Inside | Real news, curated by real humans
Inside Founders

Inside Founders (Apr 16th, 2019)

1. Astrology startups are attracting big investors. David Birnbaum says his incubator, Five Four Ventures, put money into Sanctuary, an app offering live readings through monthly subscriptions, because of the potential in the so-called $2.1 billion "mystical services market." Sanctuary has raised $1.5 million in seed funding so far. Birth-chart app Co-Star, which claims its algorithm couples NASA data with professional astrology, has raised more than $5 million. Co-Star co-founder Banu Guler predicts the astrology sector could surpass the lucrative meditation app field, while Anarghya Vardhana, a partner at Maveron, one of Co-Star's investors, believes the app could be as successful as Spotify or Tinder. Cited reasons for Big Zodiac's current surge include millennial narcissism, Instagram and Donald Trump's election. — NEW YORK TIMES 

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

2. Mobile banking startups are gaining more traction with consumers than with small businesses. Novo Platform Inc. co-founder and CEO Michael Rangel says this is partially due to the higher regulatory requirements for small businesses versus personal banking. Nonetheless, several mobile banking startups have recently had large funding rounds from investors, including Novo, which received $4.8 million in a seed round funding in March. Despite the logistical challenges mobile banking startups face, investor interest in the sector—approximately $12 billion has been invested globally over the last five years—is growing. Venture capital firm RRE Partners Principal Maria Palma notes that such startups offer innovation potential in an otherwise crowded fintech market. — WALL STREET JOURNAL

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

3. Nikola Motor founder Trevor Milton is seeking $1.25 billion to execute his vision of hydrogen-powered big rigs and coast-to-coast fueling stations. The four-year-old company will have a public demonstration day April 17 in Scottsdale, Ariz. Milton argues trucks are a better bet for hydrogen power than cars as re-fueling time is more comparable to that of diesel trucks; trucks' sizes make it easier to accommodate hydrogen tanks' bulk; and the technology's cost is more easily recouped on high-use commercial vehicles. The company's production and fundraising goals are set for 2022. In the meantime, Nikola has pending litigation against Tesla—a competitor in the market—for design infringement. — FORBES

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

4. Last year, Everlane founder and CEO Michael Preysman publicly committed to eliminating new plastics from every aspect of the clothing company by 2021—but it's proving difficult. Doing so makes sense for the fashion startup, founded in 2011, as it's known for its environmentally friendly manufacturing and transparency about its factories. While Everlane's products are only approximately 10 percent synthetic, the challenges of comprehensively eradicating it from his company's offices, stores and supply chains have been significant. While many large chains have taken oaths to eliminate plastics in the last year—Danone, H&M, and L’Oréal among them—the reckoning is only just beginning for the fashion industry, which relies considerably on synthetics. — FAST COMPANY

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

5. Journalist Carole Cadwalladr, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her reporting on Cambridge Analytics, described Facebook and Twitter founders Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey as “handmaidens to authoritarianism" in a Monday TED talk in Vancouver, Canada. — BUSINESS INSIDER

6. GeekWire is soliciting votes for its Young Entrepreneur of the Year prize, which will be awarded May 2 at the GeekWire Awards in Seattle. The six nominees are all under 30 and their startups tackle digital solutions in sectors such as microlending, software and food delivery. — GEEKWIRE

7. Used-car vending machine company Carvana Co.'s father-and-son founders Ernest Garcia II and Ernest Garcia III have become billionaires as a result of their company's stock doubling. — CRAIN'S CLEVELAND BUSINESS

8. Actress Zooey Deschanel's new startup, Lettuce Grow, features a scalable modular hydroponic unit called the Farmstand for vertical farming. Deschanel and co-founder Jacob Pechenik say the goal of their new company is to help people grow at least 20 percent of their food. — INC.

9. Recent Y Combinator graduates Paul Koullick and David Kang have raised $1.65 million for their startup Keeper, which helps gig workers track deductions for their taxes, and will eventually provide filing services as well. The founders say the new funding will be used to add employees, along with 10,000 new customers in the next year and a half. — TECHCRUNCH

10. Start-up vitamin companies are marketing their products as "cool," and starting to make inroads in the $30 billion industry in selling to a younger demographic. — VOX

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

Julia Goldberg is a journalist and author living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She writes regularly about the intersection of technology and culture, and is the executive director of MIX Santa Fe, a networking organization for entrepreneurs. She writes the Inside Founders newsletter and can be found on Twitter @votergirl.

Editing team: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside); Susmita Baral (senior editor at Inside, who runs the biggest mac and cheese account on Instagram); and David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).

  • Email gray

Subscribe to Inside Founders