October 26, 2017
Alex Wilhelm is the Editor in Chief of Crunchbase News, covering the intersection of startups and money.

Morning Report: Chamath Palihapitiya may want to invest in your company before he meets you, and other signs of the times.

Happy Thursday and welcome to Earnings-Pa-Looza, a day in which all your local tech bloggers pretend to have broken fingers so that they can knock off early to get out of the rush.

Follow Crunchbase News on Twitter & Facebook

But all that doesn’t happen until the markets close, so we are going to focus on something a bit closer to home for ourselves. Namely, venture capital.

As we’ve written about nearly ad nauseum these past few weeks, the venture market — both global and domestic — is doing just fine, with deals and dollars flowing to a huge number of budding technology shops. But that performance is not enough for every investor and is certainly not enough for one investor in particular.

As we stated before, Palihapitiya has plans to change things.

His newest project is dubbed Capital-as-a-Service. In its explanation of the concept, Palihapitiya’s Social Capital argues that it isn’t “true that great ideas come only from Silicon Valley,” and that it isn’t “true that data can’t be applied to venture.” Those are uncontroversial, correct views.

The group’s solution to both — this is when Capital-as-a-Service comes in — is what it calls a “new operating system for early-stage investing,” which will “democratize access to capital” for companies around the globe.

If that all sounds like fluff, I don’t blame you. Happily, TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos has the information we need regarding how the concept works in practice:

Entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world can fill out a questionnaire, then submit to Social Capital revenue figures and either raw engagement or transaction logs (or both), including sometimes by granting the firm direct access to the cloud services they use. It’s entirely self-serve. If Social Capital likes what it sees, it will write a check of up to $250,000. If it doesn’t, it will at least deliver feedback to the startup regarding tweaks it might make to its business model.

Putting aside worries we might have about accounting standards and accuracy on the financial side, what is notable about the above is that if it does work — and you can imagine why it might not — it could upend early-stage financing. (Notably, Palihapitiya is also working to tear up the rulebook on late-stage funding regarding the IPO process, but that’s for another day.)

Call it the Uber for capital. The PayPal for capital? Who knows, but even as the seed market disappoints, there is interest in making it move faster.

From the Crunchbase Daily:

Seed funds like AI and the Midwest

  • Fewer North American seed funds have launched in 2017 compared to year-ago levels. But those that are venturing out share some common interests, including a penchant for artificial intelligence, a taste for hard tech and a stepped-up focus on Midwestern startups, a Crunchbase News analysis finds.

Vision Fund claims $3B in profits

  • SoftBank chief Masayoshi Son disclosed before his biggest investor, the government of Saudi Arabia, that his firm’s Vision Fund has taken home $3 billion in profit, Recode reports. Son also said that the fund, the largest-ever venture investment vehicle, earned about a 22 percent return over the last five months, based on current valuations.

Social Capital takes data over meetings

  • Early stage VC Social Capital is taking data-driven investing to a new level. The Silicon Valley firm rolled out a new system for portfolio company selection that it calls capital-as-a-service. The approach involves moving away from face-to-face meetings in favor of a data-centric model that allows partners to move forward on investments before even speaking to founders.