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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for June 30, 2021. It’s the last day of the quarter. It’s the last day of the first half of the year. It’s the halfway mark for your New Year’s resolutions. The kickoff of Q3 means that we are heading into yet another earnings season. To close the second quarter, a number of companies went public including Didi and SentinelOne. The TechCrunch take is that we’re seeing some interesting pricing differentials between companies from the United States compared to China. -- Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
Robinhood fined ahead of IPO: While we count down to Robinhood’s IPO filing, long expected after a strong first quarter, the company was hit with $70 million in fines and penalties today for what the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) described as “widespread and significant harm suffered by customers.”
Venture capital drama: TechCrunch’s Natasha Mascarenhas scooped that SF-based Hinge Health booted a board member after they invested in what the company considered to be a competitor. The news is notable by itself, but also underscores how founder-friendly the market truly is today; this might not have happened back when venture capitalists held more power.
Byju’s leaks student data: Today’s breach involves a startup called Salesken.ai, an exposed server, and Byju’s user data. Byju’s is an Indian edtech company, and a very highly valued one at that. Salesken provides what TechCrunch describes as “customer relationship technology,” which helps explain why it might have had the other company’s data. No excuse, however.
Let’s start our startup coverage today with three space-related stories:
Virgin Orbit completes first commercial launch: Sure, SpaceX exists, but competition is a good thing and thus it’s nice to hear that another company is able to put important bits of tech into orbit.
Gilmour Space wants in on the same action: And the launch company has just raised a $46 million Series C to get to space next year. Gilmour’s rocket is smaller than others that you might be familiar with. But, again, more competition is good. It means lower prices and better service.
Remember that 3D rocket-printing company that raised $650 million Series E earlier this year? It’s building out a 1,000,000 square foot factory for production. Bring on the cheap rockets. I want to go to space.
Next up, the creator economy:
Pietra raises $15M to help creators build product lines: Wagers are still being placed on creators making and selling their own goods, it appears. Which makes sense if you consider the creator economy as still in its nascency and thus has lots of room to grow.
But while that’s a popular perspective, the passion economy -- call it what you will -- is not all big checks and instant success. We explored the sector today on the Equity podcast with Alexis Gay joining us for the ride.
But that wasn’t all. Here’s more from today’s critical startup coverage:
$5M for a LGBTQ+ neobank: While many neobanks are targeting the population at large, others are taking a more targeted approach. Such is the case with Daylight, which wants to provide banking services to the queer community. It joins startups like Fair and others in taking a slightly more niche approach to the popular fintech model.
$250M for drone logistics: Remember that startup that was using drones to deliver medical supplies in Africa? It was called Zipline. And it has since expanded its goals, technology, and, today, capital base.
And then there was news from Gusto that the HR-tech unicorn is breaking out pieces of its core technology so that other companies can embed payroll services and the like. While this is cool, what we really want is a Gusto S-1.
Demand Curve: 7 ad types that increase click-through rates
One perennial problem inside startups: Because no one on the founding team has significant marketing experience, growth-related efforts are pro forma and generally unlikely to move the needle.
Everyone wants higher click-through rates, but creating ads that "stand out" is a risky strategy, especially when you don't know what you're doing. This guest post by Demand Curve offers seven strategies for boosting CTR that you can clone and deploy today inside your own startup.
Here's one: If customers are talking about you online, reach out to ask if you can add a screenshot of their reviews to your advertising. Testimonials are a form of social proof that boost conversions, and they're particularly effective when used in retargeting ads.
Earlier this week, we ran another post about optimizing email marketing for early-stage startups. We'll have more expert growth advice coming soon, so stay tuned.
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
From tech’s biggest companies, we have three stories for you today. Let’s proceed in descending order of market cap, shall we?
Amazon doesn’t want to be regulated: And it may be worried to boot. That’s our takeaway from news that the company is trying to sideline the current FTC chair. Tough, is our first read of the company’s complaints and demands.
Instagram wants in on paid following: Following in Big Tweet’s footsteps, Instagram is “building its own version of Twitter’s Super Follow with a feature that would allow online creators to publish 'exclusive' content to their Instagram Stories that’s only available to their fans.” So it would be stuff, only available for fans? How interesting. There’s another service that has a similar effort. And Twitter allows for adult content. Instagram does not. Hmm.
Twitter makes NFTs, because why not: Want to know when something jumps the shark? When a major social network buys in, right? Major social networks are the boomers of the technology world -- extending the analogy, Oracle is a ghost that haunts your attic -- meaning that they are inherently uncool. And now Twitter has NFTs. Yay, or something.
TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing
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