Архив метки: Kleiner Perkins

Gig workers need health & benefits — Catch is their safety net

One of the hottest Y Combinator startups just raised a big seed round to clean up the mess created by Uber, Postmates and the gig economy. Catch sells health insurance, retirement savings plans and tax withholding directly to freelancers, contractors, or anyone uncovered. By building and curating simplified benefits services, Catch can offer a safety net for the future of work.
“In order to stay competitive as a society, we need to address inequality and volatility. We think Catch is the first step to offering alternatives to the mandate that benefits can only come from an employer or the government,” writes Catch co-founder and COO Kristen Tyrrell. Her co-founder and CEO Andrew Ambrosino, a former Kleiner Perkins design fellow, stumbled onto the problem as he struggled to juggle all the paperwork and programs companies typically hire an HR manager to handle. “Setting up a benefits plan was a pain. You had to become an expert in the space, and even once you were, executing and getting the stuff you needed was pretty difficult.” Catch does all this annoying but essential work for you.
Now Catch is getting its first press after piloting its product with tens of thousands of users. TechCrunch caught wind of its highly competitive seed round closing, and Catch confirms it has raised $5.1 million at a $20.5 million post-money valuation co-led by Khosla Ventures, Kindred Ventures, and NYCA Partners. This follow-up to its $1 million pre-seed will fuel its expansion into full heath insurance enrollment, life insurance and more. Catch is part of a growing trend that sees the best Y Combinator startup fully funded before Demo Day even arrives.

“Benefits, as a system built and provided by employers, created the mid-century middle class. In the post-war economic boom, companies offering benefits in the form of health insurance and pensions enabled familial stability that led to expansive growth and prosperity,” recalls Tyrrell, who was formerly the director of product at student debt repayment benefits startup FutureFuel.io. “Emboldened by private-sector growth (and apparent self-sufficiency), the 1970s and 80s saw a massive shift in financial risk management from the government to employers. The public safety net contracted in favor of privatized solutions. As technological advances progressed, employers and employees continued to redefine what work looked like. The bureaucratic and inflexible benefits system was unable to keep up. The private safety net crumbled.”
That problem has ballooned in recent years with the advent of the on-demand economy, where millions become Uber drivers, Instacart shoppers, DoorDash deliverers and TaskRabbits. Meanwhile, the destigmatization of remote work and digital nomadism has turned more people into permanent freelancers and contractors, or full-time employees without benefits. “A new class of worker emerged: one with volatile, complex income streams and limited access to second-order financial products like automated savings, individual retirement plans, and independent health insurance. We entered the new millennium with rot under the surface of new opportunity from the proliferation of the internet,” Tyrrell declares. “The last 15 years are borrowed time for the unconventional proletariat. It is time to come to terms and design a safety net that is personal, portable, modern and flexible. That’s why we built Catch.”
Catch co-founders Andrew Ambrosino and Kristen Tyrrell
Currently Catch offers the following services, each with their own way of earning the startup revenue:
Health Explorer lets users compare plans from insurers and calculate subsidies, while Catch serves as a broker collecting a fee from insurance providers
Retirement Savings gives users a Catch robo-advisor compatible with IRA and Roth IRA, while Catch earns the industry standard 1 basis point on saved assets
Tax Withholding provides an FDIC-insured Catch account that automatically saves what you’ll need to pay taxes later, while Catch earns interest on the funds
Time Off Savings similarly lets you automatically squirrel away money to finance “paid” time off, while Catch earns interest
These and the rest of Catch’s services are curated through its Guide. You answer a few questions about which benefits you have and need, connect your bank account, choose which programs you want and get push notifications whenever Catch needs your decisions or approvals. It’s designed to minimize busy work so if you have a child, you can add them to all your programs with a click instead of slogging through reconfiguring them all one at a time. That simplicity has ignited explosive growth for Catch, with the balances it holds for tax withholding, time off and retirement balances up 300 percent in each of the last three months.
In 2019 it plans to add Catch-branded student loan refinancing, vision and dental enrollment plus payments via existing providers, life insurance through a partner such as Ladder or Ethos and full health insurance enrollment plus subsidies and premium payments via existing insurance companies like Blue Shield and Oscar. And in 2020 it’s hoping to build out its own blended retirement savings solution and income-smoothing tools.
If any of this sounds boring, that’s kind of the point. Instead of sorting through this mind-numbing stuff unassisted, Catch holds your hand. Its benefits Guide is available on the web today and it’s beta testing iOS and Android apps that will launch soon. Catch is focused on direct-to-consumer sales because “We’ve seen too many startups waste time on channels/partnerships before they know people truly want their product and get lost along the way,” Tyrrell writes. Eventually it wants to set up integrations directly into where users get paid.
Catch’s biggest competition is people haphazardly managing benefits with Excel spreadsheets and a mishmash of healthcare.gov and solutions for specific programs. Twenty-one percent of Americans have saved $0 for retirement, which you could see as either a challenge to scaling Catch or a massive greenfield opportunity. Track.tax, one of its direct competitors, charges a subscription price that has driven users to Catch. And automated advisors like Betterment and Wealthfront accounts don’t work so well for gig workers with lots of income volatility.
So do the founders think the gig economy, with its suppression of benefits, helps or hinders our species? “We believe the story is complex, but overall, the existing state of the gig economy is hurting society. Without better systems to provide support for freelance/contract workers, we are making people more precarious and less likely to succeed financially.”

When I ask what keeps the founders up at night, Tyrrell admits “The safety net is not built for individuals. It’s built to be distributed through HR departments and employers. We are very worried that the products we offer aren’t on equal footing with group/company products.” For example, there’s a $6,000/year IRA limit for individuals while the corporate equivalent 401k limit is $19,000, and health insurance is much cheaper for groups than individuals.
To surmount those humps, Catch assembled a huge list of angel investors who’ve built a range of financial services, including NerdWallet founder Jake Gibson, Earnest founders Louis Beryl and Ben Hutchinson, ANDCO (acquired by Fiverr) founder Leif Abraham, Totem founder Neal Khosla, Commuter Club founder Petko Plachkov, Playable (acquired by Stripe) founder Tad Milbourn and Synapse founder Bruno Faviero. It also brought on a wide range of venture funds to open doors for it. Those include Urban Innovation Fund, Kleiner Perkins, Y Combinator, Tempo Ventures, Prehype, Loup Ventures, Indicator Ventures, Ground Up Ventures and Graduate Fund.
Hopefully the fact that there are three lead investors and so many more in the round won’t mean that none feel truly accountable to oversee the company. With 80 million Americans lacking employer-sponsored benefits and 27 million without health insurance and median job tenure down to 2.8 years for people ages 25 to 34 leading to more gaps between jobs, our workforce is vulnerable. Catch can’t operate like a traditional software startup with leniency for screw-ups. If it can move cautiously and fix things, it could earn labor’s trust and become a fundamental piece of the welfare stack.

To fund Y Combinator’s top startups, VCs scoop them before Demo Day

Gig workers need health & benefits — Catch is their safety net

Daily Crunch: Facebook fallout continues

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here:

1. We dismantle Facebook’s memo defending its ‘Research’
The fallout continues following TechCrunch reporting about a Facebook app that was paying people to collect a huge swath of data from their phones. For one thing, a new memo from Facebook’s VP of production engineering and security provides more detail about exactly what data Facebook was trying to collect from teens and adults in the U.S. and India.
We also learned that like Facebook, Google was using Apple enterprise certificates to circulate a consumer-facing data collection app — leading Apple to shut down, then restore access to Google’s internal iOS apps.
2. Amazon and Flipkart pull 100,000s of products to comply with new Indian law
Amazon has been forced to pull an estimated 400,000 products in India after new regulation limiting e-commerce businesses went into force in the country. And Flipkart could pull as many as one-quarter of its products in order to comply with the rule, according to analysis from consulting firm Technopak.
3. Apple fixes FaceTime eavesdrop bug, with software update incoming
“We have fixed the Group FaceTime security bug on Apple’s servers and we will issue a software update to re-enable the feature for users next week,” the company said.
4. H-1B changes will simplify application process
Danny Crichton does some table-napkin math to conclude that the changes will likely benefit advanced degree holders, while diminishing the chances for regular applicants.

5. Kleiner Perkins gets back to early-stage with its $600M 18th fund
The firm, which was recently rocked by the departure of legendary investor Mary Meeker, says it’s going “back to the future” with a focus on early-stage deals.
6. Amazon reports better than expected Q4, but lowers Q1 guidance
The online retail giant reported $72.4 billion in Q4 revenue, topping last year’s $60.45 billion and besting the analysts’ forecast of $71.92 billion. Amazon Web Services also played a key role, with a massive $2.2 billion operating income.
7. Vice Media will lay off 10 percent of its staff
Vice is the latest digital media company to announce major cuts. The goal is to allow Vice to focus on growth areas like branded content and film and TV production.

Daily Crunch: Facebook fallout continues

The Tap Lab Raises $550K To Seed Some Hits in Location-Based Mobile Gaming


While there have been a few sizable funding rounds for location-based mobile games, the field is still wide open. Today it gets a new contender with The Tap Lab, a Cambridge-based startup and alum of the TechStars incubator, that lets players compete to take over real-world venues.

The company is raising $550,000 funding from Harmonix co-founders Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy, Google’s Don Dodge, Mike Dornbrook of Common Angels and other angel investors. They’re using it to fund a sequel called Tap City 2.

In the upcoming game, players will be able to do jobs at real-world places like serve virtual coffee at their Starbucks. They’ll also be able to buy virtual versions of real-world products, which will earn them points. The previous version of the game let players take over local venues, challenge others for ownership and earn virtual income and rent.

Co-founders Dave Bisceglia and Ralph Shao met while in college at Boston University and have built the company up to five people. Back in 2009, they started experimenting with prototypes for a location-based game.

“With no marketing expense, we turned Boston into a war zone with thousands of players,” Bisceglia said.

The company faces a landscape with a few well-funded competitors. Booyah raised more than $24.5 million from top-tier venture firms like Kleiner Perkins and Accel but it pivoted back and forth between Facebook and mobile platforms with varying success. It had an early Monopoly-like hit called MyTown that let players compete over real-world venues too, but the game didn’t really have staying power. So the company re-released it as a city-building sim with deep location features.

Then there’s Red Robot Labs, which is backed with more than $8.5 million from Benchmark Capital and angels like Playdom co-founder Rick Thompson. The company has been more successful on Android with its mafia-themed RPG Life is Crime and isn’t ranked as prominently on iOS, which is more competitive.

Like Red Robot Labs, Bisceglia says The Tap Lab is also building a gaming engine for the real-world. There are some successful titles in this space, but it’s hard to say that there’s an outright winner yet.

The Tap Lab Raises $550K To Seed Some Hits in Location-Based Mobile Gaming

Waze Lets You Report Traffic With A Wave Of Your Hand

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If you’re one of the 12 million drivers who use real-time traffic data from Waze, there’s a drawback — the smartphone app depends on users to collect traffic data, but if a driver is stuck in traffic or spots an accident, that’s exactly when they shouldn’t be fiddling with their phone. That’s why the Kleiner Perkins-backed startup  developed a new voice interface, which it’s launching today.

Michal Habdank-Kolaczkowski, the company’s director of communications, recently demonstrated the new controls for me. The demo took place in the TechCrunch office, rather than a moving car, but I still think Waze has come up with a pretty elegant solution. Habdank-Kolaczkowski showed off reporting traffic to Waze with just a couple of voice commands — “report traffic”, then, when prompted to choose from different traffic levels, he said, “moderate.”

And when Waze team members say the experience is “hands free,” they mean it. To activate voice control, Habdank-Kolaczkowski didn’t have to touch his phone at all. He just waved his hand in front of the device, a gesture that was detected by the iPhone proximity sensor. (So, okay, technically, you’re using your hand, but in a natural way that shouldn’t interfere with your driving.) You’ll need to have the Waze app on for this to work, but that’s normal procedure anyway — drivers are supposed to leave the app on during the commute, so that’s it’s automatically gathering traffic data as they drive.

Waze VP Community Geographer DiAnn Eisnor says Waze already prevents users from typing when they’re driving and the app is open. Voice controls were an obvious next step, and for a while, the company was hoping that Apple would make Siri voice commands available to third-party app developers. Eisnor said she’s still hopeful, and when if it happens, Waze will happily jump on-board. In the meantime, the company moved forward on its own, building the new interface using open source voice technology.

For now, the voice commands are iPhone-only, and they’re limited to a few key use cases — reporting traffic and asking for directions home or to the office. Eisnor said Waze plans to expand the app’s vocabulary over time, and also bring voice commands to its Android app.

Waze Lets You Report Traffic With A Wave Of Your Hand

Shopkick By The Numbers: 700M Product Views; 7M Product Scans; 2.3M Users In The Past Year


We’ve written plenty of times about Shopkick, an innovative geo-coupon system that has received funding from Kleiner Perkins, Greylock, SV Angel and others. Today, the company is revealing a number of impressive stats about its service.

Instead of checking in, as you would with a geo app like Foursquare or Gowalla, shopkick automatically recognizes when someone with the free Android or iPhone app on their phone walks into a store. Once a shopkick Signal is detected, the app delivers reward points called “kickbucks” to the user for walking into a retail store, trying on clothes, scanning a barcode and other actions. Kickbucks can then be redeemed across all partner stores for gift card rewards or for Facebook Credits. User can also receive special discounts on specific products at partners stores like Macy’s, Best Buy or Target.

Since the application’s launch in August 2010, Shopkick has seen a whopping 700 million product views, and the startup expects to pass 1 billion product views this year. There have been over 2 million physical walk-ins to stores (which are measured from the shopkick signal device installed at the store). The device is installed at 3000 large stores and 250 malls now.

Shopkick users open the apps on average on 14 days per month (often several times a day). Each day they open the app, they look at 16 stores on average. That means, per month they look at over 200 stores via the app on average. And users have scanned 7 million products over the past year, which is up from 3 million in February.

And application now has 2.3 million U.S. users. It took 7 months to reach its first 1 million users and only 4 months to reach its second million users. National retail partners in the loyalty program include Target, Best Buy, Macy’s, Crate & Barrel, American Eagle, Sports Authority, Toys R Us, Simon Malls and others, and 20 brands (P&G, Unilever, Kraft, Colgate, Clorox, Disney, HP, Intel). One of the retailers is estimating $50 million in measurable incremental revenue as a result of the shopkick mobile app.

Co-founder Cyriac Roeding says that shopping and commerce is where the money flows in location-based services. The advantage of a shopping app, he explains, is that each shopping app user is worth much more than a social app user, because they are real shoppers who use the app because they want to spend money on shopping. Each activity is monetizable, including walk-ins to stores, engagements with products at the store (scans) or at home (app uses).

And with all of these national deals (and more to tome) the startup could be on its way to make meaningful revenue. Shopkick recently brought on Chief Revenue Officer Doug Galen.


shopkick was founded in June 2009 by Cyriac Roeding, Jeff Sellinger, Aaron Emigh, and is funded by Kleiner Perkins’ iFund, Greylock Partners and Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, and investor in Facebook and Zynga, and Ron Conway.

shopkick bridges the worlds of mobile and physical retail. In August 2010, shopkick launched the first mobile application that hands consumers rewards and exclusive deals at shopkick’s national retail partners simply for walking into thousands of stores and malls. Shopkick…

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Shopkick By The Numbers: 700M Product Views; 7M Product Scans; 2.3M Users In The Past Year