High in the Sky?
By Alan Soclof
3 BIG STORIES
1. High in the Sky?
Volocopter is a company that wants to create electric vertical takeoff and landing (VOTL) aircrafts that can operate in cities (like taxis). Last week, the German company raised a $170M round valuing the company at $1.87B with the goal of launching in 2024.
Would Volocopter be a company that I would invest in?
The technology is awesome, and as a consumer I would love to hop on a Volocopter, but there are serious risks that come along with investing in the future of aviation/transportation—especially at these valuations.
Volocopter has a $1.87B valuation with zero revenue and, in the best-case scenario, will not see revenue for at least a couple more years. Think about that for a second.
In the “transportation of the future” sector we’ve already seen significant delays in production, specifically with Tesla. In 2019, Elon Musk shared that Tesla’s fleet of autonomous robo-taxis would be deployed by 2020. The year is 2022, and I don’t see the fleet anywhere—which is especially remarkable in light of Musk’s brilliance and Tesla’s once near–trillion-dollar valuation.
On top of the extreme long game Volocopter’s playing, there’s all the additional regulatory hurdles that come with aviation, as well as challenges from competitors like Lilium, Kittyhawk, and Joby Aviation. If I were a VC, I would invest my money elsewhere.
2. A Slam Dunk Deal
Deja Kelly, Point Guard for the UNC womens’ basketball team, announced that she signed her first equity NIL deal with performance-oriented beverage company, Barcode.
Kelly adds to an already impressive list of NIL deals that includes Postmates, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Outback Steakhouse.
Barcode is founded by Mubarak Malik, former Head of Performance for the New York Knicks, who last month secured a $2.2M funding round to fuel the next stages of growth for the company.
First of all, Deja Kelly is killing it and it is so cool to see players finally have the ability to benefit from their own name, image, and likeness (NIL).
Kelly has 144K passionate Instagram followers, so a deal between the two is a no-brainer. I specifically love the equity component to the deal. Kelly has shared her desire to become a successful businesswomen and an equity deal shows a long-term vision and trust in her ability to build her brand.
The approval of NIL endorsements opened up a new chapter for both student-athletes and, in my eyes, startups specifically. It’s historically been incredibly difficult for startups to secure celebrity endorsements and generate the excitement that comes with them. Access to college athletes before they have wads of cash is a new opportunity for startups.
Bonus thought: I can’t wait for the day when a college student teams up with a student-athlete to be an investor/ambassador for a venture. Going to be sweet.
My prediction: One of the biggest growth hacks of the next decade for startups will be navigating the NIL landscape successfully.
3. The MBA of Tomorrow
Reforge is a company that provides career development resources for top tier professionals by creating courses and cohorts taught by leading professionals in their industries.
The company recently raised a $60M Series B led by Insight Partners and included a16z and over 170 operators—many of which, I assume, are instructurers/members of the Reforge platform.
This is the first I’m learning of Reforge, and I’m blown away by what they are building. They’re like a mini-MBA course, only more focused and affordable, and taught by executives at the top companies vs. professors. For example, their marketing strategy course is taught by John Russ, the former global head of marketing at Coinbase, as well as Martina Tam, COO at BrightWheel.
Reforge will be a big winner regardless, but if they’re able to create a strong social, in-person component to the program, I think they’ll be well on their way to becoming a unicorn.
Prediction: Over the next couple of years, I’ll take a Reforge course.
CHART OF THE DAY
The Bigger CVC Picture
- 2021 was a record year for FinTech, with $131.5B in funding
- Jumped from $49B in 2020, a whopping ~160% increase year-over-year
- I checked in with my teammate Nicole Casperson from WTFintech?, and she thinks that 2022 will see even more raised than 2021. FinTech is in the early innings.
444 Capital (The D’Amelio family)
What They Do: VC Fund
Amount Raised: $25M
The Details: We haven’t had a fund in this section for a while, so I thought it would be fun to spice things up!
Charli, Dixie, and the rest of the D’Amelio family announced the launch of their own $25M fund. The D’Amelios have become more and more involved in the VC landscape through their recent investments in companies like Step, Lightricks, and more.
This is yet another example of celebrities using their platform to raise angel/venture funds and serve as a valuable investor to startups. With 444 Capital, the D’Amelios now have an official vehicle to run their investments through.
Learn More: Press Release
What They Do: Hybrid coworking space
Amount Raised: $10M seed funding
Lead Investors: True Ventures
The Details: I am incredibly bullish on the future of coworking spaces, and DayBase is now one of my favorites.
The Founder and CEO of the company, Joel Steinhaus, was the former Head of Financial Services at WeWork, so he knows the space pretty well.
The company launched its first location in Hoboken, NJ a few weeks ago, and it already has over 300 members. One of my favorite aspects of DayBase is monthly memberships start at only $50 a month.
On a selfish note, I hope this leads to WeWork dropping their prices so I can save a few bucks.
What They Do: Private home-sharing social network
Amount Raised: $5.8M seed round
Lead Investors: Freestyle Ventures
The Details: MyPlaces allows you to share your beautiful home with friends while you’re traveling. Through strictly word-of-mouth advertising, the company has over 3K members and a waitlist of 7,500 people.
The company doesn’t view itself as a competitor to Airbnb or VRBO (even though I do!) as 30% of all stays booked on MyPlace were friends sharing to friends for free.
The free angle here is incredibly interesting, and I am curious to see if this model penetrates other markets.
What They Do: Self-service truck rental marketplace
Amount Raised: $3.5M
Lead Investors: NextView Ventures
The Details: Fetch is like U-Haul but more convenient. The platform gives you the ability to rent trucks for as low as $19 an hour to help you move wood, couches, Christmas trees and more.
The company is currently live in several cities in the US including Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Dallas, and plans to launch in 12 more cities in 2022.
Fetch is not the next unicorn, but with a model that is profitable per ride, the Fetch team is on track to create a really nice business.
What They Do: Virtual mental health company that provides support for employees’ common life stressors
Amount Raised: $1.5M pre-seed
Lead Investors: Sovereign Capital
The Details: Life is tough and everyone deserves mental wellness maintenance, whether you have a diagnosable disorder or not. Paraclete looks to create a wellness service where companies will sign up and give their employees access to counselors or life coaches to help talk through problems.
The company recently signed its first client, a school district in California, and shared this awesome quote: “The principal and the janitor have access to the same exact support…”
Love this idea, and I’m pulling for them.