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After Threads, Bluesky also adds a way to see your own likes



Bluesky introduced a bunch of updates on Friday to its mobile apps and website, including a new tab to see your own likes, notification support for apps and an emoji picker for the web composer.

Earlier this month, Bluesky’s rival Threads added a new tab in settings, called “Your Likes,” to let users look at their own liked posts. In contrast, Bluesky has added a “Likes” tab to users’ profiles. The placement of the tab is similar to X (formerly Twitter), but unlike the Elon Musk-owned social network, Bluesky doesn’t let you see liked posts of other people.

Bluesky has added a new likes tab

Bluesky has added a new likes tab. Image Credits: Bluesky / screenshot by TechCrunch

The platform specified in a post that the likes of a user can be accessed through the API because they are public. While the native client doesn’t show them, other apps can choose to include functionality to display the likes of other users.

Additionally, the social network added the ability to suggest people to mention when someone types an “@” in the composer. This update is available across platforms. In another composer-related enhancement, Bluesky added an emoji picker on the web. In its latest update, Bluesky is also adding notifications to its mobile apps.

Earlier this week, Bluesky added rate limits to actions, like resetting passwords or updating the user handle to stabilize network traffic. The social media company took this action because last week after Musk announced that X would be removing the “block” feature, Bluesky briefly failed to handle the load of the new traffic on the site.

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SBF, riding high on FTX, wanted to buy off Trump to cancel a presidential re-run



Come Tuesday, our eyes will be trained on the Manhattan Federal Court for the trial of Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced cryptocurrency entrepreneur accused of orchestrating “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history”: the multibillion-dollar collapse of FTX, the crypto exchange he founded and led.

SBF, as he’s known, has pleaded not-guilty to some seven charges of fraud and conspiracy. But, as we wait to hear both his version and the government’s version of what happened, there will be another tale recounting how things played out: “Going Infinite,” a book by Michael Lewis chronicling the rise and fall of SBF, is set to debut on the first day of the trial.

The episode has fired up a lot of people, indignant at what they feel was too-easy treatment for someone who many believe brought down the whole crypto house.

The germination of “Going Infinite” sounds as unlikely as the story of SBF himself.

In an interview broadcast yesterday on 60 Minutes, Lewis, the famed chronicler of financial adventure and misadventure — his books include “Liar’s Poker,” “Moneyball” and “The Big Short” — said that he didn’t set out to write a book about SBF. Rather, Lewis claims he was introduced to him in early 2021 by a friend who wanted to back FTX. Before any financial commitment, that friend asked Lewis to meet the young billionaire — both lived in Berkeley — to “evaluate his character.”

No, we don’t find out who that friend is, nor do we find out if that particular investment was ever made — SBF did raise some $2 billion, including $1 billion in 2021, from backers that included Sequoia, Temasek, Tiger Global and dozens more.

But we do find out that another investment, of sorts, was made on that day: Lewis himself was so taken with the idea of SBF and his apparent brilliance that he came away with the decision to write about him.

“Eighteen months earlier, he had nothing. Now he had $22.5 billion. He was the richest person in the world under 30 [and] he was going to spend it to save humanity from extinction,” he said. “My jaw was on the floor.”

The two proceeded to meet more than 100 times over the next two years. As SBF’s fame and his company’s bank account grew, 60 Minutes itself even got involved. The program shot (and it shows here) one segment with SBF talking as he shuffles cards with his leg twitching nervously behind his desk (why? we don’t find this out, either) as Lewis, with a flourish of his pen and a look of concentration on his face, dashes off notes on his yellow legal pad.

Later in the show, you get other behind-the-scenes, unnerving glimpses of how the wizard operated behind the curtain. For instance, Lewis recounts how he was in the room when SBF made his first television appearance.

“If you watch the clip, you’ll see his eyes going back and forth,” he said. “It’s because he’s trying to win his video game at the same time he’s on the air.”

“If you watch the clip, you’ll see his eyes going back and forth. It’s because he’s trying to win his video game at the same time he’s on the air.” Michael Lewis

Friendships and lucrative marketing deals followed, with sports icons like Tom Brady (who was paid $55 million) and Steph Curry ($35 million) to “lend FTX legitimacy and edge.” Even Anna Wintour, the icy fashion doyenne, was in contact: She reached out, over what must have been a hell of a Zoom meeting, to ask SBF — whose preferred get-up is/was wildly curly hair, t-shirts and cargo shorts — to sponsor her very fancy Met Costume Ball. Desperate times!

As trades on FTX climbed up to $15 billion/day, SBF, of course, also got tied up in the corridors of political power.

Lewis said that he met with the young crypto king ahead of him seeing Mitch McConnell to discuss how he could fund political candidates who were looking to offset Trump’s influence in the Republican Party. We find out that the gravitational pull of cargo shorts was a tough one to pull away from: The suit SBF brought to wear to the McConnell meeting was tightly balled up under his arm with his dress shoes falling out of the middle of the bundle. We’ve all been there, Sam. (Well, perhaps not Anna.)

Lewis also claimed that SBF had concocted a plan to buy off Trump, to get him not to run again for president.

“Like how much would it take to get an answer?” Lewis recounted. “There was a number that was kicking around… this was $5 billion.” He said that Sam was never sure whether that figure came directly from Trump. And no, we don’t find out if he ever did wire anything to camp Trump. That would be a wonderful detail to get teased out in the trial, though.

And lest you think Biden and the Democrats have their hands clean of SBF… think again: He also looked to back candidates on that side of the aisle. You never know when you might need a friend!

The hard crash

All of that activity, of course, came to a crashing end: The value of cryptocurrencies on FTX was not banked to much more than speculation and the promise of higher value, and so when those valuations fell, they fell very, very hard.

What we already knew was that SBF has been denied bail; his name is mud (or much worse) among those who have lost money in Alameda or FTX; and those who might not have had positions in these still blame him for other crypto woes because he set off a ripple effect.

“He doesn’t come off good at all here. You can tell he had no experience in management or handling such big undertakings. I think he was in way over his head,” Ayelet Noff, the CEO and founder of public relations firm Sliced Brand, which represents a number of cryptocurrency businesses, told TechCrunch. “I think he does a disservice to the whole community. He pushed back crypto adoption by at least a year or two. Each time one of these things happens it brings back the whole market. It’s two steps forward and one step back.”

But even so, Noff is defensive: She also believes crypto is no worse than the stock market, which can also be manipulated and mishandled.

“Even when you identify corruption, I don’t think that means we don’t believe in the system in question,” she added.

Yet Lewis’s picture is a little less stark from the looks of the 60 Minutes episode. In fact, I’d say it’s not that clear at all if SBF is getting a kicking or a coat of polish in this interview when you consider Lewis’s celebration of SBF’s self-proclaimed (yet not quite proven) idealism, and the “Bankman-Fried-shaped hold in the world” that exists.

You could say that confused message is very apt for cryptocurrency, where the process by which it works is forever murky and often misrepresented, at least to most people.

If SBF didn’t intentionally aim to cynically defraud a bunch of people, in the long run he became one of the many who disastrously failed to manage the risk inherent in crypto speculation. That’s ultimately what happened with FTX, as financial discrepancies racked up between the exchange and its sister company Alameda Research (a trader itself on the platform). The failure is indisputable: The jury will now have to decide how criminal, and how far, his intentions were around that.

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Procurement is painful, so Pivot wants to simplify it



Earlier this year, a big French tech company started requiring an email to the CEO for every purchase above €1,000. That’s because they didn’t have the right tool to manage procurement.

Meet Pivot, a new French startup that wants to overhaul spend management solutions. Pivot wants to work with young companies that are growing fast and feel like they need a procurement solution. Instead of picking a legacy business spend management system from an ERP vendor, Pivot wants to be the first (and last) procurement system for these companies.

At the helm of the startup, you will find three experienced co-founders. Romain Libeau was one of the first employees at Swile and more recently acted as the Chief Product Officer for the French unicorn. Marc-Antoine Lacroix has spent several years working for Qonto as the Chief Technology Officer and then Chief Product Officer. Estelle Giuly has been a workflow engineers for several enterprise companies and for

“I worked a lot on operations at Swile, and especially on all the internal tools. I actually saw a sequencing where first we tried to get as many customers as possible, so first we focused on all the tools for our go-to-market strategy and sales — basically Salesforce. Then, you have a lot of customers, and you want to keep them happy. So we structured our customer service, our customer success team,” Romain Libeau told me.

“And then you get to the last brick, which is how well you manage all your financial flows,” he added. And that’s where Pivot comes in.

When companies hire a head of procurement, that person usually starts by listing all the requirements and issues a call for tenders. Usually, they get to choose between Oracle NetSuite’s procurement component or maybe Coupa. It then takes several months to integrate the product in the company and procurement teams feel like they are only using 10% of the feature set.

Pivot isn’t the only startup trying to improve procurement. In the U.S., Zip and Levelpath have both raised tens of millions of dollars. “There are some regional features, European features when it comes to compliance and the payment ecosystem,” Libeau said.

But the fact that some American startups are thriving also proves that there is a real market opportunity. That’s why Pivot has already raised a $5.3 million pre-seed round (€5 million) from several VC firms (Visionaries, Emblem, Cocoa, Anamcara and Financière Saint James) as well as entrepreneurs and investors such as Loïc Soubeyrand (founder of Swile), Steve Anavi (co-founder of Qonto), Hanno Renner (co-founder of Personio), Oliver Samwer (co-founder of Rocket Internet), Pierre Laprée, Alexis Hartmann and Alexandre Berriche.

And things have been advancing at a very rapid pace. After this funding round in April, the company started developing the product over the summer and launched it in September with a first client — Voodoo.

“We’re rolling out gradually, because, as I always tell our team, more haste, less speed. But we’re going to end the year with around ten customers. So we’ve got the deals, but we don’t want to rush into anything,” Libeau said.

A PO workflow for humans

If you work for a big company and you often fill out purchase orders, you know that it’s a painful process. There are too many fields, you’re not sure what you’re supposed to write in each field and you would rather find a workaround to avoid purchase orders.

Pivot is well aware of that and has designed a tool that makes the PO workflow less painful. Admins can set up workflows from Pivot’s interface directly — no coding skills required. For instance, a very large purchase with a software vendor might trigger a security review, an IT review, a legal review, etc. That’s why Pivot is betting on third-party integrations and an interface that works for everyone.

Pivot integrates directly with your existing tech stack. It fetches the company’s org chart for the approval workflow from the HR system, it retrieves budgets from Pigment, Anaplan, etc. It then communicates with your communication tools, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and Jira.

And, of course, Pivot integrates with ERP software (NetSuite, SAP…) so that vendors, cost centers, compliance rules and more are instantly propagated once a purchase order is validated.

Too many companies waste time in approvals and endless workflows. Pivot wants to add a layer of spend management without slowing down business teams. And the timing seems right as many companies are reviewing how they spend money.

Image Credits: Pivot

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Why we’re seeing so many seed-stage deals in fintech



Welcome back to The Interchange, where we take a look at the hottest fintech news of the previous week. If you want to receive The Interchange directly in your inbox every Sunday, head here to sign up! It was a relatively quiet week in fintech startup land, so we took the time to scrutinize where we’re seeing the most funding deals.

Seed deals everywhere

Across the board in all industries, except perhaps AI, we’ve seen a big drop in later-stage funding deals and no shortage of seed-stage rounds.

When it comes to fintech, I can tell you at least anecdotally that the vast majority of pitches that hit my inbox are for seed rounds. It is very rare these days to get pitched for Series B or later, or even for Series A rounds.

Venture banker Samir Kaji, co-founder and CEO of Allocate, points out that the private markets often take their cues from the public markets and as such, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing far fewer later-stage deals and a plethora of seed rounds. The Fintech Index — which tracks the performance of emerging, publicly traded financial technology companies — was down a staggering 72% in 2022, according to F-Prime Capital’s State of Fintech 2022 report.

“Seed is typically the least affected because those companies are just too early to really feel like you have to worry about where the public markets are,” he told me in a phone interview last week. “We’re so far divorced from the time period where these companies are going to be large enough where the public market sentiment is going to really matter.”

Allocate, which recently just closed on $10 million in capital, is currently an investor in about 60 funds. But Kaji is seeing the tide beginning to turn.

“The investment pace in 2022 was just so slow, and the beginning of 2023 was incredibly slow as well, but we’re starting to see things pick up as people are now starting to see that the bid ask on deals at the Series A and later are starting to narrow,” Kaji added. “And I think entrepreneurs have started to capitulate to this new environment. This always is the case — it’s like an 18- to 24-month lag in the public markets. So I would expect much more later-stage activity again in the next 18 to 24 months.”

I asked our friends at PitchBook what they’re seeing, and unsurprisingly, in the second quarter, there were more seed deals forged in the retail fintech space (135) compared to any other stage. When it came to the enterprise fintech space, early-stage deals accounted for most of the deal activity (239) with seed-stage coming in a close second (221), according to PitchBook.

Will we start seeing more later-stage deals in 2024? I sure hope so. Will we see any fintechs actually go public? That’s probably less likely. But you can be sure we’ll be on the lookout.

Slope continues its climb

It’s always great to see startups rise through the ranks, especially at a time when fintech hasn’t been doing so well. One of the companies I have had the pleasure of following is Slope. The company, founded by Lawrence Murata and Alice Deng, developed a business-to-business payments platform for enterprise companies.

When covering the company’s initial $8 million seed round in 2021, I learned that Slope’s origins came from Murata watching his wholesaler family struggle with an easier way to manage payments. He and Deng built the company so that moving to a digital order-to-cash workflow was seamless.

Last year, Slope raised another $24 million in Series A funding, and this week banked $30 million in a venture round led by Union Square Ventures, which co-led the Series A. It also included participation from OpenAI’s Sam Altman and a list of other heavy VC hitters. Read more. — Christine

co-founders Lawrence Lin Murata and Alice Deng, B2B payments

Slope co-founders Lawrence Lin Murata and Alice Deng. Image Credits: Slope

Weekly News

TechCrunch Opinion: Fintech actually has a value system: Here’s how we can reclaim it

Introducing the a16z Global Payments Hub

Other items we are reading:

Apple is ordered to face Apple Pay antitrust lawsuit

Greenlight celebrates launch of web-based financial literacy library

Funding and M&A

As seen on TechCrunch

Pan-African contrarian investor P1 Ventures reaches $25M first close for its second fund

QED and Partech back South African payment orchestration platform Revio in $5.2M seed

Crediverso takes on legal after $3.5M capital infusion

Series, which aims to replace ERP systems, lands $25M

Seen elsewhere

Luge Capital: $71M first close of second fund completed

Colektia completes purchase of non-performing loans for $72M

Mexico’s albo receives $40m in Series C funds, striving for neobank profitability

Grow Credit Inc., a top 30 fintech app, secures $10m funding with USAA as lead investor in Series A round

StretchDollar raises $1.6M in pre-seed funding

WealthTech Vega exits stealth with over $8M funding

Farther closes Series B funding round to gain $131M valuation — This new round comes a little over a year after the wealth tech firm raised a Series A on a $50 million valuation. Check out TechCrunch’s earlier coverage of Farther.

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

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