Daily Crunch: Virgin Orbit rockets to $3.2B valuation in SPAC merger

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Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for August 23, 2021. We’ve got a simply lovely bunch of news items for you below, but before we get into the mix, do note that Pfizer’s vaccine has been fully approved. Which is great news! And in other great news, the agenda is out for our October SaaS event. Which is going to kick maximum backside. See you there! -- Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Would you like to go to space? Well, if you are a small satellite heading for low-Earth orbit, good news! Virgin Orbit is raising a bunch of money in a SPAC-led combination that will at once take it public and provide it with a huge grip of cash. You are familiar with Virgin Galactic, its sister company that takes humans for a joyride. Orbit uses a similar launch technique to put more hardware in space.

  • The global crypto race is on: U.S. fintech companies are working to provide domestic users with the option of buying crypto using their service. And now PayPal is taking its efforts international, with plans to allow U.K. folks to buy cryptocurrency through its service. There is going to be a rush for local providers of crypto services to expand to new shores to both avoid ceding potential global market share and stay relevant.

  • Is this why investors are falling out of love with insurtech? TechCrunch has been on the insurtech beat for a while now, trying to figure out why a bunch of formerly hot insurtech startups that went public in the last year have seen their valuations decline once they began to float. We may have figured it out.

Startups/VC

  • Do you want to turn that coupon into a donation? Givz hopes so. The startup provides an API that allows companies to offer coupons that are, in fact, donations to charity. As Mary Ann Azevedo wrote, an “example of a company using Givz can be found in Tervis, which offered customers” a $15 charity donation if they spent $50 at its store. The startup just closed $3 million.

  • Shelf.io raises huge $52M Series B: Even in 2021, a $50 million Series B stands out. But what makes Shelf interesting isn’t really its new round’s size, but the fact that it posted 4x ARR growth from July 2020 to July 2021. That’s quick. The company sells software that ingests a company’s knowledge base, offering suggestions to workers like customer support reps about what to say and when.

  • How are customers really using your API? That’s the question that Moesif wants to answer, and it just raised $12 million to keep up its efforts. We’ve noted at TechCrunch that many startups are swapping from SaaS to API-delivered software services. Which is well and good, but doesn’t always supply the most limpid way of monitoring customer usage and usage patterns. Perhaps Moesif will make it easier to bill for overages?

  • SoftBank looks to Africa: After flying into the Latin American startup market and making noise, SoftBank’s Vision Fund franchise just made a huge bet in Africa, leading a $400 million round into fintech company OPay. Our own Tage Kene-Okafor writes that “the company’s mobile money and payment arm” is its most successful effort to date.

  • From the latest YC batch, Revery: This startup -- Revery.ai, formally -- wants to apply computer vision and artificial intelligence to e-commerce to provide a better online dressing room experience, TechCrunch reports. We’ve heard of similar efforts in the past, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room in the world of online shopping for a few players.

  • Expect to hear more from YC companies as demo day looms in our calendars.

Zūm CEO Ritu Narayan explains why equity and accessibility works for mobility services

Ritu Narayan founded Zūm with her two brothers in 2016 to disrupt student transportation, a space that hasn't seen much innovation since pupils began finding their way to and from little red schoolhouses.

Since then, Zūm has inked partnerships with school districts around the country to create more efficient routes and reduce vehicle emissions.

By 2025, Narayan says her company will have 10,000 electric school buses and plans to put the fleet into service to generate power and feed it back to the grid.

To learn more about the company's development, its immediate plans for the future and how the pandemic impacted operations, read on.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • TikTok invests in AR: Social phenom TikTok wants to follow Snap and Facebook into the AR studio game. The company just “launched a new creative toolset called TikTok Effect Studio, currently in private beta testing, which will allow its own developer community to build AR effects for TikTok’s short-form video app,” TechCrunch reports. “How do you do, fellow kids?” but in AR? Brands are going to love this.

  • Because our Big Tech section was smaller than usual today, here's one more from the startup beat: Future tech exits have a lot to live up to.

TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing

Illustration montage based on education and knowledge in blue
Illustration montage based on education and knowledge in blue

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

Are you all caught up on last week’s coverage of growth marketing? If not, read it here.

TechCrunch wants you to recommend growth marketers who have expertise in SEO, social, content writing and more! If you’re a growth marketer, pass this survey along to your clients; we’d like to hear about why they loved working with you.

Community

The cover of "After Cooling On Freon, Global Warming, and the Terrible Cost of Comfort"
The cover of "After Cooling On Freon, Global Warming, and the Terrible Cost of Comfort"

Image Credits: Simon and Schuster

Join Danny Crichton tomorrow Tuesday August 24, at 3 p.m. PDT/6 p.m. EDT for a Twitter Spaces interview with Eric Dean Wilson, author of, “After Cooling: On Freon, Global Warming, and the Terrible Cost of Comfort.”

TechCrunch Disrupt 2021

It’s almost that time when startup followers from around the world gather at our annual conference, Disrupt, which will be held virtually again this year. Join the community September 21-23 to expand your horizons and your network with founders and CEOs of Coinbase, Dapper Labs, GitLab, Canva and more. Attend for less than $100, or you can get a free Innovator Pass if you are one of the first 10 people to register with promo code DAILYCRUNCHFREE. But you’ll want to hurry — it’s first-come, first-served, and once they’re gone, they’re gone!

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