Startups Weekly: This year in startups

Welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups and venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I wrote about U.S. VC activity in Europe. Before that, I noted Chinese investor activity in Africa.

Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you’re new, you can subscribe to Startups Weekly here.


Hello from Berlin, where we’ve just wrapped our annual conference, TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. Top investors shared insight into European venture capital, well-known individuals and firms made announcements (large and small), and entrepreneurs pontificated about the future of startups in their respective regions.

As I spoke with various early-stage startup founders presenting at the event, chatted with U.S. and European venture capitalists and brain-stormed with my colleagues, I reflected on my last 12 months inside the tech bubble. Soon, I’ll be publishing an extended look at what I see as the 10 biggest themes in startups and VC in 2019. But for now, here’s a sneak peek at my top picks.

  1. SoftBank screw ups. From WeWork to Wag to Fair.com, SoftBank made headlines over and over again this yearfor all the wrong reasons.
  2. WeWork woes. SoftBank’s star portfolio company struggled the most. This was the biggest story of the year and its complete with drugs, private jets, burned cash and upset employees.
  3. CEO exodus. From Away co-founder Steph Korey to WeWork’s Adam Neumann, a whole lot of executives exited their posts this year.
  4. Unicorn IPO struggles. Uber, Lyft, Pinterest, Zoom and more unicorns went public this year. Some fared better than others.
  5. The fight for seed. There was more competition than ever at the earliest stage of venture capital. As a result, investors got creative, hired fresh faces, raised new funds and even gave founders lavish gifts.
  6. Y Combinator growth. Everyone’s favorite accelerator got a whole lot bigger this year. Not only did its cohorts swell, but its president, Sam Altman, stepped down and the firm cemented changes to its investment process.
  7. VCs + direct listings = <3. When venture capitalist weren’t busy gossiping about WeWork and SoftBank, they were debating a new and innovative path to the public markets: direct listings.
  8. Every startup is a bank. Brex raised hundreds of millions, Stripe launched a corporate card, credit card startup Deserve nabbed $50 million. 2019 was the year that consumer banking upstarts became the new e-scooter businesses.
  9. VC isn’t the only option. While VCs were going crazy for consumer financial services, companies like Clearbanc and Capital expanded to give founders alternatives to venture capital, like revenue-based financing and venture debt.
  10.   The diversity disaster persists. Women still only raise 2.8% of venture capital in the U.S., up from 2.2%. Enough said.

If you like this newsletter, you will definitely enjoy Equity, which brings the content of this newsletter to life — in podcast form! Join myself and Equity co-host Alex Wilhelm every Friday for a quick breakdown of the week’s biggest news in venture capital and startups.

This week, I sat down with Chris Mayo, head of primary markets at the London Stock Exchange, to discuss the rise of direct listings.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

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