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Steve's ITK: The follow up

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Steve's ITK

June 2 · Issue #44 · View online
Steve's In The Know: Everything I published recently, commentary you won't find elsewhere, write-ups of events I attended or spoke at, and industry rumours.

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Opening thought: The follow up
This month has flown by and I’ve only barely managed to put together a proper edition of the newsletter. With 26 stories in the can since the last one was sent out, I couldn’t hold off any longer. I also wanted to give you a heads up of a couple of events I’m doing, so here goes…
At the start of May I scooped an interesting piece of VC personnel news. Daniel Jones, General Partner at Rocket Internet’s GFC, has left the VC firm and is thought to be planning to raise his own fund. This was a story neither Rocket Internet (or likely Jones) wanted out, and took multiple sources to pull off. And while VC moves is niche news, to say the least, I absolutely love being in the know in the world of venture capital. Always follow the money, as they say, and that includes the men and women writing the cheques.
Nicely bookended, right at the end of the month I sourced an interesting piece of fintech news. Starling, the challenger bank founded by banking veteran Anne Boden, is in the early stages of raising a significant new funding round as part of plans to double down on its newly launched business current account. The upstart has to date been funded to the tune of £48 million by hedge fund manager Harald McPike, who, as a result, owns more than 50 per cent of the venture.
The need for Starling to increase its capital is thought to be related to the bank’s bid to be one of the recipients of the Capability and Innovation fund, which was set up by Royal Bank of Scotland to create more competition in the SME banking sector and to fulfil European state aid conditions arising from the bank’s £45 billion U.K. government bailout during the financial crisis.
What made this story particularly interesting was the way a number of other journalists had clearly been tipped off by similar or the same sources, so I had to move fast to be first (which I was, with City A.M. not far behind). As you’ll know, I pride myself on being first and an original piece of reporting – rather than relying on official announcements, exclusive or otherwise – is the best kind of first. Knowing that competitors weren’t far behind is just fuel on that fire!
As part of the same story, I also scooped news that Starling has quietly dropped its partnership with TransferWise, a story I suspect neither company wanted out. Back in March 2017, the two companies issued a joint press release detailing a partnership that would have given Starling customers “direct, in-app access” to TransferWise’s international money transfer service. The functionality was due to launch the following summer but never materialised (something that seemingly went unnoticed by most outlets). Now I understand the partnership has dissolved entirely.
It’s a great reminder that journalists – myself included – need to also focus on the follow up, not just the fanfare of announcements. You’d be surprised how many times announcements by major tech companies turn out to be nothing but good PR based on vapourware.
A really good example of this was a piece by Rose Eveleth in The Outline late last year: ‘When disability tech is just a marketing exercise’. The article criticised Toyota in relation to an announcement it made regarding a partnership with DEKA, the company behind the iBOT wheelchair founded by Dean Kamen of Segway fame. This would see the much-loved wheelchair make a comeback but, over a year later, silence.
Bonus: Which AI startup is rumoured to have just closed a decent sized funding round led by a top European VC? 
Things I wrote
Starling Bank raising another £80M, ends partnership with TransferWise
OnTruck picks up €25M Series B for its haulage tech platform
Flock raises £2.25M for its on-demand drone insurance
Dot lets you invest in property without the hassle of a traditional mortgage
Klevio launches its smart intercom and app that lets you open doors remotely
YouTeam is a marketplace for offshore developer talent
Amuse scores $15.5M for its free music distribution service and ‘next gen’ record label
This UK startup thinks it can win the self-driving car race with better machine learning
Whisk, the smart food platform that makes recipes shoppable, acquires competitor Avocando
Job search engine Adzuna raises £8M Series C from Smedvig Capital
Monzo, the U.K. challenger bank, finally rolls out Apple Pay
Bossa Studios launches Worlds Adrift, the first game built on Improbable’s SpatialOS
Oxford-based MeVitae wants to scale the hiring process and remove unconscious bias
Index and Atomico back Teatime Games, a stealthy new startup from QuizUp founders
Prisma raises $4.5M seed round led by Kleiner Perkins
AnyDesk scores €6.5M for its remote desktop software
LightTag is a text annotation platform for data scientists creating AI training data
Monzo, the U.K. challenger bank, now lets you pay ‘Nearby Friends’
Online mortgage broker Trussle raises £13.6M Series B
Tame wants to bring order to conference and event planning chaos
Dreamlines, the online travel agency for cruise holidays, scores €45M Series E
Daniel Jones is said to have left Global Founders Capital to ‘raise his own fund’
Homecare services startup Cera announces $17M Series A
Poq closes £9.5M Series B for its ‘apps-as-a-service’ for retailers
Zinc, the company builder tackling societal problems, picks up £3M backing from LocalGlobe, Atomico, and LSE
TransferWise founder Taavet Hinrikus invests in fintech chatbot Cleo
Events: Startup Grind and The Europas
On June 13th, I’m making an appearance at Startup Grind’s Europe Conference in London. In a talk titled ‘Turning the tables’ I’m actually the one being interviewed! I’m not going to say who by (just yet), but it may or may not be a big name in fintech.
Next up, on July 3rd in London, I’m going to be at The Europas, the Unconference & Awards founded by Mike Butcher (one of my favourite events due to its intimate format and sense of community). I’ll be on a panel called ‘Meet the Press’ as part of the Pathfounders Startup Zone ‘where some of tech’s finest reporters will tell you what makes a great tech story, and how to pitch (and NOT pitch them)’. Quartz’s Joon Ian Wong is also joining.
Closing thought: Industry moves
James Cook spied at The Telegraph on his first day
According to my LinkedIn, this month was the 6th anniversary of my return to TechCrunch, which, in the fickle world of media, feels increasingly unusual. I remain very happy in my current role and still feel challenged, even if the rat race of tech news can sometimes feel quite a lot like groundhog day and doesn’t result in a particularly healthy work-life balance.
The best thing about the publication I write for is the creative freedom I’m given to go wherever a story takes me and with the trust that I’ll file something worthwhile by the end. The only thing that gets in the way is how unmanageable my inbox has become (a nice problem to have, I used to say), meaning it’s quite hard to find the headspace to get off the newscycle and mix it up a bit more.
However, my staying put aside, there have been a number of interesting tech media moves recently.
After resigning as tech editor at Business Insider (see: ITK #42), James Cook has a new gig. He’s joined The Telegraph as Special correspondent covering technology. (Rumour has it he had overtures from a VC firm but saw sense in the end!) So what does a Special correspondent do? I haven’t a clue 😎
Emily Nicolle, previously at fintech publication AltFi, has joined City A.M. as a technology reporter. She’ll be covering ‘big tech, fintech and venture capital’ and so is bound to help keep me on my toes.
There’s also been an interesting poacher-turned-gamekeeper move. Alexandra Frean, previously a business columnist for The Times, has joined Starling Bank Head of Corporate Affairs.
Get in touch
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Till next time,
Steve
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