A robotic taxi drove me home a few nights ago, and it was just fine.

As it carried me through Golden Gate Park at a steady 23 miles per hour (slowing down to 6 mph for every speed bump), I felt like a packet of information being delivered across a network.

Since our last robotics investor survey in February 2020, Figure emerged from stealth with its bipedal humanoid robot, and Boston Dynamics’ Atlas became a parkour expert.

Autonomous tractors, semi trucks and warehouse restocking bots have gone from concept to reality. Is robotics mainstream now?

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“The time in between has arguably been the most important years for the sector,” writes hardware editor Brian Heater, who asked 13 investors about several topics, including robotics as a service, emerging consumer products, and how much of a role it might play in addressing climate change:

Milo Werner, general partner, The Engine
Abe Murray, managing partner, Alley Robotics Ventures
Kelly Chen, partner, DCVC
Neel Mehta, venture investor, G2 Ventures
Oliver Keown, managing director, Intuitive Ventures
Rohit Sharma, partner, True Ventures
Helen Greiner, advisor, Cybernetix Ventures
Kira Noodleman, partner, Bee Ventures
Dayna Grayson, co-founder and general partner, Construct Capital
Paul Willard, partner, Grep
Cyril Ebersweiler, general partner, SOSV
Claire Delaunay, private investor
Peter Barrett, co-founder and general partner, Playground Global

Thanks very much for reading TC+ this week!

Walter Thompson
Editorial Manager, TechCrunch+

Vote for TechCrunch in the Webby Awards!

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Two TechCrunch podcasts, Chain Reaction and Found, have each been nominated for Webby Awards in the Best Technology Podcast category.

Cast your vote before Thursday, April 20!

4 SaaS engagement metrics that attract investors

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Past performance doesn’t always predict future results, but it’s the best place to find customer retention stats that have investor appeal.

According to Oleksandr Yaroshenko, head of investments and strategy at edtech startup Headway, engagement rates for existing customers are “the best predictors for resubscription.”

In this post, he explores gamification strategy and shares ideas for building a “golden cohort” that represents your target audience.

Ask Sophie: How many employment green cards are available each year?

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

I’m trying to figure out how long I have to wait for a green card.

I have two questions for you: How many employment green cards in each category are available every year? How do I make sense of the Visa Bulletin?

— Standing By in San Jose

Secondary market trackers are lighting up a traditionally dark deal environment

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Startup valuations are down, but by how much?

Instead of waiting for founders to launch their next fundraising rounds, savvy players are watching the secondary markets, “where investors can buy and sell existing stakes in a startup or fund,” reports Rebecca Szkutak.

“These deals were traditionally harder to track than primary venture capital deals, as they don’t generally get announced, but a new fleet of startups is shining light on them,” such as Caplight, Notice, Birel and Hive Markets.

“I was so appalled at how fragmented and busted the data was, even as a broker who was active every day,” said Notice founder Tyson Hendricksen. “It was really hard to figure out what was going on.”

VCs still think work software is a wise investment

Image Credits: NicoElNino / Getty Images

As employers and workers come to grips with the new reality of remote and hybrid offices, investors are continuing to fund startups that produce work software, according to a Deloitte report released this week.

Kyle Wiggers says several trends are driving VC interest in the future of work: In a down market, investors are looking for sustainable growth, “which tend[s] to be found among longer-lasting, ironclad business-to-business contracts for software tool suites.”

MassMutual launches $100 million fund to invest in diverse founders

Image Credits: We Are / Getty Images

Two years after launching its first $50 million MM Catalyst Fund to support diverse founders, insurance company MassMutual is doubling down.

Dominic-Madori Davis interviewed Liz Roberts, the company’s head of impact investments, to learn more about their new $100 million impact fund and discuss how past monies have been allocated.

“We would like to have more peers investing alongside us with this sort of thesis and understanding,” said Roberts. “We’re very small in a large opportunity.”

Pitch Deck Teardown: Diamond Standard’s $30M Series A deck

Diamond Standard landed a $30 million Series A for its blockchain-based investment platform last year and shared its 11-slide deck with TechCrunch+:

Cover and mission slide
Summary slide
Solution slide (“Introducing the smart commodity”)
Problem slide (“Diamonds are severely underallocated”)
Market Opportunity (marked as slide 4 on the deck)
Roadmap slide (“How do we make a diamond commodity,” marked as slide 5 on the deck)
Product slide 1 (“Diamond Standard Exchange”)
Product slide 2 (“Diamond Standard Recycling”)
ESG slide (“Diamonds are a powerful ESG investment”)
Founder slide
Organization slide

CeFi and DeFi in the face of regulation

Classen Rafael / EyeEm via Getty Images

Will the FTX debacle trigger a regulatory clampdown across crypto?

“Most expect the worst,” says Ira Lam, chief legal officer at SuperLayer. “A reactive blanket crackdown on all aspects of crypto, framed as necessary to protect the public from future bad actors, seems imminent.”

In this detailed market analysis, Lam studies the differences between decentralized and centralized finance systems with an eye on the different ways risk manifests in each environment.

“While it may be a long time until we see significant movement toward consumer protections in crypto, one thing is certain: CeFi and DeFi cannot exist without each other.”

TechCrunch+ roundup: VC robotics survey, Visa Bulletin update, SaaS engagement metrics by Walter Thompson originally published on TechCrunch