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This week: Y Combinator’s Paul Graham shares the email that saved Amplitude from losing its funding, Eren Bali criticizes the fake meat industry, funding for female startup founders falls, and VCs react to record returns for university endowments.
1. Paul Graham saves Amplitude
This week, analytics company Amplitude went public via direct listing on the Nasdaq, exceeding investors’ expectations with a 43% jump above its expected share price.
Y Combinator founder Paul Graham congratulated the founders, and shared an email from the company’s earliest days at YC via Twitter. Back in 2012, co-founder Spenser Skates was working on a voice recognition app called Sonalight, but found that a feature for optimizing the app was far more lucrative. Thus Amplitude was born.
“During YC, they were working on a different idea,” Graham tweeted. “When they switched to mobile analytics a few months later, Spenser Skates wanted to give their investors a chance to take their money back. I suggested he not do that.”
In the original email, Skates asks Graham if coming straight to the company’s investors, which included Tencent and Adam Draper, would be the honest thing to do. Graham advised him to stay the course.
“At this stage, investors are investing in the founder, not the idea,” Graham wrote. “What I’d do if I were you is work for a bit on the new idea, then tell them when you have some progress to report.”
2. Eren Bali’s beef with fake meat
Eren Bali, co-founder of edtech unicorn Udemy and co-founder and CEO of healthtech startup Carbon Health, has some harsh words about the fake meat industry.
In a recent tweet, Bali criticized Americans’ dependendence on meat, calling out what appear to be two of the biggest fake meat startups, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods for their “questionable ingredients.”
“I’m still blown away that there are two multi billion dollar public companies just because Americans don’t know how to cook vegetables,” Bali wrote. “There are 400M vegetarian Indians, none feels the need to stuff up soy with questionable ingredients to make it look like meat.”
3. Funding for female-founded startups
Startup founders are overwhelming male — and although Silicon Valley has stepped up efforts to ensure gender equality among both startups and VC funds, funding for female-founded startups went down this year.
Investor Janet Lee wrote a Twitter thread based on Crunchbase News data on VC funding. In 2021, 2.2% of VC funding went to female-founded startups, down 0.1% from 2020.
“Despite record valuations + VC investments this year, share for female founders went down. @PamKostka of @AllRaise attributes this to the unconscious gender bias of investors,” Lee wrote.
Despite the slow progress, Lee cited some of the biggest female-founded startups that have received plenty of funding, including BlockFi, Bumble, FIGS, and Modern Health. To date, just over 20 female-founded companies have reached unicorn status.
4. A golden era for college endowments
University endowment funds are reporting record gains thanks to successful venture capital bets and soaring stock markets. Colleges like Brown, the University of Virginia, and the University of Minnesota all reported gains close to 50% in just one year, while Duke reported a 55% return, and Washington University in St. Louis reported a whopping 65% return.
Rex Salisbury, a fintech VC at Andreessen Horowitz, shared the article on Twitter along with his take on it: “Insane (but 100% expected) seeing the "once in a lifetime" annual return numbers endowments are posting as their venture portfolios rip…”
Investor David Sacks also shared the article, adding, “It really is a golden era...A lot of people are missing it because of irrational hatred and negativity towards VC. Venture capital is just risk capital. It's funding for new ideas. And the acceleration of it is creating more opportunity than has ever existed in human society.”
Rajat Suri, CEO of Presto, replied to Sacks’s thread, writing, “Amazing that endowments are making so much money at a time when the value of a university education has never been lower. Maybe universities should just focus on their core business of money management and get out of the education business altogether….”