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Fintech VCs change tune on investment landscape – TechCrunch

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Welcome to The Interchange! If you received this in your inbox, thank you for signing up and your vote of confidence. If you’re reading this as a post on our site, sign up here so you can receive it directly in the future. Every week, I’ll take a look at the hottest fintech news of the previous week. This will include everything from funding rounds to trends to an analysis of a particular space to hot takes on a particular company or phenomenon. There’s a lot of fintech news out there and it’s my job to stay on top of it — and make sense of it — so you can stay in the know. — Mary Ann

What a difference a few months makes. In mid-February, we published a survey of 10 fintech investors with questions on topics such as what areas they are excited about and their outlook for the future. Here we are, not even six months later, and the vibe from the responses of our latest survey — this time of eight fintech investors — is a very different one.

A few examples…

When asked in February what differences in the landscape he saw in 2021 and if deals were much more competitive, Accel partner Ethan Choi responded: “On the investing side, deals were definitely more competitive and valuations certainly reflect that, even despite a correction in public fintech comps.”

And SoftBank Investment Advisers’ managing partner Munish Varma, in response to the same question, said: “The heightened level of funding has increased competition, especially for high-quality companies.”

In July, when asked the same question, Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Justin Overdorff said: “Seed hasn’t changed that much, but Series A and Series B round sizes have definitely compressed. Companies are raising less money at lower valuations than in 2021, which reflects the market sentiment.”

And Avid Ventures’ founder and managing partner Addie Lerner said: “Last year…given very low interest rates, investors were seeking yield anywhere they could find it and paying a premium for growth. Now, in a rising interest rate environment, investors across stages are valuing companies based on fundamentals and prioritizing capital-efficient growth, while looking more closely at public market comps for valuation guidance.”

Bottom line is that earlier this year, the sentiment was more of: “Woo hoo — everything is amazing and 2021 was a stellar year in the world of fintech.” And today, it’s more like: “We’re proceeding very, very cautiously — and you should too.”

I have to say that both my editors and I were very impressed with the thoughtfulness in the responses of these surveys. The VCs who responded — which this time around included Paul Stamas of General Atlantic, Alda Leu Dennis of Initialized Capital, Michael Gilroy of Coatue, Justin Overdorff of Lightspeed Venture Partners, Addie Lerner of Avid Ventures, David Jegen of F-Prime Capital, Nik Milanović of the Fintech Fund, Jay Ganatra of Infinity Ventures — clearly took their time to provide nuanced answers that help give us a better picture of the current fintech investment landscape. In my humble opinion, the quality of the responses along with all the fabulous analysis and overall content consistently produced on TechCrunch+ is well worth the $99/year cost of the subscription.

Weekly News

Starting his career in fintech as a software engineer, Rex Salisbury became a founding member of Andreessen Horowitz’s fintech practice alongside general partners Anish Acharya and Angela Strange before becoming a partner in 2019. During his two years at the firm, Salisbury went on to back the likes of now-decacorn Deel and Tally, two companies he had gotten to know through the Cambrian community he’s built up since 2016. Now he’s launched his own early-stage fund, Cambrian Ventures, out of which he plans to deploy $20 million “to back the next generation of fintech founders” at the angel, pre-seed and seed levels with checks up to $500,000.

Publicly traded Lemonade has laid off about 60 employees of Metromile, the auto insurtech company it recently acquired — adding to the volatility the technology sector has seen over the past 18 months. In an emailed statement, a Lemonade spokesperson told TechCrunch that it was “able to offer a role at Lemonade to about 80% of the Metromile team,” but that as the deal was “synergistic” it is able to “operate with fewer people than were needed to staff the two standalone.” Such staffing cuts are not abnormal in such business combinations, even if that is little comfort to those in eliminated roles. Meanwhile, sources tell me that many employees felt “blindsided” by the move and question whether Lemonade complied with the WARN Act. Those same sources also say that Lemonade required outgoing employees to sign a form with a “non-disparagement” clause. I reached out to Lemonade to ask about all of this, but got no reply.

China’s billionaire tech boss Jack Ma plans to cede control of Ant Group, the fintech powerhouse closely affiliated with Alibaba, the e-commerce giant he founded, the Wall Street Journal reported on July 28. If realized, the move will mark another important turn in Ant’s restructuring and power shuffling since China called off its $35 billion initial public offering nearly two years ago.

Instacart announced on July 25 that the Electronic Benefits Transfer and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (EBT SNAP) can now be used to buy groceries online in 10 additional states through its app. The 10 states are Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Instacart says Albertsons Companies and Sprouts Farmers Market are among the first to accept EBT SNAP online in these states. For some context on how the program came about in the first place, check out this article I wrote earlier this year.

Cardless announced plans to launch co-branded credit cards on the American Express network. The move follows Amex Ventures’ investment in the three-year-old San Francisco–based startup’s $40 million Series B round that was announced in July of 2021. The company declined to say how much Amex contributed specifically other than to say it was “significant.” Put simply, Cardless aims to help consumer brands launch credit cards “very quickly and easily” by handling the program creation, card underwriting, lending, issuance and customer service for brands.

As we discussed last week, many believe that the modern-era consumer credit score system is broken, locking millions of potential homeowners out of the American dream. Ready Life, a new fintech backed by Figure Technologies, has developed what it describes as a “revolutionary mortgage lending model” that relies on good rental payment history to qualify buyers for home purchases. “We are rewriting the rules for homeownership,” says Ready Life CEO Ashley D. Bell, a corporate finance attorney and a former White House policy advisor for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, in a press release. When the Ready Life platform launches this fall, consumers who pay their rent on time using the Ready Pay Visa Debit Card will qualify for mortgages without a credit score review, the company says.

Earlier this year, Apple revealed a new buy now, pay later feature, Apple Pay Later, that has reportedly now drawn the attention of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), reports 9to5Mac. According to the publication, CFPB director Rohit Chopra said that Apple Pay Later raised “a host of issues,” with antitrust concerns. The Financial Revolutionist points out that “while Apple’s move into BNPL will leverage the Apple Pay network and Apple’s reach through hardware to scale quickly, this combination of software and hardware is what makes Apple Pay Later a potential privacy risk.”

Payments giant PayPal finally has attracted an activist in Elliott Management, a $50 billion hedge fund, reported the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s. The latter publication says, “PayPal had been a pandemic-darling as households increasingly shopped online but shares have slid more than 60% this year as people returned to their pre-pandemic spending habits. Earlier this year, the company cut its 2022 earnings forecast, which led to the company’s worst one-day selloff in its history as a publicly traded company.” PayPal’s valuation has tanked to $89 billion from $350 billion over the past year. Why should we care? Well, according to the Financial Revolutionist, If Elliott’s activist-investor takeover succeeds, then the hedge fund has several strategies at its disposal to correct the course at PayPal.”

Visa and Mastercard’s earnings are good indicators for the economy as a whole, according to Moody fintech analyst Peter Krukovsky, who wrote via email: “Card networks Visa and Mastercard are a terrific broad barometer of economic activity, and the strength of Visa’s US transaction flows in the June quarter and in July indicates sustained solid consumer demand. While the demand effect of higher interest rates may build over time, continued strong trends at the card networks point to sustained growth trends for the payment processing industry.”

After Brex’s controversial announcement that it would no longer work with SMBs, it has now tapped San Francisco–based startup Oxygen “to provide their small business customers a smooth transition.” Last November, TC’s Manish Singh had reported that Oxygen — a digital bank aimed at freelancers and small businesses — was reportedly raising funds at a $500 million valuation.

Speaking of spend management, Ruth Foxe Blader, partner at Anthemis Group; Eric Glyman, co-founder and CEO of Ramp; and Thejo Kote, founder and CEO of Airbase will talk about balancing runway and growth onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt on October 18–20 in San Francisco. For more details, head here. P.S. Hope to see you there!

Alternative investment platform Yieldstreet has appointed Timothy Schott to serve in the newly created role of chief financial officer. In a press release, the company said that Schott’s “expertise in a wide range of finance and business functions, as well as his significant capital markets and M&A experience, positions Yieldstreet for continued customer growth and long-term success.” When asked if this meant the company was eyeing the public markets, a spokesperson told me via email: “No plans! Tim’s just been brought on board to build out the infrastructure so the company can scale.”

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it less common for people to use cash to pay for their everyday purchases. Because of hygiene and social distancing measures, merchants who used to frown upon letting customers pay small amounts by card are now encouraging contactless transactions. And with many outdoor activities simply out of the question, cash was more often hoarded than it was spent. Now it appears that contactless payments are here to stay.

Looking at Latin America’s socioeconomic conditions these days, you can find plenty of reasons to be pessimistic or at least daunted by how much is left to improve. Sure, problems are also opportunities, but what if there are just too many hurdles to overcome in the near future? And yet, despite the worsening global and local macroeconomic climate, unicorns keep being minted in the region. Here’s why Clocktower Technology Ventures remains bullish on the region’s fintechs.

Viber, the messaging app owned by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, has long been dancing around the area of fintech, launching services like money transfer and chatbot payments in various countries over the years. Now it is making a move to double down on that strategy: It’s launching Payments on Viber — a new service that will let users set up digital wallets tied to their Viber accounts.

Funding and M&A

Balance raises $56M to tip the one-click checkout scales in favor of B2B merchants

Sequoia backs fintech Dbank in maiden Pakistan investment

Pogo lands millions to become the ‘Honey for the real world’

You can’t afford a house, but you can probably afford Nada

Fintech Guava raises $2.4M to provide banking services to Black small business owners

With over $3B in AUM, Portage Ventures targets $750M for its first late-stage fintech fund 

PSA: Startup Battlefield 200 Applications close soon. Apply today to join Startup Battlefield 200 for the chance to exhibit your startup for free at TechCrunch Disrupt this October and win the $100,000 equity-free prize. Applications close August 5.

One more thing, be sure to listen to fellow fintech enthusiasts Alex Wilhelm, Natasha Mascarenhas and I riff on a bunch of industry news in last week’s Friday edition of the award-winning Equity podcast.

With that, it’s time for me to go. Thank you for reading and may you have a wonderful week ahead. I can’t believe it is nearly August already. Where has the summer gone? xoxo, Mary Ann



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Galaxy Digital calls off $1.2 billion acquisition of BitGo – TechCrunch

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Crypto sector’s first $1 billion deal, announced at the height of record surge in token prices, is disbanding as the market reverses much of the gains.

Galaxy Digital said Monday it has terminated the $1.2 billion proposed acquisition of crypto custodian BitGo, a high-profile deal they announced in May last year, after the San Francisco-based startup failed to provide its audited financial statements for the year 2021.

BitGo’s alleged failure to provide the financial statements by July 31 violated the terms the two firms had agreed upon last year, Galaxy Digital said in a public statement, adding that the termination of the deal won’t incur the company any fee. Shares of Galaxy Digital, which trades in Toronto, jumped on the news.

The proposed acquisition — which was proposed to include Galaxy Digital issuing 33.8 million new shares, and a $265 million cash component — was supposed to be crypto sector’s first $1 billion deal. The BitGo purchase was positioned to help Galaxy Digital broaden its offerings for institutional investors by adding services such as investment banking, prime lending and tax services. BitGo counts Galaxy Digital, Goldman Sachs, Valor Equity Partners, Craft Ventures, DRW and Redpoint Ventures among its backers.

“The power of the technology, solutions, and people we will have as a result of this acquisition will unlock unique value for our clients and drive long-term growth for our combined business. We are excited to welcome Mike Belshe and the talented BitGo team to Galaxy Digital,” Mike Novogratz, chief executive officer and founder of Galaxy Digital, said at the time.

Novogratz (pictured above) said Monday: “Galaxy remains positioned for success and to take advantage of strategic opportunities to grow in a sustainable manner. We are committed to continuing our process to list in the U.S. and providing our clients with a prime solution that truly makes Galaxy a one-stop shop for institutions.”

The announcement follows Galaxy Digital reporting a second-quarter loss of $554.7 million, up from a loss of $183 million a year ago, earlier this month. In the company’s earnings call, Novogratz said Galaxy Digital had about $1 billion in cash on hand.

Galaxy Digital said today it is waiting for the SEC’s review and stock exchange approval for a Nasdaq listing.



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Uber to sunset free loyalty program in favor of subscription membership – TechCrunch

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Ride-hailing giant Uber is shutting down its free loyalty program, Uber Rewards, so it can focus on its subscription-based Uber One membership.

Uber first launched the rewards program in 2018 as a sort of frequent flyer scheme that allowed riders to earn points for every dollar spent on rides or Uber Eats deliveries. Those points could then be used to get discounts on future rides or deliveries. In November 2021, Uber began introducing Uber One, which, for $9.99 per month or $99.99 annually, allows members perks like 5% off certain rides or delivery orders and unlimited $0 delivery fees on food orders of over $15 and grocery orders of over $30.

In an email sent to customers that was picked up by The Verge, Uber said users can still earn points via the legacy rewards program until the end of August, and that they can redeem those points until October 31. Uber Rewards will officially shut down on November 1, 2022, according to an update posted by the company.

The Uber Rewards program allowed users to earn 1x point for every Uber Pool dollar spent, 2x for every UberX dollar spent and 3x for every $1 spent on Premium. The number of points accumulated would put members into different castes of loyalty, from Blue to Gold to Platinum to Diamond, the latter of which comes with benefits like access to highly rated drivers, free delivery on three Uber Eats orders, access to better customer service and free upgrades.

While phone support will continue for Diamond users, now the only way to get additional perks with Uber will be to shell out for a subscription. Existing Rewards members will get a free one-month subscription to Uber One, but then will be charged for access. If you’re someone who orders Uber Eats more than twice a month, you can easily break even with the Uber One subscription, but plenty of users might not see the money saving benefits in the switch.

Uber did not respond immediately for clarity as to why it is shutting down the Rewards program in favor of the Uber One membership. Perhaps the company did not see the returns and user loyalty that it would have expected from the program and thinks a subscription offering will provide better returns.



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As companies fight to retain talent, employee benefits startups might escape cost cuts – TechCrunch

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How will employee benefits startups fare when their corporate customers start slashing costs as the market goes downhill? We’re going to find out if current trends continue.

There was a spike in the number of startups offering employee benefits services through a B2B2C model last year, as nearly every company focused on employee benefits amid the Great Resignation in an effort to retain and attract talent. These startups sell everything from paid care leave coordination and fertility services to discounted gym memberships to consumers through their employers.

But the freewheeling spending of 2021 is now over, and some of these startups could find their offered services on the chopping block if market conditions continue to worsen.

If there is indeed a recession on the horizon, many of these startups would be right to fear for their future growth, but Brian Kropp, chief of HR research at Gartner, doesn’t think this downturn will mirror the last. Kropp told TechCrunch that even if the market enters a recession, it won’t be similar to what we saw in 2008 because of the ongoing labor shortage.



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You’re not that special (I swear, there’s a startup angle here) – TechCrunch

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Welcome to Startups Weekly, a fresh human-first take on this week’s startup news and trends. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

For longtime Startups Weekly readers, you’ll remember that edtech used to be my primary beat. Like, day one beat. Most of my coverage was focused on edtech’s rise in the early innings of the pandemic, the unicorn mad rush and even some IPOs. Duolingo continues to be the company that I know the most about, mostly because I wrote thousands of words about its savvy owl and wild founding story.

While I’m more focused on fintech these days, I was curious if edtech is still a big deal or if the sector — like most during the downturn — is facing a reset. This week, I interviewed seven leading venture capitalists who have a focus on education technology to better understand how the sector is faring during the downturn.

The big takeaway? Edtech is facing a reality check in the form of discipline. Investors explained that the whole startup ecosystem is slower this year; edtech is no different. If anything, as USV’s Rebecca Kaden put it, “The boom in the category in the last couple years means most of our education-focused portfolio is funded quite well [ … ] rounds would be opportunistic rather than out of need, and most are focused on building their businesses for the next couple years.”

As Kaden describes, it’s time to focus and edtech, luckily, has the capital to do it. It makes me think a bit about advice that my friend often gives our friend group: We’re not that special, and that’s a good thing. He means in the kindest way, and the lesson there is that feelings of change, stress or anxiety are not as deep as we may think when we first feel them. What we’re experiencing is shared by other people in their mid-20s, or, well, other sectors in startup land right now. All that matters is if you’ve invested in yourself long enough before the spotlight turns on that when the lights go down, you’re still there. Just quieter and maybe focused a bit more on backstage.

Anyway, for the full survey, read my TechCrunch+ piece: “7 investors discuss why edtech startups must go back to basics to survive.” You can also check out my accompanying analysis, “Edtech isn’t special anymore, and that’s a good thing.” 

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll get into one Haus’ closed doors, SoftBank execution fund and a pitch deck teardown you don’t want to miss. As always, you can support me by forwarding this newsletter to a friend or following me on Twitter

Bring the Haus down

I wrote about Haus, a buzzy VC-backed aperitif company going up for sale in light of a collapsed Series A. CEO and co-founder Helena Price Hambrecht spoke to TechCrunch about what went down between the company and its potential lead investor, the reasoning they got behind the fallen deal and what’s next.

Here’s what’s important: I’ve never seen an entrepreneur so transparent about the challenges, and unfortunate outcomes, that happen within startups. Here’s an excerpt from my interview with her.

“It’s always dangerous to be low on cash. We got there, and it’s unfortunate, but I know there are many companies in this position right now,” Hambrecht says. “I have been sharing my work online for over 20 years now. It’s definitely something in my DNA. If me sharing this process is helpful for another founder in a tough spot and considering their options, then it makes all of this a little more worth it.”

As for what’s next for the entrepreneur, a Silicon Valley branding veteran, there’s no immediate plans to jump into a new startup.

“My goal, right now, is to be as helpful as I can to make this ABC process have the best outcome possible. After that, I’m going to take some time to process the last four years; it’s been so extraordinary, as well as brutal and traumatic; I’m going to rest and process that.”

Image Credits: MirageC (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

So, when is the SoftBank Execution Fund III dropping?

This week on Equity, your favorite trio dug into the numbers and nuance behind the headlines. It meant SoftBank, Coinbase and deals from ByteDance, Haus and Axios.

Here’s why it’s important: Part of the conversation hovered around SoftBank’s losses on losses, which was really the highlight of the show. Do we see a redemption arc forming for one of the biggest, buzziest investors of the past few years? And what does Tiger Global think? So many questions, and it’s always fun to get Mary Ann and Alex’s take.

SoftBank Group President Masayoshi Son Keynote Address at The JCI World Congress

Image Credits: Kiyoshi Ota / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Pitch Deck Teardown: Five Flute’s $1.2M pre-seed deck

TC’s Haje Jan Kamps is back with another pitch deck teardown, this time looking at the deck that helped Five Flute raise a $1.2 million pre-seed round.

Here’s why it’s important: If you haven’t been following along with this series, you’re — and I mean this in the kindest way — missing out. Haje goes slide by slide, and in this case, taught me a lot about why more can be more in terms of length of deck and why a “chockablock of words” is a top mistake founders make. Read the story here and pitch Haje for the series if you so dare.

If you missed last week’s newsletter

Read it here: “Venture investors to founders: Turn down for what?” We also have a companion podcast out, which you can listen to here: “Founders, whales and the sea change in the entrepreneurial energy.”

Seen on TechCrunch

Coinbase’s earnings fall short of expectations as crypto winter rages

Finix raises $30 million as fintech’s spotlight picks its sides

Mark Cuban, Mavericks in hot water over Voyager ‘Ponzi scheme’

Cloud security startup Wiz reaches $100M ARR in just 18 months

Seen on TechCrunch+

The best cloud unicorns aren’t as overvalued as you might think

Some frank advice for open source startups seeking product-market fit

How digital health startups are navigating the post-Roe legal landscape

Same time, same place, next week? Talk soon,

N



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Twilio gets hacked, teens ditch Facebook, and SpaceX takes South Korea to the moon – TechCrunch

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Hi again! Welcome back to Week in Review, the newsletter where we quickly recap the top stories from TechCrunch dot-com this week. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

Is Facebook for old people? If you’ve got a teenager around the house, you’ve probably heard them say as much. The most read story this week is on a Pew study that suggests this generation of teens has largely abandoned the platform in favor of Instagram/YouTube/TikTok/etc.; whereas in 2014 around 71% of teens used Facebook, the study says in 2022 that number has dropped down to 32%.

other stuff

Mark Cuban sued over crypto platform promotion: “A group of Voyager Digital customers filed a class-action suit in Florida federal court against Cuban, as well as the basketball team he owns, the Dallas Mavericks,” writes Anita, “alleging their promotion of the crypto platform resulted in more than 3.5 million investors losing $5 billion collectively.”

A troubling layoff trend: While tech layoffs might, maybe, hopefully be showing signs of slowing, Natasha M points out a troubling trend: some companies are announcing layoffs only to announce another round of layoffs just weeks or months later.

SpaceX launches South Korea’s first moon mission: South Korea has launched its first-ever lunar mission — a lunar orbiter “launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket” ahead of plans to land on the surface some time in 2030.

Twilio gets hacked: While it’s unclear exactly what data was taken, Twilio says the data of at least 125 customers was accessed after some of its employees were tricked “into handing over their corporate login credentials” by an intense SMS phishing attack.

Amazon’s bizarre new show: Think “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” but made up of user-submitted footage from Ring security cameras. By now most people probably realize their every step is recorded on a security camera or three — but doesn’t embracing it as Entertainment™ like this feel kind of…icky?

Haus hits hard times: Haus, a company that ships specialized low-alcohol drinks direct to consumers, is looking for a buyer after a major investor backed out of its Series A. The challenge? Investor diligence for an alcohol company can take months, and Haus just doesn’t “have the cash to support continued operations at this time.”

Image Credits: Haus

audio stuff

How clean is the air you breathe every day? Aclima co-founder Davida Herzl wants everyone to be able to answer that question, and sat down with Jordan and Darrell on this week’s Found podcast to explain her mission. Meanwhile on Chain Reaction, Jacquelyn and Anita explain the U.S. gov’s crackdown of the cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash, and the Equity crew spent Wednesday’s show discussing whether the turbulent market conditions of late will mean we see fewer early-stage endeavors in the months ahead.

additional stuff

What lies behind the paywall? A lot of really good stuff! Here’s what TechCrunch+ subscribers were reading most this week…

Building an MVP when you can’t code: Got a great idea but can’t code? You can still get the ball rolling. Magnus Grimeland, founder of the early-stage VC firm Antler, lays out some of the key principles to keep in mind.

Are SaaS valuations staging a recovery?: “…the good news for software startup founders,” writes Alex, “is that the period when the deck was being increasingly stacked against them may now be behind us.”

VCs and AI-powered investment tools: Do VCs want AI-powered tools to help them figure out where to put their money? Kyle Wiggers takes a look at the concept, and why not all VCs are on board with it.



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Digital pensions platform Penfold raises $8.5M Series A led by Bridford Group – TechCrunch

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Penfold, a digital pensions platform, has closed a £7m ($8.49m) Series A funding round led by Bridford Group, an investment group.

Also participating in the round was Jeremy Coller, Chief Investment Officer and Chairman of Coller Capital. Penfold also raised additional funding via a crowdfund amongst its customer base. The cash will be used to expand Penfold’s workplace pension division.

Chris Eastwood, Co-Founder at Penfold, commented (in a statement): “It’s been a big year for Penfold – from launching our workplace pension offering, to reaching £100m AUA.”

Bridford Group, lead investor, commented: “The pensions industry represents a huge market – with £8trn in savings in the UK alone. Despite this, many people remain uninterested and unengaged in their pensions. With so many people not saving enough, there’s a real opportunity for a new provider to step in.” 



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After the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago, online threats quickly turn into real-world violence – TechCrunch

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Threats of violence reached a fever pitch — reminiscent of the days leading up to the Capitol attack — following the news that the FBI raided Trump’s Florida beach club to retrieve classified documents the former president may have unlawfully taken there.

After Trump himself confirmed Monday’s raid at Mar-a-Lago, pro-Trump pundits and politicians rallied around declarations of “war,” and Trump’s ever-fervent supporters called for everything from dismantling the federal law enforcement agency to committing acts of violence against its agents. The situation escalated from there in record time, with online rhetoric boiling over quickly into real-world violence.

By Thursday, an armed man identified as Ricky Shiffer attempted to force his way into an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio, brandishing a rifle before fleeing. Law enforcement pursued Shiffer and he was fatally shot during the ensuing standoff with police.

Analysts with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a nonprofit that researches extremism and disinformation, found evidence that Shiffer was driven to commit violence by “conspiratorial beliefs related to former President Trump and the 2020 election…interest in killing federal law enforcement, and the recent search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago earlier this week.” He was also reportedly present at the January 6 attack — another echo between this week’s escalating online threats and the tensions that culminated in political violence at the Capitol that day.

Shiffer appears to have been active on both Twitter and Truth Social, the platform from Trump’s media company that hosts the former president and his supporters. As Thursday’s attack unfolded, Shiffer appeared to post to Truth Social about how his plan to infiltrate the FBI office by breaking through a ballistic glass barrier with a nail gun had gone awry. “Well, I thought I had a way through bullet proof glass, and I didn’t,” the account posted Thursday morning. “If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I., and it’ll mean either I was taken off the internet, the F.B.I. got me, or they sent the regular cops…”

In posts on Truth Social, the account implored others to “be ready to kill the enemy” and “kill the FBI on sight” in light of Monday’s raid at Mar-a-Lago. It also urged followers to heed a “call to arms” to arm themselves and prepare for combat. “If you know of any protests or attacks, please post here,” the account declared earlier this week.

By Friday, that account was removed from the platform and a search of Shiffer’s name mostly surfaced content denouncing his actions. “Why did you censor #rickyshiffer‘s profile? So much for #truth and #transparency,” one Truth Social user posted on Friday. Still, online conspiracies around the week’s events remain in wide circulation on Truth Social and elsewhere, blaming antifa for the attack on the Ohio FBI office, accusing the agency of planting documents at Mar-a-Lago and sowing unfounded fears that well-armed IRS agents will descend on Americans in light of Friday’s House passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

“‘Violence against law enforcement is not the answer no matter what anybody is upset about or who they’re upset with,’ FBI director Christopher Wray said in light of emerging threats of violence this week. Trump appointed Wray to the role in 2017 after infamously ousting former FBI director James Comey.”

Friday is also the five-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally, which saw white nationalists clad in Nazi imagery marching openly through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. The ensuing events left 32-year-old protester Heather Heyer dead and sent political shockwaves through a nation that had largely grown complacent about the simmering threat of white supremacist violence.



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