Welcome to Startups Weekly. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday.
I know it’s perhaps unfair to assume that angels have the same approach to investors as professional, institutional pre-seed investors. And yet, amateur investors could def do with taking a couple of leaves out of the pro playbook. In this thinly veiled rant that admittedly comes from someone who doesn’t have enough money to throw around to do angel investing at any meaningful scale and so would be easily ignorable by anyone who does write an angel check or two on a regular basis, I break down some of the mistakes I see angels make all the damn time.
Okay, with that somewhat-relevant-to-startups tirade out of the way, let’s look at what else has been keeping our cunning club of company correspondents chirographing away this fine week . . .
Another bite of the Apple
Unless you’ve been hiding behind a stalled-out humanoid robot (or an android, if you will) all week, you’ll probably have been aware that our friendly neighborhood orchard has grown some new apples. New iPhones — in the form of iPhone 15 and the titanium-clad iPhone 15 Pro — now come with USB-C. In fact, there’s a whole bunch of Apple products in the USB-C lineup these days. On the phone front, the cameras are better (and can now shoot 3D video). There was a new Apple Watch (also in pink!) and much more.
One fun story we didn’t see coming was Olivia Rodrigo releasing a brand-new video — “Get him back!” — filmed on an iPhone 15 Pro. Of course, it looks amazing.
Look, I know whatever Apple gets up to is not always relevant to startups, but you’d be very silly indeed to not pay attention to what the world’s most valuable company is doing. Darrell had a great angle on this: As the iPhone gets more powerful, he argues that it becomes more and more viable as a games console for high-budget titles.
I bet you’re curious what our most-read Apple stories are, yeah? Well, I’m pretty sure this is proprietary information that the editors would hate me sharing with you, but everyone is prepping for Disrupt next week, so I’m sure nobody will notice me sneaking this into the newsletter:
The roundup: Y’all love a good “just tell us what matters” story, so it’s no surprise that Christine’s summary of the event did really well: Apple Event 2023: Everything announced so far.
iPhone 15 launches: Of course, everyone was going to be super curious about what the iPhone 15 held in store. Brian dug in with the full story, with Apple’s iPhone 15 arrives with USB-C (finally). Brian’s iPhone 15 Pro post was also fantastically popular.
Bye-bye, Lightning: Okay, fine, perhaps I just wanted to do this list because I spotted that one of my stories got a bit popular: Apple ditches the Lightning connector in favor of USB-C after exactly 11 years.
What’s happening in fintech land?
After the 2008 global financial crisis, central banks slashed interest rates to almost zero. As a result, money flooded elsewhere — and a not insignificant amount of it flowed into LP funds, from there to VC funds, and from there into promising young startups. Michael Sindicich argues that allowed for the emergence of business models that, in any other circumstance, would be completely unviable, asking whether perhaps the time of reckoning is coming: Is the house of cards coming down?
Entrepreneurs are gonna entrepreneur, so why not create a company for helping other companies shut down faster and cheaper? It’s a bold proposition, but it seems like there’s a market for it — SimpleClosure raised $1.5 million in less than a day to help faltering startups pull the plug with greater alacrity.
Some fintech startup glimmers of hope to stave off the grim darkness:
Neobank growth: Many startups looking for new equity investors may still be feeling the chill of the funding winter, but things continue to heat up in the world of debt: U.K. neobank Zopa raises another $93 million as it hits the 1 million customers mark.
Taking on Coinbase and Binance: After the collapse of FTX, crypto traders have been looking for decentralized, noncustodial and safer ways to execute orders and store their assets. Brine Fi just raised at a $100 million valuation to help fill that gap.
Inclusion is hot: Banking the underbanks and supporting the undersupported is a tough business to be in, but Alza just emerged from stealth to offer affordable and inclusive financial tools to immigrants.
It was Y Combinator Demo Day last week, which means there’s another wall of investment opportunities streaming into VC firms like salmon swimming up the proverbial fallopian tube of gestation on its way to . . . okay, this mixed metaphor has officially gone TOO FAR. Some investors skipped YC Demo Day this year. Here are our favorite startups from YC’s Day 1 and Day 2. We talked to a bunch of founders who have done YC several times to find out what the value was of going back to the well.
Elsewhere in startup news, we got excited about AI reading coach startup Ello raising $15 million to bolster child literacy.
Apropos education, I did a pitch deck teardown of Tomorrow University, which, despite gearing up to offer an MBA program, read a lot like a manifesto instead of a pitch deck. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good manifesto — my most (and least) favorite manifestos were written in German — but they aren’t typically very helpful when it comes to raising funds.
Some funding rounds to keep an eye on:
Hey, Siri, print me a house: Kyle reports that Mighty Buildings raised $52 million to build 3D-printed prefab homes.
That seems like a good investment: Perfios, an Indian fintech that provides real-time credit underwriting solutions to banks and nonbanking financial institutions, has raised $229 million in a new funding round as it looks to deepen its expansion into North America and Europe, Manish reports.
Safety third: Fresh back from Burning Man, it seems only fair to highlight That Thing In The Desert operates on a “safety third” motto. The rest of the world, not so much, and Kyle reports that compliance and risk management startup Certa raised $35 million.
Top reads on GME this week
Here’s the hottest-off-the-presses, most-read stories for the week:
Snake eyes: Seems like MGM Resorts are having some issues; it blamed a “cybersecurity issue” for an ongoing outage that dragged on for at least four days.
Trucking on: Tesla’s Cybertruck is inching its way toward production. This week, one was spotted with updated interior. There was also a robotaxi concept that looks a bit like a two-seater Cybertruck.
You can truck right off: In a blow to the autonomous trucking industry (but a boon to the 6% or so of the U.S. population who drive trucks for a living), the California Senate passed a bill Monday that requires a trained human safety operator to be present any time a self-driving, heavy-duty vehicle operates on public roads in the state. In effect, the bill bans driverless AV trucks.
A cheeky subscription: BMW got in some hot water (and became the butt of many a joke) for charging a subscription to enable your seat warmers. Pretty silly, and the German car manufacturer finally stopped charging for warming cheeks.
Grab your pass to TC Disrupt 2023
Join 10,000 startup leaders in San Francisco at GME Disrupt on September 19–21. Last-minute passes are still available. Save 15% with code STARTUPS. Register now!