Within 48 hours, the startup world experienced two momentous events: Y Combinator’s largest Demo Day ever, and the early investor exodus of Dispo, a photo-sharing app. Both events, while seemingly unrelated, taught us a lot about the importance, and difficulty, of due diligence in our current world.
For background, early investors in Dispo distanced from the startup after a key investigation unearthed allegations around co-creator and popular YouTuber, David Dobrik. Per venture capitalists I spoke to, the move to “sever all ties” with Dispo was unprecedented.
- Spark Capital decides to ‘sever all ties’ with David Dobrik’s Dispo app weeks after leading deal
- Early investors in Dispo to donate any potential profits from the photo-sharing app
So what’s the impact here? It’s a rude awakening on the importance of due diligence. On Equity, I argued that the Dispo news should nudge venture capitalists to do a more thorough job with vetting founders in the future. Dobrik’s questionable “pranks” were always a search away.
Even though one person doesn’t represent an entire company (Dispo’s team seems great, for what it’s worth), investors still left because of what their money represented. Fast forward, this event could have a chilling effect on VCs working with celebrities or influencers. The liability just seems too huge to back a startup led by potentially problematic individuals, so either stay away or do your homework.
Well, you’d think. Ironically, 24 hours after Dispo investors backed away from the startup was YC Demo Day, one of the marquee startup events of the year. My colleague joked that founders don’t simply need to figure out how to get into Y Combinator anymore — they need to figure out how to stand out in the batch once they get there. The comment, made in jest, underscored a truth about the current startup funding environment: too noisy to handle.
- Our favorite companies from Y Combinator’s W21 Demo Day: Part 1
- Our favorite companies from Y Combinator’s W21 Demo Day: Part 2
- Y Combinator’s new batch features its largest group of Indian startups
- Y Combinator widens its bet in edtech in latest batch
- Y Combinator’s biotech startups incubate a new generation of therapies and tools
Noise turned into free-for-all investments. One investor got an email from a batch company saying essentially, “thanks for your interest, if you want to invest here’s a document, no due diligence required.” The startup was valued at $100 million. Another investor I spoke to said that a company asked for an investment without meeting the VC.
While these are only anecdotes, I think these pitches are illustrative of the disconnect between the importance of due diligence and the hype cycle we are in. As Dispo showed us, it’s net positive to vet your future partner, back the right startups and bring on the right money. As YC Demo Day showed us, it’s hard to go slow when you can go fast. If the money is dangling in front of you, how do you say no?
- Pre-seed funding is under scrutiny, is VC pandemic-posturing here to stay?https://twitter.com/pjux/status/1374805872371666948
- You can only invest if you promise not to read the fine print, ok?
I don’t have a solution to the disconnect, and ultimately the change comes down to the ethos of individual investors and founders. But at minimum, this week of extremes gives a dose of reality to startup mania right now.
In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll focus on a five-month unicorn, and Plaid’s harmony at Discord’s cost. As always, you can find me on Twitter @nmasc_.
‘From launch to unicorn in 5 months’
Pacaso, a startup that wants to make it easier for people to have second home ownership, has reached a $1 billion valuation in just five months. The startup essentially wants to reinvent timeshares, with the goal of “bringing together a small group of co-owners to purchase a share of a single-family home” with access throughout the year, Mary Ann Azevedo reports.
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Here’s what to know: The proptech unicorns are here to stay. My colleague Eric Eldon wrote about real estate trends, from co-living to a suburban-style living boom.
- And if you don’t believe us: In this latest investor survey, Eldon surveyed 10 proptech investors who see a better era for residential and retail after the pandemic.
Exits, and Plaid’s lack thereof
Even an ol’ enterprise giant wants to remind you that community matters. Microsoft is reportedly trying to scoop up Discord, in deal talks that would value the latter at $10 billion. The startup was last valued at $7 billion.
Here’s what to know: The deal price feels slightly cheap, argues the Equity trio. When you consider the fact that Plaid could be valued at almost double or triple for what it was going to be sold to Visa, one has to wonder if Discord has an anti-trust discount limiting its pricing.
- Speaking of legal headaches: Robinhood filed confidently to go public, which, sue me, makes me excited as heck!
- Coursera set to roughly double its private valuation in impending IPO
- Here’s a discount code to our TechCrunch Early Stage conference, our two-day virtual event for founders, investors and operators. Use code “TCARTICLE” to get 20% off your ticket so you can attend super-cool events like how to bootstrap with Calendly’s Tope Awotona and OpenView’s Blake Bartlett, how to pitch your Series A fundraise with Kleiner Perkins’ Bucky Moore (moderated by moi) and finance for founders with Alexa von Tobel.
- Grab super early-bird passes to TechCrunch Disrupt for less than $100. Equity might do something fun and special, who knows.
- The TechCrunch List is a directory of the most active and engaged investors in the VC industry today as recommended by founders.
Across the week
Seen on TechCrunch
Elon Musk declares you can now buy a Tesla with bitcoin in the US
Slack’s new DM feature Connect is thankfully opt-in
The Frankencloud model is our biggest security risk
As more artists and musicians turn their attention to NFTs, so, likely, do money launderers
Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky is returning to AWS to replace Andy Jassy as CEO
Seen on Extra Crunch
It’s time to abandon business intelligence tools
NFTs could bridge video games and the fashion industry
How VC and private equity funds can launch portfolio-acceleration platforms
Steady’s Adam Roseman and investor Emmalyn Shaw outline what worked (and what was missing) in the Series A deck