Don’t expect IPOs from these startups in 2024 | Equity Podcast

This episode is presented by invest Puerto Rico if you believe your business Can go anywhere Puerto Rico is the Place hello and welcome back to equity Techcrunch's Flagship podcast about the Business of startups today is Friday May 3st I'm marann aavo and joining me today Is TC reporter haa camps ha how's your Week been you know I've had a wild Couple of weeks and this week I'm doing A really dumb thing which is trying to Cram about six days worth of work into About three days Monday was Memorial day Tuesday accidentally ended up doing 11 Calls back to back oh my goodness that's Nut so Wednesday my brain was Cooked but you know I've got a fun Weekend ahead and uh I'm excited about That so it's all right wow 11 that has To be like a record that's crazy also Joining us today is senior TC reporter On the Venture be and co-host of our Sister podcast found Becca scac Becca What's new in your world how are you I Am doing well I always say I love a 3-day weekend but I hate a 4day week Yeah so trying to definitely cram a bit As well but I don't think I'm trying to Cram as much as ha so I think I'm doing A little better I know that we always Kind of pay for those extra days that we Get right when it's a holiday holidays Like having to do twice the amount of Work in the days leading up and after

But hey can't complain so well before we Get to the show rundown please don't Forget to rate and review equity on Apple podcast Spotify or whatever your Preferred pod streamer is we' really Appreciate it now on the show today We've got a few exciting deals of the Week they're all a little bit different But cool in their own ways we'll be Talking about X AI weather XM and Solutions by text lots of x's there Didn't realize that then we'll head into Discussing the debacle at fintech Synapse which is basically a big mess That's ongoing so we'll dig into that a Bit and then we'll jump into the Startups that are definitely or Definitely not going to go public this Year so haa I know you have lots of Thoughts about xai Fisin so look Elon Musk is a really Interesting human being and you know There's a reason why there's an old Chinese curse that is may you live in Interesting times the fact that he's Able to raise $6 billion doar for an AI Startup from you know Valor a16z and Seoa I just don't get it he's got such An incredible track record of he's like The buy now pay later of of morals as Far as I can tell and it's not worked Out super well for X which used to be Called Twitter it's not worked out super Well for a bunch of his other companies

Right you can say what you will about Tesla's valuation but by every measure It is incredibly overvalued as far as I Could tell and letting him near AI I Don't love it I really don't love it I Mean he is a co-founder of open AI which You know I'm not sure if everybody knows That but he invested like tens of Millions of dollars in it but apparently You know he's kind of obviously he's Backed off of that if he's building a Competitor and he sued the company Actually and its co-founder Sam Alman For allegedly pring its mission Statement becoming a closed source Quotes closed Source deao subsidiary of Microsoft so yeah I mean honestly I Wasn't shocked that he was able to raise This kind of money because investors Just seem to keep pouring it on they Keep writing him checks no matter what Happens no matter what he does no matter How poorly some of his other companies Seem to be performing they seem to have No problem to continue to write him Checks and I know when we talked about This before the show you said it pissed You off and and it is kind of Infuriating like really $6 billion is a Lot of money pre-money valuation of18 Billion dollars it's like okay how many Startups out there with viable business Models traction that can barely raise a Few million dollars if anything and you

Know it's just namely because of his Name or who he is that he's able to Command this sort of valuation and Funding and that's that's just really Frustrating yeah and I know when I saw This was I surprised Elon Musk was going To make a play in the AI space or make His own company no was I surprised he Was going to be able to raise a lot of Money for it unfortunately no what I was Surprised about is just who he raised From because there's so much overlap With the Twitter investors which is Interesting to me because it's like sure If these were SpaceX investors who were Like cool we keep seeing our investment Go up up up up like we're going to back Something else of his great but Twitter Isn't that so it was interesting to see That like a lot of the same investors Like seoa and andrees who helped him by Twitter when Twitter's not or X sorry of Course is not really doing that well It's not doing as poorly as it was but It's still not I wouldn't say like the Kind of investment you'd want to like Tell everyone you are a part of so Seeing those exact same names come into This Round And I Know Dan prac over at Axios did some reporting that says that There's no ties between these Equity Stakes either so it's not like that's Why it's the same names participating That surprised me yeah I guess that Elon

M superpower is like coming up with Systems design right so for SpaceX it Wasn't that it was a rocket company it Was like hey we have to create a whole New system in order to take a rocket Land it and then be able to reuse it Which drastically reduces the price of Sending Rockets into space like on the Surface of it that makes an awful lot of Sense I appreciate that right but I know That CEOs running companies generally Have to spend all their focus on one Thing right and I've lost track of how Many companies musk is the CEO of now And you have to wonder like maybe it's a Blessing that he's not able to be Effective because it seems like the Companies do better when he's not paying Attention to them but there's this crazy Thing like and I mean I guess this is Why I'm a podcast host and not a VC Because I just wouldn't I wouldn't place That bet it just doesn't make sense to Me at all in any in any world yeah it's A good point and also I mean him just Trying to compete with open AI Microsoft Alphabet potentially Apple which is Trying to ramp up its AI efforts I just Have to wonder like it feels like he's Would be pretty behind or I mean am I Wrong I mean it seems like he's behind Like how is he going to catch up to them I mean how exactly is this going to work He's going to build it the same way he's

Built all those really wellworking X Features that we all now use in our Daily lives cuz they work so well Totally and similarly it seems like you Know these SpaceX Rockets occasionally Explode you know you kind of go like I Get it you have to disruptive to make Things happen for sure but I'm also like I don't know maybe not in the AI space But yeah and know we have to move on I Mean the last thing I I would like to Share on this I I appreciate his being Bold I appreciate his trying to be Visionary but at some point you kind of Have to just just realize your Limitations but anyway we're going to Move on to my deal of the week which is A company with maybe not the most Exciting name in the world but uh it's Called solutions by text and it caught My eye though because I love these Stories it was bootstrapped for over a Decade actually about 13 years before They raised their first outside capital And they just recently secured about $110 million in funding let me be clear That not all of that was Equity there Was some debt less than 15% was debt but Still a pretty significant raise in mix Of primary and secondary shares and what They're doing is very cool it's giving People a way to pay their bills or do Things like apply for loans via text Messaging and you know the premise

Behind it is that more and more people Want this option and that text is a Easier and better way to get people's Attention than email for example because Like the CEO pointed out oh I have like Four unread text messages right now but Like a thousand unread emails and I mean I do too I I could see that so it's kind Of easier to get people's attention Right now through text and they also Claim that they're just they're super Compliant which you know I have to be Skeptical anytime anybody says that These days but their track record so far Seems to be backing that up so that more And more companies like eBay for example As a customer are using them for these Sort of capabilities so it was a little Different interesting based out of Dallas bootstrap for a long time growing A lot just interesting to me yeah yeah I Know there's some people who are like One touch or whatever that term is where It's like they learn that they need to Do something or they hear that they need To do something and they like do it Right away and I have long wished I was More of a one-touch person and one area I'm particularly trying to be a One-touch person in is bills especially The bills you do not get regularly like Not like your monthly whatever electric Bill and stuff like that but like random Medical bills from like a blood test

Like things like that like I have tried To be more one touch with them and I Love this idea because if they texted me The bill and I could pay it via the text Like I could fulfill my OneTouch dreams Finally right I love that the thing that Completely screws with my mind is all The companies that get built in this Country that are just like patching over A broken banking system like this type Of thing like whenever I read about Companies that is existing I'm like go You for raising $110 million but in Functioning economies where they have a Functioning banking system this kind of Thing just one touch bilding in much of Europe your bills just show up in your Bank account and you click pay oh Interesting or dispute or automatic pay And every time a bill arrives it just Pays it I'm like how long are we going To continue patching this over and the Crazy thing is like PayPal Was founded so long ago to solve this Problem and failed right it's we're Still exactly where we were and I'm like Can we just can we just not anyway Congratulations for raising the money But it's just such an Abomination that We need this no I agree I agree it feels Like we're still very behind when it Comes to a lot of things in finance I Mean like I've talked about before and Not to digress too much but like in

Brazil they have pics and people even Use picss on the street to pay vendors Things like that I mean we don't even Have that sort of thing here in the US I Feel like we're just really really Behind in a lot of ways but maybe that's Exactly why this company seems to be Growing and doing pretty well they said That they Revenue has increased by more Than 3x since late 2021 when they first Raised their capital and that they I can Never say this IID IID iida I positive Nearing profitability so hey we'll watch Out for them to see how they're doing Say in the next year or so I'd like to See if they're continuing this growth Momentum but now Becca I'm also very Curious now to jump into your deal the Week because I've read this story about Twice trying to fully grasp it because It was so unique can you fill us in yeah And now before I do that I will admit I Am the first one to think that web 3 is A little silly I'm kind of a web 3 hater I always kind of have been so when I saw This company announce their deal that It's called weather XM they raised a 7.7 Million series a round LED by faction Which is a blockchain focus fun Affiliated with light speed I was like What the heck is this like why do we Need web 3 and weather like I was like I Truly just like don't get this so I was Like obviously I'm curious so I reached

Out and talked to them and ended up Finding that this was just really Fascinating and maybe like I'm so sorry For all the listeners who this will make Mad this maybe the first web 3 case I Actually was like huh I actually get it This time but the company is essentially Making a network they build their own Small weather stations that can collect Like local ground weather data and They're having people Monitor these weather stations sign up To keep track of them sign up to Maintain them and they're using it to Collect this local weather data in a Quest to make weather forecast more Accurate the founders are super Interesting this is actually the third Weather related project they've started They've been trying to fix this issue For a while and this one kind of Combines what they've been doing for Their last two so all the weather data They collect is open source anyone can Access it for free if you want to use it In a commercial setting they have Subscription models but the reason why This is sort of in the web 3 blockchain Space is one that open source piece but Two they created their own crypto token That they use to pay the people who Monitor the weather stations which I was Like well why wouldn't you just pay them Regular money or in their local currency

And they're saying because they work With people in so many different Countries already over 80 countries and They're just getting started it would be Really costly really complicated really Tough compliance wise to pay them and They also found out from their first Weather project that people will do this For free so they just added that part in To kind of give a little more incentive To kind of hope to get more people Interested because their first project Was developing a local ground weather Focused app and they had over 10,000 People submitting data for free that's Great so they're like trying to build This community weather data approach Which I think this stuff is so Interesting because the market for this Seems real I know in their prior company Where they were doing like weather Consulting to try to get more accurate Data for like weather sensitive Industries they're working with like the Athens airport in Greece like they're Working with like big name people Because it seems like everyone wants More accurate weather data and this is Just such a funky way to try to do it I Just thought this was so interesting I Agree and I actually I'm with you on the Being a blockchain doubter but I Actually this also reminds me of the Helium mobile project right which is

Basically you hook up this thing to your Interet connection and it then does an Extension of mobile networks in coverage Where there isn't a lot of mobile Networks so this can be like Laura one For like iot devices like imagine you Have like trackers or something instead Of having to use the cell network you Can use this distributed Network and They use tokens to pay users to put up These cells So in theory like there's a Higher incentive for putting a cell in An area that has low coverage right and In that Universe I'm like actually Blockchains kind of makes sense here and I'm glad to hear of this weather based Solution that's kind of in the same vein I was surprised by myself but I'm being One around it's like oh cool look use Case that makes sense yeah and not only That I really love that they seem to be Genuinely concerned about you know their Mission it's not like oh we just want to Make money I mean they're really I mean They're making this available to some People for free they're trying to make It easier for people to report the data So I think they're very serious about Trying to help prevent as you write Becca prevent and mitigate harm from Inclement weather events or natural Disasters I mean it's a big deal I mean There's so many people who have lost so Much due to a disaster that maybe could

Have been prevented so I feel like their Mission is super authentic and that also Spoke to me so also being sort of a I Don't want to say again blockchain Skeptic but not someone who's super Bullish on it all I did agree or do Agree that this all kind of makes sense It all fits together it's Unique it's Different is the company based in Greece Becca so I believe they're based in Switzerland actually like they're Headquarter in switzland but I think the Majority of the folks are in Greece Still but when I was talking to them About this and things started to click It made me think I did a project this Was like fall of 2022 on our Yahoo for good day where you Were helping the Red Cross map rural Areas in Africa and you would look at Like satellite images and point out Where if you saw settlements so that They could mark them better and the Reason people were doing that is for These inclement weather events because When they happen in these rural areas They don't know where people are Humanitarian Aid just straight up Doesn't have a good grasp on where People are mapping is not super Advanced Over there and things like that and this Felt very connected to that in my mind Where I was like if you're getting these Weather stations in these rural areas

Which the founders told me like those Are the areas that they're super pushing For they really want to get data in Those areas that are often overlooked That just don't have accurate Information about them and then it's Like this whole ripple effect there's no Accurate information about an impending Climate disaster and then it happens Then people can't find the people who Live there so it just seems like a very Interesting way to start to fix some of Those issues that really just do often Get kind of overlooked Becca kudos to You for always kind of uncovering these Really neat and unique companies that Are doing things that I've never heard Of so it's that's not easy in the Startup world uh so I really appreciate That well next up we're going to be Talking about the synapse debacle but First a Break so over the past few weeks I've Been covering a fintech or banking as a Service startup called synapse and it's Super complicated and messy and an Ongoing story so I'll try my best to Summarize as best as I can here before We get into a deep discussion but Essentially the company started running Into trouble last fall it was laying off People and then this year things really Started getting I guess worse and they Announced that they were filing for

Chapter 11 bankruptcy but selling their Assets to another company called tabapay That deal fell through lots of finger Pointing was taking place between Synapse its banking partner evolve and Mercury the business banking start up Mercury just anyway big mess so yeah Once that deal fell through synapse is Basically just falling apart and a lot Of fintechs and consumers are paying the Price I wrote about copper a teen Digital Bank last week that had to Discontinue its Bank operations abruptly A lot of very unhappy customers are Emailing me currently still about that Another startup mainvest had to shut Down because of this mess and it's Really raising a lot of questions about Banking as a service as a space because It was once kind of the darling of the Fintech space but now a lot of people Are kind of calling into question hey do We really want this middleman and if so We need a lot more compliance we need a Lot more regulations and I just realized Something I don't think I really explain For our listeners who don't understand What banking as a service is I'll I'll Say this and then shut up for a minute I Was actually gonna ask that as a Question do you want me to do that go Ahead hey Maran I think I understand What it does but could you remind me What does synapse do and and why is it

Such a big deal to the companies that Were relying on them yeah it is good Question because I'm so like kneed deep Into all this sometimes I forget not Everybody's going to understand banking As a service so basically synaps Operated a service that allowed others Mainly fintex to embed baking Services Into their offerings for example a Software provider that specialized in Payroll for 1099 contractor heavy Businesses use synapse to provide an Instant payment feature or others used It to offer like specialized credit or Debit cards like copper this team Focused fintech until last year for Example it was providing those types of Services as an intermediary between its Banking partner evolve Bank and Trust And business banking startup Mercury Until those two decided they wanted to Work directly with each other and cut Out synaps as a middleman Maran from Where you sit now we've already seen Some companies of course be negatively Affected by synaps shutting down but Like where do you think we are in this Process do you think we're right at the Beginning of hearing of the issues that Come out of this like where are okay yes I do unfortunately I think it's probably worse than we all Even realize I think more stories are Going to come out there was funds at

Another Finch crypto app called Juno That were impacted CNBC quoted a a Maryland teacher who said that he was Blocked from accessing his funds I've Gotten emails about people who had money In other startups I'm going to do a Follow up on this by the way and I'll Detail more of it but I think it's just The beginning which is really really sad Honestly like I think sometimes people Just don't realize like how many Companies how many people can be Impacted when just one player in this Ecosystem fails and this is a prime Example of that one of the things that I've talked about is not only is this Going to maybe make people reluctant to Work with bass players or fintech Players in the future it may also make It harder for these types of companies To raise money in the future because This is just such a disaster it's just Going to be a huge turnoff I get why People are upset and we're talking about Everyday people you know not not billion Like Elon Musk I mean this is a lot of Money to a lot of people and a lot of These people have no clue if they're Ever going to get their money back much Less when so you know I'm a fintech Reporter I think there's a lot of great Things about fintech but I'm not going To lie this makes me even a little bit Less eager to sign up and work with a

Fintech and hand them my money yeah Totally I'm curious when SVP collaps Lots of other Banks going of leap into The breach to kind of fill the void are We seeing that here like is there Anybody else who's like an obvious oh When synap stops switched to this or is There no like for like replacement um Yeah that's a good question I mean There's definitely other players in the Space who do claim that they're more Compliant of course Sina unit treasury Prime I feel like though it's not as Easy in terms of like okay we're just Going to switch accounts right because There's still a lot of money unaccounted For and you know we don't know where all That money is or if people are going to Get it back so there are alternatives I Think for people who still want to work With this sort of player or Bass company But I think for the people that have Already been impacted like this I don't Think it's just as easy as like okay We're going to just move our accounts Over another thing really quickly I had Talked to one consultant who said that There has to be more clear language from The FDIC about what's covered with FDI Insurance in a Neo bank that uses a Third party Bank on the back end because I think that's all still very hazy right Now like cuz one of the first questions Is like okay was this money FDIC insured

There's still a lot of questions so I Feel like this reminds me a little bit Of what happened in the crypto space Like regulation hasn't kept up so people Are scrambling trying to understand what They're truly entitled to and what They're not and last thing I'm going to Say I talked to a Gartner analyst who Also said this case really underscores The need for fintech companies to Maintain High operational and compliance Standards and as middleware providers They must ensure accurate financial Recordkeeping and transparent operations So look I'm not trying to bash fintech I Still think there's a lot of amazing Fintech companies of technology and all That out there but it does upset me when There are players who aren't doing what They need to do or not being compliant Enough and then so many just innocent People get hurt now I am not trying to Necessarily say synapse didn't do what It was supposed to do I don't really Know exactly all the details that led to Its demise but just in general this sort Of thing just makes me really really sad Yeah well the FDIC thing was really Front of mind for me but you kind of Partially answered that it feels like It's a little bit of a game of nesting Dolls it's like who's left helding the Bag at the end of this when the collapse Happens right so if I have a banking

Relationship with copper or if my kid Does how would we even really know who Synapsis or like who the bank that they Work with is like I feel like if I have A banking relationship that's the person I talk to it feels like such a copout For them to be able to say sorry we have To shut down but also we never had your Money that's actually a different Service I'd be like dude I signed a Contract with you it feels really it Feels really opaque you know no that's Such a good point and you bringing that Up now instantly made me think of the Wall Street bet thing from a few years Ago when everyone thought their money Was safer because it was going through The apps and they didn't realize that Like the same brokerage funds were like Doing the transactions on the backend it Is really interesting to think about the Fact that companies can go down and you As a consumer who tries your best to Make smart financial decisions are going To end up being tied into things that You didn't even know are related yeah I Mean the average person isn't aware of These relationships behind the scenes Exactly very very good point Haya yeah Well and you know a few years ago I Ended up getting a mortgage and we chose Our mortgage provider and then as soon As the mortgage payments and documents Showed up it was like a bank that I

Specifically didn't want to work with Because they have a bunch of like Investments that I disagree with and I Was like come on guys I did my due Diligence here and you've sold the Mortgage and immediately sold it to the Bank I specifically didn't want to work With great thanks but at least that is Open right at least at the top of the Statement it says bank I don't like Right rather than here where you feel Like your entire relationship is with Say a copper or a Juno or whatever right Exactly well you know like I said I'm Going to continue to be reporting on This and I can't promise I'll be able to Dig up all the details behind the scenes I'm going to do my best but it really is A sobering example of what can happen When fintech goes wrong let's end the Show with a little bit more of a lively Topic the startups that might be going Public this year Becca you did kind of a Little Deep dive on this what did you Find out yeah so we're halfway through 2024 right before the end of 2023 a lot Of investors were really hoping the IPO Window would open back up this year and We saw some great IPOs earlier this year Reddit Aero laabs ibata and rubric all Went public they are all doing at least Okay if not better no one is tanking There's no like $1 penny stock or Anything like that so it definitely

Seems like the market is receptive right Now but with that being said a lot of People just do not think we will see a Lot of IPOs this year it's an election Year which traditionally is a slower Year there's a lot of other macro Conditions I've talked to quite a few Investors who are just not actually that Sure we're out of the woods for a Potential recession which I thought was Interesting so we are looking at the Companies that are the big names that Everyone thought would go public in 2022 And then we're hopefully in 2023 and now Looking in 2024 the names that will just Probably not do that this year and some Are very blatant like you have plaid Plaid has even set on stage not this Year you have other companies where it's A little more murky like stripe figma Data bricks canva also directly said That their IPO would be at least 12 Months away a couple of months ago so Definitely 2025 if not later but it's Kind of interesting to speculate and There's some other little fun nuggets That are not exactly Direct symbols that people won't go Public this year but that fall in that Category like figman Stripes huge Secondary tender offers for their Employees you typically would not give Them that kind of liquidity if you were About to IPO and then give them all this

Liquidity anyway but it's kind of fun to Play The Guessing Game I will say that My predictions are usually wrong but I Kind of don't think I'm going to be Wrong about these ones at least yeah I Think we started out kind of okay in the Beginning of this year but things are Definitely tapering off I do think the Election has a lot to do with that and As you mentioned like with stripe and The secondary sales definitely don't Expect to see them going public this Year as well as as plaid so I think that A lot of companies are still kind of Playing that holding game and they're Just waiting for things to change Waiting for the election to be over Maybe next year will be like the real Turning point in the IPO Market Marian You mentioned the election could you Connect the dots for me there I think That's a really interesting point that Hadn't actually really occurred to me You know I am not by any means any kind Of political expert but I just feel like There's a lot of uncertainty right Anytime there's going to be an election In a country there's a lot of Uncertainty about what's going to be Next are we going to get a new president If we are what's going to change and so I think people are kind of like H this Is not the best time it's not the best Time to go public because things the

Market could shift dramatically a new President could try to come in and Change things dramatically so I feel Like there's a lot of people people Holding off until election is over yeah Which is really interesting because this Election in particular well of course There are certain issues where if it Goes one way or the other we'll have Drastically different outcomes this area Is not really that in this election I Know I'm not the first person to said it I know I already brought him up but Den PR over axio has been saying something Kind of similar where it's like when you Look at m&a you look at IPOs the two Potential candidates this year actually Do not have very differing opinions on This area Or don't really have super strong Opinions on this area which of course Means they're probably closer align than Not which is why it's interesting cuz It's like if it was a really contentious Election Financial issues like this were Coming up a lot I would totally Understand that but at this point where I sit controversial hot take I think It's being used as an excuse yeah more So this time around I think that you Could very well be right about that I Think honestly probably the real truth Behind the holding off is just waiting To see other companies do it and how

They perform And I I think you could very well be Right that they're just sort of hiding Behind the election curtain as a reason For not yet going public I think we'll See a bunch of companies who maybe Already have their s1's in the works They already talking to Bankers who are Going to file like right after the Election but I do not think it'll be Figma pla stripe data bricks or canva Nice there's such a curious thing to me Here which is you know startups Realistically have two ways of finding Liquidity it's an acquisition or it's an IPO and for companies who get big enough There's really only IPOs at some point a Company gets so big that realistically Nobody else can buy them because it's Just so much money so much risk and this Whole liquidity piece is playing into The conversation we had at our Wednesday Episode too about the series a crunch Right like the investors especially the Later stage investors now there's a lot Of dry powder going around but they Still have to choose pretty selectively Is like hey these are the companies We're going to B and these are the ones We just kind of let be zombie companies Or die on the vine or what have you yeah And I think unless we start seeing some Returns unless we start seeing some IPO Activity happening I think it's going to

Get harder and harder to be a later Stage Company yeah you read my mind hi I Do think that this is going to continue To impact just the whole investment Landscape I think startups earlier stage Mid later are all going to be impacted By this because these VCS LPS are not Getting their returns yet not getting That liquidity they're not seeing the The returns so they're a lot less Hesitant maybe to deploy Capital so this Is having a ripple effect all over and We're not we haven't been seeing as much M&a activity either but that's a whole Other topic so oh my gosh I love when we Have so much fun and interesting things That we just can't shut up but we do Have to we're going to have to leave it There but never fear Equity will be back On Monday until then you can find me on X at Bay Area rder and Equity under the Handle Equity pod on X and threads and Don't forget to check out our sister Show found which Dives deep into the Stories behind startups with the Founders who built them and Becca Co-host that until then hope you have a Great weekend Bye Equity is produced by Teresa Lo cons Solo with editing by Kell Bryce Durban Is our illustrator and we'd like to give A big thanks to our audience development Team and Henry pit who manages TechCrunch audio products thanks so much

For listening and we'll talk to you next Time

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