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9+ caffeinated gift ideas for your favorite coffee lovers – TechCrunch

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Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide! Need help with gift ideas? We’re here to help! We’ll be rolling out gift guides from now through the end of December. You can find our other guides right here.

The pandemic has meant we leave our homes far less often, and that means fending for ourselves when it comes to coffee. But too many of us have old, cheap coffee makers or worse, pod-based ones at home. Here are the best ways to elevate your coffee game or delight the java lover in your life.

This article contains links to affiliate partners where available. When you buy through these links, TechCrunch may earn an affiliate commission.

Every grocery store sells a cheap drip coffee maker that does the job adequately, but if anyone is going to use a device every day, it should be something they look forward to, not the bare minimum.

That said, a coffee maker shouldn’t be an IQ test — you have to operate it before you’ve had your coffee, after all. I personally find the ones with touchscreens and apps add nothing but new ways to get it wrong. So I tested a few coffee makers that balance quality with simplicity, and after a few weeks of jitters here are my favorites.

For the industrial design appreciator: OXO 8-cup coffee maker

Pros:

  • Compact, well-thought-out design
  • Lots of actually useful features
  • Thermal carafe included

Cons:

  • Single-cup brewing is a bit over-complicated
  • Could be more coffee-efficient

OXO’s reputation as a kitchen goods designer is well deserved, but I often find their items a bit much for the job. Not so with the 8-cup coffee maker, which manages to balance thoughtful design with simplicity and quality. I can say with confidence: if you aren’t sure which coffee maker to get… get this one.

The OXO 8-cup is the (obviously) smaller alternative to the 9-cup, losing the ability to schedule brewing but gaining simpler operation and a single-cup option using a separate, Kalita-compatible basket. The lids of the reservoir and basket area flip up (the latter allowing condensed water to flow safely into the filter) and the basket itself sits securely but pops out easily.

The coffee is uniformly good; I would say as good but slightly less strong than the KBGV below. It flows directly into a thermal carafe with a dedicated hole in the top, simplifying even that part. Pretty much everything about this machine is made to simplify and foolproof itself, making the brewing process extremely reliable.

I honestly struggled to find any complaints, but I would say that the necessity of keeping a second basket that uses a different filter type, then adjusting the various bits so that you can slip the mug in, etc., is arguably more trouble than it’s worth. But the capability for single-cup brewing is there and doesn’t take away from the rest at all.

It also recommends somewhat more grounds per cup than the KBGV, not a crazy amount but enough that you’ll probably get one less pot out of a standard 16 oz bag of coffee.

Price: $170 from OXO

For the FBI stakeout: Technivorm Moccamaster KBGV

Pros:

  • Streamlined retro-institutional look
  • Strong, reliable brew
  • Automatic hot plate

Cons

  • Lots of removable parts
  • Materials unremarkable for the price

The KBGV brewed my favorite coffee and in my opinion has the best look, like what you’d expect in the background of an FBI stakeout field HQ in a 70s movie. Where the OXO is rounded-off and unassuming, designed to disappear in a modern kitchen, the KBGV is bold and shiny.

The coffee it makes is bold, too: reliably strong and flavorful. Its #4 filter process to me was also pretty efficient with grounds.

The squat glass carafe sits on a hot plate that remains on for an hour or so after brewing, which is great but also means you must remember to turn it off — it won’t start a fire or anything, it’s just going to sit there being hot.

My main issue with the KBGV is that the reservoir and basket covers just sit on top rather than being on hinges, making the process of brewing involve removing and replacing several pieces. A small complaint, but they, like the carafe lid and basket, are also made of a rather ordinary plastic rather than something more durable. I feel like given the premium price you should be given something a bit more classy and convenient.

The good news is they’ll be easy to replace if they break, and Technivorm has an excellent warranty.

Price: $330 from Technivorm

For the ‘gram: Ratio 8

Pros:

  • Extremely handsome
  • Excellent materials
  • Very simple operation

Cons:

  • Nothing to keep coffee warm
  • Quite large!
  • Very expensive

Objectively the most good-looking of the machines here (even if I prefer the quirky charm of the KBGV), the Ratio 8, with its wood and textured metal finish, is obviously meant to be a display piece. And you couldn’t hide it if you wanted to — this thing is big, and the thick power cord juts straight out of the back, making it difficult to put anywhere but somewhere central.

The machine is basically an automatic Chemex brewer (Chemex makes one of their own that I tried to test but never heard back on), which kind of tells you everything you need to know. Chemex, with its wood-collared, single-piece carafes and luxuriously thick filters, is almost like the BMW of drip coffee, with all that implies. I like it, but I also acknowledge that it’s a bit over the top. And a machine that does it for you — well!

But as a Chemex brewer goes, it’s a lovely thing. You get that special extra clarity that the Chemex process brings, and there’s something wonderful about the way the coffee comes out of those carafes. Operating the machine is a single-button affair, which activates a short bloom period then showers the grounds over time with however much water you put in the reservoir.

I found that the Ratio 8 was best when making a full carafe, as with a half-portion I felt it over-watered and consequently under-extracted what I put in there. Unfortunately that full carafe will have to be consumed with a quickness, as the Ratio 8, despite its size and price, has nothing to keep the coffee warm once it’s been brewed.

For a showy and unique machine the Ratio 8 is great. But if all you want to do is make great drip, the OXO or KBGV is a much better use of your funds.

Price: $495 from Ratio

There are lots of ways to make coffee, and while drip is the easiest and most reliable for most people, the following slightly more unusual options are also viable and perhaps more interesting as gifts.

FrankOne

PA150003Want to get the first coffee maker to come out of Colombia — you know, coffee central? The FrankOne is a cool device that quickly makes a pourover-like cup by steeping the grounds then creating a vacuum in the chamber below it, sucking the liquid out but leaving the grounds up top. It works great, operates on a rechargeable battery and is easy to clean (especially if you have a garbage disposal).

Price: $80 from FrankDePaula

ROK manual espresso maker

Image Credits: ROK

I avoided the many fancy espresso machines out there for this review mainly for the reason that they are complex, expensive and require considerable upkeep. The ROK is about as simple an espresso maker as you can get, bested only by a stovetop Moka pot.

To work the ROK, you pack your grounds into the included espresso filter and attach it to the machine like any other. Then you pour your hot water into the reservoir up top, raise the arms, and depress them with a slow, steady pressure that forces it through the filter. It really is that simple.

It may not be quite the high-pressure espresso you get from a “real” machine, but it’s quite good, and the process can be repeated to increase the volume and produce something like an americano. The coffee produced by the ROK is a bit like a Moka Pot’s, but a bit less strong and far less likely to be burnt.

The machine itself is bulletproof — and I mean I think it’s actually bulletproof. It’s practically solid metal, though the reservoir and bellows are rubber. Use this to make coffee while camping and then fend off a bear attack.

For a unique, electricity-free coffee experience the ROK is a great option, though not necessarily a practical one.

Price: $189 from ROK

Osma

Image Credits: Osma

I haven’t gotten to test this one yet (though I will), but designer Joey Roth hasn’t done me wrong yet. This new device from his workshop uses a completely new method of circulating hot water through grounds, making a drip-like cup in a very short time, or cold brew, or tea. If your loved one is a gadget fiend, this is one they probably haven’t had the chance to covet yet. Technically it uses pods, but they’re totally biodegradable and you can fill them with your own grounds or leaves.

Price: $185 from Osma

I’ve used pourover as my main method of making coffee for years, and it reliably produces the best single cup you can have, though at the cost of being somewhat time-consuming.

Kalita Wave 185

Kalita makes a couple sizes of these pourover cones, and although I have happily used my 155 for many years, if I could do it over again I’d opt for the slightly larger 185, which is more forgiving when you’re pouring and can brew more than the 16 ounces that is the realistic upper limit of mine.

Price: $36 from Amazon

OXO’s pourover cone with tank

If hovering by the stove and watering your grounds for the two to three minutes it takes to make a cup is not something you enjoy, OXO has a nice little gadget that simplifies things. It’s basically a pourover cone with a reservoir that sits on top, dripping water through a few tiny holes at a steady rate.

It made a good cup and with minimal fuss, but the capacity is limited, so if you want more than 12 ounces you’ll have to refill the reservoir.

Price: $16 from Amazon

Kone and other metal filters

These permanent filters have gotten quite good, and I have one that sits right on top of a cup. No more paper! However I would recommend these only to people who have a garbage disposal or sink that can handle a lot of grounds, because cleaning the filter involves losing a lot of grit down the drain. Occasional deep cleaning is required but it’s nice to reduce waste even a little bit.

Price: Around $30-40, depending on brand.

Just as a general note: These types of subscriptions are great, but you need to do a little bit of research or your loved one will end up with a roast they don’t like. I don’t want to recommend any in particular, since they all specialize in different things, but aim to prop up independent roasteries and fair trade rather than just getting a steady supply of the same old thing from a major chain.

Some good options:

 



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Privilège Ventures launches $20M fund investing in women-led startups • TechCrunch

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Lugano, Switzerland-based venture capital fund Privilège Ventures just launched its fourth fund. The CHF 20 million (just over $20 million) fund is earmarked for women-led early-stage startups across Europe.

“We don’t just want to support women,” Jacqueline Ruedin Rüsch, founding general partner at Privilège Ventures said in an interview with TechCrunch. “The data shows women in the driver’s seat produce better ROI.”

The firm says that its investment thesis is based on the statistical evidence that women perform better than men in leadership roles.

“The numbers are staggering. It’s not just about being ethical and doing good: global GDP would grow 6% if rates of entrepreneurship were equal between men and women,” said Lucian Wagner, Privilège Ventures founding general partner in a press statement.

The firm’s thesis is backed up by research from Boston Consulting Group on investment and revenue data over a five-year period. The study also showed that startups founded and co-founded by women received less than half the average investments made into companies led by men, even though the female led startups generated 10% more revenue over time.

“There are very few funds worldwide dedicated to backing female founders, and despite the rapid growth in the VC industry the percentage of female or gender-diverse-led teams is falling,” said Rüsch. “I started my professional life in the banking sector in Switzerland: this was, and partially still is, a very male-driven sector. I became used to being one of the few females in big conference rooms and I didn’t even pay any more attention to it. But when I got pregnant the first reaction from my senior colleagues was, ‘When will you stop working?’ This was quite shocking, I must admit.”

As Alex reported back in July, PitchBook data suggests that the percentage of venture capital deals that included at least one woman founder fell from 19.4% to 18.2%. In Europe, the numbers are even more dire. Privilège suggests that in Europe, female founders receive barely 1% of total VC investments.

Privilège Ventures’ LPs are mainly high net-worth individuals and family offices, the firm says, and the fund aims to write 15-20 early-stage checks, with initial investments in the $250,000 range.

“I really like to invest in founders at the very beginning of their journey. Often we meet them even before they have incorporated their company and we track them, coach them and see how they take their first steps in the entrepreneurial journey. Given our focus in seed stage, we feel it is key to be as close as possible with our companies and for this reason we have a preference for our local market, Switzerland, and the surrounding European countries,” Rüsch explains. “We are not specialized in a specific sector but we have some preferences, namely in medtech, deep tech and in general for the digital economy. We like to enter as soon as possible, even pre-seed, and are happy to continue investing in the best companies up to Series A.”

The firm says it would love to see more companies trying to solve “real” problems — solutions that can save lives, preserve the planet and products that are not just “nice to have” but are “must-have.”

“Our overall portfolio already counts over 30% of companies with a female co-founder. As we aim to invest only in top-performing teams, we need to guarantee a strong deal flow and for this reason, we will look not only to Switzerland but to Europe as well with a higher focus on certain countries such as Italy, France and Germany, being closer to us,” says Rüsch, explaining why investing specifically in women continues to make sense for the fund. “Some will point to the simple fact that having different viewpoints in the room leads to more thoughtful decision-making — some will point to women having battled through a lot of hassles to get where they are. We see firsthand that women are driven to tackle problems that have been overlooked in tech — but can have a profound impact on the world. We already have startups in our portfolio with female founders or leaders working on using neurotech to improve sleep, fungicides to improve food and biomarkers to continually measure proteins and hormones to prevent and monitor health conditions, just to name a few.”



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Former Googlers raise more than $90M to scale alternative asset fintech startup • TechCrunch

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To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Hellooooo, guess what? It’s November! We guess it was actually November yesterday, too, but we failed to notice, because LOL what even is time, amirite. Anyway, put away your Halloween costumes and start the game of How Long Can You Avoid “Little Drummer Boy”? If you do want to play that game, you’d be well advised to not click this link, although that’s a particularly tolerable version of the song, to be fair.

Onward! — Christine and Haje

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • And for his next act…: Manish was on a roll again today, covering some cool stories. The first is on some former Googlers rallying around their peer Caesar Sengupta, who raised $90 million to scale Arta Finance, a company that will provide individuals similar access to alternative assets that are usually reserved for the ultrawealthy.
  • Betting on web3: Manish’s second story is on Microsoft, which is backing South Korea–based web3 game developer Wemade.
  • Come together, right now, in the cloud: Though many companies are asking employees to come back into the office, they and others are still figuring out how to keep distributed teams working as one. Former Yext CEO Howard Lerman thinks he has created the best option with Roam, a company that came out of stealth today with $30 million in new funding, Kyle reports.

Startups and VC

New data from more than 200 startups show that CTOs earn higher salaries than their CEO counterparts. Mostly, co-founders make the same, but where there is a difference, the balance typically tips in the favor of the technical co-founder, Haje reports.

Also, we’ve got an eclectic mix of additional news for ya:

Dear Sophie: How can students work or launch a startup while maintaining their immigration status?

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

I’m studying bioinformatics at a university in the U.S.

What options do I have to work before and after graduation on my student visa? Do any of these options allow me to launch my own startup?

— Wanting to Work

Three more from the TC+ team:

TechCrunch+ is our membership program that helps founders and startup teams get ahead of the pack. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!

Big Tech Inc.

Elon Musk met with civil rights leaders, and Amanda has all the details on what went down. Many of the leaders were concerned with content moderation, particularly dealing with increases in hate speech and undue influence on the midterm elections. Meanwhile, Natasha M writes that another Twitter executive is reportedly flying the coop.

Meanwhile, Manish continues to follow the Byju’s saga. The latest is that India’s edtech giant is looking at a $1 billion IPO for Aakash, its physical tutor chain.

And we have five more for you:



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Alation bags $123M at a $1.7B valuation for its data-cataloging software • TechCrunch

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There’s been an explosion of enterprise data in recent years, accelerated by pandemic-spurred digital transformations. An IDC report commissioned by Seagate projected companies would collect 42.2% more data by year-end 2022 than in 2020, amounting to multiple petabytes of data in total. While more data is generally a good thing, particularly where it concerns analytics, large volumes can be overwhelming to organize and govern — even for the savviest of organizations.

That’s why Satyen Sangani, a former Oracle VP, co-founded Redwood City–based Alation, a startup that helps crawl a company’s databases in order to build data search catalogs. After growing its customer base to over 450 brands and annual recurring revenue (ARR) to over $100 million, Alation has raised $123 million in a Series E round led by Thoma Bravo, Sanabil Investments, and Costanoa Ventures with participation from Databricks Ventures, Dell Technologies Capital, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Icon Ventures, Queensland Investment Corporation, Riverwood Capital, Salesforce Ventures, Sapphire Ventures and Union Grove, the company announced today.

The all-equity tranche values Alation at over $1.7 billion — an impressive 15 times higher than the company’s previous valuation in a challenging economic climate. In an interview with TechCrunch, Sangani said the new capital — which brings Alation’s total raised to $340 million — will be put toward investments in product development (including through acquisitions) and expanding Alation’s sales, engineering and marketing teams, with a focus on the public sector and corporations based in Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.

“With the capital, we will continue to focus on engagement and adoption, collaboration, governance, lineage, and on APIs and SDKs to enable us to be open and extensible,” Sangani said via email. “We’re going to bring innovation to the market that will increase the number of data assets we cover and the people who will leverage and access Alation.”

With Alation, Sangani and his fellow co-founders — Aaron Kalb, Feng Niu and Venky Ganti — sought to build a service that enables data and analytics teams to capture and understand the full breadth of their data. The way Sangani sees it, most corporate leadership wants to build a “data-driven” culture but is stymied by tech hurdles and a lack of knowledge about what data they have, where it lives, whether it’s trustworthy and how to make the best use of it.

Alation’s platform organizes data across disparate systems. Image Credits: Alation

According to Forrester, somewhere between 60% and 73% of data produced by enterprises goes unused for analytics. And if a recent poll by Oracle is to be believed, 95% of people say they’re overwhelmed by the amount of data available to them in the workplace.

“With the astounding amount of data being produced today, it’s increasingly difficult for companies to collect, structure, and analyze the data they create,” Sangani said. “The modern enterprise relies on data intelligence and data integration solutions to provide access to valuable insights that feed critical business outcomes. Alation is foundational for driving digital transformation.”

Alation uses machine learning to automatically parse and organize data like technical metadata, user permissions and business descriptions from sources like Redshift, Hive, Presto, Spark and Teradata. Customers can visually track the usage of assets like business glossaries, data dictionaries and Wiki articles through the Alation platform’s reporting feature, or they can use Alation’s collaboration tools to create lists, annotations, comments and polls to organize data across different software and systems.

Alation also makes recommendations based on how information is being used and orchestrated. For example, the platform suggests ways customers can centrally manage their data and compliance policies through the use of integrations and data connectors.

“Alation’s machine learning contributes to data search, data stewardship, business glossary, and data lineage,” Sangani said. “More specifically, Alation’s behavioral analysis engine spots behavioral patterns and leverages AI and machine learning to make data more user-friendly. For example, search is simplified by highlighting the most popular assets; stewardship is eased by emphasizing the most active data sets; and governance becomes a part of workflow through flags and suggestions.”

According to IDC, the data integration and intelligence software market is valued at more than $7.9 billion and growing toward $11.6 billion over the next four years. But Alation isn’t the sole vendor. The startup’s competition includes incumbents like Informatica, IBM, SAP and Oracle, as well as newer rivals such as Collibra, Castor, Stemma, Data.World and Ataccama, all of whom offer tools for classifying and curating data at enterprise scale.

One of Alation’s advantages is sheer momentum, no doubt — its customer base includes heavyweights like Cisco, General Mills, Munich Re, Pfizer, Nasdaq and Salesforce, in addition to government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Australia’s Department of Defense. Alation counts more than 25% of the Fortune 100 as clients, touching verticals such as finance, healthcare, pharma, manufacturing, retail, insurance and tech.

In terms of revenue coming in, Sangani claims that Alation — which has more than 700 employees and expects to be at just under 800 by 2023 — is in a healthy position, pegging the firm’s cumulative-cash-burn-to-ARR ratio at around 1.5x. Despite the downturn, he asserts that customer spend is remaining strong as the demand for data catalog software grows; for the past five quarters, Alation’s ARR has increased year over year.

In another win for Alation, the investment from Databricks Ventures is strategic, Sangani says. It’ll see the two companies jointly develop engineering, data science and analytics applications that leverage both Databricks’ and Alations’ platforms.

“The most successful data intelligence platforms will be adopted by everyone. Vendors that are jack-of-all-trades, but masters of none, promise everything and succeed at little. Similarly, point products achieve limited success, but only serve to create data silos that our customers are trying to avoid. The future of data intelligence is about connectedness and integration,” Sangani said. “We know that and will continue to put our money behind our beliefs.”



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Blackbird’s latest $1B AUD fund signals maturation of Australian, New Zealand venture scene • TechCrunch

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The Australian and New Zealand startup community will see a boost in funding this year. Blackbird, a VC fund based in the two south Pacific countries, on Wednesday closed a fund at over AUD $1 billion, which is about USD $640 million, which the firm says is Australia’s largest fund to date.

This is Blackbird’s fifth fund, and it’s double the size of the VC’s last fund which closed in August 2020. Several institutional investors participated, including superannuation funds like AustralianSuper, Hostplus, Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Future Fund, New Zealand’s sovereign wealth funds and New Zealand Growth Capital Partners Elevate fund, which is a government-backed fund.

A decade ago, most Australian and in particular New Zealand institutional investors didn’t want to put their money anywhere near tech startups. Their support today signals a maturation of the Australia/New Zealand venture capital space.

“[Superannuation fund] capital can go anywhere. It can go into the best Silicon Valley VCs,” Sam Wong, a partner at Blackbird, told TechCrunch. “And so the fact that they are choosing to invest their money at this scale with an Aussie and Kiwi fund marks a moment for the ecosystem and shows that we have earned our right on the global stage to manage that capital.”

According to Wong, it makes sense for superannuation funds to back the tech space because they have horizons in the decades and can afford to be patient.

“What they really care about is high returns so people can retire in dignity,” she said. “And when you have that long-term horizon, you can seek higher return assets that don’t have liquidity profiles that, say, public markets do. And that’s exactly what we found in the Australian superannuation system — they love tech because it’s high growth, high return. It’s very long dated, and they don’t mind that it’s locked up for 10 years.”

The fund is also supported by over 270 individual investors, many of whom are tech founders and operators that Blackbird backed through earlier funds, according to the firm. Those founders will support the fund both with their own capital, but also their expertise, knowledge and connections, said Wong.

The total AUD $1 billion consists of three separate vehicles: an AUD $284 million (USD $182 million) core fund for pre-seed and seed stage Aussie companies, an AUD $668 million (USD $472 million) follow-on fund to support Blackbird portfolio companies anywhere from “Series A to the last round at Canva,” and a NZD $75 million (USD $44 million) dedicated New Zealand fund, which is also largely for pre-seed and seed stage companies.

Blackbird prides itself on cutting the earliest checks, which could be anywhere from $25,000 for a small pre-seed to up to $5 million for a seed round, said Wong. The firm’s mandate is to invest in founders with an Aussie or Kiwi connection, which usually means they’re based in those countries, but often ends up extending to those who founded companies abroad. Around 40% of Blackbird’s portfolio companies are actually headquartered in the U.S., said Phoebe Harrop, a principal at Blackbird.

The fund has already made 18 investments into startups in a broad range of industries from AI to manufacturing to e-commerce. Last month, Blackbird invested in Sonder, an employee and student wellbeing company, and Spice AI, a data and AI-driven infrastructure platform.

Blackbird said it predicts tech companies will contribute 20% of Australia’s GDP by 2032, which would be up from 8.5% today, according to the Tech Council of Australia.

“We’re here to change the culture of Australia and New Zealand’s ecosystems, to make a difference at a country level,” said Niki Scevak, partner at Blackbird, in a statement.



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Twitter ad sales head resigned amid turbulent Musk takeover • TechCrunch

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Twitter’s Chief Consumer Officer Sarah Personette has left the company, she wrote in a Twitter thread Tuesday morning.

Personette, who was in charge of Twitter’s ad sales business, said that she resigned on Friday, and her work access was officially cut off by Tuesday. The day before her resignation, Musk fired four key executives immediately after his takeover: CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, General Counsel Sean Edgett and Head of Legal Policy, Trust and Safety Vijaya Gadde.

With Personette out of the picture, the number of remaining pre-Musk executives at Twitter is dwindling, with more key personnel rumored to be leaving as well. Jay Sullivan, Twitter’s head of product, deleted the bio on his Twitter account, which previously denoted his role at the company. The previous head of product, Kayvon Beykpour, was let go by former CEO Agrawal in May.

A former Facebook marketing VP, Personette had worked at Twitter since October 2018, when she joined as a VP of Global Client Solutions, per LinkedIn. She was promoted to Chief Customer Officer in August 2021. That role is crucial to Twitter’s business, since the majority of its revenue comes from ad sales. With Musk expected to make changes to content moderation policies, ad sales could be impacted.

As newly installed “Chief Twit” Elon Musk took over on Thursday, he posted a screenshot of a letter he wrote to Twitter advertisers, vowing that the platform “obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape.” Personette quote-tweeted his message, saying that he had a great conversation with the Tesla and SpaceX CEO. She added, “Our continued commitment to brand safety for advertisers remains unchanged. Looking forward to the future!”

But by the following evening, she had resigned.

“It has been the greatest privilege to serve all of you as a leader and a partner,” Personette said. “Many have heard me say this but the most important role I believe I played in the company was championing the requirements of brand safety.”



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Rapyd Ventures backs Indian fintech-as-a-service startup Decentro • TechCrunch

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India’s Decentro, the Y Combinator-backed startup that helps companies enter the fintech market by deploying its APIs, has raised $4.7 million in a Series A round.

The Bengaluru-based startup offers banking and payments APIs that allow development of fintech products such as banking, payment cards, neobanking and collections and payout services in a short period of time. Decentro has partnered with scores of industry players including Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Yes Bank, Visa, RuPay, Quickwork, Equifax, Aadhaar and National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL) to offer solutions for prepaid payment instruments, no-code workflows, conversational banking via WhatsApp and enable document verification and KYC process.

“Whenever a fintech startup or a company wants to launch a new product in the market, it takes them a minimum of a few months to launch. And it purely has to do with the bank processes, the way the bank runs the process, as well as the tech of the bank. It’s not so great. That’s essentially the problem we are solving,” said Rohit Taneja, co-founder and CEO, Decentro, in an interview with TechCrunch.

Taneja, who has previously co-founded social payments platform Mypoolin, which was acquired by Cupertino-based financial services company Wibmo, and spent eight years in the fintech market, co-founded Decentro with Pratik Daukhane in 2020 — after personally facing all the problems he wants to address. He considers Cashfree and PineLabs-owned Setu among the key competitors for the startup but believes that it’s differentiating with “solution-driven enterprise customer base” and “superior” product experience.

The startup has already amassed over 250 customers in commerce and fintech sectors. Some of these include Freo, Mobile Premier League, FamPay, CreditWise, Uni Cards and BharatX.

Decentro, which has a headcount of over 40 people, offers products to let companies create virtual, business and escrow accounts, enable payments and provide lending. The available products comply with all the latest regulations in the country, the startup said.

The Series A round of Decentro is led by Rapyd Ventures, the venture arm of the UK fintech-as-a-service giant, along with participation from Leonis VC and Uncorrelated Ventures. Indian angel investors including CRED founder Kunal Shah, Groww co-founder and CEO Lalit Keshre, Gupshup co-founder and CEO Beerud Sheth and former CBO of BharatPe Pratekk Agarwaal also participated in the funding round.

Taneja told TechCrunch that the startup aims to utilize the fresh funding to go deeper into its partnership with banks and enter categories including large enterprises. It also plans to acquire licenses and launch in Singapore to expand beyond India eventually.

“Building their innovation layer in India first gives Decentro a great base to build scalable innovations that can be expanded as other emerging markets modernize their own infrastructure. We’re excited to support Decentro as they scale and expand,” said Joel Yarbrough, MD of Rapyd Ventures and Rapyd’s VP of Asia Pacific, in a prepared statement.

Before the latest funding round, Decentro had raised a total of $1.7 million in seed and angel rounds. The seed round, which closed in October 2020, included investments from Y Combinator and FundersClub.

Since then, the startup claims its valuation has increased by 3.3X and revenues have grown by more than 35X. Taneja, however, did not reveal any specifics about the valuation.

Dcentro’s API transactional volumes have also been growing by 50 to 70% every quarter since early 2021, with an average of 70 million annualized API transactions recorded over the last 12 months, it said. The startup is also profitable, the co-founder said.



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Contraline erects $7.2M for contraceptive implants for men

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The cervix industry has had implants to prevent pregnancy since the late 1960s, but there hasn’t exactly been stiff competition to slow down the fallopian swim team at its source. In fact, Contraline claims it is the first major innovation in this space since the vasectomy was performed on a human some 125 years ago. The company calls its product ADAM, and it just raised a wad of cash to continue its trials.

“The first-in-human male contraceptive implant is a major clinical milestone that opens up new possibilities for men who wish to take contraception into their own hands,” said Kevin Eisenfrats, Co-founder and CEO of Contraline. “The patient demand for the ADAM Study has been tremendous, with the entire trial oversubscribing within three weeks of opening enrollment. We are looking forward to advancing ADAM through clinical development and bringing this product to market to transform how people think about contraception.”

ADAM works by injecting a hydro gel into the vas deferens (the little tubes that carry the sperm). Image Credits: Contraline.

The company just raised $7.2 million in funding led by GV. The goal is to advance its in-human clinical trials of its injectable hydrogel designed to provide long-lasting, non-permanent contraception for men. The product uses a “hydrogel” designed to occlude sperm flow through the vas deferens for a predefined period of time, eventually degrading and thus offering a non-permanent contraceptive option.

The company suggests that the contraceptive is long-lasting but non-permanent, and claims it has no hormonal impact on the patients. The company told TechCrunch that four men were implanted with ADAM at a hospital in Australia, using a minimally invasive, no-scalpel approach, with ADAM being injected using a patent-pending delivery device.

The procedure marks the first patient implanted in “The ADAM Study,” which is being conducted under Human Research Ethics Committee approval. The ADAM Study is assessing the safety of the ADAM Hydrogel, while monitoring the semen parameters of the study subjects over three years.

“Contraline has the potential to fundamentally change the market for contraception,” said Cathy Friedman, executive venture partner at GV. “We look forward to working with the team as they continue developing a long-acting, reversible male contraceptive that empowers more people with more choices over family planning.”

Contraline’s study in Australia continues, and its next, longer-term goal is to run a second study with a larger group of patients in the United States.

Contraline erects $7.2M for contraceptive implants for men by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch



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