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Genome Compiler builds software for designing synthetic life forms. Genome Compiler provides an all-in-one software platform for genetic engineers, molecular and synthetic biologists. The company supplies a set of tools for DNA design & visualization, data management and collaboration. Genome Compiler is delivering a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) computer-aided design (CAD) and collaboration platform for Synthetic Biology.

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Zuckerberg says coverage of Facebook painted a 'false picture'

Oct 6, 2021

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC ) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with. October 5, 2021 Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen had her day in Congress on Tuesday. In the process, she prompted many lawmakers, who have so far failed to rein in the platform for several years, to say they were newly determined to do something about the company. Although Haugen's information had contributed greatly to a series of damaging reports on Facebook, her testimony on Tuesday added more details and went even further in confirming company practices and putting data on existing concerns. Here were the top revelations: Haugen addressed social media addiction, saying Facebook studies a metric called "problematic use," which occurs when users report they can't control their use even when it materially hurts their health, school work or other aspects of their lives. "[5%] to 6% of 14-year-olds have the self-awareness to admit [to] both those questions," Haugen said, adding that the peak of such self-reports occurred at that age. She suggested, however, that those figures underestimate the true scale of the problem. The hearing focused especially on the safety of kids and teens, and many of Haugen's revelations zeroed in on the topic. She was quick to point out she didn't work specifically on those teams, and Facebook attempted to discredit her testimony on that basis. She made clear, however, that she directly drew her conclusions from Facebook's own research. For example, Facebook likes to claim that kids under 13 aren't on the platform, simply because they're not allowed to be — even as the company touts its success in removing tweens and young kids. But, Haugen said, the company can make good guesses about how many kids are on the site who shouldn't be: Research "discovers things like up to 10[%] to 15% of 10-year-olds… may be on Facebook or Instagram." Outside organizations, researchers and even lawmakers who have tried to study how Facebook affects users say that Instagram pushed pro-anorexia content to test accounts purporting to be teens. As part of what's called "proactive incident response," Facebook does its own internal tests on these issues, Haugen said. "They have literally re-created that experiment themselves and confirmed, yes, this happens to people. Facebook knows that they are leading young users to anorexia content." Even when Facebook has turned on artificial intelligence to curtail certain kinds of content, Haugen said, the systems have a poor track record of actually identifying posts on topics such as COVID-19 misinformation: "It's still in the raw form for 80[%], 90% of even that sensitive content." Haugen alleged Facebook misled advertisers who were concerned, in the wake of the George Floyd protests last summer and the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, that their content might end up near problematic posts. "Facebook said in their talking points that they gave to advertisers, 'We're doing everything in our power to make this safer,' or, 'We take down all the hate speech when we find it,'" she said. "That was not true. They get 3[%] to 5% of hate speech." The stereotype of the lonely older user who gets tricked by misinformation has some truth to it, Haugen said. "Facebook knows that the people who are exposed to the most misinformation are people who are recently widowed, divorced, moved to a new city [or] are isolated in some other way." Haugen said several times that teams devoted to policing controversial content were understaffed, which she said created "implicit discouragement from having better detection systems" for the kinds of content the teams are supposed to monitor. She spoke especially about serving on a counterespionage team, saying: "At any given time, our team could only handle a third of the cases that we knew about. We knew that if we built even a basic detector, we would likely have many more cases." Haugen also said she's "speaking to other parts of Congress" about issues she tracked as part of the counterespionage team, such as Chinese government surveillance of Uighurs. She added: "Facebook's very aware that this is happening on the platform." Make it worse to make it better In response to the parade of damaging claims, members of the committee asked Haugen to outline potential fixes for the platform's many problems. Her overall message? We might need to make Facebook a little worse to make it a little better. Platforms, including Facebook, have long tried to make user actions as effortless as possible — they remove "friction." But some friction, Haugen suggested, may be a good thing, and perhaps we need to slow down some of the things Facebook has long tried to make faster and easier for us. On Facebook, it's quick and easy to catch up with an old high-school friend, see your new niece or nephew before you can travel across the country, register your feelings on political news or plan who's bringing what to the neighborhood barbecue. While you're there, Facebook gets eyeballs to advertise to, which gives the company ample incentive to keep you on its platforms — and keep you coming back. Unfortunately, Haugen contends, the algorithms that are constantly keeping us tuned in are also pushing us toward more extreme content . She said mainstream political parties have complained they need to post more and more aggressive positions, as the algorithms find content that generates the angriest responses, shares and comments is the most reliable at keeping users online. Facebook's systems, she said, also prioritize the kinds of fabulous-lifestyle posts on Instagram that tend to make teen users feel unhappy by comparison. And algorithmic amplification has long played a role in making wild falsehoods go viral online. The solution, Haugen said, includes amending Section 230 — the legal provision that shields online platforms from liability over what users post — so that companies like Facebook have to share in some legal responsibility for what their algorithms promote. She also talked about slowing down the sharing of news by prompting users to read articles before sharing them, as Twitter now does. Ideally, she said, Facebook would return to using a more chronological timeline, showing users content mostly because it's recent, not because it makes them want to leave angry comments, which in turn pushes others to respond with fury. Haugen compared Facebook to a car — which seems to be the chosen metaphor even of its defenders these days — pointing out state and federal regulators have pretty strict rules for automobiles, which rely on a ton of insight and access into the actual workings of the machines we put on the road. But the metaphor has even more resonance: Haugen was, in essence, calling for the installation of rumble strips and stop signs around misinformation, while allowing people to zoom more quickly down the highway of social media when they're sharing recipes with grandma or connecting with other cancer survivors. Information around kids' health would travel more slowly, the same way we put literal speed restrictions in front of actual schools. Everything from our kids' mental health to our society's ability to confront COVID-19 and work across political divisions is at stake, Haugen said, adding that the changes don't have to be the end of Facebook or its revenue. "A lot of the changes that I'm talking about are not going to make Facebook an unprofitable company," she said at one point. "It just won't be a ludicrously profitable company." Interestingly, Haugen said she did not agree with calls to break up Facebook, arguing that its profits, particularly from advertising on Instagram, supported the much-needed research into the effects of the company's algorithm on society. In addition to changing the incentives that Facebook uses to keep us devoted to social media — regardless of whether the content it pushes is bad for society — Haugen stressed the importance of transparency. She called for the government to establish a new regulatory body with oversight of Facebook and for more opportunities for independent researchers to figure out if the company is truly living up to its public statements to users, investors and lawmakers. Members of the committee listened, far more respectfully than they often do in such hearings, to Haugen's prescriptions. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who led the hearing, suggested the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission should already be taking up the issue of any potential lies under existing authorities right now. "Facebook appears to have misled the public and investors, and if that's correct, it ought to face real penalties," he said. And in the name of further transparency, Blumenthal urged Mark Zuckerberg to come testify, yet again, to answer Haugen's claims. From Your Site Articles October 4, 2021 As PwC’s US Products & Technology Chief Revenue and Growth Officer, Suneet Dua is responsible for driving more than $1 billion in product revenue and executing PwC’s product revenue strategy. He’s focused on driving innovation, delivering world-class, forward-thinking products and digitally upskilling the workforce and society at large.With 20+ years of technology, media and entertainment industry experience, he’s positioned as a catalyst for organizational transformation and delivers on the firm’s promise to solve the world’s most important problems. Additionally, he launched Salesforce and client-focused centers of excellence, such as our Cybersecurity centers in Israel, Singapore and India––all to improve the way PwC serves its clients.During his tenure as US Chief Product Leader, Suneet, and his team, played a critical role in designing and implementing digital tools that upskilled more than 55,000 of its US employees, which led to the development of PwC’s digital learning platform, ProEdge, that addresses the digital skills gap crisis facing today’s workforce. He also serves as a board member of PwC’s Trifecta Consulting (US, China, Japan and Mexico).Previously, Suneet served on PwC’s US leadership team and was Global Client Market Leader for PwC’s Global Network. September 20, 2021 The pandemic has forced many business leaders to realize that the skills their organization will need in the future will not be the ones they've needed in the past. The quick shift to working remotely exposed the gaps in the capabilities of many organizations and their people. It's also led to employees demanding more autonomy and wanting to engage in more strategic work. At the same time, more companies are automating day-to-day tasks, which provides their staff with more time to innovate and focus on growing the company. With that in mind, organizations are now looking for people who have a mix of soft, technical and digital skills, according to PwC's Talent Trends 2020 report. Going forward, those soft skills––critical thinking, clear communication, empathy and more––will become increasingly important. Creating a workforce with the right mix of skills has always been a challenge for companies, and 74% of CEOs are concerned about finding skilled workers. That problem will likely only increase as the definition of work, and the needs of employees, evolve in a post-pandemic environment. So, what can companies do? There are three main ways businesses can manage skills shortages: hire new talent, reskill current staff or upskill employees. Here's the breakdown of each approach. For companies, it's easier to close skills gaps through upskilling because employees are learning how to deftly use digital tools and are developing a better understanding of the business, its changing processes and the jobs that will be needed for the future. Hiring new talent (and why it can be problematic) Companies often hire new talent to acquire the skills they need, rather than training their current staff. It may seem like the natural solution, but there are potential issues with this approach. These days there simply aren't enough people in the market with the skills most organizations need. Even if you can find talent with the experience you need for your business, those skills may not evolve as quickly as your company does. According to the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Future of Jobs Report 2020 the core skills required by companies will change by 40% in the next five years and 50% of all employees will need reskilling. At that pace, even new hires will require training more frequently and within a shorter period of time. It can also cost companies thousands of dollars to hire a new employee, in addition to the time spent trying to find the right person. Beyond that, there's an additional productivity gap between onboarding and integrating those new employees into your organization. It is important to take into consideration that an employee who's worked for your organization for years has an in-depth understanding of both your culture and your customers. Their institutional knowledge makes them comfortable with your corporate structure, adept at using your company's tools, systems and the vocabulary that may be unique to your company. Reality of reskilling Training can deliver huge benefits to the organizations that do it well. In fact, 66% of employers expect an ROI for upskilling and reskilling within one year. But while both are important, they mean different things. Reskilling involves teaching employees new skills so they can perform different jobs in the future. It often requires looking for people with "adjacent skills" that are close to the new capabilities your organization needs. Reskilling provides a learning experience that enables a lateral move from one job to another. Companies estimate that, by 2024, approximately 40% of workers will require up to six months of reskilling. And nearly all business leaders, 94%, expect employees to pick up new skills on the job. Employees also want to see more significant investments in their development, with a recent PwC survey finding that 77% of workers are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain. Why upskilling is essential Upskilling goes further than reskilling by delivering continuous education that allows your people to advance their careers in more meaningful ways. It's more focused on helping staff think strategically, critically and holistically, across the entire organization, while teaching them how to use tools that can help automate day-to-day tasks. These automation efforts can free up time for employees to try new roles and focus on strategic objectives. For companies, it's easier to close skills gaps through upskilling because employees are learning how to deftly use digital tools and are developing a better understanding of the business, its changing processes and the jobs that will be needed for the future. This allows your people to take an active role in driving innovation and transformation. You're also teaching employees how to learn, which makes your staff more resilient and much better prepared for an accelerated pace of change. Revolutionize your approach to talent development When you consider whether you will need to upskill, reskill or hire, the answer may be "all of the above." It is estimated that upskilling will lead to the net creation of 5.3 million new jobs by 2030, according to the Upskilling for Shared Prosperity report from the WEF. Over that time, human labor is expected to be increasingly complemented by new technology, rather than replaced by it. The number of jobs that require creativity, innovation and empathy will likely rise, as will the need for information technology skills. No organization can make itself entirely future-proof, but by improving your talent acquisition process and creating a culture of ongoing learning, you can prepare your employees—and your business—for the workplace of tomorrow. To do this, you need a platform that can help you quickly identify skill gaps and find upskilling and reskilling opportunities. The right solution can help you fill those gaps faster and more cost-effectively than hiring ever could. Invest in tomorrow PwC has long believed in upskilling, which, for us, involves citizen-led innovation . We continue to upskill our entire global network by developing and sharing technologies to better support our clients. Our employees are increasing their digital acumen as work changes and applying their new skills right away. To date, PwC staff have used their newfound skills to build over 6,400 automations , visualizations and bots . Our employees have downloaded these digital assets more than 5 million times and have automated more than 6.5 million hours of work. While these results speak for themselves, studies show that 82% of CEOs still haven't invested in upskilling programs yet, citing challenges associated with defining the skills they need, motivating employees to learn/apply learning, a lack of resources to conduct upskilling and the overall effectiveness of their learning function. ProEdge is an option to consider since it addresses many of the challenges that CEOs are concerned about. It's an end-to-end workforce planning and upskilling platform designed for digital business transformation and citizen-led innovation. It can accelerate the upskilling journey, close skill gaps from within and help organizations stay competitive by giving people the experience they need to innovate at scale. This unique platform allows you to pinpoint critical skill gaps and effectively help close them with automatically generated personalized learning pathways. Leading curated content, coursework and hands-on learning empower your workforce to make an immediate impact through citizen-led innovation. Access to digital tools enables solution-building that scales across teams and quickly translates to the automation of an employee's day-to-day tasks. This is how ProEdge helps your people to perform at their highest level: giving them the power to help transform your entire organization. Keep ReadingShow less Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel ) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at or via Signal at (510)731-8429. October 5, 2021 In the spring of 2017, a group of bank and fintech executives gathered in Park City to hash out their differences over one of the most contentious issues in financial services: data. The meeting in Utah's ski country treaded on touchy territory: the companies' long-standing disputes over data. Banks have complained that startups were essentially hacking into their systems to grab their customers' data through screen scraping, while fintechs accused banks of selfishly restricting access to information that legally belongs to account holders. The meeting led to the creation of Financial Data Exchange, or FDX, a nonprofit consortium of more than 200 banks, fintechs and financial institutions, including Chase, Citi, PayPal, Plaid, Finicity and Experian. Its goal: to come up with the technology standards for accessing and sharing consumer financial data. It's tedious, technical work which has gained urgency as the financial services industry braces for new rules around consumer financial data. "Either we're going to resolve it, or the regulators are going to resolve it," Finicity CEO Steve Smith, who initiated the 2017 meeting and is now FDX chairman, told Protocol. "If we can't get together in a way that actually drives innovation and full data access, then the regulators will just step in and regulate around this." The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is expected to begin deliberations soon on new rules for giving consumers access to their financial data, especially with last week's confirmation of Rohit Chopra as the agency's new head . The new rules will be based on Section 1033 of the Dodd-Frank Act, a 2010 law which said "very clearly that the user owns the data, and they can direct that data to be sent, wherever they want it to be sent," Smith said. But Dodd-Frank 1033 did not spell out how this will be implemented. That's where regulators come in. FDX is not trying to come up with regulatory proposals or to advocate for specific proposals for what has also been described as open banking or open finance. "We're not a trade group, we don't lobby or do any advocacy on policy," Tom Carpenter, the group's public affairs director, told Protocol. "Open finance has a 'what' and a 'how.' The 'what' are the big policy questions. The 'how' is well, how does the data move? We're the 'how.' We stay truly in the technical space." He compared what FDX is trying to do to the creation of a widely used wireless technology standard. "We see ourselves in the Bluetooth role," he told Protocol, noting how the tech industry managed to agree on a common set of standards for short-range wireless. "You make the headset, and then we'll certify it will let you use the symbol to say, 'Yep, this is going to work.'" FDX is focused on two key questions, he said: "How do we get consumer data moving in a secure API-based way? And how do we move beyond the old days of screen scraping?" Screen scraping refers to one of the key ways fintech companies gain access to data. Consumers who want to sign up for an app or make an online transaction are asked to share their usernames and passwords to give the app or ecommerce site access to their financial information. The technology, which was pioneered by companies like Yodlee (now owned by Envestnet), emerged in the late 1990s when API connectivity was not that widely used. Even though it involved consumers giving a third party access to a bank's systems, usually without the bank's permission or knowledge, it was initially tolerated and even accepted by many in the financial services industry. "I'm not sure screen scraping was ever okay," Gareth Gaston, U.S. Bank's chief digital officer for platforms and capabilities, told Protocol. "It was never a good thing for customers to be giving out their usernames and passwords." But he said "screen scraping was just the way things were done in the '90s," in the early days of fintech. Alex Johnson, director of fintech research at Cornerstone Advisors, said banks initially didn't see screen scraping as a threat. He said the attitude in the beginning was, "Yeah, 10% to 15% of our customers want to use an app to do all this budgeting and that's fine. It's not ever going to be a huge competitive threat. It's not going to be a huge drain in terms of people hitting our servers all the time logging in." That changed after the 2007-2008 financial crisis. A fresh wave of fintech startups introduced new apps and services that led to a surge of consumers giving startups access to their bank accounts. Smith said the success of the new fintech apps, powered by more powerful data access technology, "eclipsed everybody's initial expectations." Finicity CEO Steve Smith says the industry needs to come together. Photo: Finicity Banks subsequently started to push back harder on screen scraping. This was underscored by JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon 's comments in a January analyst call when he criticized new players that he said were "examples of unfair competition." He even mentioned the name of a fintech powerhouse. Dimon blasted "people who improperly use data that's been given to them, like Plaid." Plaid became a fintech powerhouse through data aggregation technology that gave many startups unprecedentedly easy tools to access consumer data. That led to a wave of new fintech innovation. John Pitts, Plaid's head of policy, said the company's services focus primarily on API access, but turn to screen scraping for the many banks that don't have public or even private APIs. Things change fast. Six months after Dimon's remark, Pitts noted, JPMorgan Chase was an investor in Plaid's series D round. Despite the combative posture suggested by Dimon's comment, major financial institutions have actually started finding ways to work with data aggregators and fintech companies, including improving the way customers give apps access to their data. "At the end of the day, you know, nobody really had any success in switching it off," Gaston of U.S. Bank said. "It doesn't do the customer any good." Instead of picking fights with fintechs, major banks have started developing their own API-based data access technology. In 2018, Fidelity Investments, a founding member of FDX, launched Akoya Data Access Network to "overcome the challenges of screen scraping," a spokesperson told Protocol. Last year, 11 major banks, including JPMorgan Chase and U.S. Bank, joined the network as equal owners of Akoya, which formally joined FDX on its own in 2020. Banks and financial institutions have also partnered with fintechs through data access agreements. In May, U.S. Bank announced that it was working with Plaid to offer a more secure API-based access to customer data. Wells Fargo announced a similar agreement with Yodlee in September 2020. Johnson of Cornerstone Advisors said banks are "moving more proactively" because most now accept the reality that fintech "is here to stay" and resistance could be bad for business: "If your bank account is the reason why all of these fintech apps that you really like using don't work, pretty soon you're gonna start asking yourself as a consumer, should I switch banks?" There's also a strong consensus in the financial services industry that screen scraping has to go. "Sunsetting screen scraping completely is the primary concern," Gaston said. Pitts agreed: "We are in the API business and in the business of eliminating the need for screen scraping." But Carpenter said agreeing on a common API standard is critical; otherwise they'll end up with "a million different plugins." Pitts said that could turn into an "unbelievably expensive" scenario for both banks and fintechs: "That idea of having to maintain 10,000 different connections, have 10,000 different data formats and then manage all of that for the remainder of time — that sounds terrible." There's also the risk of creating "a digital divide," Pitts said. Major banks with their big IT budgets have been able to develop their own API access technology about three years ago, he said. But "smaller banks don't have multibillion-dollar technology budgets," and may not easily be able to deploy alternatives to screen scraping. This is where FDX is expected to play a critical role. The nonprofit's API technology, while still a work in progress, is already accessible to financial institutions, including those which are not FDX members. Small banks and credit unions can use it for free even if they don't join FDX. Last month, Carpenter told a House Committee on Financial Services task force that banks and fintechs using FDX's API are already making it possible for 22 million consumers to share their data. "Less than three years since its founding, FDX is a roaring success," he testified. But there are many other contentious issues beyond just agreeing on a common API-based standard. Most of these will have to be resolved in the CFPB process, though they've also come up in FDX's work. "We've had plenty of debates as we've gone along in building standards," Carpenter said. "We think we can solve a lot of problems, but we're not a silver bullet, so we're not going to be able to fix everything." One contentious issue is what data should be considered proprietary. "That's been the million dollar question: Where does consumer data ownership end? And where does proprietary data begin?" Carpenter asked. For example: Should the interest rate offered by a bank to a consumer be shared or considered proprietary? It's a difficult question that will likely be resolved by regulators, and on which the FDX "just has to remain agnostic on," Carpenter said. Standing aside may be challenging. The FDX must also navigate conflicting interests within its ranks. After all, many of its members are fierce competitors. Finicity, a data aggregator acquired by Mastercard last year, is a Plaid rival. "It's not kumbaya all the time," Carpenter said. "You've got probably one of the most competitive marketplaces in financial services where you've seen enormous disruption." But it's critically important work, he added. "Frankly, if the CFPB and other regulators aren't going to provide proper guidance and keep up with the innovation curve, then it's up to leadership and organizations that come together from fintechs, banks, asset managers, insurance and other market participants, to hold one another accountable by proxy," Logan Allin, managing general partner of Fin Venture Capital, told Protocol. Smith of Finicity agreed that the smart path for fintechs and banks is to grapple these issues by the horns. "I'm optimistic that industry will come together," he said. "We're optimistic that the industry will do a better job than regulation is able to because regulation doesn't move at the speed that technology moves, and it often creates great hurdles." From Your Site Articles Biz Carson ( @bizcarson ) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering Silicon Valley with a focus on startups and venture capital. Previously, she reported for Forbes and was co-editor of Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Before that, she worked for Business Insider, Gigaom, and Wired and started her career as a newspaper designer for Gannett. October 5, 2021 There's a bifurcation happening in seed funding, where the big, multi-stage firms are raising larger and larger seed funds to compete on dollars and the seed funds are becoming more specialized to compete on expertise. NFX is hoping to win over founders by doing both. The venture capital firm plans to announce a new $450 million fund Tuesday as the arms race in seed funding continues. The fund size puts it as one of the largest out there, beating out Andreessen Horowitz's $400 million seed-specific fund announced in August and just short of Greylock's $500 million reserve announced in September. "There's funds trying to be the world's best at the seed, and the world's best at the [series] A, and the world's best at the [series] B. They're all our friends and they're great people, but they're doing a lot of stuff," said NFX general partner Pete Flint. "We only want to be the world's best at the seed, that is our singular focus and we have no other business model so we're going to make it work." NFX started in 2015 with a focus on placing seed investments in startups driven by network effects (hence the name). Its bets include now-public companies like DoorDash, Poshmark, Lyft and Twist Bioscience. The goal with the new fund is not only to double down on network-effects businesses, but to continue to grow its own flywheel of startups helping each other as part of its portfolio. The firm said it expects to invest in an additional 70 companies with the new cash. The fund size will help NFX compete with heavyweights like Greylock and a16z when it comes to dollars, but Flint thinks the firm also has an advantage in the seed specialist side. The rise of investor-operators has also put pressure on seed funds as founders are choosing to take money from solo capitalists and fellow CEOs over traditional venture firms. "The founders are going to investor-operators and everyone knows that," serial entrepreneur Hiten Shah had previously told Protocol . Flint likes to consider his team as part of that category, but with an institution behind it and a sole focus on its investments. The NFX team includes former operators like Flint, who co-founded Trulia, and James Currier, who has founded four different companies. Israel-based general partner Gigi Levy-Weiss is a two-time CEO. "I think founders are absolutely right that they should be looking for investor-operators," Flint said. "I also think that this job is a pretty serious job as well. Having someone who is leading a round, but also leading a company is probably not a great idea." As part of the firm's third fund, it's also adding Omri Amirav-Drory as a general partner. It had previously signed on Morgan Beller, one of the creators of the Facebook-backed Libra cryptocurrency project (now known as Diem). While NFX is more of a generalist firm, Flint said that it will be leaning into Beller's crypto expertise and Amirav-Drory's background as founder of NFX-backed Genome Compiler to invest more in the intersection of biology and tech. With the new fund, NFX isn't changing investment strategies beyond rounding out the expertise on the team, Flint said. The firm wants to continue to be the first institutional check into a company and lead the rounds, whether it's at the pre-seed or seed funding level, although where exactly that level is in a fast-moving market that's seeing the price of seed rounds explode is hard to know. "We could put a number on it but I think it'll probably be out of date next week," Flint joked. "I'd say it was clear as of six months ago that you'd see pre-seeds at a sub-$10 million valuation," he added. "But I think there's this really gray area between what pre-seed and seed is right now, and, frankly, I think that's okay." While seed rounds may be larger today (and potentially still ballooning in size), Flint said the decision to go bigger with a fund isn't a reaction to the price of rounds, but the size of the opportunity for startups right now. "This is a golden age in startups like we've never seen before. It seems COVID [created] this sort of societal change that, really, startups like to operate in and fill the unmet needs that happen today," Flint said. "Talent is coming out of these big companies and then you're seeing capital come to match that activity." From Your Site Articles MacKenzie Scott, Jack Dorsey and Eric Schmidt have given to the Families and Workers Fund. Photos: Franziska Krug/Getty Images, Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images, Cole Burston/Bloomberg via Getty Images October 5, 2021 Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky ) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. October 5, 2021 A cohort of foundations and tech billionaires — including MacKenzie Scott, Jack Dorsey, Eric Schmidt and Craig Newmark — are backing a new five-year philanthropic fund directed at creating better quality jobs and a more sturdy social safety net, the group said Tuesday. It's a laudable mission, but one that, in some ways, runs counter to the recent wave of worker backlash that has been taking place at some of the very companies that made people like Scott, Dorsey and Schmidt billionaires to begin with. The Families and Workers Fund, as it's called, launched in April 2020 as a partnership by the Ford Foundation and Schmidt's company Schmidt Futures in response to the unemployment crisis caused by the pandemic. As mass layoffs swept the country, the two organizations teamed up to launch an emergency grant program focused on giving out cash to people in the U.S. who suddenly, desperately needed it. "We were really concerned that we needed to see the same level of coordination around the economic and equity crisis of COVID as we did around the health crisis of COVID," said Rachel Korberg, executive director of the fund. Now, with this new five-year commitment, which also includes donations from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Skoll Foundation, among others, the group is trying to address some of the very economic challenges that the tech industry is so often accused of exacerbating. "In crises you get opportunities to press reset," said Korberg. "People are looking for new opportunities. Many people don't want to go back to the jobs they have. This is an opportunity to press reset." Big Tech is known for its sumptuous salaries and benefits packages for corporate employees. But tech companies have frequently fought efforts to include gig workers and other lower-wage workers in those benefits. That's to say nothing of the plight of content moderators, who police the darkest corners of social networks like Twitter and YouTube yet don't receive the benefit of being full-time employees. That complexity of tech donors' involvement in this specific effort isn't lost on Korberg. "I will not sit here and say that there's never been a disagreement with our funders. There are moments of differing perspectives, for sure," she said, noting that the fund is also backed by "the two largest social justice philanthropies in the world" — Ford and Open Society Foundations. "Not all of our founders have the same world view." But Korberg said the input from tech donors has also been helpful when it comes to implementing programs like the cash transfers. "Schmidt Futures and Jack Dorsey bring world-class expertise in delivery," Korberg said, "How do you actually get it done?" Over the course of last year, the fund doled out $10 million in grants to 30 grassroots groups, which gave that money to 215,000 families. Along the way, the fund picked up donors from the tech industry, including Scott, who publicly named the fund as one of the hundreds of organizations to which she donated more than $4 billion last year. Dorsey, Korberg said, joined the fund earlier this year and has appointed Matthew Goudeau, who leads Dorsey's #startsmall philanthropic giving, to sit on its advisory board. And Eric Braverman, CEO of Schmidt Futures, will co-chair the fund going forward, along with Ford Foundation President Darren Walker. The $10 million in grants for direct cash transfers "exceeded" the fund's initial expectations, Korberg said, but they won't be a core part of the fund's work going forward. "The need that people have in this country for cash is so huge, it's not something philanthropy could or should try to fix," she said. While the fund does donate to groups that engage in advocacy campaigns, it is steering clear of direct politics. Instead, true to its tech backers, it's opting to donate to projects that improve delivery of benefits. One grant, Korberg said, went to a nonprofit called The Workers Lab, which is working on creating income passports for gig workers who currently struggle to prove their eligibility in unemployment systems. Another went to New America to support a research project that analyzed what worked and didn't in the unemployment insurance delivery system last year. The fund also recently held an open call for projects and received 300 pitches, Korberg said. Korberg attributes at least some of the fund's direction to the experience of its donors from the tech sector. "COVID is changing tech philanthropy. We have tech philanthropists who have joined us who haven't worked on economic issues before and didn't see that as a space for their funding," she said. This story has been updated to clarify the fund's advocacy work. From Your Site Articles

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Expert Collections containing Genome Compiler

Expert Collections are analyst-curated lists that highlight the companies you need to know in the most important technology spaces.

Genome Compiler is included in 3 Expert Collections, including Synthetic Biology.


Synthetic Biology

238 items

Companies involved in design and development of new biological parts, devices, and systems; as well as the re-design of existing biological systems.



1,213 items

Companies involved in the capture, sequencing, and/or analysis of genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, and/or metabolomic data


Digital Health

12,254 items

Technologies, platforms, and systems that engage consumers for lifestyle, wellness, or health-related purposes; capture, store, or transmit health data; and/or support life science and clinical operations. (DiME, DTA, HealthXL, & NODE.Health)

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