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Welcome to the 2-Minute Drill -- a curated selection of the week's hottest stories from the world of tech, all in 2 minutes.

As a reminder, join us on Tuesday mornings at 8am PT / 11am ET in the Crossover Club on Clubhouse where we talk through the week's stories in more detail and with a rotating panel of special guests from the worlds of pro sports, entertainment and technology. 

As always, shoot me a note to learn more or if you just want to say 👋.

-Noah  


✉️ noah@crossovervc.com
📱 650.468.9543
📸 @crossovervc 
👋 @ndl / the Crossover Club


On my whistle...
FIRST DOWN


 

Intro Nabs $10M to Introduce You to On-Demand Experts
This week, LA-based expert network Intro announced that it closed a new $10 million seed round of funding led by a16z to help connect consumers with in-demand experts via one-on-one video calls. This brings the year-old startup's total funding to $12 million.

One of the core tenets behind Intro is that many of the most successful professionals have benefitted at some point in their life from advice given by someone who is an expert at their craft. But access to these skilled individuals can often be gated by cost, convenience, geography and more. 

With Intro, users sign up and create an account on the app or website, and can then browse through a curated selection of experts in sectors ranging from style and wellness to home improvement and astrology. For some added flair, the company has already brought on some big name experts in the form of Rachel Zoe, noted dietician McKel Kooienga, and interior designer Nate Berkus. And from an expert convenience perspective, the platform has built tools that enable experts to easily manage scheduling and payments.

These micro-consultations via Intro can range from 15 minutes to several hours, and cost anywhere from $30-200 for a 15 minute session. Intro makes money like most marketplaces, charging a 30% fee when connecting users with experts, and a 10% fee when simply serving as the infrastructure for experts who find their own customers.

On a personal note, I'm a huge fan of Intro Founder and CEO Raad Mobrem, and enjoyed hearing more about the vision for these micro-consultations and democratization of expert advice over brunch a few weeks back. We wish him and the team success in growing and scaling the business!

(more here)
SECOND DOWN


 

Privateer Sets Sights on Mapping Earth's Junk-Filled Low Orbit
Space is all the rage these days, with billionaires battling for orbital supremacy and even Captain Kirk making the (ahem) "trek" to become the oldest person in outer space. But with more and more rockets heading up to low Earth orbit and space tourism increasingly on the horizon, there still is yet to exist a good mapping of exactly what is out there orbiting our blue orb.

Enter Privateer, a new startup cofounded by legendary Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Alex Fielding with an aim of becoming the Google Maps of space. Imagine you're driving from LA to San Francisco and your GPS couldn't distinguish between whether the road you're on is the I-5 heading up the middle of the Golden State, or Highway 1 along the coast. That would make for some pretty tricky navigation. Well currently in low Earth orbit, companies don't have a clue where objects are that floating around. According to Fielding, there is a lack of agreement on where items actually are in orbit, with accuracy perhaps no better than 300-400 kilometers at any given time. This presents a major problem as more and more "space junk" orbits the planet, jettisoned off by the ever-increasing number of missions.

Why is this a problem? Well, with more and more people headed into space, it's increasingly important to know where objects are to avoid collisions. For example, back in May, some space junk hit the International Space Station and caused some significant damage. If we are going to start sending more ships (and humans) into orbit, it's probably a good idea to make sure we have a solid map and can avoid scraps of rockets, decommissioned satellites, and other projectiles that could create a disaster.

The company plans to launch its first satellite into orbit in early 2022, equipped with high-resolution cameras and sensors to start mapping out exactly what's out there.

One final note: privateer's model isn't all that dissimilar from how private companies like SpaceX have stepped in to fill gaps once managed by NASA. And as space travel becomes a more crowded sector, expect to see a continued trend of these public-private partnerships.

(more here)
THIRD DOWN


 

Rally Taps Strategics to Rally Fractional Collectibles Investment
This week, fractional investment platform for collectibles Rally announced a new $15 million strategic round of funding from entertainment firm Wheelhouse and a syndicate of entertainment execs and celebs. This comes on the heels of a $30 million funding round back in May led by Accel, and brings the four-year-old startup's total equity and debt funding to more than $100 million.

As we wrote about back in September, Rally is looking to marry two major trends -- passion for collectibles, and investment into alternative assets as a hedge to the stock market. Rally does this by acquiring rare and exclusive items, ranging from a 1955 Porsche to a Honus Wagner baseball card to an autographed piece of the actual court where Kobe played his last game. Basically, if you are a fanatic for any kind of collectible, you can find something to fit your tastebuds on Rally. Rally then registers each item with the SEC and essentially "IPOs" each collectible, fractionalizing it and selling shares to consumers.

This model serves two purposes. First, it enables people to own a piece of something they love, but may otherwise not be able to afford if they don't have $425k for their own 1955 Porsche 356 Speedster. And secondly, it enables them to allocate capital to alternative investments. By buying shares of popular collectibles, the ideas is that as they increase in value, you can generate returns just like buying shares of Tesla stock or investing in real estate.

We actually stopped by a Rally + Wheelhouse event this past week in LA and got to see many of these items in person, which was a real treat. But it also brings up one of the fundamental questions for these fractional investment startups around those consumers who can purely view these items as investments, or whether they really need to "own" the item and have it in their possession. One idea that will be interesting to explore is the idea of providing some unique form of physical or digital certificate of ownership that helps bridge that gap for consumers, and adds to the feeling of being an exclusive member of that ownership club.

With the new strategic funding, Rally plans to team up with Wheelhouse's show Pawnstars, and feature items sourced from Rally to its baked-in audience.

(more here)
FOURTH DOWN


 

Nelo Nabs $20M For Mexico + LatAm Buy Now, Pay Later 
One of the hottest areas of investment these days within the white-hot fintech sector is the companies offering technology-enabled BNPL -- or "Buy Now, Pay Later." From Affirm going public at a $12 billion market cap, to Square's massive $29 billion acquisition of Afterpay--not to mention European leaders like Klarna, valued most recently at more than $45 billion.

According to FIS global, BNPL transactions only accounted for 2% of US ecommerce payments in 2020, but the number has surged as much as 132% in the first quarter of this year alone. However, outside the US, the incremental payment model has gained more traction and become a more common practice. 

To help address the opportunity in Mexico and Latin America, this week, Mexico City-based BNPL startup Nelo announced a new $20 million round of funding as it looks to become the leader of these services in these emerging markets. Today, consumers in Mexico can use Nelo with over 100 merchants including big names like Amazon, Telcel, Netflix, and Spotify.

While Nelo is by no means the only startup focusing on BNPL in the region, what makes Mexico an attractive market is the combination of its size, and the fact that only 15% of the population has a credit card. By offering an app-based service that enables everyday bills--as well as larger 1-off purchases--to be paid in installments, Nelo hopes to capitalize on the opportunity and build the next big fintech company in the footsteps of Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna and the rest.

(more here)
EXTRA POINT



Athletes + Entertainers in Tech: Tonal
With so many companies this week raising rounds from pro athletes and entertainers (including Intro and Rally, above), it was hard to choose which company would be featured in the Extra Point. But we figured it's always a safe bet to go with King James.

This week, NBA superstar LeBron James became the latest celeb to join the long list of investors in connected home workout startup Tonal. As we've written about in past coverage of the startup, Tonal is a smart home gym system that manufactures a workout device that is bolted into your wall at home and is paired with a video-based subscription service that offers workout plans and classes personalized to each user. The Tonal device is filled with technology bells-and-whistles, and as a result it ain't cheap. The standard model will set you back $2,995 and then customers pay $49/mo for access to the workouts and content. 

The investment from King James follows a familiar path to his involvement with mindfulness app Calm, in that his role is far from passive. In the case of Tonal, in addition to investment, James + Tonal have teamed up for a marketing campaign that features the NBA veteran as he enters his 19th campaign. More here

While few athletes have the brand-power and reach of LeBron, Tonal is an example of a technology startup that is serving as an onramp to investing in the tech sector for the modern athlete at all levels, by investing in a company that is leveraging technology to build a product they can use, touch, and personally resonate with--alongside seasoned venutre investors. The next phase is expanding that investment reach beyond just the opportunities that align with what they do on the field of play.

The startup has now raised a whopping $450 million as it turns its sights toward and IPO.

Athletes + Entertainers involved include: a partial list includes tennis legend Serena Williams, the NBA's LeBron James, Klay ThompsonSteph CurryPaul George, and Rudy Gay, NFL-ers Tony GonzalezBobby Wagner, and Kyle Rudolph, and golfer Michelle Wie.

(more here)
 

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Disclaimer: The content in this newsletter is for informational purposes only and should NOT be taken as legal, business, tax, or investment advice. It also does NOT constitute an offer or solicitation to purchase any investment or a recommendation to buy or sell a security.



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