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Muzmatch adds $7M to swipe right on Muslim-majority markets

Muzmatch, a matchmaking app for Muslims, has just swiped a $7 million Series A on the back of continued momentum for its community-sensitive approach to soulmate searching for people of the Islamic faith. It now has more than 1.5 million users of its apps, across 210 countries, swiping, matching and chatting online as they try […]
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Muzmatch adds $7M to swipe right on Muslim-majority markets – TechCrunch

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Muzmatch adds $7M to swipe right on Muslim-majority markets

Muzmatch, a matchmaking app for Muslims, has just swiped a $7 million Series A on the back of continued momentum for its community-sensitive approach to soulmate searching for people of the Islamic faith.

It now has more than 1.5 million users of its apps, across 210 countries, swiping, matching and chatting online as they try to find “the one.”

The funding, which Muzmatch says will help fuel growth in key international markets, is jointly led by U.S. hedge fund Luxor Capital and Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator — the latter having previously selected Muzmatch for its summer 2017 batch of startups. 

Last year the team also took in a $1.75 million seed led by Fabrice Grinda’s FJ Labs, YC and others.

We first covered the startup two years ago when its founders were just graduating from YC. At that time there were two of them building the business: Shahzad Younas and Ryan Brodie — perhaps an unlikely pairing in this context, given Brodie’s lack of a Muslim background. He joined after meeting Younas, who had earlier quit his job as an investment banker to launch Muzmatch. Brodie got excited by the idea and early traction for the MVP. The pair went on to ship a relaunch of the app in mid 2016, which helped snag them a place at YC.

So why did Younas and Brodie unmatch? All the remaining founder can say publicly is that its investors are buying Brodie’s stake. (While, in a note on LinkedIn — celebrating what he dubs the “bittersweet” news of Muzmatch’s Series A — Brodie writes: “Separate to this raise I decided to sell my stake in the company. This is not from a lack of faith — on the contrary — it’s simply the right time for me to move on to startup number 4 now with the capital to take big risks.”)

Asked what’s harder, finding a steady co-founder or finding a life partner, Younas responds with a laugh. “With myself and Ryan, full credit, when we first joined together we did commit to each other, I guess, a period of time of really going for it,” he ventures, reaching for the phrase “conscious uncoupling” to sum up how things went down. “We both literally put blood, sweat and tears into the app, into growing what it is. And for sure without him we wouldn’t be as far as we are now, that’s definitely true.”

“For me it’s a fantastic outcome for him. I’m genuinely super happy for him. For someone of his age and at that time of his life — now he’s got the ability to start another startup and back himself, which is amazing. Not many people have that opportunity,” he adds.

Younas says he isn’t looking for another co-founder at this stage of the business, though he notes they have just hired a CTO — “purely because there’s so much to do that I want to make sure I’ve got a few people in certain areas.”

The team has grown from just four people seven months ago to 17 now. With the Series A the plan is to further expand headcount to almost 30.

“In terms of a co-founder, I don’t think, necessarily, at this point it’s needed,” Younas tells TechCrunch. “I obviously understand this community a lot. I’ve equally grown in terms of my role in the company and understanding various parts of the company. You get this experience by doing — so now I think definitely it helps having the simplicity of a single founder and really guiding it along.”

Despite the co-founders parting ways, there’s no doubting Muzmatch’s momentum. Aside from solid growth of its user base (it was reporting ~200,000 two years ago), its press release touts 30,000+ “successes” worldwide — which Younas says translates to people who have left the app and told it they did so because they met someone on Muzmatch.

He reckons at least half of those left in order to get married — and for a matchmaking app, that is the ultimate measure of success.

“Everywhere I go I’m meeting people who have met on Muzmatch. It has been really transformative for the Muslim community where we’ve taken off — and it is amazing to see, genuinely,” he says, suggesting the real success metric is “much higher because so many people don’t tell us.”

Nor is he worried about being too successful, despite 100 people a day leaving because they met someone on the app. “For us that’s literally the best thing that can happen because we’ve grown mostly by word of mouth — people telling their friends ‘I met someone on your app.’ Muslim weddings are quite big, a lot of people attend and word does spread,” he says.

Muzmatch was already profitable two years ago (and still is, for “some” months, though that’s not been a focus), which has given it leverage to focus on growing at a pace it’s comfortable with as a young startup. But the plan with the Series A cash is to accelerate growth by focusing attention internationally on Muslim-majority markets versus an early focus on markets, including the U.K. and the U.S., with Muslim-minority populations.

This suggests potential pitfalls lie ahead for the team to manage growth in a sustainable way — ensuring scaling usage doesn’t outstrip their ability to maintain the “safe space” feel the target users need, while at the same time catering to the needs of an increasingly diverse community of Muslim singles.

“We’re going to be focusing on Muslim-majority countries where we feel that they would be more receptive to technology. There’s slightly less of a taboo around finding someone online. There’s culture changes already happening, etc.,” he says, declining to name the specific markets they’ll be fixing on. “That’s definitely what we’re looking for initially. That will obviously allow us to scale in a big way going forward.

“We’ve always done [marketing] in a very data-driven way,” he adds, discussing his approach to growth. “Up til now I’ve led on that. Pretty much everything in this company I’ve self taught. So I learnt, essentially, how to build a growth engine, how to scale and optimize campaigns, digital spend, and these big guys have seen our data and they’re impressed with the progress we’ve made, and the customer acquisition costs that we’ve achieved — considering we really are targeting quite a niche market… Up til now we closed our Series A with more than half our seed round in our accounts.”

Muzmatch has also laid the groundwork for the planned international push, having already fully localized the app — which is live in 14 languages, including right-to-left languages like Arabic.

“We’re localized and we get a lot of organic users everywhere but obviously once you focus on a particular area — in terms of content, in terms of your brand etc. — then it really does start to take off,” adds Younas.

The team’s careful catering to the needs of its target community — via things like manual moderation of every profile and offering an optional chaperoning feature for in-app chats — i.e. rather than just ripping out a “Tinder for Muslims” clone, can surely take some credit for helping to grow the market for Muslim matchmaking apps overall.

“Shahzad has clearly made something that people want. He is a resourceful founder who has been listening to his users and in the process has developed an invaluable service for the Muslim community, in a way that mainstream companies have failed to do,” says YC partner Tim Brady in a supporting statement. 

But the flip side of attracting attention and spotlighting a commercial opportunity means Muzmatch now faces increased competition — such as from the likes of Dubai-based Veil: A rival matchmaking app that has recently turned heads with a “digital veil” feature that applies an opaque filter to all profile photos, male and female, until a mutual match is made.

Muzmatch also lets users hide their photos, if they choose. But it has resisted imposing a one-size-fits-all template on the user experience — exactly in order that it can appeal more broadly, regardless of the user’s level of religious adherence (it has even attracted non-Muslim users with a genuine interest in meeting a life partner).

Younas says he’s not worried about fresh faces entering the same matchmaking app space — couching it as a validation of the market.

He’s also dismissive of gimmicky startups that can often pass through the dating space, usually on a fast burn to nowhere… though he is expecting more competition from major players, such as Tinder-owner Match, which he notes has been eyeing up some of the same geographical markets.

“We know there’s going to be attention in this area,” he says. “Our goal is to basically continue to be the dominant player but for us to race ahead in terms of the quality of our product offering and obviously our size. That’s the goal. Having this investment definitely gives us that ammo to really go for it. But by the same token I’d never want us to be that silly startup that just burns a tonne of money and ends up nowhere.”

“It’s a very complex population, it’s very diverse in terms of culture, in terms of tradition,” he adds of the target market. “We so far have successfully been able to navigate that — of creating a product that does, to the user, marries technology with respecting the faith.”

Feature development is now front of mind for Muzmatch as it moves into the next phase of growth, and as — Younas hopes — it has more time to focus on finessing what its product offers, having bagged investment by proving product market fit and showing traction.

“The first thing that we’re going to be doing is an actual refreshing of our brand,” he says. “A bit of a rebrand, keeping the same name, a bit of a refresh of our brand, tidying that up. Actually refreshing the app, top to bottom. Part of that is looking at changes that have happened in the — call it — ‘dating space’. Because what we’ve always tried to do is look at the good that’s happening, get rid of the bad stuff, and try and package it and make it applicable to a Muslim audience.

“I think that’s what we’ve done really well. And I always wanted to innovate on that — so we’ve got a bunch of ideas around a complete refresh of the app.”

Video is one area they’re experimenting with for future features. TechCrunch’s interview with Younas takes place via a video chat using what looks to be its own videoconferencing platform (correction: it was using a video room powered by appear.in), though there’s not currently a feature in Muzmatch that lets users chat remotely via video.

Its challenge on this front will be implementing richer comms features in a way that a diverse community of religious users can accept.

“I want to — and we have this firmly on our roadmap, and I hope that it’s within six months — be introducing or bringing ways to connect people on our platform that they’ve never been able to do before. That’s going to be key. Elements of video is going to be really interesting,” says Younas teasing their thinking around video.

“The key for us is how do we do [videochat] in a way that is sensible and equally gives both sides control. That’s the key.”

Nor will it just be “simple video.” He says they’re also looking at how they can use profile data more creatively, especially for helping more private users connect around shared personality traits.

“There’s a lot of things we want to do within the app of really showing the richness of our profiles. One thing that we have that other apps don’t have are profiles that are really rich. So we have about 22 different data points on the profile. There’s a lot that people do and want to share. So the goal for us is how do we really try and show that off?

“We have a segment of profiles where the photos are private, right, people want that anonymity… so the goal for us is then saying how can we really show your personality, what you’re about in a really good way. And right now I would argue we don’t quite do it well enough. We’ve got a tonne of ideas and part of the rebrand and the refresh will be really emphasizing and helping that segment of society who do want to be private but equally want people to understand what they’re about.”

Where does he want the business to be in 12 months’ time? With a more polished product and “a lot of key features in the way of connecting the community around marriage — or just community in general.”

In terms of growth, the aim is at least 4x from where they are now.

“These are ambitious targets. Especially given the amount that we want to re-engineer and rebuild but now is the time,” he adds. “Now we have the fortune of having a big team, of having the investment. And really focusing and finessing our product… Really give it a lot of love and really give it a lot of the things we’ve always wanted to do and never quite had the time to do. That’s the key.

“I’m personally super excited about some of the stuff coming up because it’s a big enabler — growing the team and having the ability to really execute on this a lot faster.”

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IBM’s massive $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat closed a few weeks ago and today, the two companies are now announcing the first fruits of this process. For the most part, today’s announcement furthers IBM’s ambitions to bring its products to any public and private cloud. That was very much the reason why IBM acquired Red Hat in the first place, of course, so this doesn’t come as a major surprise, though most industry watchers probably didn’t expect this to happen this fast.

n

Specifically, IBM is announcing that it is bringing its software portfolio to Red Hat OpenShift, Red Hat’s Kubernetes-based container platform that is essentially available on any cloud that allows its customers to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

n

In total, IBM has already optimized more than 100 products for OpenShift and bundled them into what it calls “Cloud Paks.” There are currently five of these Paks: Cloud Pak for Data, Application, Integration, Automation and Multicloud Management. These technologies, which IBM’s customers can now run on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform or IBM’s own cloud, among others, include DB2, WebSphere, API Connect, Watson Studio and Cognos Analytics.

n

“Red Hat is unlocking innovation with Linux-based technologies, including containers and Kubernetes, which have become the fundamental building blocks of hybrid cloud environments,” said Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat, in today’s announcement. “This open hybrid cloud foundation is what enables the vision of any app, anywhere, anytime. Combined with IBMu2019s strong industry expertise and supported by a vast ecosystem of passionate developers and partners, customers can create modern apps with the technologies of their choice and the flexibility to deploy in the best environment for the app – whether that is on-premises or across multiple public clouds.”

n

IBM argues that a lot of the early innovation on the cloud was about bringing modern, customer-facing applications to market, with a focus on basic cloud infrastructure. Now, however, enterprises are looking at how they can take their mission-critical applications to the cloud, too. For that, they want access to an open stack that works across clouds.

n

In addition, IBM also today announced the launch of a fully managed Red Hat OpenShift service on its own public cloud, as well as OpenShift on IBM Systems, including the IBM Z and LinuxONE mainframes, as well as the launch of its new Red Hat consulting and technology services.

n

n”,”protected”:false},”excerpt”:{“rendered”:”

IBM’s massive $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat closed a few weeks ago and today, the two companies are now announcing the first fruits of this process. For the most part, today’s announcement furthers IBM’s ambitions to bring its products to any public and private cloud. That was very much the reason why IBM acquired […]

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Before he joined TechCrunch in 2012, he founded SiliconFilter and wrote for ReadWriteWeb (now ReadWrite). Frederic covers enterprise, cloud, developer tools, Google, Microsoft, gadgets, transportation and anything else he finds interesting. He owns just over a 50th of a bitcoin.

“,”cbAvatar”:”https://crunchbase-production-res.cloudinary.com/image/upload/v1475769824/k1kkyeeoiyvoajpzbtgv.png”,”twitter”:”fredericl”,”_links”:{“self”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/tc/v1/users/34511731″}],”collection”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/tc/v1/users”}]}}],”replies”:[[{“id”:670076,”parent”:0,”author”:0,”author_name”:”Brian Lawe”,”author_url”:””,”date”:”2019-08-01T06:59:34″,”content”:{“rendered”:”

My prediction: Within 3 quarters, IBM will incur a massive stock hit because of “loose” or “inappropriate” accounting practices at Red Hat.

n”},”link”:”https://techcrunch.com/2019/08/01/with-the-acquisition-closed-ibm-goes-all-in-on-red-hat/#comment-670076″,”type”:”comment”,”author_avatar_urls”:{“24″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/654ecb15c7f833caa7830fb368daa237?s=24&d=identicon&r=g”,”48″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/654ecb15c7f833caa7830fb368daa237?s=48&d=identicon&r=g”,”96″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/654ecb15c7f833caa7830fb368daa237?s=96&d=identicon&r=g”},”techcrunch”:{“avatar”:”https://ct.yimg.com/cy/1768/39361574426_98028a_64sq.jpg”,”company”:”(no company found)”,”title”:”(no title found)”,”user”:”AB7YKHFK2JTZZOFTOCHZBLRZ4U”},”_links”:{“self”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/comments/670076″}],”collection”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/comments”}],”up”:[{“embeddable”:true,”post_type”:”post”,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts/1863071″}]}},{“id”:670080,”parent”:0,”author”:0,”author_name”:”Piotr Laube”,”author_url”:””,”date”:”2019-08-01T09:24:56″,”content”:{“rendered”:”

This quarter is the most important quarter in your life and the next quarter is the most important quarter of your life… (IBM management principle)

n”},”link”:”https://techcrunch.com/2019/08/01/with-the-acquisition-closed-ibm-goes-all-in-on-red-hat/#comment-670080″,”type”:”comment”,”author_avatar_urls”:{“24″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/0d944c4457606c4a7d08b21cc69a441e?s=24&d=identicon&r=g”,”48″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/0d944c4457606c4a7d08b21cc69a441e?s=48&d=identicon&r=g”,”96″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/0d944c4457606c4a7d08b21cc69a441e?s=96&d=identicon&r=g”},”techcrunch”:{“avatar”:”https://ct.yimg.com/cy/1768/39361574426_98028a_64sq.jpg”,”company”:”(no company found)”,”title”:”(no title found)”,”user”:”DLJ66GM6JF3TD2XD4WYEHAULME”},”_links”:{“self”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/comments/670080″}],”collection”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/comments”}],”up”:[{“embeddable”:true,”post_type”:”post”,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts/1863071″}]}}]],”author”:[{“id”:34511731,”name”:”Frederic Lardinois”,”url”:””,”description”:””,”link”:”https://techcrunch.com/author/frederic-lardinois/”,”slug”:”frederic-lardinois”,”avatar_urls”:{“24″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/55542aa717199728948f628edc1170b1?s=24&d=identicon&r=g”,”48″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/55542aa717199728948f628edc1170b1?s=48&d=identicon&r=g”,”96″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/55542aa717199728948f628edc1170b1?s=96&d=identicon&r=g”},”links”:{“homepage”:”http://www.siliconfilter.com”,”facebook”:”https://www.facebook.com/frederic”,”twitter”:”https://twitter.com/fredericl”,”linkedin”:”https://www.linkedin.com/in/fredericlardinois”,”crunchbase”:”https://www.crunchbase.com/person/frederic-lardinois”},”position”:”Writer”,”cbDescription”:”

Before he joined TechCrunch in 2012, he founded SiliconFilter and wrote for ReadWriteWeb (now ReadWrite). Frederic covers enterprise, cloud, developer tools, Google, Microsoft, gadgets, transportation and anything else he finds interesting. He owns just over a 50th of a bitcoin.

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closes $15.7B Tableau deal”},”content”:{“rendered”:”

In an amazingly quick turn-around for a deal of this scope, Salesforce announced today that it has closed the $15.7 billion Tableau deal announced in June. The deal is by far the biggest acquisition in Salesforce history, a company known for being highly acquisitive.

n

A deal of this size usually faces a high level of regulatory scrutiny and it can take six months or longer to close, but this one breezed through the process and closed in under two months.

n

With Tableau, and Mulesoft, a company it bought last year for $6.5 billion, in the fold, Salesforce has a much broader view of the enterprise than it could as a pure cloud company. It has access to data wherever it lives, whether on premises or in the cloud, and with Tableau, it enables customers to bring that data to life by visualizing it.

n

This was a prospect that excited Salesforce chairman Marc Benioff. “Tableau will make Salesforce Customer 360, including Salesforce’s analytics capabilities, stronger than ever, enabling our customers to accelerate innovation and make smarter decisions across every part of their business,” Benioff said in a statement.

n

As with any large acquisition involving two enormous organizations, combining them could prove challenging, and the real test of this deal, once the dust has settled, will be how smoothly that transition happens and how well the companies can work together and become a single entity under the Salesforce umbrella.

n

In theory, having Tableau gives Salesforce another broad path into larger and more expansive enterprise sales, but the success of the deal will really hinge on how well it folds Tableau into the Salesforce sales machine.

n

n”,”protected”:false},”excerpt”:{“rendered”:”

In an amazingly quick turn-around for a deal of this scope, Salesforce announced today that it has closed the $15.7 billion Tableau deal announced in June. The deal is by far the biggest acquisition in Salesforce history, a company known for being highly acquisitive. A deal of this size usually faces a high level of […]

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Ron Miller has been writing about the enterprise at TechCrunch since 2014.

nn

Previously, he was a long-time Contributing Editor at EContent Magazine. Past regular gigs included CITEworld, DaniWeb, TechTarget, Internet Evolution and FierceContentManagement.

nn

Disclosures:

nn

Ron is currently corporate blogger for Intronis where he writes once weekly on IT issues. He has contributed to various corporate blogs in the past including Ness, Novell and the IBM Mid-market Blogger Program.

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Ron Miller has been writing about the enterprise at TechCrunch since 2014.

nn

Previously, he was a long-time Contributing Editor at EContent Magazine. Past regular gigs included CITEworld, DaniWeb, TechTarget, Internet Evolution and FierceContentManagement.

nn

Disclosures:

nn

Ron is currently corporate blogger for Intronis where he writes once weekly on IT issues. He has contributed to various corporate blogs in the past including Ness, Novell and the IBM Mid-market Blogger Program.

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food delivery startup Deliveroo acquires Edinburgh software studio Cultivate”},”content”:{“rendered”:”

As two of the largest players in online-food ordering and delivery in Europe work on a $10 billion merger to expand their footprint and economies of scale, one of its biggest rivals has made an acquisition to expand its own tech muscle.

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Deliveroo, the London-based food delivery startup backed by Amazon that is itself valued in the billions, has acquired a small Scottish startup called Cultivate, a software development and user experience design house that has worked with a number of big names, including Deliveroo itself.

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Deliveroo — which today has 80,000 restaurants and 60,000 riders on its books across 500 cities in 14 markets in Europe and beyond (Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and the United Kingdom) — is subsequently creating a new fintech hub in Edinburgh, where Cultivate is headquartered. It will be run by Andy Robinson, currently chief commercial officer for Cultivate.

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u201cWe have a fantastic relationship with Deliveroo, supporting them through an amazing period of growth. We were attracted by the array of interesting problems being tackled by their team, and how they are addressing them using modern and emerging technology,” Robinson said in a statement. “Weu2019re proud to have built such a great team here in Edinburgh, and todayu2019s announcement is a testament to their hard work and expertise in building world-class software. We are excited to continue this work, create highly skilled jobs, and build a centre of tech excellence here in Edinburgh.u201d

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The plan will be to expand the team to 50 in the next three years, hiring engineers, product managers, user researchers, and designers and data scientists. (It’s worth pointing out too that Amazon has been a major employer in Edinburgh, where it also has a key R&D operation working in various areas including AI and search.)

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Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed but it’s likely to be a modest deal.

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Cultivate itself was a small (likely around only 15 employees) but profitable business, from the looks of its filings with Companies House. It was also off the radar somewhat as a startup. Originally founded in 2007, Cultivate was initially acquired in 2009 ago by Texas firm EdgeCase, which was then itself acquired by Canadian web firm GroupByu00a0in 2017 in a bid to take on Shopify and rebranded to become Neo. Subsequent to that, Cultivate was amicably spun out again. In that time it had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from unnamed investors.

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Deliveroo, foundedu00a0in 2013 by William Shu and Greg Orlowski, was most recently valued at over $2 billion, although that was before Amazon put $575 million into the company earlier this year. It has raised around $1.5 billion in funding to date.

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Cultivate — which had worked for many of clients — will now be working for just one, its owner. The two had already built Deliveroo’s payments technology, but as Deliveroo continues to work on ways to differentiate itself from its competitors through tech, it will be investing more in this area.

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In addition to building new (not yet launched) services, some of the other areas of focus for the new Edinburgh operation will be to create more efficient payment systems for riders (which today use a Cash Out feature to access earnings quickly) and restaurants; to expand Deliveroo’s analytics for restaurants to figure out how to better plan for surges and to figure out what is popular and what is not; and (for both restaurants and riders) to better manage finances.

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Cultivate had been involved in a number of social enterprise community initiatives to promote technology education alongside its paid work and Deliveroo said these efforts will continue.

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u201cCultivate have always been at the centre of the tech scene in Edinburgh and have supported events and initiatives across the board,” said Stephen Coleman, CEO of CodeBase, the tech campus in Edinburgh where Cultivate was based. “We are really pleased for the Cultivate team and Deliveroou2019s plans to grow here in Scotland and are looking forward to having one of Europeu2019s top tech companies based here at CodeBase.u201d

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News of this acquisition comes in the same week that Takeaway.com and Just Eat announced that their respective boards had agreed on the basic terms of a merger to create an expanded footprint across Europe.

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The deal, if it completes, will not only give the two more economies of scale, and thus a better return on their own tech investment, but the aim will be to help them compete better against the likes of Uber Eats (a major priority for now-public Uber) as well as Deliveroo, which is now continuing its growth now with the might and will of Amazon behind it.

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In that context, the Cultivate acquisition is demonstration not just of Deliveroo’s own investments into its tech, but specifically into what is a sizeable and important tech hub in the region, where Amazon has also been very active.

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u201cDeliveroo is proud to be investing in Edinburgh and creating more high skilled jobs in the UK,” said Dan Winn, Deliveroo VP of engineering, in a statement. “Edinburgh is one of the UKu2019s fastest growing tech hubs, with access to an excellent talent pool of highly skilled people and university graduates. Deliveroo is committed to offering riders flexible, well-paid work and helping restaurants to grow their businesses. Building on Cultivateu2019s expertise, we are excited to create new products and services that will help us achieve this.u201d

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Notes to Editors

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Deliveroo is one of the UKu2019s leading tech unicorns and a British tech success story. Its investment in world-leading proprietary technology yields substantial benefits for customers, restaurants and riders. The Frank algorithm – which finds the optimal way to deliver food from restaurant to customer – has cut the average delivery time by nearly 20%, significantly reducing customer wait times. Franku2019s machine-learning capabilities improves the allocation of orders and reduces restaurant waiting times for riders, helping them to earn higher fees without riding longer hours. And Deliveroou2019s innovative products and tools give restaurants unique insights into their customer base, allows them to provide in-app offers to customers and improves their efficiency when preparing meals.

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A photo of Andy Robinson (Chief Commercial Officer, Cultivate), Dan Winn (VP of Engineering, Deliveroo) and Paul Wilson (Managing Director, Cultivate) is available here.

n”,”protected”:false},”excerpt”:{“rendered”:”

As two of the largest players in online-food ordering and delivery in Europe work on a $10 billion merger to expand their footprint and economies of scale, one of its biggest rivals has made an acquisition to expand its own tech muscle. Deliveroo, the London-based food delivery startup backed by Amazon that is itself valued […]

n”,”protected”:false},”author”:13119829,”featured_media”:1829017,”comment_status”:”open”,”ping_status”:”closed”,”sticky”:false,”template”:””,”format”:”standard”,”meta”:{“outcome”:””,”status”:””,”crunchbase_tag”:0,”amp_status”:””,”relegenceEntities”:[],”relegenceSubjects”:[],”jetpack_publicize_message”:”Amazon-backed food delivery startup Deliveroo acquires Edinburgh software studio Cultivate https://tcrn.ch/2Yv8e9P by @ingridlunden”},”categories”:[449557100,576602980,447971118,449560964,20429],”tags”:[],”crunchbase_tag”:[],”tc_stories_tax”:[],”tc_event”:[],”jetpack_featured_media_url”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/deliveroo2.jpg”,”jetpack_publicize_connections”:[],”shortlink”:”https://tcrn.ch/2Yv8e9P”,”rapidData”:{“pt”:””,”pct”:””},”featured”:false,”subtitle”:””,”fundingRound”:false,”seoTitle”:””,”seoDescription”:””,”premiumContent”:false,”premiumCutoffPercent”:1,”tc_cb_mapping”:[],”associatedEvent”:null,”event”:null,”authors”:[13119829],”hideFeaturedImage”:false,”_links”:{“self”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts/1863157″}],”collection”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts”}],”about”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/types/post”}],”version-history”:[{“count”:1,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts/1863157/revisions”}],”predecessor-version”:[{“id”:1863178,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts/1863157/revisions/1863178″}],”authors”:[{“embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/tc/v1/users/13119829″}],”replies”:[{“embeddable”:true,”count”:0,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/comments?post=1863157&order=asc&tc_hierarchical=flat”}],”https://techcrunch.com/edit”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1863157&action=edit”}],”author”:[{“embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/tc/v1/users/13119829″}],”wp:featuredmedia”:[{“embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/media/1829017″}],”wp:attachment”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/media?parent=1863157″}],”wp:term”:[{“taxonomy”:”category”,”embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/categories?post=1863157″},{“taxonomy”:”post_tag”,”embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/tags?post=1863157″},{“taxonomy”:”_tc_cb_tag_taxonomy”,”embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/crunchbase_tag?post=1863157″},{“taxonomy”:”tc_stories_tax”,”embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/tc_stories_tax?post=1863157″},{“taxonomy”:”tc_event”,”embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/tc_event?post=1863157″}],”curies”:[{“name”:”wp”,”href”:”https://api.w.org/{rel}”,”templated”:true}]},”_embedded”:{“authors”:[{“id”:13119829,”name”:”Ingrid Lunden”,”url”:””,”description”:””,”link”:”https://techcrunch.com/author/ingrid-lunden/”,”slug”:”ingrid-lunden”,”avatar_urls”:{“24″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/6648ec93043f0f368091adece63c6d52?s=24&d=identicon&r=g”,”48″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/6648ec93043f0f368091adece63c6d52?s=48&d=identicon&r=g”,”96″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/6648ec93043f0f368091adece63c6d52?s=96&d=identicon&r=g”},”links”:{“facebook”:”https://www.facebook.com/ingridlunden”,”twitter”:”https://twitter.com/ingridlunden”,”linkedin”:”https://www.linkedin.com/in/ingridlunden”,”crunchbase”:”https://www.crunchbase.com/person/ingrid-lunden”},”position”:”Writer”,”cbDescription”:”

Ingrid is a writer and editor for TechCrunch, joining February 2012, based out of London.

nn

Before TechCrunch, Ingrid worked at paidContent.org, where she was a staff writer, and has in the past also written freelance regularly for other publications such as the Financial Times. Ingrid covers mobile, digital media, advertising and the spaces where these intersect.

nn

When it comes to work, she feels most comfortable speaking in English but can also speak Russian, Spanish and French (in descending order of competence).

“,”cbAvatar”:”https://crunchbase-production-res.cloudinary.com/image/upload/v1421351035/tbebbexwnizrc5qurxt4.jpg”,”twitter”:”ingridlunden”,”_links”:{“self”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/tc/v1/users/13119829″}],”collection”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/tc/v1/users”}]}}],”author”:[{“id”:13119829,”name”:”Ingrid Lunden”,”url”:””,”description”:””,”link”:”https://techcrunch.com/author/ingrid-lunden/”,”slug”:”ingrid-lunden”,”avatar_urls”:{“24″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/6648ec93043f0f368091adece63c6d52?s=24&d=identicon&r=g”,”48″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/6648ec93043f0f368091adece63c6d52?s=48&d=identicon&r=g”,”96″:”https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/6648ec93043f0f368091adece63c6d52?s=96&d=identicon&r=g”},”links”:{“facebook”:”https://www.facebook.com/ingridlunden”,”twitter”:”https://twitter.com/ingridlunden”,”linkedin”:”https://www.linkedin.com/in/ingridlunden”,”crunchbase”:”https://www.crunchbase.com/person/ingrid-lunden”},”position”:”Writer”,”cbDescription”:”

Ingrid is a writer and editor for TechCrunch, joining February 2012, based out of London.

nn

Before TechCrunch, Ingrid worked at paidContent.org, where she was a staff writer, and has in the past also written freelance regularly for other publications such as the Financial Times. Ingrid covers mobile, digital media, advertising and the spaces where these intersect.

nn

When it comes to work, she feels most comfortable speaking in English but can also speak Russian, Spanish and French (in descending order of competence).

“,”cbAvatar”:”https://crunchbase-production-res.cloudinary.com/image/upload/v1421351035/tbebbexwnizrc5qurxt4.jpg”,”twitter”:”ingridlunden”,”_links”:{“self”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/tc/v1/users/13119829″}],”collection”:[{“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/tc/v1/users”}]}}],”wp:featuredmedia”:[{“id”:1829017,”date”:”2019-05-16T23:47:25″,”slug”:”wales-daily-life-2″,”type”:”attachment”,”link”:”https://techcrunch.com/2019/05/16/amazon-takes-a-bite-into-deliveroo/wales-daily-life-2/”,”title”:{“rendered”:”deliveroo”},”author”:5956050,”license”:{“source_key”:”getty images”,”person”:”Matthew Horwood”,”cropped”:”true”},”authors”:[5956050],”caption”:{“rendered”:”

CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM – DECEMBER 22: A Deliveroo rider at work at night on December 22, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

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happened to the sharing economy?”},”content”:{“rendered”:”

A few years ago, Silicon Valley couldnu2019t stop using a trendy buzzword u2014 the sharing economy. The good old top-down economic model with a clear separation between service providers and clients was falling apart. And huge tech companies disrupted entire industries, from Airbnb to Taskrabbit, Uber, Etsy and Getaround.

n

When you retrospectively look at the sharing economy boom of the early 2010s, many of the principles that defined that generation of startups have slowly disappeared. Instead of a huge societal shift, the sharing economy is slowly fading away.

n

What is the sharing economy?

n

In the past, if you wanted to buy a good or a service, you would ask a company or a professional to provide it.

n

Youu2019d buy something from a company in particular because you knew it would be the exact thing you need. Thatu2019s why plenty of companies spent huge amounts of money to build a brand and a reputation. If you just bought a car, chances are youu2019ll see thousands of ads for cars before you buy your next car.

n

And thatu2019s also why distribution channels have been key, especially in commoditized markets with low brand differentiation. For instance, when you buy a new printer, chances are you just head to an electronics store or type u201cprinteru201d on your favorite e-commerce website. If HP doesnu2019t have a distribution deal with those stores, youu2019ll just buy an Epson printer.

n

If your neighbor wants a new printer in a couple of years, you might recommend the same printer, but you may have forgotten where you bought it. Thereu2019s little differentiation between distribution channels in that case.

n

The marketplace model

n

The sharing economy happened because a group of entrepreneurs wanted to invent new distribution channels. Sure, some traditional distribution channels secured exclusive rights to sell specific products.

n

But those startups made a radical change. They wanted to work on a completely new inventory of goods or services.

n

“,”protected”:false},”excerpt”:{“rendered”:”

A few years ago, Silicon Valley couldnu2019t stop using a trendy buzzword u2014 the sharing economy. The good old top-down economic model with a clear separation between service providers and clients was falling apart. And huge tech companies disrupted entire industries, from Airbnb to Taskrabbit, Uber, Etsy and Getaround. When you retrospectively look at the […]

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Romain Dillet is a Senior Writer at TechCrunch.

nn

Originally from France, Romain attended EMLYON Business School, a leading French business school specialized in entrepreneurship. He covers many things from mobile apps with great design to privacy, security, fintech, Apple, AI and complex tech achievements. He also speaks at major tech conferences. He likes pop culture more than anything in the world.

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He now lives in Paris when he’s not on the road. He used to live in New York and loved it.

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He owns small amounts of various cryptocurrencies.

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Romain Dillet is a Senior Writer at TechCrunch.

nn

Originally from France, Romain attended EMLYON Business School, a leading French business school specialized in entrepreneurship. He covers many things from mobile apps with great design to privacy, security, fintech, Apple, AI and complex tech achievements. He also speaks at major tech conferences. He likes pop culture more than anything in the world.

nn

He now lives in Paris when he’s not on the road. He used to live in New York and loved it.

nn

He owns small amounts of various cryptocurrencies.

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Airbnb Luxe 1

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‘world’s largest internet restaurant company’ quietly raised $125 million this month”},”content”:{“rendered”:”

In May, venture capitalist Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital warned in a Financial Times column that Amazon’s recent $575 million investment in the London-based delivery service Deliveroo could prove ominous for local restaurants. Wrote Moritz: “Amazon is now one step away from becoming a multi-brand restaurant company u2014 and that could mean doomsday for many dining haunts.”

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Moritz was right to attract more attention to the deal. Deliveroo has begun operating shared kitchens from which it will not simply transport food to customers but eventually prepare it, too. His warning may even have played a role in the recent decision of Britainu2019s competition regulator to halt work on Amazon’s investment so it can first investigate whether the deal poses competitive concerns.

n

Moritz knows the playbook because of Sequoia’s early investment in Rebel Foods, formerly known as Faasos, a once-small Pune, India-based company that now prepares a variety of foods in its cloud kitchens. As he says in the same column, Faasos largely pioneered the trend.

n

The growth of the nine-year-old company is a bit breathtaking — and instructive. According to Bloomberg, Rebel — which this month raised $125 million in fresh capital from the Indonesian delivery service Go-Jek, Coatue Management and Goldman Sachs — now operates 235 kitchens across 20 Indian cities. And it’s processing two million orders a month. (It calls itself the “world’s largest internet restaurant company.”)

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While it began life as a chain of kebab restaurants, that original concept, Faasos, is now just one of eight other brands that Rebel operates, including a tea brand called Kettle & Kegs; a Chinese concept called Mandarin Oak; a pizza brand called Oven Story; and a brand called Behrouz, through which Rebel makes and sells slow-cooked biryani rice dishes.

n

Rebel Foods isn’t the only fast-moving operator using cloud kitchens to offer every kind of cuisine imaginable under one roof. Competitors of the company — which tells Bloomberg it is now valued at $525 million — include UberEats and the food delivery company Zomato, which itself has plans to open more than 100 cloud kitchens by the end of this year.

n

Zomato says it isn’t getting into the food preparation business — yet — but rather renting facilities, kitchen equipment and software to restaurants.

n

Still, it’s little wonder that Rebel is racing headlong into new markets as fast as it can. According to Bloomberg, the company is currently planning to build 100 cloud kitchens in Indonesia over the next 18 months, with Go-Jek’s help. It also expects to open 20 cloud kitchen facilities in the United Arab Emirates by December.

n

Rebel was founded by Jaydeep Barman, a native of Mumbai with an MBA from INSEAD who spent nearly four years with McKinsey before joining forces with business school classmate Kallol Banerjee to launch Faasos.

n

Despite raising money early on from Sequoia, the company was once at risk of going out of business, in part owing to high rents and employee turnover. As Moritz tells the story, things turned around dramatically when the duo closed their restaurants and opened their first centralized kitchen.

n

That decision would prove pivotal. Not only did Rebel survive, but today, the company tells Bloomberg, the entire operation runs the equivalent of 1,600 restaurants.

n”,”protected”:false},”excerpt”:{“rendered”:”

In May, venture capitalist Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital warned in a Financial Times column that Amazon’s recent $575 million investment in the London-based delivery service Deliveroo could prove ominous for local restaurants. Wrote Moritz: “Amazon is now one step away from becoming a multi-brand restaurant company u2014 and that could mean doomsday for many […]

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Loizos has been reporting on Silicon Valley since the late ’90s, when she joined the original Red Herring magazine. She is currently the Silicon Valley Editor of TechCrunch. She’s also the founder of StrictlyVC, a daily e-newsletter and lecture series.

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Loizos has been reporting on Silicon Valley since the late ’90s, when she joined the original Red Herring magazine. She is currently the Silicon Valley Editor of TechCrunch. She’s also the founder of StrictlyVC, a daily e-newsletter and lecture series.

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Exit: The acquisition charting Salesforce’s future”},”content”:{“rendered”:”

Before Tableau was the $15.7 billion key to Salesforce’s problems, it was a couple of founders arguing with a couple of venture capitalists over lunch about why its Series A valuation should be higher than $12 million pre-money.

n

Salesforce has generally been one to signify corporate strategy shifts through their acquisitions, so you can understand why the entire tech industry took notice when the cloud CRM giant announced its priciest acquisition ever last month.

n

The deal to acquire the Seattle-based data visualization powerhouse Tableau was substantial enough that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff publicly announced it was turning Seattle into its second HQ. Tableau’s acquisition doesn’t just mean big things for Salesforce. With the deal taking place just days after Google announced it was paying $2.6 billion for Looker, the acquisition showcases just how intense the cloud wars are getting for the enterprise tech companies out to win it all.

n

The Exit is a new series at TechCrunch. Itu2019s an exit interview of sorts with a VC who was in the right place at the right time but made the right call on an investment that paid off. [Have feedback? Shoot me an email at lucas@techcrunch.com]

n

Scott Sandell, a general partner at NEA (New Enterprise Associates) who has now been at the firm for 25 years, was one of those investors arguing with two of Tableau’s co-founders, Chris Stolte and Christian Chabot. Desperate to close the 2004 deal over their lunch meeting, he went on to agree to the Tableau founders’ demands of a higher $20 million valuation, though Sandell tells me it still feels like he got a pretty good deal.

n

NEA went on to invest further in subsequent rounds and went on to hold over 38% of the company at the time of its IPO in 2013 according to public financial docs.

n

I had a long chat with Sandell, who also invested in Salesforce, about the importance of the Tableau deal, his rise from associate to general partner at NEA, who he sees as the biggest challenger to Salesforce, and why he thinks scooter companies are “the worst business in the known universe.”

n

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.u00a0

n


n

Lucas Matney: You’ve been at this investing thing for quite a while, but taking a trip down memory lane, how did you get into VC in the first place?u00a0

n

Scott Sandell: The way I got into venture capital is a little bit of a circuitous route. I had an opportunity to get into venture capital coming out of Stanford Business School in 1992, but it wasn’t quite the right fit. And so I had an interest, but I didn’t have the right opportunity.

n

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Before Tableau was the $15.7 billion key to Salesforce’s problems, it was a couple of founders arguing with a couple of venture capitalists over lunch about why its Series A valuation should be higher than $12 million pre-money. Salesforce has generally been one to signify corporate strategy shifts through their acquisitions, so you can understand […]

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Lucas Matney is a reporter at TechCrunch and has been covering emerging technologies and startups since 2015. He lives in San Francisco and can be reached via email at lucas@techcrunch.com

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 19: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff delivers the keynote address during the Dreamforce 2012 conference at the Moscone Center on September 19, 2012 in San Francisco, California. A reported 90,000 people registered to attend the cloud computing industry conference Dreamforce 2012 that runs through September 21. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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The AWS DeepRacer is an almost toylike 1/18th scale race car. It comes with all of the sensors and software tools to help developers build machine learning models to drive the car around a course u2014 or really do anything else they want it to do. The $399 DeepRacer launched at AWS’s massive re:Invent show in late 2018.

n

At the time, it seemed like a bit of a gimmick, but AWS has put a lot of its weight behind it and is currently running a DeepRacer league at its various events around the world. At these events, developers can pit their models against each other and learn more about building a specific kind of machine learning model in the process.

n

Why bother, though? It’s not like DeepRacer cars are likely to add to AWS’s bottom line anytime soon. DeepRacer, however, is part of a line of hardware products from AWS that started with DeepLens, a smart camera for developers.

n

“It really comes from the same place,” AWS general manager for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning marketing Ryan Gavin told me. “When you think about the stimulus for something like DeepLens, it was really about how do we put machine learning into the hands of every developer and data scientist. That’s our mission and we’re very consistent about that.”

n

“,”protected”:false},”excerpt”:{“rendered”:”

The AWS DeepRacer is an almost toylike 1/18th scale race car. It comes with all of the sensors and software tools to help developers build machine learning models to drive the car around a course u2014 or really do anything else they want it to do. The $399 DeepRacer launched at AWS’s massive re:Invent show […]

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Before he joined TechCrunch in 2012, he founded SiliconFilter and wrote for ReadWriteWeb (now ReadWrite). Frederic covers enterprise, cloud, developer tools, Google, Microsoft, gadgets, transportation and anything else he finds interesting. He owns just over a 50th of a bitcoin.

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Before he joined TechCrunch in 2012, he founded SiliconFilter and wrote for ReadWriteWeb (now ReadWrite). Frederic covers enterprise, cloud, developer tools, Google, Microsoft, gadgets, transportation and anything else he finds interesting. He owns just over a 50th of a bitcoin.

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BURBANK, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 22: The AWS DeepRacer demo at AT&T SHAPE at Warner Bros. Studios on June 22, 2019 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for AT&T)

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dreaded 10x, or, how to handle exceptional employees”},”content”:{“rendered”:”

The “10x engineer.” Shudder. Wince. I have rarely seen my Twitter feed unite against an idea so loudly, or in such harmony.

n

I refer of course to the thread last month by Accel India’s Shekhar Kirani, explaining “If you have a 10x engineer as part of your first few engineers, you increase the odds of your startup success significantly” and then going on to address, in his opinion, “How do you spot a 10x engineer?”

n

The resulting scorn was tsunami-like. The very concept of a 10x engineer seems so… five years ago. Since then, the Valley has largely come to the collective conclusion that 1) there is no such thing as a 10x engineer 2) even if there were, you wouldn’t want to hire one, because they play so poorly with others.

n

The anti-10x squad raises many important and valid u2014 frankly, obvious and inarguable u2014 points. Go down that Twitter thread and you’ll find that 10x engineers are identified as: people who eschew meetings, work alone, rarely look at documentation, don’t write much themselves, are poor mentors, and view process, meetings, or training as reasons to abandon their employer. In short, they are unbelievably terrible team members.

n

Is software a field like the arts, or sports, in which exceptional performers can exist? Sure. Absolutely. Software is Extremistan, not Mediocristan, as Nassim Taleb puts it.

n

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The “10x engineer.” Shudder. Wince. I have rarely seen my Twitter feed unite against an idea so loudly, or in such harmony. I refer of course to the thread last month by Accel India’s Shekhar Kirani, explaining “If you have a 10x engineer as part of your first few engineers, you increase the odds of […]

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happened to the sharing economy?”},”content”:{“rendered”:”

A few years ago, Silicon Valley couldnu2019t stop using a trendy buzzword u2014 the sharing economy. The good old top-down economic model with a clear separation between service providers and clients was falling apart. And huge tech companies disrupted entire industries, from Airbnb to Taskrabbit, Uber, Etsy and Getaround.

n

When you retrospectively look at the sharing economy boom of the early 2010s, many of the principles that defined that generation of startups have slowly disappeared. Instead of a huge societal shift, the sharing economy is slowly fading away.

n

What is the sharing economy?

n

In the past, if you wanted to buy a good or a service, you would ask a company or a professional to provide it.

n

Youu2019d buy something from a company in particular because you knew it would be the exact thing you need. Thatu2019s why plenty of companies spent huge amounts of money to build a brand and a reputation. If you just bought a car, chances are youu2019ll see thousands of ads for cars before you buy your next car.

n

And thatu2019s also why distribution channels have been key, especially in commoditized markets with low brand differentiation. For instance, when you buy a new printer, chances are you just head to an electronics store or type u201cprinteru201d on your favorite e-commerce website. If HP doesnu2019t have a distribution deal with those stores, youu2019ll just buy an Epson printer.

n

If your neighbor wants a new printer in a couple of years, you might recommend the same printer, but you may have forgotten where you bought it. Thereu2019s little differentiation between distribution channels in that case.

n

The marketplace model

n

The sharing economy happened because a group of entrepreneurs wanted to invent new distribution channels. Sure, some traditional distribution channels secured exclusive rights to sell specific products.

n

But those startups made a radical change. They wanted to work on a completely new inventory of goods or services.

n

“,”protected”:false},”excerpt”:{“rendered”:”

A few years ago, Silicon Valley couldnu2019t stop using a trendy buzzword u2014 the sharing economy. The good old top-down economic model with a clear separation between service providers and clients was falling apart. And huge tech companies disrupted entire industries, from Airbnb to Taskrabbit, Uber, Etsy and Getaround. When you retrospectively look at the […]

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nn

Originally from France, Romain attended EMLYON Business School, a leading French business school specialized in entrepreneurship. He covers many things from mobile apps with great design to privacy, security, fintech, Apple, AI and complex tech achievements. He also speaks at major tech conferences. He likes pop culture more than anything in the world.

nn

He now lives in Paris when he’s not on the road. He used to live in New York and loved it.

nn

He owns small amounts of various cryptocurrencies.

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Romain Dillet is a Senior Writer at TechCrunch.

nn

Originally from France, Romain attended EMLYON Business School, a leading French business school specialized in entrepreneurship. He covers many things from mobile apps with great design to privacy, security, fintech, Apple, AI and complex tech achievements. He also speaks at major tech conferences. He likes pop culture more than anything in the world.

nn

He now lives in Paris when he’s not on the road. He used to live in New York and loved it.

nn

He owns small amounts of various cryptocurrencies.

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Airbnb Luxe 1

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top VCs view the new future of micromobility”},”content”:{“rendered”:”

Earlier this month, TechCrunch held its annual Mobility Sessions event, where leading mobility-focused auto companies, startups, executives and thought leaders joined us to discuss all things autonomous vehicle technology, micromobility and electric vehicles.

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Extra Crunch is offering members access to full transcripts key panels and conversations from the event, including our panel on micromobility where TechCrunch VC reporter Kate Clark was joined by investors Sarah Smith of Bain Capital Ventures, Michael Granoff of Maniv Mobility, and Ted Serbinski of TechStars Detroit.

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The panelists walk through their mobility investment theses and how they’ve changed over the last few years. The group also compares the business models of scooters, e-bikes, e-motorcycles, rideshare and more, while discussing Uber and Lyft’s role in tomorrow’s mobility ecosystem.

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Sarah Smith: It was very clear last summer, that there was essentially a near-vertical demand curve developing with consumer adoption of scooters. E-bikes had been around, but scooters, for Lime just to give you perspective, had only hit the road in February. So by the time we were really looking at things, they only had really six months of data. But we could look at the traction and the adoption, and really just what this was doing for consumers.

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At the time, consumers had learned through Uber and Lyft and others that you can just grab your cell phone and press a button, and that equates to transportation. And then we see through the sharing economy like Airbnb, people don’t necessarily expect to own every single asset that they use throughout the day. So there’s this confluence of a lot of different consumer trends that suggested that this wasn’t just a fad. This wasn’t something that was going to go away.

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For access to the full transcription below and for the opportunity to read through additional event transcripts and recaps, become a member of Extra Crunch.u00a0Learn more and try it for free.u00a0

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Kate Clark: One of the first panels of the day, I think we should take a moment to define mobility. As VCs in this space, how do you define this always-evolving sector?

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Michael Granoff: Well, the way I like to put it is that there have been four eras in mobility. The first was walking and we did that for thousands of years. Then we harnessed animal power for thousands of years.

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And then there was a date u2014 and I saw Ken Washington from Ford here u2014 September 1st, 1908, which was when the Model T came out. And through the next 100 years, mobility is really defined as the personally owned and operated individual operated internal combustion engine car.

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And what’s interesting is to go exactly 100 years later, September 2008, the financial crisis that affects the auto industry tremendously, but also a time where we had the first third-party apps, and you had Waze and you had Uber, and then you had Lime and Bird, and so forth. And really, I think what we’re in now is the age of digital mobility and I think that’s what defines what this day is about.

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Ted Serbinski: Yeah, I think just to add to that, I think mobility is the movement of people and goods. But that last part of digital mobility, I really look at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds. And it’s really that intersection, which is enabling all these new ways to move around.

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GettyImages 1129827591

Image via Getty Images / Jackie Niam

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Clark: So Ted you run TechStars Detroit, but it was once known as TechStars Mobility. So why did you decide to drop the mobility?

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Serbinski: So Iu2019m at a mobility conference, and we no longer call ourselves mobility. So five years ago, when we launched the mobility program at TechStars, we were working very closely with Ford’s group and at the time, five years ago, 2014, where it started with the connected car, auto and [people saying] u201cyou should use the word mobility.u201d

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And I was like u201cWhat does that mean?u201d And so when we launched TechStars Mobility, we got all this stuff but we were like u201cthis isn’t what we’re looking for. What does this word mean?u201d And then Cruise gets acquired for a billion dollars. And everyone’s like u201cMobility! This is the next big gold rush! Mobility, mobility, mobility!u201d

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And because I invest early-stage companies anywhere in the world, what started to happen last year is we’d be going after a company and theyu2019d say, u201cwell, we’re not interested in your program. We’re not mobility.u201d And I’d be scratching my head like, u201cNo, you are mobility. This is where the future is going. You’re this digital way of moving around. And no, we’re artificial intelligence, weu2019re robotics.u201d

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And as we started talking to more and more entrepreneurs, and hundreds of startups around the world, it became pretty clear that the word mobility is actually becoming too limiting, depending on your vantage where you are in the world.

n

And so this year, we actually dropped the word mobility and we just call it TechStars Detroit, and itu2019s really just intersection of those physical and digital worlds. And so now we don’t have a word, but I think we found more mobility companies by dropping the word mobility.

n

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Earlier this month, TechCrunch held its annual Mobility Sessions event, where leading mobility-focused auto companies, startups, executives and thought leaders joined us to discuss all things autonomous vehicle technology, micromobility and electric vehicles. Extra Crunch is offering members access to full transcripts key panels and conversations from the event, including our panel on micromobility where […]

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Muzmatch, a matchmaking app for Muslims, has just swiped a $7 million Series A on the back of continued momentum for its community-sensitive approach to soulmate searching for people of the Islamic faith.

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It now has more than 1.5 million users of its apps, across 210 countries, swiping, matching and chatting online as they try to find “the one.”

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The funding, which Muzmatch says will help fuel growth in key international markets, is jointly led by U.S. hedge fund Luxor Capital and Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator — the latter having previously selected Muzmatch for its summer 2017 batch of startups.u00a0

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Last year the team also took in a $1.75 million seed led by Fabrice Grindau2019s FJ Labs, YC and others.

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We first covered the startup two years ago when its founders were just graduating from YC. At that time there were two of them building the business: Shahzad Younas and Ryan Brodie — perhaps an unlikely pairing in this context, given Brodie’s lack of a Muslim background. He joined after meeting Younas, who had earlier quit his job as an investment banker to launch Muzmatch. Brodie got excited by the idea and early traction for the MVP. The pair went on to ship a relaunch of the app in mid 2016, which helped snag them a place at YC.

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So why did Younas and Brodie unmatch? All the remaining founder can say publicly is that its investors are buying Brodie’s stake. (While, in a note on LinkedIn — celebrating what he dubs the “bittersweet” news of Muzmatch’s Series A — Brodie writes: “Separate to this raise I decided to sell my stake in the company. This is not from a lack of faith — on the contrary — itu2019s simply the right time for me to move on to startup number 4 now with the capital to take big risks.”)

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Asked what’s harder, finding a steady co-founder or finding a life partner, Younas responds with a laugh. “With myself and Ryan, full credit, when we first joined together we did commit to each other, I guess, a period of time of really going for it,” he ventures, reaching for the phrase “conscious uncoupling” to sum up how things went down. “We both literally put blood, sweat and tears into the app, into growing what it is. And for sure without him we wouldn’t be as far as we are now, that’s definitely true.”

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“For me it’s a fantastic outcome for him. I’m genuinely super happy for him. For someone of his age and at that time of his life — now he’s got the ability to start another startup and back himself, which is amazing. Not many people have that opportunity,” he adds.

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Younas says he isn’t looking for another co-founder at this stage of the business, though he notes they have just hired a CTO — “purely because there’s so much to do that I want to make sure I’ve got a few people in certain areas.”

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The team has grown from just four people seven months ago to 17 now. With the Series A the plan is to further expand headcount to almost 30.

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“In terms of a co-founder, I don’t think, necessarily, at this point it’s needed,” Younas tells TechCrunch. “I obviously understand this community a lot. I’ve equally grown in terms of my role in the company and understanding various parts of the company. You get this experience by doing — so now I think definitely it helps having the simplicity of a single founder and really guiding it along.”

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Despite the co-founders parting ways, there’s no doubting Muzmatch’s momentum. Aside from solid growth of its user base (it was reporting ~200,000 two years ago), its press release touts 30,000+ “successes” worldwide — which Younas says translates to people who have left the app and told it they did so because they met someone on Muzmatch.

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He reckons at least half of those left in order to get married — and for a matchmaking app, that is the ultimate measure of success.

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“Everywhere I go I’m meeting people who have met on Muzmatch. It has been really transformative for the Muslim community where we’ve taken off — and it is amazing to see, genuinely,” he says, suggesting the real success metric is “much higher because so many people don’t tell us.”

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Nor is he worried about being too successful, despite 100 people a day leaving because they met someone on the app. “For us that’s literally the best thing that can happen because we’ve grown mostly by word of mouth — people telling their friends ‘I met someone on your app.’ Muslim weddings are quite big, a lot of people attend and word does spread,” he says.

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Muzmatch was already profitable two years ago (and still is, for “some” months, though that’s not been a focus), which has given it leverage to focus on growing at a pace it’s comfortable with as a young startup. But the plan with the Series A cash is to accelerate growth by focusing attention internationally on Muslim-majority markets versus an early focus on markets, including the U.K. and the U.S., with Muslim-minority populations.

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This suggests potential pitfalls lie ahead for the team to manage growth in a sustainable way — ensuring scaling usage doesn’t outstrip their ability to maintain the “safe space” feel the target users need, while at the same time catering to the needs of an increasingly diverse community of Muslim singles.

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“We’re going to be focusing on Muslim-majority countries where we feel that they would be more receptive to technology. There’s slightly less of a taboo around finding someone online. There’s culture changes already happening, etc.,” he says, declining to name the specific markets they’ll be fixing on. “That’s definitely what we’re looking for initially. That will obviously allow us to scale in a big way going forward.

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“We’ve always done [marketing] in a very data-driven way,” he adds, discussing his approach to growth. “Up til now I’ve led on that. Pretty much everything in this company I’ve self taught. So I learnt, essentially, how to build a growth engine, how to scale and optimize campaigns, digital spend, and these big guys have seen our data and they’re impressed with the progress we’ve made, and the customer acquisition costs that we’ve achieved — considering we really are targeting quite a niche market… Up til now we closed our Series A with more than half our seed round in our accounts.”

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Muzmatch has also laid the groundwork for the planned international push, having already fully localized the app — which is live in 14 languages, including right-to-left languages like Arabic.

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“We’re localized and we get a lot of organic users everywhere but obviously once you focus on a particular area — in terms of content, in terms of your brand etc. — then it really does start to take off,” adds Younas.

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The team’s careful catering to the needs of its target community — via things like manual moderation of every profile and offering an optional chaperoning feature for in-app chats — i.e. rather than just ripping out a “Tinder for Muslims” clone, can surely take some credit for helping to grow the market for Muslim matchmaking apps overall.

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“Shahzad has clearly made something that people want. He is a resourceful founder who has been listening to his users and in the process has developed an invaluable service for the Muslim community, in a way that mainstream companies have failed to do,” says YC partner Tim Brady in a supporting statement.u00a0

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But the flip side of attracting attention and spotlighting a commercial opportunity means Muzmatch now faces increased competition — such as from the likes of Dubai-based Veil: A rival matchmaking app that has recently turned heads with a “digital veil” feature that applies an opaque filter to all profile photos, male and female, until a mutual match is made.

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Muzmatch also lets users hide their photos, if they choose. But it has resisted imposing a one-size-fits-all template on the user experience — exactly in order that it can appeal more broadly, regardless of the user’s level of religious adherence (it has even attracted non-Muslim users with a genuine interest in meeting a life partner).

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Younas says he’s not worried about fresh faces entering the same matchmaking app space — couching it as a validation of the market.

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He’s also dismissive of gimmicky startups that can often pass through the dating space, usually on a fast burn to nowhere… though he is expecting more competition from major players, such as Tinder-owner Match, which he notes has been eyeing up some of the same geographical markets.

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“We know there’s going to be attention in this area,” he says. “Our goal is to basically continue to be the dominant player but for us to race ahead in terms of the quality of our product offering and obviously our size. That’s the goal. Having this investment definitely gives us that ammo to really go for it. But by the same token I’d never want us to be that silly startup that just burns a tonne of money and ends up nowhere.”

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“It’s a very complex population, it’s very diverse in terms of culture, in terms of tradition,” he adds of the target market. “We so far have successfully been able to navigate that — of creating a product that does, to the user, marries technology with respecting the faith.”

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Feature development is now front of mind for Muzmatch as it moves into the next phase of growth, and as — Younas hopes — it has more time to focus on finessing what its product offers, having bagged investment by proving product market fit and showing traction.

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“The first thing that we’re going to be doing is an actual refreshing of our brand,” he says. “A bit of a rebrand, keeping the same name, a bit of a refresh of our brand, tidying that up. Actually refreshing the app, top to bottom. Part of that is looking at changes that have happened in the — call it — ‘dating space’. Because what we’ve always tried to do is look at the good that’s happening, get rid of the bad stuff, and try and package it and make it applicable to a Muslim audience.

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“I think that’s what we’ve done really well. And I always wanted to innovate on that — so we’ve got a bunch of ideas around a complete refresh of the app.”

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Video is one area they’re experimenting with for future features. TechCrunch’s interview with Younas takes place via a video chat using what looks to be its own videoconferencing platform (correction: it was using a video room powered by appear.in), though there’s not currently a feature in Muzmatch that lets users chat remotely via video.

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Its challenge on this front will be implementing richer comms features in a way that a diverse community of religious users can accept.

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“I want to — and we have this firmly on our roadmap, and I hope that it’s within six months — be introducing or bringing ways to connect people on our platform that they’ve never been able to do before. That’s going to be key. Elements of video is going to be really interesting,” says Younas teasing their thinking around video.

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“The key for us is how do we do [videochat] in a way that is sensible and equally gives both sides control. That’s the key.”

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Nor will it just be “simple video.” He says they’re also looking at how they can use profile data more creatively, especially for helping more private users connect around shared personality traits.

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“There’s a lot of things we want to do within the app of really showing the richness of our profiles. One thing that we have that other apps don’t have are profiles that are really rich. So we have about 22 different data points on the profile. There’s a lot that people do and want to share. So the goal for us is how do we really try and show that off?

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“We have a segment of profiles where the photos are private, right, people want that anonymity… so the goal for us is then saying how can we really show your personality, what you’re about in a really good way. And right now I would argue we don’t quite do it well enough. We’ve got a tonne of ideas and part of the rebrand and the refresh will be really emphasizing and helping that segment of society who do want to be private but equally want people to understand what they’re about.”

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Where does he want the business to be in 12 months’ time? With a more polished product and “a lot of key features in the way of connecting the community around marriage — or just community in general.”

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In terms of growth, the aim is at least 4x from where they are now.

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“These are ambitious targets. Especially given the amount that we want to re-engineer and rebuild but now is the time,” he adds. “Now we have the fortune of having a big team, of having the investment. And really focusing and finessing our product… Really give it a lot of love and really give it a lot of the things we’ve always wanted to do and never quite had the time to do. That’s the key.

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“I’m personally super excited about some of the stuff coming up because it’s a big enabler — growing the team and having the ability to really execute on this a lot faster.”

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Muzmatch, a matchmaking app for Muslims, has just swiped a $7 million Series A on the back of continued momentum for its community-sensitive approach to soulmate searching for people of the Islamic faith. It now has more than 1.5 million users of its apps, across 210 countries, swiping, matching and chatting online as they try […]

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Natasha is a senior reporter for TechCrunch, joining September 2012, based in Europe. She joined TC after a stint reviewing smartphones for CNET UK and, prior to that, more than five years covering business technology for silicon.com (now folded into TechRepublic), where she focused on mobile and wireless, telecoms & networking, and IT skills issues. She has also freelanced for organisations including The Guardian and the BBC. Natasha holds a First Class degree in English from Cambridge University, and an MA in journalism from Goldsmiths College, University of London.

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Big fan of Shahzad, he’s a stellar entrepreneur with incredible values. A rare combination amongst Silicon Valley stars. I expect MuzMatch to keep growing into bigger and better things!

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+1

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Natasha is a senior reporter for TechCrunch, joining September 2012, based in Europe. She joined TC after a stint reviewing smartphones for CNET UK and, prior to that, more than five years covering business technology for silicon.com (now folded into TechRepublic), where she focused on mobile and wireless, telecoms & networking, and IT skills issues. She has also freelanced for organisations including The Guardian and the BBC. Natasha holds a First Class degree in English from Cambridge University, and an MA in journalism from Goldsmiths College, University of London.

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