🗞 Venture Chronicles - June 2021
Hi, it’s Alexandre from Eurazeo (ex. Idinvest). I’m investing in seed & series A consumer and consumer enablers startups all over Europe. Overlooked is a weekly newsletter about venture capital and underrated consumer trends. Today, I’m sharing the most insightful tech news of June.
Just a quick note before jumping into the Venture Chronicles for June 2021. Next Tuesday at 4:30PM (CEST), I will host a 1-hour webinar session in French (🇫🇷) on the future of online grocery with Elodie (leading ecommerce, digital and data initiatives at Carrefour), Rafaël (CEO at Totem) and Jacques-Edouard (CEO at Jow).
Elodie will start the session talking about Carrefour’s strategy in online grocery and giving her opinion on the trends that she sees in the space. Then, I’ll have a conversation with Rafaël and Jacques-Edouard to discuss the different key building blocks of their respective models (go-to-market, logistics, products’ sourcing and relationship with brands, customer experience, barriers to entry, etc.). Rafaël and Jacques Edouard are amongst the best French entrepreneurs operating a grocery business in France and are building unique models. Jow is a recipe-based mobile app to order groceries from your favorite retailers while Totem is deploying micro-stores in offices. I’m looking forward to this conversation and I hope that you will join us!
For 2021, I wanted to pick one piece of news per day and write a short comment about it. I want to talk about something that strikes me. Something that happened in the tech ecosystem. Here is the issue for June!
Please note that the date picked for each event is not always the exact event date but the one at which I decided to write about the event.
Tuesday, Jun. 1st: We are delighted to double-down in our portfolio company Malt (💙) with a €80m series C co-led with Goldman Sachs. Malt is the leading European freelance consulting marketplace. Malt has built a unique community of 250k freelancers, is on path to grow its GMV by 100% in 2021 and is targeting a $1bn GMV by 2024. Malt is at the forefront of the future of work matching the best European freelancers with businesses looking to accelerate their digital transformation. The European market is valued at €350bn with 6m freelancers and is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. The funding will be used for (i) product and tech developments, (ii) organic international expansion and (iii) strategic acquisitions to consolidate the European market! - Techcrunch, Malt
Wednesday, Jun. 2nd: Our portfolio company Wefox (💙) raised $650m at a $3bn post-money valuation ($1.65bn valuation in Dec. 2019) in a round led by Target Global. In 2020, Wefox's core business reached profitability and the company doubled its revenues to $143m. Wefox is a fully-digital insurance company focused on personal insurance products (household insurance, motor insurance, personal liability) sold through intermediaries. Wefox has 700 agents selling only Wefox's products and 5k partner brokers. - Techcrunch
Thursday, Jun. 3rd: BeReal is said to have raised a $30m series A at a $150m post-money valuation with a16z (Andrew Chen), Accel (Sonali De Rycker) and DST just one week after closing its seed round with NewWave at a valuation below €10m. BeReal is a Paris-based and two-person consumer social app. BeReal is riding the same wave as Poparazzi and Dispo in the U.S. which is to build more authentic social networks. Every day, all BeReal's users receive a notification at the same time to take a picture using both the front and the back cameras in a 2-min timeframe. You can only view your friends' pictures after you have taken a picture. BeReal's DAUs have increased from 50k in March to 300k in May with users mainly in Paris and Lyon. It's great that Americans are willing to back European consumer social apps. I believe that we have extremely talented social consumer founders in Europe and for years it was horribly complex for them to raise capital from local investors. - Newcomer, Sunday CET
Friday, Jun. 4th: Gong raised a $250m series E at a $7.25bn valuation (vs. a $2.2bn valuation for its last round in Aug. 2020) led by Franklin Templeton with the participation of Coatue, Salesforce, Sequoia, Thrive and Tiger. I love Gong. It's a verticalized SaaS for sales-team. It records and transcribe calls. It adds a AI-layer on top of these data to provide insights to sales people. Gong has many use cases: sales onboarding, sales training, call preparation, populating the CRM, gathering customer feedbacks for other teams in the organization etc. I believe that Gong is building the next wave of CRMs and is no longer far away from replacing Salesforce within its customer base. This product has insane growth, usage and retention metrics (e.g. Gong is still doing more than 3x YoY in ARR). - Techcrunch
Saturday, Jun. 5th: I read a 2019 report on the rise of independent artists in the music industry based on a 250+ artists survey. - Midia Research
Digitalisation (music streaming, social network, cheaper hardware) has enabled the rise of independent artists. You can be successful in the music industry without working with a music label. Music production, distribution and promotion have been democratised.
Independent artists is the fastest growing segment in the global recored music market with a market share that has grown from 1.7% to 3.3% between 2015 and 2018.
Working with a label is no longer synonymous with success. For independent artists, the key is to be recognized from their peers, to participate in concerts and to build a loyal audience.
Many independent artists are not making a living. Only 4% earns over $50k per year from music.
Streaming and live performance are the two many revenue sources for both independent and label artists.
Sunday, Jun. 6th: Etsy acquired Depop in a $1.6bn deal. Founded in 2011, Depop raised €91m from investors like Balderton, HV, Crandum, Octopus Ventures and General Atlantic. It's a second-hand platform dedicated to the gen. Z (90% of Depop users are younger than 26) with a social first approach - 3 attributes that Etsy wants to capitalize on. In 2020, Depop reached a $650m GMV and a $70 take rate with a 100% annual growth rate on both metrics. It has 30m registered users, 2m active sellers and 4m active buyers. Depop has also strong cohorts: 75% of the 2020 GMV comes from existing buyers and 75% sellers are also buyers. Moreover, on average, a seller sells 10 items per year while a buyer buys 6 items per year. - Vox, Etsy
Monday, Jun. 7th: I watched Apple's 2021 WWDC which is Apple's annual conference for developers. - Apple
On iOS 15, Apple will introduce a Facetime upgrade with strong sharing features (watch together, listen together, screen sharing), the Shareplay API to give access to the sharing feature to third parties (like Disney+, TikTok, Twitch or MasterClass) and the possibility to invite people who are not in the Apple's ecosystem (Android, Windows).
Apple is also doubling down on privacy features. Apple believes that privacy is a human right and has integrated privacy as a key differentiator compared to other smartphone manufacturers and tech giants. It will add an app privacy report which is a report on how your apps are using your 3P apps & the 3P domains contacted by your apps. Apple also announced a private relay which is a sort of VPN.
Tuesday, Jun. 8th: I watched Brian Chesky introduce Airbnb 2021's major app update with 100+ upgrades and I read Airbnb's report on travel and living. Airbnb 1, Airbnb 2
Travel is bouncing back with countries like France, UK and the US that are seeing higher reservations in 2021 compared to 2019.
Key shifts in the way we work (flexible hours, remote working, four-day workweeks) are impacting travel and creating new consumer behaviors.
After the covid crisis, the travel market will be different: (i) people can travel anytime (and not only during summer and the weekends), (ii) people are traveling everywhere (and not only big cities) and (iii) people are staying longer (24% of bookings for stays of more than 28d).
Airbnb upgraded its service for both guests and hosts. For guests, they introduced a "I'm flexible" feature (flexible dates, flexible matching and flexible destinations). For hosts, Airbnb is reducing the friction to become a host with a 10-step only process to list a house on the platform, with automations and education.
Wednesday, Jun. 9th: Last month, Airbytes announced a $26m series A for its open source data integration platform led by Benchmark with the participation of Accel, 8VC and YC. Its founder and CEO, John Lafleur, published the deck he used to raise this round with actionable advice for both founders and investors. - Airbytes, Techcrunch
Benchmark's partners Chetan Puttagunta and Peter Fenton reached out to both Airbytes founders at the same time via different mutual connections. Here is how Benchmark led the due diligence and deal making process: "After the first call on March 10, we had several video calls over the next month. Each one ranging from an hour to several hours. These long form conversations allowed us to get to know Benchmark and, at the same time, allowed Benchmark to get to know us as founders as well as our plans for Airbyte. We knew that we were going to take on a board member with the Series A and it’s critical to have clarity before starting the 10+ year journey together. We felt that this discussion had to happen over several weeks. We presented to the Benchmark partnership on April 12. That’s when we presented the deck below. We sent it the day before so they could prepare their questions and so we could leverage that hour the best. After that, we had calls on April 13 and 14 to negotiate the term sheet, and we got it signed on April 15. During that time, we didn’t interact with any VCs other than Accel. We didn’t need to raise money. And Accel was a great sounding board and was putting our company first." This is a masterclass on how to pre-empt a deal: reaching out with strong conviction to the founder, taking 1 month from first meeting to term-sheet, being able to build conviction and price a round without a traditional fundraising process, which usually only takes 3 days from the pitch in front of the VC funds to signing the term sheet.
Airbytes structured its core pitch around 10 slides on the following categories: (i) setting up the industry and how they fit in their ecosystem, (ii) presenting the problem they are solving, (iii) talking about their solution, (ii) introducing the product, (iv) talking about the team, (v) showing their execution velocity, (vi) showing user growth metrics, (vii) presenting the roadmap, (viii) talking about the capital needs and capital use.
My favorite slide is the one showing their execution velocity. It's a way to visualize the progress that has been achieved in the past quarters on the different parts of the business (hiring, community building, integrations, etc.).
Thursday, Jun. 10th: eFounders is working on a European AngelList to help angel investors invest into startups, raise capital and organize club deals. In the US, AngelList is doing a great job at removing legal, fiscal and regulatory complexities around angel investing but Europe is not a priority for them. It's an exciting initiative that can bring the European tech ecosystem to another level. - eFounders
Friday, Jun. 11th: Auren Hoffman (CEO at SafeGraph) wrote a guide on how to raise a series B. - SafeGraph
It took him 2 months and hundreds of hours to prepare the fundraising. He fundraised for 1 month that was super intense (up to 7 meetings per day).
Every week, Auren sent a detailed update on the fundraising process to his executive team and his board of directors.
You should make sure that the business keeps growing during the fundraising period and you cannot delegate all your work to your executives during this period.
"Your pitch gets better over time." You should practice before starting to fundraise and keep your top tier-list of investors for the end of the process.
You need to do what you say you are going to do (valid for both entrepreneurs and investors). You are in a process in which you build trust and delivering on your words is key.
"VCs should not optimize for small terms. There are just three main drivers that affect VC returns: (1) the company they invest in, (2) the price, and (3) the amount they invest. I’d wager that those three factors alone account for over 98% of the returns of a fund.”
Saturday, Jun. 12th Nan Wang wrote a long deep-dive on Klarna, the Stockholm-based "buy now, pay later" category creator and leader. - Sacra
Klarna has a 55% market share in the global BNPL's market in GMV terms with a $35bn GMV in 2020 (+57% growth YoY, vs. $11bn for Afterpay and $4.6bn for Affirm) and a $1.1bn operating income (+40% YoY). In Jan. 2021, it had 87m annual active users and 14m MAUs. It's used by 250k merchants.
To expand its market and build differentiation against competitors, Klarna is adding a D2C layer on top of its traditional B2B model for merchants. It wants to become the default go to shopping app for consumers.
In the US, Klarna's channel mix is 60% merchants' websites, 35% app and 5% in store.
In this model, your goal is to maximize your return on capital by increasing capital velocity. At the moment, the average duration of Klarna's credit portfolio is 40 days meaning that the company can recycle its capital 9 times per year. Afterpay is incentivizing its consumers to payback faster. It has a repayment period below 1m and it's able to recycle capital 15-17 times per year.
Sunday, Jun. 13th: Jan-Erik Asplund wrote a long deep-dive on Front, the Paris founded and SF-based collaborative email platform. - Sacra
"It is a multiplayer tool that lets teams better communicate—via chatting with other team members within the context of a personal or shared inbox—and coordinate—via tagging, rules, and 3rd-party integrations—how they respond to email."
Initially, Front was mainly use by customer support teams with a high volume of customer inquiries. But, it has evolved as a more horizontal tool used across the whole organization and can expand in the futur into many adjacent markets (CRM, project management, knowledge management, conversational marketing, etc.).
Front has a 72% DAU/MAU engagement ratio and is used 148 min per day on average. This engagement is on par with top consumer apps (70% DAU/MAUs for Whatsapp, Slack is used 90 min per day).
At series C, Front raised at a $920m post money valuation with a $26m ARR and a 5% CMGR in the last six months. Front has a stellar 135% net revenue retention that accounts for almost half of the growth of the company.
"The Front product experience consists of a traditional inbox with features layered on top: chat, integrations with third-party tools, and native Front apps like a contacts tool and a calendar."
Front has built an ecosystem of 50+ integrations with project management tools, communication channels, marketing platforms, CRMs, etc. These integrations are key to bring external data to enrich Front's experience and to push Front's data into 3P apps. 55% of Front customers are using 1 or more integrations.
Monday, Jun 14th: Li Jin released a report called The State of Independence 2021 which details the learnings of interviewing 10k independent workers. - Contra
86% of independents work less than 40h/week and 40% work less than 30h/week.
76% of independents work on 2 projet simultaneously and 48% on 3 projets or more.
Tuesday, Jun 15th: The Generalist published a great deep-dive on Stripe. - The Generalist
Patrick and John Collisson had already sold a 1st YC-backed business before starting Stripe. Stripe raised $20k from YC and leveraged its community to get its first 30 customers.
Stripe has now 14 different products. Solving payment processing led Stripe to discover many adjacent problems that the company solved with new products. Each product protects Stripe payment processing core business while expanding the margin basis point it can extract per customer.
Stripe's culture is partly defined by the following principles: a multi-decade vision, writing-first communication, strong transparency, decentralized organization.
Inspired by historical conglomerates and Chinese tech giants (inc. Tencent and Alibaba), Stripe has built a strong venture activity (cf. below portfolio). Investments must be complementary with Stripe's expertise (increasing the GDP of the internet / around payments) and must be able to generate strong returns.
Stripe has also acquired 11 companies that are used to expand into new geographies or add new products to the Slack platform (Bouncer -> Rada, Index -> Terminal, TaxJar -> Tax, Payable -> Connect).
Wednesday, Jun 16th: Harry Stebbings raised two venture funds for $140m from MIT, RIT Capital Partners and founders and early backers in Calm, Atlassian and Spotify. In Apr. 2020, Harry started its journey as a solo-GP with a $8.3m debut fund and had made successful investments into companies like Hopin and Clubhouse. Harry is only 24 year-old and has built a media empire in the tech industry with his 20VC podcast. - Techcrunch, FT
20VC Early: $33m to invest $250k-$750k checks in early stage startups.
20VC Explorer: $107m to invest $1m-$5m checks in growth startups.
Thursday, Jun. 19th: Forerunner published a paper on the importance of loyalty against acquisition to be successful as a B2C business. In the past decade, you could build a successful B2C business by mastering online acquisition. With decreasing costs to start an online business, competition to acquire customers has become extremely intense. To be successful, your strategy and focus should now shift from acquiring other companies to retain efficiently your best customers through well-designed loyalty programs. 75% consumers belong to a loyalty program and 48% belong to 3+ programs. A good loyalty program brings: (i) defensible brand enthusiasm, (ii) predictable repeat revenue, (iii) higher customer lifetime value, (iv) compelling acquisition hook, (v) increase CAC thresholds. - Forerunner
Friday, Jun. 18th: I listened to a 20VC’s podcast episode with GoPuff's founder and CEO Rafael Ilishayev. He shared amazing insights on the GoPuff's history and model. - 20VC
As a reminder, GoPuff is a vertically integrated grocery startup offering grocery delivery in less than 30 minutes.
It did not raise capital for its first 2.5 years and operated as an EBITDA profitable business. Gross margin (high 30% and now 40%) are far superiors than other models in the grocery space and GoPuff was able to secure positive contribution margin (double digit positive) from day 1. They used the cash generated by the business to open cities: from Philadelphia to Boston, to Washington and to Austin. GoPuff raised capital only when it opened its 5th city to accelerate its geographical expansion.
As the business grows, GoPuff increased its gross margins by implementing larger fulfilment centers serving micro-warehouses and striking deals directly with FMCG brands.
GoPuff's founders literally lived in the warehouse during the 1st year. It gave them a strong discipline to manage the business and empathy with people working in the GoPuff's ecosystem (pickers, packers and delivery riders).
Currently, GoPuff is opening a micro-warehouse everyday. All market are profitable in less than 18m. GoPuff wants to reach sub-15 min delivery for all its market by 2022. 30% new customers come from in app referrals because of the GoPuff’s experience compared to alternatives.
GoPuff can become EBITDA positive at the moment it stops expanding aggressively all over the world. With scale, the warehouses are getting profitable faster. In a given city, the bigger you network, the faster your next warehouse becomes profitable.
When you look at ODH (order per driver per hour), you are much more efficient with a single pick up point (GoPuff) vs. multi-pick-up points (DoorDash). GoPuff is over 4-5 ODH in most markets and is profitable over 4 ODH.
GoPuff has expanded its use cases and targeted users. It started as a delivery service for colleges and universities (low teens as of total of customers). Since then, it has expanded the use cases: alcohol, babies, OTC medications, households. GoPuff wants to own the instant needs category with the smartest selection of goods that are needed everyday and quickly.
GoPuff has an important subscription program. Subscribed customers behave differently: they do 30% more orders per month and have larger AOVs (Average Order Value).
GoPuff launched GoPuff Marketing Solutions for brands that want to advertise on the platform.
GoPuff has started its expansion in Europe. It wanted to be sure to be the dominant player in the U.S. before expanding in other geographies. GoPuff acquired Fancy to start it European expansion and plans to invest hundreds millions of dollar to get a big chuck of the European market.
The vertically integrated model is extremely complex to build and scale. GoPuff has spent years to build its own warehouse management system and there is nothing on the shelf to do this.
Saturday, Jun. 19th: Vedika Jain did a survey on 25 chief of staffs with interesting qualitative insights in the space. - Vedika Jain
CoS loved the following points in their roles: (i) the visibility on the whole business, (ii) working on company defining projects, (iii) having no typical day, (iv) learning from other people's doing.
More CoS are hired internally than externally. Internal individuals are pitching their CEOs about transitioning towards a CoS role.
CoS work on the following workstreams: (i) being a strategic prioritization compass, (ii) serving as information exchange, (iii) special projects.
To be a successful CoS, you need to have the following qualities: (i) infinite learner, (ii) trustworthy, (iii) ability to switch context rapidly, (iv) be proactive.
Sunday, Jun. 20th: I listened to a Colossus's podcast episode on F1. - Colossus
F1 has a massive fanbase of 400m people over the world (vs. 100m in NFL, 300m in Premier League) and it's one of the only sport with a truly global audience.
F1 generates €2bn in revenues and has three main revenue drivers:
Race/promoter fees (30% of sales): a local partner pays F1 to host a race and hopes to make a return on that fee by selling tickets. The fee varies depending on the track from €0m for Monaco, to €10-20m for core Western Europe races and to €30m+ for races in more exotic locations.
Broadcast revenues (30% of sales): transmission of broadcast rights across the world to different broadcast partners. F1 works almost exclusively with local Pay-TV partners with 5y broadcast contracts. It can change with F1's direct streaming channel (F1 TV Pro) and with streaming platforms competing for sports rights with more traditional players.
Sponsorship/advertising (15% of revenues). You pay to have a placard on the side of one or several race tracks.
There is a fine balance between increasing sales by adding more tracks to the season while preserving F1's specialness and avoiding market saturation.
Monday, Jun. 21st: David Sacks wrote an article to explain why SaaS companies should always focus on teams over individuals. Products targeting teams have higher AOV, retention rates and a potential for revenue expansion. David is skeptic on consumer subscription businesses because they don't have long term viability with no cohorts growing years after years. - David Sacks
Tuesday, Jun 22nd: Dave is going public through a SPAC valuing the business at $3.6bn. Dave is a "lateral neo-bank". It started with a cash advance product for consumers to avoid overdraft fees ($30bn business in the US) and has become a full-service neobank with a banking cards and several financial products. Dave has reached 10m users with a much more efficient distribution strategy (neobanks acquire users at 10-20x the cost of Dave). - Dave
Wednesday, Jun. 23rd: Vercel raised a $102m series C at a $1.1bn valuation led by Bedrock Capital with the participation of existing investors including Accel and CRV. Vercel's team is behind Next (a front-end development framework built on top of React) and has managed to build an ecosystem of services around the framework including a hosting solution to deploy and scale websites without hassle. - Techcrunch
Thursday, Jun. 24th: Visa announced its intention to acquire our portfolio company Tink (💙) for €1.8bn. Tink is the leading open banking player in Europe. It is connected with 3.4k banks and financial institutions. It offers a single API to businesses who need to get access to their customers banking accounts. Tink has 300 banking and fintech customers including Paypal, BNP, American Express and Lydia. As a reminder, Visa had tried and failed to acquire Plaid for regulatory reasons - Tink's main competitor. - Techcrunch
Friday, Jun. 25th: Sneaker and streetwear marketplace GOAT raised a $195m series F at a $3.7bn valuation (vs. $1.8bn from its previous round 1y ago) from investors like Park West Asset Management, Franklin Templeton, Adage Capital Management, Ulysses Management and T. Rowe price Associates. GOAT has 30m members, 600k sellers and has reached $2bn in GMV. - Techcrunch
Saturday, Jun. 26th: Figma raised a $200m series E round at a $10bn valuation (vs. $2bn valuation in Apr. 2020) led by Durable Capital with the participation of Morgan Stanley. Figma is becoming the de facto design platform after disrupting its market with its browser first and collaboration first approach. Figma will use the funding to expand its customer base beyond the US, double down on product development and to acquire smaller companies. - Bloomberg
Sunday, Jun. 27th: Weekend Fund raised its third fund. Weekend Fund is managed by Ryan Hoover (Product Hunt's founder) and Vedika Jain. It writes $100-300k checks into early stage startups. It's backed by 350 operators and founders. The fund has invested into companies like Deel, Intercom, Poparazzi, Honk, Pipe, Magic Link, etc. - Weekend Fund
Monday, Jun. 28th: ThredUp published its 2021 resale report with amazing insights on the second-hand fashion market. - ThredUp
The resale market is expected to double in the next 5y reaching $77bn in 2025 (vs. $36bn in 2021) mainly driven by the second hand market.
76% of people who have never resold clothing are open to trying it. 33m consumers bought secondhand apparel for the 1st time in 2020.
When you look at the evolution of the penetration rate of resale in the average closet, it will rise from 9% in 2020 to 18% in 2030 - becoming the second largest category after off-price brands.
Gen. Z has a completely different mindset when it comes to fashion: they consider the resale value of an item before buying it, they are fine with temporary ownership and they don't throw away clothes but sell them.
42% of retail execs say resale will be an important part of their business within 5y.
Tuesday, Jun. 29th: Checkout published a report on European ecommerce called "The New State of Retail". - Checkout
40% of retailers were not prepared for the surge in cross-border commerce that they experienced during covid.
80% of consumers expect to pay with innovative payment methods such as BNPL (buy now, pay later), crypto and digital wallet.
In 2020, Western Europe experienced a 17% growth in ecommerce while Central & Eastern Europe's ecommerce market grew by 22%.
8% of consumers plan never to return to any brick and mortar shopping if possible.
In 2020, 96% of consumers shopped online in Europe (vs. 60% in Europe in 2019 and 84% worldwide in 2020).
Wednesday, Jun. 30th: We're delighted to partner with Aurélien Méaux and Electra (💙) by participating in its €15m seed round together with Serena and Frst to build a network of 1,000 ultra-fast EVs stations across France by 2030. Electra will deploy its first 50 stations in the next 12m in locations like shopping centers, super-markets, hotels and parking lots. - Tech.eu