Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced look at this week’s startup news and trends by Senior Reporter and Equity co-host Natasha Mascarenhas. Subscribe here to receive it in your inbox.
It feels a bit like technology has forgotten its umbrella. For example, it remembered to pack its water bottle, wear the right shoes, and layer up, but when it came time to officially go out – and face the next year, say – it realized that a waterproof hoodie wasn’t enough. It needs an industrial umbrella.
You know what I mean?
This is what I dance, or, er, write, around. It feels like the macroeconomic environment has been fairly volatile over the past year; and were still Entrepreneurs are seen reacting to the market as if an accidental knock is on their door, tripping them up and stealing all their belongings. I’m not saying that founders and investors should have perfectly predicted what this year’s Q1 should look like; I just wonder how long we get “the economy” as a catalyst for tough decisions.
What ultimately causes a CEO to resign? What ultimately leads a company to go through its third round of layoffs? Is it the economy, or is it a uniquely human decision that comes just months after you were told to grow at all costs? When we talk about twists and turns, I think it’s important to talk about the realities of shifts to deal with the new normal. Abstracts like the economy are just falling flat now that it’s been more than a few months since the markets were gray.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, you can probably leave your house in a drizzle and end up in the grocery store, a little damp. If you forget your umbrella during a downpour, well, now you’re soaking wet and no one is sorry for you. Don’t forget them, and better yet, wear them proudly.
Can you tell it’s been raining on the east coast? follow me up Twitter or Instagram for other substandard metaphors and thoughts. In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll talk about a new venture capital fund that isn’t afraid to talk about privilege or fairness.
G on G
I spoke with Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal and Girlboss, about her new venture capital fund for founders, Trust Fund.
It is launching with a $5 million goal, targeting a check size between $50,000 and $150,000. She’s already gotten checks from the who’s who in tech. Prominent investors include a slew of a16z partners such as Marc Andreessen, Andrew Chen and Chris Dixon, as well as entrepreneur Ev Williams, icon Paris Hilton and backing from investors Ryan Hoover and Sarah Kunst of Cleo Capital.
Here’s why this is important: It’s her high-profile and rock-solid experience in the Silicon Valley spotlight that finally gave Amoruso the operational experience needed to launch her own venture. While opening up a $5 million allocation to accredited investors outside of her network, she said from a portfolio construction standpoint, she’s not necessarily looking for “diamonds in the rough” or a specific diversity quota.
“I intend to invest in men and women and everything in between. And if anything, why not invest in the privilege and ride in a dude’s coat? said Amoruso. “As a woman why wouldn’t I want to invest in the advantage a man has, feel free to publicize that – it’s true.”
Discord acquired Gas, a compliment-based social media app for teens. Reports Amanda Silberling:
On Gas, users log in to their school, add friends, and answer polls about their classmates. But the questions in the polls are meant to boost user confidence rather than damage it. Teenagers may be asked to choose which of the four friends is the best DJ or has the best smile. Then the chosen person gets an anonymous message with their compliment, sent by a vague “boy in 10th grade” or “girl in 11th grade”.
Here’s why it’s important: When Clubhouse first rose to fame, investors and founders alike buzzed with energy around the opportunity for innovation in the consumer social space. Since then, Clubhouse has had its fair share of struggles — listen to my Equity episode with the CEO here — but so has Twitter. I think the early departure of Gas and the many similar apps already on the site could bring some optimism to the conversation.
I’ve been covering Clearco, formerly known as Clearbanc, for years. Like many, the Toronto-based fintech had a particularly volatile past 12 months. But this week truly marked the end of an era, as co-founder Michele Romanow stepped down from her position as CEO of the tech unicorn.
Here’s why it’s important: Clearco has suffered numerous rounds of layoffs during the pandemic, including a cut that affected 25% of its workforce. In addition, 2022 saw the Toronto-based fintech step down from its CEO role to be replaced by Romanow, its other co-founder, Andrew D’Souza. Now both co-founders will assume the functions of executive chairman.
“We never lie, we are under the same pressure as any other company to become a profitable company. And so we’ve just continued to make the hard decisions… and continue to lead the way,” Romanow said in an interview with TechCrunch, explaining the shift.
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With that, I’m going to enjoy a weekend in Philadelphia with some new and old friends. Is anyone else tired of my East Coast tour? No? Only me? I’ll be back in San Francisco soon, and in your inbox.