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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for November 4, 2021! We have loads to get to, but don’t space out on checking out the agenda for our upcoming TC Sessions: Space event. It’s going to be, ahem, out of this world. — Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
Google launches third-party payment support in South Korea: Developers with apps in the South Korean Google Play marketplace will have the ability to “offer alternative payment systems alongside Google’s own,” after a law passed in the country changed the rules. If that sounds like a small win, you haven’t been paying attention. Alphabet and Apple are hell-bent on keeping as much income from their app stores as possible, regardless of whether such actions are developer- or consumer-friendly.
Latin American fintech startups are living up to their hype: If you are building a financial services company, Latin America is just about the hottest market for your wares. In the wake of record fundraising numbers, TechCrunch did a little digging into the space, learning what is driving the startup cohort forward. And, yes, Nubank’s IPO came into it.
Driverless taxis come to San Francisco: You might have expected self-driving car services to start their lives in the City by the Bay. After all, per capita it is simply lousy with tech folks. But, given the city’s complex and hilly layout, it wasn’t. But now Cruise, Alphabet’s self-driving subsidiary, is running taxis there. And if they can do so in San Francisco, perhaps they will soon make it to our own cities.
Before we dive into startup news, our own Anna Heim has a great dive into the current SaaS versus on-demand pricing debate that I wholeheartedly recommend.
No, Gwoop is not Whoop for Goop: Instead, Gwoop is an esports training platform that is linking up with high school gaming leagues. This is awesome, and is more evidence that I was born several decades too early. Esports in schools? We did not that, unless you counted competitive snake-playing on our Nokia bricks. Regardless, the esports training market is doing well it appears, given that related startup Metafy also raised this year.
Judge grounds Blue Origin spacesuit over moon mission: Here’s something new for the newly self-employed Bezos to moon over, literally. His space company’s efforts to wedge into the NASA moon-mission budget just got dismissed. So much for that pie-in-the-sky attempt.
UpWest raises $70M fund to bring Israeli startups to the U.S. market: If you are a startup that is doing well in one market, you will look for another. It’s like the opening of “Pride and Prejudice,” but instead of a “single man” put in startup, plug-in well funded for “good fortune” and desire another geography to sell into in for “be in want of a wife.” That, basically, is UpWest’s value prop. It wants to help Israeli companies take on a much bigger market.
WhyLabs raises $10M for AIobs: AI models are not alive, per se, but WhyLabs wants to help companies keep tabs on their ML setup in case it loses health. The company’s new round comes after it raised $4 million in a seed round last year.
PubNub shows that data streaming is big business: Now flush with $65 million in new capital, PubNub’s bet on data streams appears to be paying off. And the company is flush with a Series E to help build out its APIs that help “power messaging and data updates for apps and other digital businesses” in new geographies.
Why more SaaS companies are shifting to usage-based pricing
Boston-based VC firm OpenView interviewed nearly 600 SaaS companies for its annual pricing survey and the results are in: Usage-based pricing has gone mainstream.
Last year, 34% of survey respondents said they were using a flexible pricing model. This year, that figure rose to 45%.
“When AI can automate tasks, the more successful the solution is, the fewer people need to be logging in,” said OpenView operating partner Kyle Poyar.
“Seats are just an outdated way of charging and don’t allow a company to communicate value or invest in features that would add more value.”
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Big Tech Inc.
To kick off our Big Tech conversation today, our own Ryan Lawler covered Blend’s expansion from the mortgage market into a broader fintech suite. Take a peek.
The U.K. rattles its scepter at social media companies that earn its ire: A few things. First, the U.K. has a “recently appointed secretary of state for digital” named Nadine Dorries, it turns out. And second, it appears that she is not messing around. TechCrunch reports that she “wants to take a tougher line on social media platforms than her predecessor,” which could include “criminal sanctions for breaches of incoming [domestic] online safety legislation.”
And in other Facebook news, the Meta company is working on personalization features for its Groups product.
Nikola sets aside war chest for future settlements: Embattled EV company Nikola is expecting bad news, it appears, setting aside an eighth of a billion dollars for settling with the American Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). That’s a lot of coin for a company that needs lots of change to get its trucks rolling.
And to close us out, IBM’s infrastructure services work has spun out into a separate company called Kyndryl — which I presume is the name of Beedrill’s lost forefather — which is doing huge revenues per our own Ron Miller. Per our reporting, Kyndryl “sees itself as a consulting arm for legacy companies to help them make the transition to more modern ways of doing business,” which seems fair enough.
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