie and TV trailers to come out of San Diego Comic-Con 2018

Over the course of a weekend we got a glimpse at some of the coming seasons and movies for various sci-fi, superhero, and other types of highly-anticipated fan-favorite franchises from the San Diego Comic-Con this year.

Here’s a quick selection of some of the ones shown over the weekend:

Aquaman

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Godzilla: King of Monsters

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Disenchantment

Arrow: Season 7

Marvel’s Iron Fist Season 2

Doctor Who

Nightflyers

Titans

The Walking Dead: Season 9

Black Lightning

Young Justice

Legacies

Star Trek: Discovery — Season 2

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow

The Flash

Supergirl

Glass

Shazam

The Gifted

Legacies

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Trill Project aims to be a safe community for people to express their true selves

Trill Project, founded by three high school girls, recently launched out of private beta to help people safely express themselves online. For those unfamiliar with the word “trill,” it’s a combination of “true” and “real.” An investor described it to me as a positive Yik Yak .

Trill Project began as a community for teenagers, especially for transgender teens who felt like they didn’t have a safe space to be themselves. It has since expanded it to a platform for everyone to express anything from their struggles with addiction, mental illnesses to workplace issues.

“We’re reinventing the narrative of social networking and we kind of elevate social media by being private and anonymous,” Trill Project co-founder Georgia Messinger told TechCrunch over the phone.

On Trill Project, everything is anonymous (there are no usernames) and monitored by 50 moderators around the clock. Trill Project also has machine learning algorithms as work to learn from reported posts to be able to recognize problematic posts in the future. And if someone feels unsafe or thinks someone has figured out their trill identity, they can always just change it.

 

In addition to wanting to prevent bullying and harassment, Trill Project wants to be helpful to those suggesting they want to harm themselves or those reporting being hurt by others. That’s why Trill Project has partnered with non-profit organizations that specifically support people experiencing mental health crises.

Trill Project will always be free to the users, but the idea is to possibly license its machine learning algorithms, sell ad space and sponsorships for communities, Trill Project co-founder Ari Sokolov told TechCrunch.

Anonymous social networks, of course, are nothing new. Startups like Whisper, Secret and Yik Yak have all tried and arguably failed.

“People have tried before but as teenagers in particular, we really are closer to our users,” Messinger said. “It gives us access and insight those companies have been lacking.”

Trill Project is currently participating in Founders Bootcamp, an accelerator for high schoolers. Through the accelerator, Trill Project has received $50,000 in funding. Next month, Trill Project intends to start raising a seed round.

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The blockchain begins finding its way in the enterprise

The blockchain is in the middle of a major hype cycle at the moment, and that makes it hard for many people to take it seriously, but if you look at the core digital ledger technology, there is tremendous potential to change the way we think about trust in business. Yet these are still extremely early days and there are a number of missing pieces that need to be in place for the blockchain to really take off in the enterprise.

Suffice it to say that it has caught the fancy of major enterprise vendors with the likes of SAP, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and Amazon all looking at providing some level of Blockchain as a service for customers.

While the level of interest in blockchain remains fluid, a July 2017 survey of 400 large companies by UK firm Juniper Research found 6 in 10 respondents were “either actively considering, or are in the process of, deploying blockchain technology.”

In spite of the growing interest we have seen over the last 12-18 months, blockchain lacks some basic underlying system plumbing, the kind any platform needs to thrive in an enterprise setting. Granted, some companies and the open source community are recognizing this as an opportunity and trying to build it, but many challenges remain.

Obstacles to adoption

Even though the blockchain clearly has many possible use cases, some people still have trouble separating it from its digital currency roots, and Joshua McKenty, who helped develop Open Stack while working at NASA and now is head of Cloud Foundry at Pivotal, sees this as a real problem, one that could hold back the progress of blockchain as an enterprise technology.

He believes that right now bitcoin and blockchain are akin to Napster and peer to peer (P2P) technology in the late 90s. When Napster made it easy to share MP3 files illegally on a P2P network, McKenty believes, it set back business usage of P2P for a decade because of the bad connotations associated with the popular use case.

“You couldn’t talk about Napster [and P2P] and have it be a positive conversation. Bitcoin has done that to blockchain. It will take us time to recover what bitcoin has done to get to something that is really useful [with blockchain],” he said.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Newsmakers – Getty Images

A recent survey by Deloitte of over 1000 participants in 7 countries found that outside the US in particular this perception held true. “When asked if they believed that blockchain was just “a database for money” with little application outside of financial services, just 18 percent of US respondents agreed with that statement versus 61 percent of respondents in France and the United Kingdom,” the report stated.

Richie Etwaru, founder and CEO at Hu-manity and author of the book, Blockchain Trust Companies sees it as a matter of trust. Companies aren’t used to dealing from a position of trust. In fact, his book argues that the entire contract system exists because of a total lack of it.

“The hurdle [to widespread blockchain adoption in the enterprise] is that those who have traditionally designed or transformed business models in large enterprise settings have systematically and habitually treated trust and transparency as second, sometimes third level characteristics of a business model. The raw material needed are the willingness and executive level alignment and harmonization around the notion that trust and transparency are the next differentiators,” Etwaru explained.

The volatility of new technology

Blockchain was originally created as a system to track bitcoin (digital currency) ownership, and it’s still used extensively for that purpose, but a trusted and immutable record has great utility to track virtually anything of value and enforce a set of rules. We have seen companies like po.et trying to use it to enforce content ownership, Hu-manity, which wants to enforce data ownership, and the IBM TrustChain consortium to track the provenance of diamonds from mine to store.

Photo: LeoWolfert/Getty Images

Rob May, who is CEO at Talla and whose company helped launch a blockchain called BotChain to track the authenticity of bots, says finding good use cases could help ultimately determine the technology’s success or failure. “Blockchain has a bunch of different use cases, and they are usually either all lumped together or poorly understood separately,” May said.

He believes that in many instances today, companies don’t understand the advantages of blockchain, which he identifies as immutability, trust and tokenization, the latter of which can help finance blockchain initiatives (but which can also contribute to confusion with digital currency use cases).

“Right now, businesses are missing real blockchain opportunities and instead throwing blockchain in places where it doesn’t belong. For example, they are trying to use it for smart contracts, and that stuff isn’t ready. They also try to use it for cases that require a lot of speed, and again blockchains aren’t ready,” he said.

Finally, he says, if you don’t require immutability, trust and tokenization, you might want to consider a different approach other than blockchain.

Please identify yourself

Like any network, identity will be at the core of any blockchain network because it is imperative that you understand whom you are communicating with. Charles Francis, a senior analyst at Accenture says for now blockchains will remain private for the most part, but authentication will become increasingly important as we eventually have blockchain-to-blockchain communications.

Photo:  NicoElNino/Getty Images

“Initially blockchain-to-blockchain connections will be manually set up and you will manage your network in a private model and bad actors will be immediately obvious,” he explained. But he believes that we will require a system in place to ensure we are authentically who we say we are as we move beyond private networks.

Jerry Cuomo, IBM Fellow and VP of Blockchain says that there will come a time when there are multiple networks and we will need to set up systems for them to communicate. “There won’t be one blockchain network to rule them all. It’s a very safe bet. Once you make that statement, these systems need to work together,” he said. “All [the different pieces of networks] need identity and the identity better play across networks. My identity on one network better be the same on another network,” he explained.

For Etwaru it comes back to trust, and a trusted identity would be a natural extension of that. “Transformational blockchain use cases require a network of trading partners to start to operate in a more trusted and transparent way, not just one individual,” he said.

Moving toward adoption

All this said, there is still a steady march toward adoption in the enterprise. As Talla’s May says, there may be open questions, but that just represents a big opportunity for smart companies. “If you are interacting with a network instead of a single company, whose throat do you choke when something goes wrong? I think you will see many companies in the blockchain space do what Red Hat did for Linux. Enterprises need consulting help and better frameworks to think about how [blockchain] networks will work, since Ethereum isn’t a product per se in the traditional sense,” he said.

Gil Perez, SVP for products and innovation, as well as head of digital customer initiatives at SAP says he’s seeing companies with real projects in production. “It is beyond just wanting to do something. We’re doing large scale implementations and pilots. For example, we did one in the pharmaceutical industry with over a billion transactions,” he said.

In fact, SAP has a total of 65 companies working on various projects at different stages of progress at the moment. Perez says the next level of adoption will require a way to involve multiple parties, not just a single company, as with a supply chain example, which involves moving goods and paperwork across multiple countries involving many individuals.

Photo: allanswart

He also points out the importance of making sure there is good data because ultimately, if you have bad data in an immutable record, that is going to be a serious problem. That requires the companies involved to come together and agree to a common system to enter and agree upon each piece of information that moves through the system and that is a work in progress.

May sees blockchain technology transforming the way we do business in the future and providing a more standard way of interacting than today’s hodgepodge of vendor approaches.

“Now that blockchain is here, what if we could launch a standard and have shared marketplace by all apps in a space? So as a developer, you write your [application] add-on one time and it works with any [similar application] that supports that standard, and they share one giant marketplace. But how do you get them to share a marketplace? Blockchain and tokens provide decentralization and incentives such that, if you set the right rules, maybe you could do it. That could be transformational,” he said.

As with any new technology, the more it scales the more the tools and adjacent technologies are required. We are still in the early stages of discovering what those are, and before the technology can take off in a big way, we will need more underlying infrastructure in place. If that happens, blockchain could be just as transformational as May suggests.

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Information wants to be siloed

Data, they say, is the new oil, and open public data is the new commons. Give the people the facts, and they will use them to make informed decisions. Right? Except that’s not the bureaucratic instinct. Bureaucrats fear the free flow of information. And all too often they’ll try to quench it by intoning the magic word “security,” and if that doesn’t work, “terrorism!“, in the most idiotic ways and places possible.

This is a wide and general rule: whenever some tinpot official says something painfully dumb has to be done Because Security, the odds are better than even that they’re lazy, lying, and/or incompetent. (Think of this every time e.g. your work password expires and you’re required to change it.) There are so many specific examples that it’s hard to choose just one — but, conveniently, recently an old friend of mine stumbled across an example of this so vivid and unforgettable that I can’t not write about it.

The situation is explored in depth here, but to summarize: Gavin Chait, an independent development economist, asked local authorities in the UK to provide data on business properties registered in those areas, including whether those properties were vacant or not. A fifth of them were already publishing that information to their open-data websites; easy enough.

The value of that information should be obvious: determining economic trends over time, and making predictions; tracking the retailpocalypse, if and when it occurs; measuring the lifespan of businesses; more precisely estimating values and the timing of business real-estate development and investment; etcetera. Quite dry, if you ask me, but the kind(s) of thing which economists love.

So, naturally, Westminster City Council basically responded by claiming that this kind of open data would breed terrorism. No, wait, it gets worse! The forms of malicious activities which they claim would be encouraged by the open publication of registered business property data include, as mentioned, terrorism, but also identity fraud, money laundering, drug consumption, crack houses, and … wait for it … the horror! the horror! … “meeting places for young people, and rave parties.”

Obviously the vast pool of nefarious young people, terrorists, crack house builders, and ravers who are apparently poised to invade, once this Maginot Line of obscurity is breached, would never be able to find any vacant properties without the publication of this data. Truly, Westminster City Council is holding back a veritable tsunami of terror, identity theft, and drug abuse by keeping this toxically dangerous data away from our collective prying eyes.

It’s absurd, it’s painfully stupid, and I hope that Gavin’s forthcoming appeal overturns this risible idiocy. But it also an example of two worrying trends: locking up data which should be open, and the notion that the claim “it’s for security reasons,” no matter how ludicrous those reasons may be, is an unchallengeable magic spell which trumps any other consideration.

Public data should be a commons, not a treasure hoarded behind lock and key. But data can be the new oil. I suspect that’s one big reason why bureaucrats instinctively want to keep it to themselves. (Before you quote “information wants to be free” at me, please keep in mind that that’s only half of what Stewart Brand said.)

“It’s for security,” though — that’s what really enrages me. No one should ever get to shut down conversation with the magic word “security.” Indeed, the opposite should be true: that claim should require far more supporting evidence than any other justification. Let’s hope we get to live in that world some day.

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The quantum meltdown of encryption

The world stands at the cusp of one of the greatest breakthroughs in information technology. Huge leaps forward in all fields of computer science, from data analysis to machine learning, will result from this breakthrough. But like all of man’s technological achievements, from the combustion engine to nuclear power, harnessing quantum comes with potential dangers as well. Quantum computers have created a slew of unforeseen vulnerabilities in the very infrastructure that keeps the digital sphere safe.

The underlying assumption behind nearly all encryption ciphers used today is that their complexity precludes any attempt by hackers to break them, as it would take years for even our most advanced conventional computers to do so. But quantum computing will change all of that.

Quantum computers promise to bring computational power leaps and bounds ahead of our most advanced machines. Recently, scientists at Google began testing their cutting edge 72 qubit quantum computer. The researchers expect to demonstrate with this machine quantum supremacy, or the ability to perform a calculation impossible with traditional computers.

Chink in the Armor

Today’s standard encryption techniques are based on what’s called Public Key Infrastructure or PKI, a set of protocols brought to the world of information technology in the 1970’s. PKI works by generating a complex cipher through random numbers that only the intended recipient of a given message, the one in possession of the private key, can decode.

As a system of encoding data, PKI was sound and reliable. But in order to implement it as a method to be used in the real world, there was still one question that needed to be answered: how could individuals confirm the identity of a party reaching out and making a request to communicate? This vulnerability left the door open for cybercriminals to impersonate legitimate servers, or worse, insert themselves into a conversation between users and intercept communications between them, in what’s known as a Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack.

The industry produced a solution to this authentication problem in the form of digital certificates, electronic documents the contents of which can prove senders are actually who they claim to be. The submission of certificates at the initiation of a session allows the parties to know who it is they are about to communicate with. Today, trusted third party companies called Certificate Authorities, or CAs, create and provide these documents that are relied upon by everyone from private users to the biggest names in tech.

The problem is that certificates themselves rely on public-key cryptographic functions for their reliability, which, in the not too distant future, will be vulnerable to attack by quantum machines. Altered certificates could then be used by cyber criminals to fake their identities, completely undermining certificates as a method of authentication.

Intel’s 17-qubit superconducting test chip for quantum computing has unique features for improved connectivity and better electrical and thermo-mechanical performance. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

 

Decentralizing the Threat

This isn’t the first time we’ve had to get creative when it comes to encryption.

When Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, whose true identity is still unknown, revealed his revolutionary idea in a 2008 white paper, he also introduced the beginnings of a unique peer-to-peer authentication system that today we call blockchain. The brilliantly innovative blockchain system at its core is an open ledger that records transactions between two parties in a permanent way without needing third-party authentication. Blockchain provided the global record-keeping network that has kept Nakamoto’s digital currency safe from fraudsters. Blockchain is based on the concept of decentralization, spreading the authentication process across a large body of users. No single piece of data can be altered without the alteration of all other blocks, which would require the collusion of the majority of the entire network.

For years, blockchain and Bitcoin remained one and the same. About five years ago, innovators in the industry began to realize that blockchain could be used for more than just securing cryptocurrency. Altering the original system designed for Bitcoin could produce programs to be applied in a wide range of industries, from healthcare, to insurance, to political elections. Gradually, new decentralized systems began to emerge such as those of Ripple and Litecoin. In 2015, one of the original contributors to the Bitcoin codebase Vitalik Buterin released his Ethereum project also based on blockchain. What these new platforms added to the picture was the ability to record new types of data in addition to currency exchanges, such as loans and contractual agreements.

The advantages of the blockchain concept quickly became apparent. By 2017, nearly fifteen percent of all financial institutions in the world were using blockchain to secure aspects of their operations. The number of industries incorporating decentralized systems continues to grow.

Digital security key concept background with binary data code

Saving PKI

The best solution for protecting encryption from our ever-growing processing power is integrating decentralization into Public Key Infrastructure.

What this means essentially, is that instead of keeping digital certificates in one centralized location, which makes them vulnerable to being hacked and tampered with, they would be spread out in a world-wide ledger, one fundamentally impervious to alteration. A hacker attempting to modify certificates would be unable to pull off such a fraud, as it would mean changing data stored on enumerable diversified blocks spread out across the cyber sphere.

Decentralization has already been proven as a highly effective way of protecting recorded data from tampering. Similarly, using a blockchain-type system to replace the single entity Certificate Authority, can keep our digital certificates much safer. It is in fact one of the only foreseeable solutions to keep the quantum revolution from undermining the foundation of PKI.

 

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Propelling deep space flight with a new fuel source, Momentus prepares for liftoff

Mikhail Kokorich, the founder of Momentus, a new Y Combinator-backed propulsion technology developer for space flight, hadn’t always dreamed of going to the moon.

A physicist who graduated from Russia’s top-ranked Novosibirsk University, Kokorich was a serial entrepreneur in who grew up in Siberia and made his name and his first fortunes in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The heart of Momentus’ technology is a new propulsion system that uses water as a propellant instead of chemicals.

Image courtesy Momentus

Using water has several benefits, Kokorich says. One, it’s a fuel source that’s abundant in outer space, and it’s ultimately better and more efficient fuel for flight beyond low earth orbit. “If you move something with a chemical booster stage to the moon. Chemical propulsion is good when you need to have a very high thrust,” according to Kokorich. Once a ship gets beyond gravity’s pull, water simply works better, he says.

Some companies are trying to guide micro-satellites with technologies like Phase 4 which use ionized gases like Xenon, but according to Kokorich those are more expensive and slower. “When ionized propulsion is used for geostationary satellites to orbit, it takes months,” says Kokorich, using water can half the time.

“We can carry ten tons to geostationary orbit and it’s much faster,” says Kokorich.

The company has already signed an agreement with ECM Space, a European launch services provider, which will provide the initial trip for the company’s first test of its propulsion system on a micro-satellite — slated for early 2019.

That first product, “Zeal,” has specific impulses of 150 to 180 seconds and power up to 30 watts.

Kokorich started his first business, Dauria, in the mid-90s amid the collapse of the Soviet Union, selling explosives and engineering services to mining companies in Siberia. Kokorich sold that business and went into retail, eventually building a network of stores that sold home goods and housewares across Russia.

That raked in more millions for Kokorich, who then said he diversified into electronics by buying Russia’s BestBuy chain out bankruptcy. But space was never far from his mind, and, eventually he returned to it.

“In 2011 I hit my middle-aged crisis,” Korkorich says. “So I founded the first private Russian aerospace company.”

That company, Dauria Aerospace, was initially feted by the government, garnering the entrepreneur a place in Skolkovo, and its inaugural cohort of space companies. In an announcement of the successes the space program had achieved in 2014 Kokorich co-authored a piece with the Russian cosmonaut Sergey Zhukov, who remains the executive director of the networking and aerospace programs at the multi-billion-dollar boondoggle startup incubator.

Utilis detects water leaks underground using satellite imagery.

A few months later Kokorich would be in the U.S. working to back the first of what’s now a triumvirate of startups focused on space.

“With all the problems with Russia in the Western world, I moved to the U.S.,” says Kokorich. Dauria had quickly raised $30 million for its work, but as this Moscow Times article notes, stiff competition from U.S. firms and the sanctions leveled against Russia in the wake of its invasion and annexation of Crimea were taking their toll on the entrepreneur’s business. “It was a purely political immigration,” Korkorich says. “I don’t have purely business opportunities, because you have to work with the government [and] because the government would not like me.”

For all of his protestations, Kokorich has maintained several economic ties with partners in Russia. It’s through an investment firm called Oden Holdings Ltd. that Kokorich took an investment stake in the Canadian company Helios Wire, which was one of his first forays into space entrepreneurship outside of Russia. That company makes cryptographically secured applications for the transmission and reception of data from internet-enabled devices.

The second space company that the co-founder has built since moving to the U.S. is the satellite company Astra Digital, which processes data from satellites to make that information more accessible.

Now, with Momentus, Kokorich is turning to the problem of propulsion. “When transportation costs decrease, many business models emerge” Kokorich says. And Kokorich sees Momentus’ propulsion technology driving down the costs of traveling further into space — opening up opportunities for new businesses like asteroid mining and lunar transit.

The Momentus team is already thinking well beyond the initial launch. The company’s eyes are on a prize well beyond geostationary orbit.

Indeed, with water as a power source, the company says it will lay the groundwork for future cislunar and interplanetary rides. The company envisions a future where it will power water prospecting and delivery throughout the solar system, solar power stations, in-space manufacturing and space tourism.

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Eventbrite is reportedly going public in the second half of this year

Eventbrite, the 12-year-old, San Francisco-based event-planning company, has filed an initial public offering confidentially with the SEC and plans to go public later this year, according to a new report in the WSJ. The company’s lead underwriters are Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase & Co., it says.

The offering must seem a long time in coming for its founders Julia Hartz, her husband Kevin Hartz, and a third cofounder, Renaud Visage. Created for individuals wanting to host smaller events and private parties but who faced few few options aside creating Excel spreadsheets — it’s hard to remember, but the ticketing world was largely centered around stadiums and major sporting events —  Eventbrite has grown steadily over the years into a global giant . It now powers ticketing for millions of events in more than 180 countries and has rung up more than $10 billion in cumulative tickets sales since its founding. According to Forbes, in 2017 alone, Eventbrite processed more than three million tickets per week to events, including conferences and festivals.

Part of its growth has come through acquisitions. Last year, for example, Eventbrite acquired Ticketfly,  ticketing company that focused largely on the live entertainment industry that had originally sold to the streaming music company Pandora in 2015 for a reported $335 million but that Eventbrite was able to nab last year for $200 million.

Eventbrite has also made a broader international push in recent years, acquiring Ticketea, one of Spain’s leading ticketing providers, back in April, and acquiring Amsterdam-based Ticketscript back in January of last year. And those deals followed roughly half a dozen others.San Francisco-based Eventbrite was co-founded in 2006 by Julia Hartz, Kevin Hartz and Renaud Visage. Ms. Hartz serves as its chief executive.

In the meantime, the company — which has raised roughly $330 over the years, including from Sequoia Capital, Tiger Global Management, and DAG Ventures  — has long been expected to go public, thanks in large part to its fairly turnkey and (we’d guess) lucrative business model.

Though we won’t see its numbers until closer to its IPO apparently, the company makes money off every transaction. For event organizers charging for ticket sales, Eventbrite’s fees vary by package, but one of its most popular packages collects 1 percent of the ticket price and $0.99 per paid ticket, plus another 3 percent for payment processing per transaction. It also sells a “professional package” wherein it collects 2.5 percent of the ticket price and $1.99 per paid ticket, plus a 3 percent payment processing fee per transaction. Last but not least, Eventbrite sells “premium package” with customized pricing.

Eventbrite is led by Julia Hartz, who took over the position of CEO in 2016, roughly six months after her husband, Kevin Hartz, stepped down from his chief executive duties owing to a “non-life-threatening medical condition.” Until that point, Hartz had primarily been tasked with overseeing marketing, customer support, sales, and human resources.

Both appeared earlier this month at the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, an event that attracts many of the wealthiest and most powerful people in U.S. media, technology, and sports, and whose attendees are often on the cusp of taking their companies public — if they haven’t already.

When Eventbrite does complete its IPO, Hartz will join a tiny but growing list of female founders to take their tech companies public.

Last October, when founder and CEO Katrina Lake took public her mail-ordering clothing service Stitch Fix , she became the first woman to take an internet company public in all of 2017.

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Ellen Pao memoir adaptation among 7 new Shonda Rhimes projects for Netflix

When Shonda Rhimes left ABC last August for Netflix, both she and the studio kept a tight lid on their plans. We could only imagine where the twists and turns that her future stories would take us. Well, now we know.

This week, Rhimes’s production company Shondaland and Netflix announced seven projects that she will make for the streaming platform with her production partner Betsy Beers who also made the move to Netflix. The projects tell stories of women of color, talented kids, important and routinely overlooked American history, fancy English relationships and pre-2017 White House doings.

Ellen Pao’s memoir Reset, published last fall, details her life and career, which includes the gender discrimination lawsuit she brought against her former employer Kleiner Perkins in 2015. Even though she lost the suit, Pao felt the battle was worth it, saying at the time: “If I’ve helped to level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital, then the battle was worth it.” She continues to work for inclusion in tech as founder and CEO of Project Include, an organization dedicated to making careers in tech accessible to everyone.

Julia Quinn’s best-selling Bridgerton series of novels will jump off the page and onto our screens, because we all need to be flies on the proverbial walls of “the wealthy, sexual, painful, funny and sometimes lonely lives in London’s high society marriage mart.” Mmhmm. Scandal writer Chris Van Dusen will be responsible for the adaptation.

The Warmth of Other Suns,” published in 2010 by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson, tells the story of the African-American migration out of the South between 1916-1970. According to her website, Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,200 people and uncovered archival works over 15 years in order to bring these stories to light. Actor, solo performer, playwright and professor Anna Deavere Smith is signed on to adapt the piece for a viewing audience.

And for some more history, “Pico & Sepulveda” is set in the 1840s when California wasn’t quite California yet. According to Netflix, it will track “the end of an idyllic ear there as American forces threaten brutality and war at the border to claim the breathtaking land for its own.”

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House” is a non-fiction tale told by Kate Andersen Brower that details the relationship between White House staffers and First Families in an upstairs/downstairs kind of way. The book was published in the spring of 2016 so, well, you know.

Debbie Allen’s Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, an award-winning reimagining of the Tchaikovsky ballet, will get the documentary treatment by Shondaland and Netflix, behind-the-scenes style.

“Sunshine Scouts” will be a half-hour dark comedy that follows a group of teenage girls who survived an apocalyptic-level disaster while they were at sleep-away camp.

These seven projects join the previously announced adaptation of a New York Magazine article about how Anna Delvey duped people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by posing as a German heiress. Rhimes is set to write this one.

If you want to hear Rhimes talk about her move to Netflix, you’re in luck, because she was the first guest of TechCrunch Mixtape (formerly CTRL+T), my podcast with senior reporter Megan Rose Dickey. Check it out below.

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