All posts in “Startups”

10x Ascend aims to help tech talent with job negotiations

10x Ascend is a new firm that helps software development, cybersecurity and data science professionals negotiate for better deals.

Founders Michael Solomon and Rishon Blumberg started out in talent management for the music industry (their clients still include musicians like Vanessa Carlton), then moved into representing tech freelancers with their firm 10x Management. More recently, they decided that there was an opportunity to provide similar services to full-time employees.

Given the rising demand for tech talent (the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that software development roles will grow by 31 percent through 2026), you might think that developers and engineers can get anything they want when they’re look for a job.

However, Blumberg suggested that many of these prospective hires simply don’t feel comfortable asking for what they want or what they’re worth — whether that’s more money, more equity, more flexibility in working from home, more vacation or anything else that’s important to them. He also pointed out that there’s no one else representing the employee’s interest in these discussions, since the recruiter ultimately works for the employer.

“Even though technologists are data-driven people who work in data-driven environments, they don’t negotiate that much,” Blumberg said.

So 10x Ascend can help, either by getting directly involved in the negotiations, or by advising prospective hires on things like counter-offers. (It’s not doing this in secret — Solomon said that either way, “We want the employer to know that we’re involved.”)

The firm is spinning out of 10x Management, and it’s been testing the model out through a beta program. It says it’s already helped nearly 50 senior tech executives negotiate their job offers, increasing their compensation by an average of 35% — and as much as 100% in some cases.

In exchange, 10x Ascend collects between 6% and 8% of first-year salaries (the percent is lower for high-level jobs), starting with a $3,500 retainer.

Even though the firm is compensated based on salary, Solomon said that was simply the “cleanest” approach, and he emphasized that 10x Ascend isn’t just pushing clients to take the highest paying offer. In fact, it’s created a free lifestyle calculator that helps people identify their priorities, whether that’s salary, job logistics, work-life balance and so on, which then informs the negotiations.

Blumberg also acknowledged that there’s been an “education” process with employers. He suggested that while engineers are sometimes nervous that they’ll blow a job offer by asking for too much, it’s actually helpful to have a third party who can take some of the heat.

“They can say, ‘That was my stupid advisor,’” Blumberg said. “We’re happy to be the bad cop.”

He also said that in some cases, employers are ultimately grateful to have 10x Ascend involved, as it helps them figure out packages that are more likely to attract and retain talent — which may mean offering more money, but could also mean creating more “bespoke” deals that provide flexibility or compensation in other areas. (You can read more about some of the negotiations on the 10x Ascend website.)

Given the name of the firm and the timing of the launch, I had to bring up the recent discussion around “10x engineers,” which led to some delightful social media backlash. Blumberg said he hadn’t been aware of the latest controversy, but he pointed out that this is a longstanding discussion. And inasmuch as “10x engineers” exist, he suggested that they have team skills and emotional intelligence as much as technical skills.

“That doesn’t mean writing 10x lines of code or being 10x as fast,” Solomon added. “But we have definitely seen people who produce 10x results.”

ClassPass introduces a corporate wellness program

ClassPass has set up yet another revenue stream, signing on partners like Facebook, Glossier, Google, Morgan Stanley, Under Armour, Etsy, Southwest Airlines and Gatorade to a corporate wellness program.

The program will give employees at these companies access to the ClassPass network of more than 22,000 studio partners across 2500 cities around the world, which includes studio brands like Barry’s Bootcamp, Flywheel Sports, and CorePower Yoga. Corporate partners also get access to a ‘large library’ of on-demand audio and video workouts.

This comes after ClassPass retooled the ClassPass Live product, in which it invested the resources to build out a new live broadcast studio, and rebuilt it into a library of on-demand video workouts.

The company launched ClassPass Live in 2018 with the hopes that users could workout from home within the ClassPass ecosystem. CEO Fritz Lanman told TechCrunch in June that the company stopped doing live classes in April 2019 and repackaged the content into free, on-demand video classes.

According to the release, one of the issues with corporate wellness programs is that HR departments have to patch together programs based on the regions in which their companies have offices/employees. ClassPass argues that its scale across the country, and in 17 other countries, gives it an edge with corporations who have global workforces.

Moreover, the ClassPass corporate wellness program only charges employers when employees actually use the service, and allows employers to reward good behaviors (going to a certain number of classes per month) by offering additional credits toward ClassPass experiences.

Here’s what Lanman had to say about it in a prepared statement:

The ClassPass Corporate Program enables employers of all sizes to offer the world’s most extensive, one-stop fitness and wellness program to their employees worldwide. ClassPass is the best fitness program ever created for consumers. With this launch, it’s now also the best fitness program ever created for employers and their employees.

Peer-to-peer car sharing marketplace Turo raises $250M at over $1B valuation from IAC

Car-sharing startup Turo has raised $250 million in a Series E round of funding from IAC, the internet media company that owned and spun out Match.com, and OKCupid. This round pushes Turn into Unicorn territory, with its valuation now “past the billion-dollar” mark according to Turo CEO Andre Haddad.

This late round of funding brings the company’s total to nearly $450 million, raised across multiple rounds since its founding as Relay Rides in 2009. The company plans to use the investment to fuel its growth, further refine the customer experience aspect of its product and generally support its overall mission of increasing utilization rates for the over one billion cars currently estimated to be on the road around the world today.

IAC makes sense as a strategic partner for Turo because of its proven track record of helping companies scale to “household name” recognition status, Haddad said in a blog post. The company now has almost 400,000 vehicles available on the platform, with over 10 million users across both those listing their cars and those renting. Turo says its growth rate overall has been at around 2x over the past two years, and at 8x in its bourgeoning international markets, including the UK and Germany (where it took over Daimler’s car-sharing business alongside a strategic investment deal and officially launched last year).

Snyk brings in new CEO to help lead future expansion

Startup founders typically face a management challenge. They often began their careers in technical engineering jobs, and are thrust into the CEO role when starting a company. Sometimes it makes sense to bring in a more experienced executive to guide a fast-growing startup, and that is what Snyk announced it’s doing today, shifting founder/CEO Guy Podjarny to president and chairman of the board, while bringing in board member and investor Peter McKay as CEO.

Over the past 18 months the company has grown significantly moving from just 18 employees to 150 as its open source software development approach to security has taken hold in the marketplace. McKay is someone who makes sense for the job given he has been involved with the company as an investor since its early days, and has known Podjarny in various roles for 15 years. The two talked about having a good working relationship, something that Podjarny said was essential to this transition.

“I think I would be going through many sleepless nights if I was bringing just somebody we interviewed into the company for a role like this at a time like this,” he said. He added that having known and worked with McKay for so long has helped ease the role changes.

As important as the working relationship between the two is going to be, McKay brings an executive pedigree that includes stints as co-CEO at Veeam and general manager of Americas at VMware, where he managed an operation with $4 billion in annual revenue.

McKay says that he and Podjarny have had many conversations about how they will handle their new roles moving forward. “Guy and I have spent a great deal of time talking through a lot of [issues] before we ever said that we were going to move forward with this change,” he said. He added, “We wanted to make sure we’re aligned on how we would handle decisions. We want to be aligned on how we handle things like diversity, how we handle things like empowering and core company values,” he said.

As for Podjarny, he says this move allows him to return to a more technical function, and the two will take advantage of each other’s strengths as they move into these new roles. “Peter brings in extensive large-scale management experience, experience with markets. This is experience that I don’t have, but which naturally complements my product vision and community leadership skills,” he explained.

As a startup grows, picking the right leader to guide the company into the future is a tricky decision, and one that Podjarny and McKay did not take lightly. In spite of their long relationship, they recognize there will be challenges ahead as company founder and board member/investor take on new roles, but they believe that this is the best decision for the company to develop and grow moving forward. Time will tell if they are right.

India’s 30-year-old MyMoneyMantra raises $15M to scale its financial services marketplace

MyMoneyMantra, a 30-year-old New Delhi-based firm that operates a marketplace of financial services, has raised $15 million in its maiden funding round from an external source to expand its offerings and reach in the nation.

Dutch investment firm IFSD BV and private equity firm Vaalon Capital funded the $15 million round in MyMoneyMantra, the Indian firm said on Wednesday. A person familiar with the matter said the round valued MyMoneyMantra at about $50 million.

The company’s founder Raj Khosla said MyMoneyMantra, which employs about 2,500 employees and serves over 4 million customers across 50 cities, will use the capital to explore ways to capture a larger share of the market.

Khosla said the firm would work closely with Vaalon Capital’s team to expand its offerings and deepen its ties with banks and insurance companies. In the financial year that ended in March, MyMoneyMantra generated a revenue of $19.6 million.

MyMoneyMantra works with over 90 banks, non-bank lenders, and insurance companies to help customers get deals on loans and credit cards. The firm, which competes with BankBazaar and Andromeda in India, has done business of over $5.5 billion to date.

Today’s announcement underscores investors’ growing interest in India’s fintech market that saw tens of millions of users try out digital payment services for the first time after the Indian government banned some paper bills. Cash still dominates most of the transactions in the country.

India’s fintech startups raised $285.6 million in the quarter that ended in March this year, thereby surpassing China to become Asia’s top fundraising hub for financial technology, according to CBInsights.

And that momentum continues. In recent months, a score of startups that are trying to help India’s next hundreds of millions of users access financial services have secured significant capital from major investors. While some startups such as Open and Niyo are operating “neo banks” to help blue-collar workers access financial services, many big names like Paytm and Ola have launched their own credit cards.