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Greg here again for this edition of the Daily Crunch on Thursday, September 9, 2021. Alex Wilhelm is still out on vacation for a few more days … even though he’s still tweeting a lot, which leads me to think he’s either bad at vacation or dislikes Twitter less than I do. Whatever the case, I’ll keep that daily recap goodness flowing to give you a glimpse into the biggest stories to cross our front page.
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Facebook’s smart Ray-Bans: Five years after Snap shipped its Spectacle sunglasses, Facebook is taking a swing at the concept. But you won’t find the Facebook logo anywhere on these things (presumably because nobody on the planet wants the Facebook logo on their face). Built in partnership with Ray-Ban’s parent company, they look just like a classic pair of Wayfarers with an added bit of heft … and cameras. A white LED lights up when you’re shooting photos or videos, and near-ear speakers pipe in your tunes and phone calls. You can’t get them wet, which is great because no one wears sunglasses around places with water, like pools or beaches. Lucas Matney reviewed them here.
- Roomba gets smarter: Roomba has a new robot vacuum. The big new feature? It’ll try to detect and avoid poop your pets might have left in its path. Past models would just blast right through that mess and drag it around, leaving owners quite the horror show to come home to.
- Notion acquires Automate.io: Notion is buying Automate.io, a startup out of India that lets you easily hook into services like Mailchimp or Gmail or Salesforce (or Notion!) and create complex automated workflows. “It’s a sizable acquisition,” Notion’s COO said without disclosing exactly how much it spent.
- Skydweller Aero raises $8M for solar-powered planes: “Airplanes and drones today, regardless of size or fuel type, all face the same limitation: eventually they have to land.” writes Aria Alamalhodaei. “Skydweller Aero, the U.S.-Spanish aerospace startup, wants to break free from that constraint … “
- The $510M Series E: Varo Bank just won’t stop raising money. In June 2020, it raised $241 million, tacking on another $63 million in February 2021 because why not. Now it’s raised a staggering $510 million in a Series E round that values the company at $2.5 billion. “We didn’t set out to raise this much money. It was coming in fast and furious and we were at like $510 [million] and I finally said, ‘OK, enough,’” says Varo CEO Colin Walsh in a statement we can all totally relate to. Right? Anyone?
- Affinity raises $80M to use machine learning to close deals: Who in your organization is best suited to close that deal? Can machine learning algorithms chew through your company’s data (past email interactions, calendar availability, etc.) and recommend the right person? That’s part of what Affinity is working on, and they’ve raised another $80 million to keep the ball moving and the company growing. Affinity currently has 125 employees, with plans to balloon to over 200 in the next year.
Anatomy of a SPAC: Inside Better.com’s ambitious plans
Online mortgage company Better.com isn’t waiting to complete its SPAC merger before making big moves: Today, Ryan Lawler reported that it purchased Property Partners, a U.K.-based startup that offers fractional property ownership.
It’s the second company Better bought in recent months: In July, it snapped up digital mortgage brokerage Trussle.
“We aren’t so easily categorized,” said Better CEO Vishal Garg, who told Ryan that the company plans to soon expand into traditional financial services like auto loans and insurance.
Said CFO Kevin Ryan, “A lot of people have their niches in the way they’re attacking this, but we feel like we’re on a path to being full stack where everything’s embedded in the same flow.”
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Big Tech Inc.
- Twitter communities: Twitter keeps trying new things to make Twitter more approachable for people who don’t already have 10,000 followers. The latest experiment: Communities, or moderated social hubs, in which you can tweet with others around a shared interest. Twitter is limiting the categories, for now, to topics like dogs, weather, sneakers, skincare and astrology, and presumably hoping to stay way, way, way far away from politics for as long as possible.
- Microsoft is buying Clipchamp: Ever wished Microsoft’s 365 tool suite included a video editor? Seems it’s on the way. Microsoft announced that it’s buying up Clipchamp, a web-based tool for creating/editing videos. As for when it might be integrated into 365? TBD.
- Quicken gets sold again: Well that was quick(en). Just a few years after being acquired by a private equity firm, Quicken is being sold off to a different private equity firm. Quicken CEO Eric Dunn shared his thoughts on the deal (plus some insights on the company’s growth as of late) with TC’s Mary Ann Azevedo.
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