TechCrunch+ roundup: Plaid’s staffing story, RevOps for B2B sales, demo day’s demise

There’s no textbook-approved technique for building a startup engineering team: in the early days, everyone wears several hats.

But when a company enters its growth phase, the recruiting process is systematized, new hires are sorted into discrete units, and a thin layer of management is applied to keep everything on track.

When Jean-Denis Greze accepted the CTO role at Plaid in 2017, the fintech company was still financing its Series A had “about 20 engineers who were still trying to feel their way to product-market fit,” writes enterprise reporter Ron Miller.

Today, Plaid’s engineering team numbers 350 people.

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In an interview, Greze explained how Plaid moved away from an all-hands-on-deck ethos to a system where contributors had clearly defined roles they weren’t locked into.

I asked Ron what surprised him the most while reporting this story, and he said it was the fact that Visa’s failed attempt to purchase Plaid last year made it easier for them to hire new technical talent.

Suddenly, “people who didn’t want to be part of a startup and wanted to solve bigger problems around scale and security were willing to talk to them,” says Ron.

“Whereas before, they felt Plaid was a little too small for their ambitions.”

Today and tomorrow, we’ll have team coverage of Y Combinator’s Winter 2022 Demo Day, including a selection of staff favorites, so be sure to check the site each afternoon.

Thanks very much for reading TechCrunch+ this week!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch+

2 reasons why demo days are dead

Image Credits: Martin Harvey (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Demo days are a showcase for tech media, but does this performative Silicon Valley tradition still benefit founders and investors?

In a guest post for TC+, 22 Ventures co-founder and chair Michael Redd shares two factors that make demo days less relevant: many startups sign funding deals before the big show, and founders are more interested in working with value-add investors.

“Simply getting rid of demo day won’t help founders find, or let investors offer, that value,” Reed writes. “What we need is to better understand why demo day falls short and how to source deals on a much more intimate level.”

Crypto mining is approaching a key inflection point

Cryptocurrency Mining Rig

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

The Ethereum community is bracing for a sea change.

A long-anticipated decision to move from a proof-of-work consensus protocol to one that favors proof of stake will force many to mine other cryptocurrencies, writes Warren Rogers, CFO at Blockware Solutions.

“Ethereum miners have a very high risk that their machines become obsolete overnight,” as PoS requires specialized hardware, which could leave Bitcoin as the major cryptocurrency of choice.

“While it is possible that this could be true in the short term, in the long run, this transition sets the precedent for being able to materially change the underlying protocol,” says Rogers.

Use RevOps to develop a customer-led approach to B2B sales

Conceptual image of a gold piggy bank and stethoscope isolated on pure white, selective focus on the piggy bank

Image Credits: malamus-UK (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Employees are hired to do one specific job, which is why even early-stage startups can become siloed.

Companies that find ways to integrate their sales flow and customer success operations have an advantage, writes Erol Toker, founder and CEO of

“Optimizing your unique path to better connect with customers requires having a cross-discipline team that’s focused solely on that objective and sees the client as their guiding star,” Toker says.

“We call that RevOps.”

Improving discovery for NFTs will amplify digital creators and marketplaces

Woman looking inside treasure chest on deserted beach.

Image Credits: Dougal Waters (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

It’s easy to build a recommendation algorithm for a business that sells jackets online, but when selling NFTs, optimizing for limitless inventory, anonymous customers, and opaque consumer behavior becomes magnitudes harder.

These may be just growing pains for NFT marketplaces, but the current state of play harms digital creators, as their art becomes another drop in the ocean, writes Alexandre Robicquet, co-founder and CEO of Crossing Minds.

The key to solving this problem, says Robicquet, is to build a system that promotes discovery of NFTs:

“If a recommendation algorithm can ensure that buyers can meaningfully discover NFTs they love, or think there’s investment potential in, or both, and if it can keep buyers coming back for more, then artists will reap the benefits for years down the line.”

IT can play a major role in driving sustainability

plant growing on a computer circuit board

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

Data centers consume approximately one percent of the world’s electricity each year, but considering the fact a recent heat wave in Antarctica just cost us another ice shelf, every little bit counts.

In an in-depth post, Cloudbolt CEO Jeff Kukowski shares multiple strategies that reduce IT energy consumption by employing intelligent automation, increasing visibility, reducing shadow IT, and optimizing CI/CD pipelines.

“The sum of many small changes will lead to the transformative improvements that must be made,” he says.

Kaiyo gets $36M Series B for its secondhand furniture marketplace

Furniture is one of the largest waste categories in the U.S., generating more than 12 million tons of waste in landfills every year, according to 2018 data by the Environmental Protection Agency. Kaiyo, an online marketplace for secondhand furniture, says it has helped the impact by keeping nearly three million pounds out of landfills since its launch in 2015. 

Kaiyo founder and CEO Alpay Koralturk said in an interview with TechCrunch that he was familiar with the hassle of buying and selling furniture after moving five times in five years in NYC. He and his wife, who are passionate about sustainability, tried buying secondhand to furnish the apartment when they moved into a new place in 2014. Koralturk said it was such a frustrating experience that he thought there needed to be an easier way — something convenient for the customer but ultimately better for the planet.

“At Kaiyo, our mission is to make great design accessible to everyone. Furniture is one of the largest investments consumers make, yet historically, re-selling has posed a significant challenge, making it a major contributor to landfill waste,” said Koralturk.

Koralturk founded Kaiyo, formerly known as Furnishare, which started out as a rental service before pivoting to the current marketplace model. 

Kaiyo said Tuesday it has raised a $36 million Series B in equity and debt financing to reinforce growing consumer demand for secondhand furniture and accelerate growth and market expansion across the country, starting from California. The new funding, which brings its total raised to $50 million, was led by Edison Partners and included participation from returning backers Moderne Ventures, Lerer Hippeau and Max Ventures. 

The Series B round comes on the back of its rapid growth. Over the past two years, Kaiyo experienced more than 100% growth in terms of revenue year over year due to growing interest in the circular economy and pandemic-induced supply chain issues, according to Koralturk, who did not disclose the revenue number.  

Kaiyo’s customers can buy and sell pre-owned and environmental-friendly furniture from brands including Restoration Hardware, Design Within Reach, West Elm, Room & Board and more, with white-globe delivery in a matter of days.   

Kaiyo provides fast, free pickup for sellers and cleaning, photography, storage and delivery to buyers — all at no cost to its sellers. Its unique feature is that sellers receive an instant offer immediately after their appointment is accepted. They can cash out without waiting for their item to sell. Kaiyo is the first in the industry to provide this option, Koralturk said told TechCrunch. Another unique feature is high-resolution photography of the actual item for sale, unlike all other marketplaces that rely on stock photos or those provided by the seller, Koralturk said. Its buyers can zoom in and view minor scratches and defects and verify tags and marks. All items Kaiyo features are professionally cleaned and stored in its temperature-controlled warehouses before delivery, Koralturk noted. 

Additionally, the startup uses its proprietary algorithm to identify the items most likely to sell in its marketplace and set pricing, Koralturk said.  


Kaiyo’s secondhand furniture. Image Credits: Kaiyo

Kaiyo currently has hundreds of thousands of registered customers and more than 160 employees, according to Koralturk. 

Koralturk told TechCrunch he believes the existing secondhand market, which is highly inefficient and underpenetrated, is expected to grow considerably.

The furniture resale industry is projected to reach $16.6 billion in sales by 2025, from 9.9 billion in 2018. 

“Kaiyo is disrupting furniture re-commerce by solving for both seller and customer pain points and creating a frictionless experience,” said Daniel Herscovici, growth equity investor and partner at Edison Partners. “Their vision has transformed the circular economy for used furniture and created a next-generation home décor marketplace with sustainability and environmental impact at its core.” 

Disappointed with subpar soundbars, Devialet releases high-end soundbar

Meet the Devialet Dione, a brand new speaker from high-end speaker manufacturer Devialet. With this new product, the company is entering a new market — home cinema sound systems. The Devialet Dione is an all-in-one soundbar compatible with Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 and it costs $2,400 (€2,190).

“We are at the high end of the market but we have a product that is an all-in-one audio system,” Devialet CEO Franck Lebouchard told me. What he means by that is that you shouldn’t compare the Dione with an average soundbar.

For instance if you’re trying to find an equivalent device in Sonos’ lineup, Lebouchard says you should compare Devialet’s speaker with the Sonos Arc soundbar paired with two Sonos One speakers and a Sonos Sub. And that package currently costs more than $2,000 as well.

“The tech achievement is that we managed to put everything in a single device. It means that we had to make 17 speakers fit, which is unheard of,” Lebouchard added.

The company set up a testing room in its office in Paris and I could listen to the Devialet Dione with a large TV. We tried the speaker with the first few scenes of Mad Max: Fury Road. We also listened to some music.

And, sure enough, the speaker sounds great. It produces some immersive sound and it feels like you’re sitting in a movie theater rather than in front of a TV.

This isn’t a full review. I’m not an audio professional so I don’t know how the Devialet soundbar sounds like when you compare it with the current top-of-the-line soundbars. I would recommend listening to the Devialet Dione in a store before buying it anyway.

“In a Sennheiser soundbar, you’ll find 12 speakers. We put 17 speakers. It’s not completely magical, but when you can fit five more speakers in it, you can hear it,” Lebouchard said.

Image Credits: Devialet

The device itself is a dense soundbar. It weighs 12kg and it is quite long — 1.2 meters. You should think about getting a speaker like that if you already have a very large 55-inch TV.

When it comes to design, it is a bit more discreet than previous Devialet speakers. The signature egg-shaped Devialet design has been replaced with a more traditional polygon with sharp edges and corners.

The only thing that stands out is a tiny sphere at the center of the device. There’s a speaker inside that sphere and it pivots. This way, if you want to fix the soundbar to the wall, you can rotate the sphere so that it’s always facing you.

Inside the device, there are 17 different speakers — nine full-range drivers and eight rectangle subwoofers. Those subwoofers have been designed to fit the specifications of a soundbar. Again, what makes the Devialet Dione stand apart is that you don’t need a separate subwoofer (or satellite speakers).

The device also has its own digital-to-analog converter. In fact, the Devialet Dione uses the same system on a chip that you can find in the company’s flagship products, the Phantom product line. Devialet has multiple patents for this specific chip and promises a sound with zero background noise, zero saturation and zero distorsion.

And if you’re playing a movie that doesn’t support Dolby Atmos, the Devialet Dione can “upscale” the sound signal to 5.1.2 audio. There’s also a live balance feature that helps you hear dialogues.

When it comes to connectivity, you plug the Devialet Dione to your TV using an HDMI cable with support for eARC and CEC. You can also use the soundbar as a standalone speaker to listen to music.

The Devialet Dione connects to your local network using Wi-Fi or Ethernet. It also supports Bluetooth 5.0 and uses the same Devialet app. You don’t necessarily have to use the app to play some music as you can use Spotify Connect or AirPlay 2.

Image Credits: Devialet

Not just for audiophiles

The company thinks there’s a market opportunity with the Devialet Dione as streaming services release blockbuster movies on their services from day one. “We realized that it’s a market that is taking off,” Lebouchard said.

“Our typical client is someone who has a beautiful 55-inch TV or bigger. And they want sound quality to be as good as image quality. It’s a bit different from the typical Devialet client, who is someone who listens to a lot of music,” he added.

In 12 months, if the company wants to reach its business goals, the Devialet Dione should represent 20% of the company’s revenue. And every time the startup launches a new product, it can lean on its dense network of points of sale. There are currently 1,900 Devialet points of sale around the world.

While the company has stopped talking about funding rounds since its Series A in 2015, Devialet has raised another €70 million across two rounds. The last funding round was a €50 million round with the company’s existing investors in January 2020.

Devialet is launching the Devialet Dione today in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Pre-orders also start today for other markets.