WeWork loses its chief communications officer ahead of planned IPO – gpgmail


It could just be a better job offer, but WeWork’s top communications executive, Jennifer Skyler, has announced to her contacts that she is leaving the co-working giant to become the chief corporate affairs officer at American Express later this fall.

Skyler joined WeWork four years ago as its first communications hire, after spending three years as a director of communications at Facebook in New York. Skyler joined the fast-growing company as its global head of public affairs, working with us closely when we sat down with cofounder and CEO Adam Neumann at gpgmail Disrupt in 2017.

Last year, she was promoted to the role of chief communications officer.

Skyler calls the past few years an “incredible journey,” one she was ready to end just as WeWork attempts to go public, apparently against the wishes of its biggest backer, SoftBank, which has concerns about how WeWork will be valued by public market shareholders.

Worth noting, another top communications exec, Dominic McMullen, who joined WeWork in 2016 as a vice president and the head of corporate communications, also recently announced some “personal news,” telling his network in late July that after becoming a dad (twice) in recent years, he had decided to take time off to spend with his family in Brooklyn for now.


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Troubles keep mounting for the We Company as Softbank reportedly calls for shelving the IPO – gpgmail


The troubles for We Company and its main business WeWork are mounting as the Financial Times is reporting that the company’s main backer, Softbank, is pushing for the company to put its troubled public offering on hold.

Citing sources familiar with the company and its main investor, the Financial Times said that the cool reception We Company has received from public market investors.

The company needs to raise at least $3 billion in the public offering to trigger a $6 billion in debt financing from the very bankers architecting its IPO. If it fails to cross that $3 billion threshold and not have access to that debt, it would be a significant roadblock to the We Company’s global expansion plans. And those plans are vital to the company’s success, since it’s the growth story that the company is selling to public market investors.

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company was thinking about reducing the amount it would seek in a public offering below the $20 billion figure that had been previously reported.

The We Company had last raised money at a valuation of over $47 billion and the constant reductions in the company’s value may create a self-fulfilling prophecy that pushes the share price down even further should the company go ahead with a public offering.

The company has even taken steps to roll back some of the more egregious financial arrangements that made investors look at the company askance. It added a woman to its board of directors after much public outcry over the board composition and unwound a nearly $6 million agreement the company had made with its chief executive Adam Neumann over the licensing rights to the brand “We”.

Still, Neumann’s control over the company and the mounting losses of the core business sub-leasing long term commercial rental space to short term tenants have made public investors balky on the We Company’s longterm prospects.


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We Company reportedly mulls slashing its valuation ahead of its initial public offering – gpgmail


The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the company formerly known as WeWork is considering slashing its valuation as it looks to woo public market investors.

The company is reportedly considering a valuation of somewhere in the $20 billion range for its initial public offering, a figure that’s far less than the $47 billion valuation it received when it raised its last round of private funding.

Since filing for its initial public offering earlier this summer, questions have swirled around the viability of The We Company (as it’s now known).

According to the Journal, the company’s chief executive officer and co-founder Adam Neumann flew to Tokyo last week to meet with SoftBank Group — one of the company’s largest investors.

Neumann went to see if SoftBank would make another investment into the company — reportedly coming in as an anchor investor for the public offering and taking a big bite of the $3 billion to $4 billion the company was looking to raise. Neumann also reportedly discussed using SoftBank cash to delay the public offering until 2020.

A few billion here and a few billion there, and soon you’re talking about real money.

SoftBank has already balked at putting more cash into the We Company ahead of the public offering, and it’s not clear whether the company will step in as a white knight now.  

What is clear is that We needs money and its long term viability as a business is contingent on the infusion of massive amounts of cash.

Indeed, the company has a $6 billion line of credit at stake, which would be pulled if the public offering underperforms.

If the company fails to hit the $3 billion mark in its public offering, then the credit line promised from the big banks that are underwriting the public offering goes away.  That would be a pretty devastating turn of events for a company that’s currently racking up losses in the billions of dollars.

All of this comes during a shuffling of deck chairs designed to make the company look somewhat better to institutional investors and the public. Stories like this, however, don’t instill confidence that the We Company can avoid the iceberg that is its own business model.


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We Company adds a director, ditches its $5.9 million naming deal with its CEO, remains a governance nightmare – gpgmail


The company formerly known as WeWork, in an amendment to the S-1 that launched dozens of critical headlines, says it has added a new director to its board and unwound the $5.9 million payout to chief executive Adam Neumann over the name “We.” 

The new board member is Frances Frei, a professor of technology and operations management at Harvard Business School and a consultant to the company since March 2019.

Frei’s previous claim to fame was rehabilitating the executive and managerial team at Uber Technologies in the wake of a series of fiascos that ultimately brought down the company’s chief executive, Travis Kalanick.

Frei becomes the first woman on the We Company’s board of directors — repairing an oversight which the company received criticism for when it first filed for its initial public offering. Shareholder advocacy groups have pressed for greater diversity on corporate boards as a means to improve company performance and offer a broader range of strategic guidance.

As part of the amended filing, The We Company also committed to add a director to the board that will increase the company’s gender and ethnic diversity.

In the same amendment, the company said that it was unwinding the $5.9 million transaction between itself and a holding company — WE Holdings LLC, which held the trademark for the “We” brand and was owned by We Company’s chief executive, Adam Neumann.

“[At] Adam’s direction, the issuance to WE Holdings LLC of the partnership interests was unwound and the partnership interests were returned to the We Company Partnership,” the company said in a statement.

To clarify: The chief executive officer of a company agreed to unwind an agreement with himself that paid him nearly $6 million so that the company he ran could use the trademark “We.” It also added a new “independent” director to its board who had been a paid consultant of the company for months before joining the board of directors.

All of this comes after the same chief executive cashed out of $700 million through company stock and loan agreements.

No wonder people are calling the company a “corporate governance nightmare.”


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Top EC articles in August, Apple privacy woes, autonomous delivery robotics Starship, and Zhihu – gpgmail


Top Articles in August

We are back from Labor Day (which an ironically somewhat unkind Canadian EC subscriber noted also takes place up north). August was the most successful month for Extra Crunch since our launch about six months ago — so thank you to the thousands of new and continuing members that help us sustain quality journalism and analysis.

For those who took extended vacations last month, here are the top five most popular articles among EC members we published last month:

Y Combinator Demo Day: We picked our favorites from day one and day two and our venture capital reporter Kate Clark wrote an analysis of what the 160+ startups in the batch seemed to indicate about YC’s investment theses these days. YC remains as popular as ever if EC members’ curiosity with these articles is any indication.

How a Swedish saxophonist built Kobalt, the world’s next music unicorn: Our Extra Crunch media columnist Eric Peckham traveled to Europe to report out this deep dive into Kobalt, which is upending traditional music rights management, and is closing in on unicorn status as well. This origin story here was one of my favorites, since it showed how tenacity against incredible adversity can lead to success in the long run. I am editing Eric’s next two parts of this EC-1 as I write this, so expect those shortly.

How Dropbox, Nike, Salesforce, MailChimp, Google and Pepsi welcome their new hires: This was a bit of a surprise one for me. Our guest writer Vladimir Polo has been collecting welcome kits from different companies for years, and he compiled all of them for this piece on how different companies think about welcoming employees.

WeWork’s S-1 misses these three key points: WeWork is the most polarizing startup I have seen in sometime. So I read through the S-1 (yes, all 200-300 pages of the damn thing) to find a couple of nuggets I thought the company was missing from the filing (which, in itself, was a follow up of my EC analysis of what we should expect to see in the S-1 in the first place).

How should B2B startups think about growth? Not like B2C: Finally, we had our guest writers Kevin Barry and Tyler Elliston discuss the differences between marketing and growing a B2B startup and how that compares with B2C startups. They give a detailed guide on the ways to think about growth in B2B and the tactical tools that these startups can use.

Apple still has work to do on privacy

Over the long weekend, our privacy and policy writer Natasha Lomas wrote an insightful analysis of what we know about Apple’s privacy promises given the news that the company was offering Siri recordings to contractors for grading. Lomas sees Apple’s privacy promises as quite cynical given the context, but also sees an opportunity for the company to right its past wrongs.


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Urbvan raises $9 million for its private shuttle service in Mexico – gpgmail


As cities in emerging markets grapple with increasingly traffic-clogged and dangerous streets, Urbvan, a startup providing private, high-end transportation shuttles in Mexico, has raised $9 million in a new round of financing.

Co-founded by Joao Matos Albino and Renato Picard, Urbvan is taking the reins from startups like the now-defunct Chariot and tailoring the business for the needs of emerging market ecosystems.

Hailing from Portugal, Albino arrived in Mexico City as a hire for the Rocket Internet startup Linio. Although Linio didn’t last, Albino stayed on in Mexico eventually landing a job working for the startup Mercadoni, which is where he met Picard.

The two men saw the initial success of Chariot as it launched from Y Combinator, but were also tracking companies like the Indian startup Shuttl.

“We wanted to make shared mobility more accessible and a little bit more efficient,” says Albino. “We studied the economics and we studied the market and we knew there was a huge urgency in the congested cities of  Latin America.”

Unlike the U.S. — and especially major cities like San Francisco and New York — where public transportation is viewed as relatively safe and efficient, the urban environment of Mexico City is seen as not safe by the white collar workers that comprise Urbvan’s principle clientele.

The company started operating back in 2016. At the time it had five vans that it leased and retrofitted to include amenities like wi-fi and plenty of space for a limited number of passengers. Since those early days the company has expanded significantly. It now claims over 15,000 monthly users and a fleet of 180 vans.

Urbvan optimized for safety as well as comfort, according to Albino. The company has deals with WeWork, Walmart and other retailers in Mexico City so that all . of the stops on t he route are protected and safe. The company also vets its drivers and provides them with additional training because of the expanded capacity of the vans.

Each van is also equipped with a panic button and cameras inside and outside of the van for additional monitoring.

Customers either pay $3 per ticket or sign up for a monthly pass that ranges from $100 to $130.

Financing for the company came from Kaszek Ventures and Angel Ventures with previous investor Mountain Nazca also participating.

For Albino, who went to India to observe Shuttl’s operations, the global market for these kinds of services is so large that there will be many winners in each geography.

“Each city is different and you need to adapt. The technology needs to be adaptable to the city’s concerns . and where it can . add more value,” says Albino. “The Indian market is super different from Latin America.. It’s a huge market with a lot of congestion… But the value proposition is a bit more basic [for Shuttl].”

Urbvan is currently operating in Mexico City and Monterrey, but has plans to expand into Guadalajara later this year.


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Finance in startups with Duda CFO Stephanie Hsiung and Zeus Living’s Head of Finance Mark Kang – gpgmail


Welcome to this transcribed edition of The Operators. The Operators features insiders from companies like Airbnb, Brex, Calm, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Slack, Uber, WeWork, and Zeus Living sharing their stories and tips on how to break into fields like marketing and product management. They also share best practices for entrepreneurs on how to hire and manage experts from domains outside their own.

This week’s edition features two finance experts with experience from Calm, AdRoll, Morgan Stanley, Change.org, Zeus Living, and Duda. Listen in as they unpack how to build a career in finance at a tech startup and how founders should be thinking about hiring and managing this function.

Stephanie Hsiung is the CFO of Duda, a new and exciting enterprise website builder. Prior to taking the CFO role at Duda, Stephanie served as the VP of Finance at Calm, the leading meditation and mental wellness app and recent unicorn. She was also previously the VP of Finance at Change.org, and was at AdRoll before that.

Mark Kang is the Head of Finance at Zeus Living, which is one of the fastest-growing providers of furnished housing for business travelers. He brings experience from venture capital, banking at Morgan Stanley, where he managed IPOs, and also spent time at Barclays.

Mark Kang, Neil Devanie, Stephanie Hsiung. Image via The Operators

Neil Devani and Tim Hsia created The Operators after seeing and hearing too many heady, philosophical podcasts about the future of tech, and not enough attention on the practical day-to-day work that makes it all happen.

Tim is the CEO & Founder of Media Mobilize, a media company and ad network, and a Venture Partner at Digital Garage. Tim is an early-stage investor in Workflow (acquired by Apple), Lime, FabFitFun, Oh My Green, Morning Brew, Girls Night In, The Hustle, Bright Cellars, and others.

Neil is an early-stage investor based in San Francisco with a focus on companies building stuff people need, solutions to very hard problems. Companies he’s invested in include Andela, Clearbit, Kudi, Recursion Pharmaceuticals, Solugen, and Vicarious Surgical.

If you’re interested in starting or accelerating your marketing career, or how to hire and manage this function, you can’t miss this episode!

The show:

The Operators features insiders from companies like Airbnb, Brex, Calm, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Slack, Uber, WeWork, and Zeus Living sharing their stories and tips on how to break into fields like marketing and product management. They also share best practices for entrepreneurs on how to hire and manage experts from domains outside their own.

In this episode:

In Episode 6, we’re talking about finance. Neil interviews Stephanie Hsiung, the CFO of Duda, a new and exciting enterprise website builder, and Mark Kang, the Head of Finance at Zeus Living, one of the fastest-growing providers of furnished housing for business travelers.

Neil Devani: Hello and welcome to the Operators, where we talk to entrepreneurs and executives from leading technology companies like Google, Facebook, Airbnb, and Calm about how to break into a new field, how to build a successful career, and how to hire and manage talent beyond your own expertise.

We skip over the lofty prognostications from venture capitalists and storytime with founders to dig into the nuts and bolts of how it all works. Hear from the people doing the real day to day work, the people who make it all happen, the people who know what it really takes… The Operators.

Today we’re talking to two finance experts with experience in investment banking and billion-dollar tech startups. I’m your host, Neil Devani and we’re coming to you from Digital Garage here in downtown San Francisco.

Joining me today is Stephanie Hsiung, CFO of Duda, an enterprise website builder, and formerly the VP of finance at Calm, the leading meditation and mental wellness app. She was also the VP of Finance at Change.org and AdRoll before that.

Also joining us is Mark Kang, Head of Finance at Zeus Living, a rising provider of furnished housing for business travels. They have 1400 homes under management in four major metro areas. Mark has experience as a venture capitalist as well and was previously a banker at Morgan Stanley and Barclays. Stephanie and Mark, thank you for joining us.

Stephanie Hsiung: Thank you for having us.

Mark Kang: Yes, thanks for having us.


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Y Combinator Demo Day, revenue-based VC funding, Pivotal, Dell, Tumblr, WeWork, and more – gpgmail


Editor’s note

Due to bad travel logistics (thanks SFO), I wasn’t able to get the mid-week edition of the Extra Crunch roundup newsletter out. Sorry about that. Instead, here is everything we published this week on Extra Crunch in one fell swoop — and my, we covered a lot of ground. Hope you enjoy some great weekend reading.

Y Combinator Demo Day Coverage-a-palooza

Much like the equinoxes that synchronize Earth’s calendar, Y Combinator’s biannual demo days are a key fixture of the Silicon Valley calendar. This year was no different, with 166 companies presenting from the summer batch (and occasionally from previous batches if they chose to delay their presentation).

We had a full squad on site not only covering the 84 companies from day one and 82 companies from day two, but our team also put their collective heads together to identify the top companies from each set exclusively for Extra Crunch members.

The 11 best startups from Y Combinator’s S19 Demo Day 1

Read our favorite 11 startups from day one, which included:

PopSQL provides collaborative SQL query editing. You can store SQL queries you run regularly, grouping them into folders that can be kept private or shared amongst your team. Version history tracks changes so it can be reverted if/when something breaks. It currently has more than 100 paying companies, and is making $13K per month. It plans to build a marketplace for apps that run on top of your company’s database.

Why it’s one of our favorites: SQL database queries can be a nightmare, especially if they’re not something you’re used to dealing with every day. PopSQL lets you hammer on queries collaboratively until they’re working exactly as you want — then you can save them for future use and share them amongst your team members. And when you’ve spent the last 45 minutes trying to figure out why your query isn’t working only for a team mate to fix it in thirty seconds, you can use version control to see exactly what they changed. PopSQL says its product has already found customers in companies like Instacart, Redfin, and DoorDash.

Our 12 favorite startups from Y Combinator’s S19 Demo Day 2

Read our favorite 12 startups from day two, which included:

Business Score is helping companies automate background checks on other businesses. The startup is looking to stamp out tired manual processes that largely mean picking up the phone and scouring documents. The single API taps data sources across the web to build out real-time profiles that can help customers scan businesses in an effort to prevent fraud, qualify leads and onboard new clients.

Why it’s one of our favorites: Though it’s yet another startup in the batch catering to other startups, we thought Business Score stood out. The company integrates with thousands of data providers to help companies verify other startups and enterprises they are considering doing business with, using a system they’ve dubbed “the business passport.” There’s an opportunity here to create a tool essential to company-building across industry.

YC is doubling down on these investment theses in its most recent batch

Finally, amidst all the zany craziness of watching 166 companies present over two days (there should be a YC company for unmelting your brain), our venture capital reporter Kate Clark stepped back to assess what all the various companies in the batch indicated about the accelerator’s strategy these days.

YC knows its sweet spot: enterprise SaaS. One might go as far as to say it’s transitioning into a full-on SaaS incubator. Why? Because one of the greatest advantages of going through YC is the network of alumni companies you can tap into. Many successful B2B companies have emerged from the program, raised boat loads of venture capital funding and rocketed to the moon (hello Stripe, Brex, Gusto and Atrium). With that in mind, YC is doubling down on its resources for startups that sell products to other startups, which brings us to our first piece of news.

YC chief executive officer Michael Seibel and president Geoff Ralston announced this week that the accelerator has implemented something called CTO and HR demo days. In short, CTO and HR demo days are an opportunity for B2B startups to pitch their products to YC alum companies’ CTO and/or head of HR. Seibel and Ralston said 60 CTOs attended the event, as well as 30 HR heads. In total, 42 startups presented and we’re guessing a bunch of those companies booked a few customers.


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Is Knotel poised to turn WeWork from a Unicorn into an Icarus? – gpgmail


The day of reckoning for the ‘flexible office space as a startup’ is coming, and it’s coming up fast. WeWork’s IPO filing has fired the starting gun on the race to become the game-changer both in the future of property and real estate but also the future of how we live and work. As Churchill once said, ‘we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us’.

Until recently WeWork was the ruler by which other flexible space startups were measured, but questions are now being asked if it deserves its valuation. The profitable IWG plc, formerly Regus, has been a business providing serviced offices, virtual offices, meeting rooms, and the rest, for years and yet WeWork is valued by ten times more.

That’s not to mention how it exposes landlords to $40 billion in rent commitments, something which a few of them are starting to feel rather nervous about.

Some analysts even say WeWork’s IPO is a ‘masterpiece of obfuscation’


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On-demand parking startup SpotHero raises $50 million – gpgmail


SpotHero, the Chicago-based company that has developed an on-demand parking app, has raised $50 million in a Series D round led by Macquarie Capital.

Union Grove Venture Partners participated in the round, along with existing investors including Insight Venture Partners, Global Founders Capital, OCA Ventures, AutoTech Ventures and others, according to the company. SpotHero has raised $118 million to date.

SpotHero said Thursday that this new capital will be used to grow into new markets and expand in its existing ones, build out its digital platform and strengthen partnerships with mobility companies.

SpotHero, which has operations in San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C. and Seattle, initially set out to develop software that connects everyday drivers to parking spots in thousands of garages across North America.

SpotHero has expanded its focus in the eight years since its founding. The company has added other services as urban density has increased and on-street parking has become more jumbled and confused thanks to an increase in traffic, ride-hailing and on-demand delivery services that take up valuable curb space. It has locked in more than 900 distribution partnerships and integrations including Google Assistant, for voice-enabled parking and Waze in-app navigation to parking. Other partners include Hertz and car2go for fleet parking, WeWork, for commuter parking and Moovit, for multi-modal parking.

Most recently, SpotHero launched a new service dubbed “SpotHero for Fleets” that targets shared mobility and on-demand services.

The service aims to be a one-stop shop for car-sharing and commercial fleets to handle all that goes into ensuring there is access and the right number of designated parking areas on any given day within SpotHero’s large network of 6,500 garages across 300 cities. That means everything from managing the relationships between garage owners and the fleet companies to proper signage so car-sharing customers can find the vehicles, as well as flexible plans that account for seasonal demands on businesses.

Under the new service, customers are able to source and secure parking inventory in high-traffic areas across multiple cities and pay per use across multiple parking facilities on one invoice to streamline payments. 

The company has signed on car-sharing companies and other commercial fleets, although it’s not naming them yet.


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