Remembering the startups we misplaced in 2020 – TechCrunch

Even in a non-hell yr, operating a profitable startup is an amazing elevate. After the occasions of 2020, nevertheless, little doubt many already lean companies are hanging on by the pores and skin of their enamel. For each firm that noticed elevated curiosity of their choices throughout the pandemic, there have been a number of that merely couldn’t make it by the end line.

We’ve put this checklist collectively for a number of years now. It’s not a enjoyable process, but it surely appears worthwhile to commemorate the startups which have closed up store over the previous 12 months. (A few of them have been acquired by bigger corporations earlier than shutting down, however all of them started their life as startups, and it nonetheless felt worthwhile to mark the top of their tales.) It additionally gives a possibility to look at these points from a little bit of distance to see if there are any broader takeaways for the group at massive.

This yr’s checklist is among the many most numerous we’ve performed, starting from customary smaller-name closures to large blockbuster crashes like Quibi and Important . For some, the pandemic was the ultimate nail within the coffin, however in lots of circumstances, cracks in enterprise fashions have been already beginning to floor properly earlier than COVID-19 floor the worldwide financial system to a screeching halt.

Atrium (2017-2020)

Complete Raised: $75 million

Atrium, a 100-person authorized tech startup based by Justin Kan, shut down in March after failing to search out an environment friendly strategy to change the arduous techniques of regulation corporations. The startup even returned a few of its $75.5 million in funding to its buyers, together with Andreessen Horowitz.

The shutdown comes after the platform had pivoted simply months earlier, shedding in-house attorneys and turning right into a clearer SaaS play. In the end, Atrium’s failure exhibits how tough and unprofitable it could possibly be to disrupt a conventional and sophisticated system.

The closure got here simply three years after it launched with the aim to construct software program for startups to navigate fundraising, hiring, acquisition offers and collaboration with their authorized crew.

Important (2017-2020)

Complete Raised: $330 million

Picture Credit: Darrell Etherington

Huge plans, large names and a boatload of cash ought to have been sufficient to purchase Important a prolonged runway. Certain, Important was coming into a mature and oversaturated market, however the Playground-backed startup was doing so with $330 million in funding, a crew of prime business executives and a few genuinely progressive concepts.

After I spoke to the corporate at launch, an government outlined a 10-year plan to change into a serious participant in each the cellular and sensible residence classes. In the end, the corporate was capable of eke out just below three years of life after popping out of stealth. And whereas it did give the world a promising handset, its related residence hub by no means arrived.

Timing, broader advertising points and troubling allegations of sexual misconduct have been all contributing elements that stopped Important’s large plans lifeless of their tracks.

HubHaus (2016-2020)

Complete Raised: $11.4 million

Picture Credit: HubHaus

HubHaus, based by Shruti Service provider, was a long-term housing rental platform rooted within the perception that grownup dormitories would take off. The startup focused working professionals in cities, and raised solely round $11 million in identified enterprise capital. When it got here to elevating a Collection B, Service provider says the corporate struggled to shut and misplaced investor curiosity as a result of WeWork’s failed IPO.

After then pivoting to a self-funded firm, HubHaus was simply discovering footing when the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the USA, drastically hurting the rental market (as proven by Airbnb’s public struggles, as properly). The housing firm finally determined to shut down in September, leaving landlords, members and distributors in limbo and bringing on a contemporary sweep of critique and controversy.

Reasonably priced housing continues to be a problem within the Bay Space, and HubHaus’s departure from the scene underscores this reality.

Hipmunk (2010-2020)

Complete Raised: $55 million

Picture Credit: Hipmunk

Hipmunk, based by Adam J. Goldstein and Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman, was one of many first journey aggregation platforms available on the market. The corporate put collectively data on flights, accommodations and automotive rental all into one place so shoppers may evaluate and distinction costs with ease.

The main target was sufficient for the platform to get acquired by Concur, however now after 4 years, the journey startup shut down. Notably, the journey startup’s closure wasn’t essentially tied to the coronavirus pandemic. The location formally went darkish on January 23, months earlier than lockdowns got here to the USA.

IfOnly (2012-2020)

Complete Raised: $51.4 million

Photograph: Thomas Barwick/Getty Pictures

IfOnly had created a marketplaces of unique occasions — corresponding to “goat yoga” — a enterprise that confronted apparent challenges throughout the pandemic. The startup was really acquired by one in all its buyers, Mastercard, late final yr, however the acquisition wasn’t introduced till IfOnly revealed over the summer time that it was shutting down.

Mastercard additionally stated IfOnly’s crew and know-how are nonetheless a part of its Priceless expertise market: “The IfOnly platform will proceed to assist advance our Priceless technique and our mixed crew shall be even higher positioned and geared up to ship unique experiences for cardholders globally.”

Mixer/Beam Interactive (2014-2020)

Complete Raised: $520,000

Picture Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft shut down its Twitch competitor Mixer this yr, handing off its partnerships to Fb Gaming. The service had its roots within the software program large’s acquisition of Beam Interactive shortly after the startup gained TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield in 2016.

Earlier than giving up, Microsoft made some large investments in Mixer’s success, most notably signing streaming superstars Ninja and Shroud to unique offers. (They grew to become free brokers after the shutdown.) Nevertheless, Microsoft’s gaming chief Phil Spencer stated the corporate suffered from beginning out “fairly far behind” the most important gamers within the streaming market.

The Define (2016-2020)

Complete Raised: $10.2 million

Picture Credit: The Define

Regardless of a busy yr of innovation and enterprise for information media platforms, The Define, which branded itself as “the subsequent technology model of the New Yorker” was shut down. The media website was began by Josh Topolsky and had an specific deal with serving millennials with a digital-first information media model.

The shutdown was a part of a broader layoffs at Bustle Digital Group, which acquired the publication in 2019. Pre-acquisition, The Define had already scaled again its editorial workers and refocused on freelance articles. (Enter — a tech website that Topolsky based for BDG — continues to publish.)

Periscope (2015-2020)

Periscope went out with extra of a whimper than a bang. The startup was acquired by Twitter earlier than it had even launched a product. With Meerkat bursting on the scene that yr at SXSW, Twitter went on the offensive, shopping for the startup to construct out its personal reside video providing.

Periscope’s run was first rate so far as this stuff go, and its know-how will reside on as a part of Twitter’s video choices, even after the app is formally discontinued subsequent March. However ultimately, Periscope was a shell of its former self. In reality, this can be a uncommon occasion the place the pandemic might have really delayed its shutdown.

The corporate notes, “We in all probability would have made this resolution sooner if it weren’t for the entire tasks we reprioritized because of the occasions of 2020.”

PicoBrew (2010-2020)

Complete Raised: $15.1 million

Picture Credit: PicoBrew

The corporate made beer-brewing machines that used espresso pod-style PicoPaks, then expanded into different classes like espresso and tea, however by no means fairly attracted sufficient prospects to make the enterprise viable. It offered its belongings earlier this yr to PB Funding Group — a bunch of lenders recruited by then-CEO Invoice Mitchell in 2018 to maintain it afloat.

It’s doable that PicoBrew will reside on in some type, as PB Funding Group says it’s searching for consumers for the corporate’s patents and different mental property, and that it’ll preserve the web site operating within the brief time period in order that the machines don’t cease working.

Quibi (2018-2020)

Complete Raised: $1.75 billion

Quibi CEO Meg Whitman speaks about the short-form video streaming service for mobile Quibi

Quibi CEO Meg Whitman speaks concerning the short-form video streaming service for cellular Quibi throughout a keynote deal with January 8, 2020 on the 2020 Shopper Electronics Present (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photograph by ROBYN BECK/AFP by way of Getty Pictures)

Extra so than any tech firm in latest reminiscence (with the doable exception of Theranos), Quibi’s existence appears like a fever dream. $1.75 billion in funding later and what do now we have to indicate for it? “Fierce Queens,” a nature documentary about feminine animals. The HGTV-style program, “Homicide Home Flip.” And, in fact, “The Form of Pasta.” A present about pasta.

Early experiences of the service’s demise appeared untimely — if solely as a result of there was seemingly no means an organization may burn by that a lot capital that rapidly. By late-October, nevertheless, it was over. “All that’s left now could be to supply a profound apology for disappointing you and, finally, for letting you down,” founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman wrote in an open letter.

Typically startup failures are dangerous timing. Typically it’s simply plain dangerous luck. With Quibi, the diagnoses of what went mistaken may be summed up in a single phrase: the whole lot.

Rubica (2016-2020)

Complete Raised: $15 million


Picture Credit: Rubica

Rubica spun out of safety firm Concentric Advisors with the intention of providing instruments that have been extra superior than antivirus software program, whereas nonetheless remaining accessible to people and small companies. CEO and co-founder Frances Dewing stated that when prospects in the reduction of on spending throughout the pandemic, the corporate tried to shift its focus to bigger enterprise, but it surely didn’t persuade buyers there was a enterprise there.

“We have been all actually stunned given how related and wanted that is proper now,” she stated. “Buyers didn’t agree with that or see it in the identical means.”

ScaleFactor (2014-2020)

Complete Raised: $104 million

Businessman’s arms with calculator and price on the workplace and Monetary knowledge analyzing relying on wooden desk. Picture Credit: Sarinya Pinngam/EyeEm / Getty Pictures

ScaleFactor was a startup claiming to supply synthetic intelligence instruments that would change accountants for small companies; it blamed the pandemic for slicing its income in half and forcing the corporate to close down. Nevertheless, former workers and prospects advised Forbes a distinct story — that ScaleFactor really relied on human accountants (together with an outsourced crew within the Philippines) to do the work.

Whereas it’s hardly unprecedented for a startup to fudge the reality about their degree of automation versus human labor, this reportedly resulted in error-filled accounting for ScaleFactor shoppers. (Responding to a fact-checking e mail, former CEO Kurt Rathmann stated the e-mail was “crammed with quite a few factual inaccuracies and misrepresentation” and declined to remark additional.)

Starsky Robotics (2015-2020)

Complete Raised: $20 million

Self-driving vehicles startup Starksy Robotics started with this primary, and problematic truck. Picture Credit: Starsky Robotics

“In 2019, our truck grew to become the primary fully-unmanned truck to drive on a reside freeway,” Starsky Robotics co-founder and CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher wrote in a Medium submit in March. “And in 2020, we’re shutting down.” After 5 years and $20 million in funding, the autonomous trucking firm shut its doorways that month. It wasn’t for lack of ambition or demand — it appears secure to imagine there’s nonetheless a shiny future for self-driving vehicles.

In the end, nevertheless, Starsky gained’t be alongside for that trip — a reality Seltz-Axmacher blames largely on timing. A crowded market is actually at play, as properly, with numerous corporations presently pushing to convey autonomous know-how to the highway.

Stockwell/Bodega (2018-2020)

Complete Raised: $10 million

stockwell bodega

Picture Credit: Bryce Durbin

Based in 2018 by ex-Googlers, Stockwell AI shut down after being unable to search out enterprise for its in-building sensible merchandising machines that stocked the whole lot from condoms to La Croix. The corporate blamed the “present panorama” (often known as the worldwide pandemic we’re experiencing) for its closure.

Stockwell AI, previously often known as Bodega, was well-funded and well-known, with greater than $45 million in funding from buyers that included NEA, GV, DCM Ventures, Forerunner, First Spherical and Homebrew. Nonetheless, even enterprise capital couldn’t make merchandising machines work properly sufficient.

Trover (2011-2020)

Complete Raised: $2.5 million

Picture Credit: Trover

One other travel-focused startup bites the mud because the coronavirus limits the prospect to securely discover the world (not to mention your neighborhood). Trover, a photo-sharing hub for vacationers acquired by Expedia, shut down in August. The startup was based by Wealthy Barton and Jason Karas and was meant to attach individuals travelling to the identical locations. The startup had fairly the life: it started out of the stays of TravelPost, a journey evaluate website, and acquired scooped up by its mother or father firm when it solely had $2.5 million in funding. Sadly, its nine-year journey is over for now.

Atrium, a 100-person authorized tech startup based by Justin Kan, shut down in March after failing to search out an environment friendly strategy to change the arduous techniques of regulation corporations. The startup even returned a few of its $75.5 million in funding to its buyers, together with Andreessen Horowitz.


Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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