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Shopify confirms it canceled contracts with warehouse and fulfillment partners, but says its capacity to handle orders won’t be affected; stock closed down 14% (Stefanie Marotta/Bloomberg)

Stefanie Marotta / Bloomberg:
Shopify confirms it canceled contracts with warehouse and fulfillment partners, but says its capacity to handle orders won’t be affected; stock closed down 14%  —  Shopify Inc. plunged by the most since March 2020 after a report that the Canadian e-commerce company terminated contracts with several warehouse and fulfillment partners.

Anitian, which offers enterprise cloud security and compliance software, raises a $55M Series B led by Sageview Capital, bringing its total funding to $71M (Malia Spencer/Portland Business Journal)

Malia Spencer / Portland Business Journal:
Anitian, which offers enterprise cloud security and compliance software, raises a $55M Series B led by Sageview Capital, bringing its total funding to $71M  —  A Portland-area cloud security and compliance software maker has secured $55 million from investors to further fuel growth of its enterprise platform.

A look at ID.me, which will soon be used to verify IRS.gov logins and claims to have uncovered a $400B theft of US pandemic unemployment payments (Bloomberg)

Bloomberg:
A look at ID.me, which will soon be used to verify IRS.gov logins and claims to have uncovered a $400B theft of US pandemic unemployment payments  —  If you were writing a techno-thriller, you’d give your hero a backstory like Blake Hall’s.  He’s a Harvard MBA, an alumnus …

FarmRaise aims to become a financial services giant, starting with farm grants

You have to start somewhere. So when Jayce Hafner and Sami Tellatin bonded as Stanford MBA classmates over their shared belief that making U.S. farms more efficient would be good for farmers, good for the country, and a great business, they decided the place to start was grants.

For her part, Hafner grew up on a cattle ranch in Virginia and knew firsthand that applying for grants — even to improve the sustainable farming practices of her family’s farm — was a confusing and time-intensive process. Tellatin had meanwhile studied biological engineering as an undergrad and spent three years with the USDA, researching the impacts of cover crops on ecosystems and farm economics. She knew, too, that farmers might make better choices if grants were more available to them.

Enter FarmRaise, a now 12-person, two-year-old, San Diego, Ca.-based company that has made considerable progress since the two joined forces with another cofounder, Albert Abedi, who they met through the accelerator program of Pear VC, the Palo Alto-based firm.

According to Hafner, the company already has nearly 10,000 farms on the platform thanks to word of mouth, a dash of search-engine magic, and, importantly, partnerships it has struck with agriculture giants like Cargill and Corteva (spun out of DuPont in 2018) that have carbon emission reduction goals to meet and have begun directing farmers to FarmRaise for help with grants tied to low-carbon farming.

FarmRaise’s platform — which asks for granular farm insights, then structures the data in a way that allows FarmRaise to quickly apply for a wide variety of grant programs on its customers’ behalf – also has enough momentum that investors are now in the mix. (The team just landed $7.2 million in seed funding led by Susa Ventures, which was joined by Cendana Capital, Ulu Ventures, Pear, Better Tomorrow Ventures, Incite Ventures, and Financial Ventures Studio, among others.)

Still, as with so many startups, Hafner says grants — both federal and private — are just the starting point for the very broad financial services company that FarmRaise intends to become. Imagine, suggests Hafner, that once a farm has provided much of its data to the company, that FarmRaise can help that farm secure loans, secure equipment at bulk prices, lower its operating expenses, and help with both its banking and tax planning. Much of these services will be provided through third parties, she says. FarmRaise isn’t looking to reinvent the whee. But there’s also no reason that farmers shouldn’t have a “full-stack” resource to which to turn, she adds.

That’s the vision, at least. For now, FarmRaise is focused on hiring more employees, lining up more grants, and making sure its customers are happy with the services it’s already providing and for which it charges a monthly subscription, along with 10% of the value of the grants it secures.

It’s a tall order, given that some grants have wait times of six to 12 months.

On the other hand, says Hafner, it’s forcing FarmRaise is develop innovative ways to get capital into hands of farmers faster based on the data it’s collecting. “That’s what gets us excited,” she says.

It’s also a big opportunity, seemingly. Food and agriculture start-ups have been attracting record amounts of venture funding, and grants are ticking upwards, too, as Hafner notes. Most importantly, she says,  USDA funding has “been growing like crazy. The Trump administration distributed tens of billions of dollars in additional funding to support all sorts of farmers who were struggling with Covid-related supply chain disruptions, which was a major opportunity in 2021 and 2020.”

Meanwhile, with Biden administration, she adds, “We’re seeing this keen focus on growing the size of the pie for conservation funding and it likely doubling in the years to come.” It only makes sense, she suggests. “Not only does [sustainable farming] increase farm profitability but it also sequesters carbon and can help to address climate change. They are just many, many, many benefits that come with it.”

US tech firms’ “nearshoring” of talent from Latin America, driven by cheaper costs and similar time zones, is leading to staffing shortages for LatAm tech firms (Vittoria Elliott/Rest of World)

Vittoria Elliott / Rest of World:
US tech firms’ “nearshoring” of talent from Latin America, driven by cheaper costs and similar time zones, is leading to staffing shortages for LatAm tech firms  —  As a hedge against American talent poachers, some exasperated founders are recruiting developers who can’t speak English.

Berlin-based Moss, which offers a spend management service with credit cards to SMBs, raises a €75M Series B led by Tiger Global at a €500M valuation (Romain Dillet/TechCrunch)

Romain Dillet / TechCrunch:
Berlin-based Moss, which offers a spend management service with credit cards to SMBs, raises a €75M Series B led by Tiger Global at a €500M valuation  —  Berlin-based startup Moss has announced earlier this week that it has closed a new $86 million Series B funding round (€75 million).

Biden Looks to Intel’s U.S. Investment to Buoy His China Agenda

The president said passage of a China competition bill was needed “for the sake of our economic competitiveness and our national security.”

Researchers: 93 themes and plugins for WordPress downloaded from AccessPress had backdoors dating back to September, allowing attackers full admin control (Bill Toulas/BleepingComputer)

Bill Toulas / BleepingComputer:
Researchers: 93 themes and plugins for WordPress downloaded from AccessPress had backdoors dating back to September, allowing attackers full admin control  —  A massive supply chain attack compromised 93 WordPress themes and plugins to contain a backdoor, giving threat-actors full access to websites.

Daily Crunch: IBM sells off Watson Health unit to private equity firm Francisco Partners

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PST, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for January 21, 2022! I normally try to bring some pep to my little intros in this missive. But today I am going to avoid astroturfing my own mood to simply say, hey, what’s up with the stock market? After a period of time when things only went up, have we flipped the coin? I am not going to say that I love it, but hey, at least it’s the weekend. – Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

Is Microsoft buying a union? Raven Software’s quality assurance department is forming a union at Activision Blizzard. TechCrunch called the move the “first union to form at a major U.S. gaming company.” Given that Microsoft is supposed to buy Raven Software’s parent company, the union situation has an even more interesting flavor than most tech union news that we’ve seen lately.
VCs wanted to spin-out Facebook’s Slack competitor: Facebook’s internal work tool that it turned into a product won’t be leaving the confines of the Meta corporation. TechCrunch learned that VCs wanted the social giant to spin it out at a valuation north of $1 billion, but Team Zuck didn’t bite.
Netflix’s poor results prove the pandemic trade is over: After reporting numbers that left Wall Street less than enthused, the value of Netflix stock tanked today. The result, and resulting investor reaction underscores our general belief that the pandemic trade is behind us. Recall that in late December, TechCrunch asked if the era of super-rich tech valuations was behind us. The answer? Yeah, it looks like it.

Startups/VC

If you are working on corporate spend, please collect your check: As Ramp, Brex, and Airbase battle it out in the United States, Moss’ work to build a corporate spend behemoth in Europe is attracting allies. Rich ones, it turns out, as the company just landed $86 million. The company is now worth nearly $600 million, thanks to its latest share sale.
Please print me one (1) mocktail: One of the funniest bits of a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series of novels is the silly spaceship that can’t make tea. It can, to paraphrase, make something that is akin to tea, but not quite. That’s a long-winded way of saying that beverage printing is not a new concept. But it is a new reality, at least to my brain. Cana Technology just unveiled what it calls “the world’s first molecular beverage printer.” To which we ask: Can it make tea? Either way, this sounds dope.
Europe -> Africa: The African technology startup market is accelerating. That’s known. But what if you are building a company, say in Europe, and want to move into the African market? Venture firm Partech’s new Chapter54 accelerator is working on just that problem, TechCrunch reports.
Another Israeli VC puts together a new fund: 2022 is shaping up to be a hot year for the Israeli technology scene, with Entrée Capital announcing a $300 million fund. That’s the second new fund from Israel thus far this year that we can name. So much for a slowdown, yeah?

Inside Secfi’s 2021 state of stock options equity report

Image Credits: Andriy Onufriyenko (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

It’s great to have a stake in the company you’re helping to build, but when employees don’t know the optimal way to exercise their stock options, they usually end up with a raw deal.

Last year, startup employees paid an estimated $11 billion in avoidable taxes by exercising their options post-exit, rather than pre-exit, according to Secfi data.

In a post for TechCrunch+, CEO Frederik Mijnhardt shared his analysis of the biggest trends around stock options in 2021, including why, despite stellar IPOs, most employees couldn’t exercise their options until after the exit, dramatically increasing their tax liability.

“Looking ahead to 2022, it seems that the industry’s current trend toward mega-sized rounds of funding and longer exit timelines mean that for the average startup employee, their total cost to exercise stock options will continue to rise,” says Mijnhardt.

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

Peloton (kinda) answers production stories: Yes, the company is “resetting our production levels for sustainable growth,” its CEO admitted in a note that kinda, sorta, dealt with a wave of stories about Peloton’s consumer demand. More when the company reports earnings, as this story is far from over.
Intel could build a huge plant in Ohio: Building chips is expensive, and hard to spin up. So it’s good news that Intel intends to “build two chip manufacturing facilities outside of Columbus, Ohio.” The total work could cost $20 billion. Score one point for domestic production, I suppose.
IBM manages to divest its Watson Health unit: Francisco Partners is buying the asset, though we don’t know for how much. The Watson push seems to be stumbling to a conclusion, selling for a price that is expected to be a fraction of what IBM paid to compile the corporate assets behind its health-focused AI push.

TechCrunch Experts

Image Credits: Pete Saloutos / Getty Images

TechCrunch wants to know which software consultants you’ve worked with for anything from UI/UX to cloud architecture. Let us know here.

If you’re curious about how these surveys are shaping our coverage, check out this interview Miranda Halpern did with Wolfpack Digital CEO Georgina Lupu-Florian, “How should non-technical founders collaborate with software developers?”

2022 crypto predictions from Prime Trust CFO Rodrigo Vicuna

Cryptocurrency and blockchain had a breakout year in 2021.

ust look at the numbers: 80 million unique crypto wallets; Bitcoin and Ether grew 60% and 407%, respectively; El Salvador adopted bitcoin as official currency; the NFT market generated $2.5 billion in trades. Even Burger King announced a whopper when they got in on the NFT action. Impressive? Absolutely. Have we reached a point where crypto and blockchain reach mass adoption? Well, not quite.

Even though DeFi, cryptocurrencies, blockchains, NFTs and a slew of other products came online in 2021, only about 1% of the world’s population has a unique crypto wallet. Media coverage, financial institutions, and companies with hefty marketing budgets jumped in and made it seem as if mass adoption was already here. But in reality, we’re not there yet.

However, we anticipate that changing in 2022. From more creative crypto entries to the impact of inflation and new technologies, here are five trends we expect in 2022, and what you can do to navigate the challenges ahead.

Expect more diverse uses for crypto

For the most part, consumers are aware that crypto exists, but they don’t understand its benefits in their day-to-day lives. For many, it’s seen as an investment tool for institutional or retail investors, a novelty, or something that caters primarily to the trendiest of the Gen Z crowd. With blockchain games and GameFi, as well as reward redemption platforms that trade airline miles into crypto on the horizon, expect this to change in 2022.

We’ve seen some of this already in 2021 with NFTs that cater to art collectors and sports enthusiasts. We’ll see it branch out into other areas such as wine, sneakers and other collectibles, bringing in new users.

For the mass consumer, understanding these technologies can be challenging, but when NFTs are tied to something they know and are enthusiastic about, it’ll start growing among that community. Keep an eye on enterprising companies pushing into these areas – specifically collectibles – as a way to broaden the reach of crypto and blockchain in 2022.

A surge in crypto apps

Crypto is considered technically complicated to hold, and for the layperson, even the terminology is difficult to understand. Crypto and blockchain need to be easy to use and understand before mass adoption can happen, and that’s what we’ll see in 2022.

Cheaper blockchains are allowing new users to onboard with DApps, which are decentralized applications that run on a P2P or blockchain network. They don’t require users to submit their personal information. It’ll start with global digital asset payments, recurring buys, or tipping, but will grow to include multiple types of transactions, which will only increase user adoption.

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