Attract, engage and retain employees in the new remote-work era

Irene DeNigris
Contributor

Irene DeNigris, chief people officer of iCIMS, has a passion for cultivating a highly engaged, high-performance culture.

When looking for answers, where do people first turn? For many, it’s Google.

During the first half of March, we saw Google searches for “work from home” reach a 12-month high, garnering at least 50% more search interest than the anticipated peak, which usually occurs within the first week of January. This number will continue to grow as outside circumstances evolve.

This search behavior reflects the world around us. Today, employees and employers alike are grappling with the new norm — at least for the short-term — which is working remotely. While having a remote-ready model in place was once viewed as a competitive advantage to attract talent, it’s now a must-have to keep organizations afloat.

With vacant positions costing organizations around $680 daily, the impact that interrupted recruiting efforts can have on a business’ bottom line is jarring. As such, HR professionals were early adopters of successful remote communication practices, learning lessons that can be applied across the business to successfully make personal connections without being in-person. Employers are doing all they can to address their existing employee base at this critical time, while also working hard to maintain their hiring efforts.

Having the right technology in place to sustain work-from-home practices is more important now than ever before. There are four steps that employers can take to successfully integrate and adapt successful virtual hiring technologies into their business continuity plans, considering all outside circumstances, and without sacrificing their productivity and unique company culture.

Prepare and plan. Employers have an obligation to provide their people with clear direction in times of disruption.

Trump orders GM to start ventilator production for COVID-19 amid contract dispute

President Donald Trump signed Friday a presidential directive ordering GM to produce ventilators and to prioritize federal contracts, just hours after the automaker announced plans to manufacture the critical medical equipment needed for patients suffering from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The order, made under the Defense Production Act, marks a sudden reversal by Trump, who has touted the efforts by GM and other manufacturers to try to ramp up production of ventilators and personal protective gear that is in short supply as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. The order came amid a dispute with GM over a contract to produce the ventilators.

GM and its partner Ventec Life Systems had already announced plans to start producing the ventilators “at cost,” despite the lack of a federal contract. The order would force GM to prioritize federal contracts, which would prevent the automaker from selling to states, or at least make it more difficult.

“Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course. GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives,” Trump said in a statement.

GM responded Friday afternoon to Trump’s order noting that it has been “working around the clock” with Ventec and its supply base “to meet this urgent need.”

“Our commitment to build Ventec’s high-quality critical care ventilator, VOCSN, has never wavered,” the GM statement continues. “The partnership between Ventec and GM combines global expertise in manufacturing quality and a joint commitment to safety to give medical professionals and patients access to life-saving technology as rapidly as possible. The entire GM team is proud to support this initiative.”

Earlier Friday, GM said it would start producing Ventec Life Systems ventilators even as a purchase order with the federal government remained in limbo. The companies said Friday that the ventilators will be produced at GM’s engine plant in Kokomo, Ind., using about 1,000 workers.

The GM and Ventec announcement followed sharp criticism by Trump via several tweets that blasted GM and its CEO and chairman Mary Barra via Twitter, accusing the company of falling short of its promised capacity and asking for “top dollar,” a term that seems to imply the automaker was trying to profit off of the contract.

GM, which is a contract supplier for Ventec, has said it is “donating its resources at cost,” a term that means it will not profit off of any sales of the masks and ventilators it produces. Whether the federal government would sign a purchase order with the companies has been a lingering question that looked less certain as talks unfolded, according to sources.

Efforts to set up tooling and manufacturing capacity at the factory are already underway to produce Ventec’s critical care ventilator, VOCSN, according to GM. The automaker said production will begin in the next seven to 14 days with the first shipments of the FDA-cleared ventilators scheduled to begin in April. Ventec is also trying to ramp up production at its manufacturing facility in Bothell, Wash.

Separately, GM also said it will start next week producing Level 1 surgical masks at its Warren, Mich. manufacturing facility. The automaker expect to ramp up mask production capacity to 50,000 masks per day within the next two weeks with the potential to increase to 100,000 per day.

As usual with “this” General Motors, things just never seem to work out. They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, “very quickly”. Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar. Always a mess with Mary B. Invoke “P”.

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2020

Trump’s tweets came after The New York Times reported that U.S. government officials canceled a planned announcement outlining the GM and Ventec deal to produce as many as 80,000 ventilators for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The announcement, which was supposed to happen Wednesday, was canceled after FEMA balked at the more than $1 billion price tag.

TechCrunch has independently confirmed that the federal government canceled the announcement because of reservations over the cost. FEMA and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro had balked at the cost, according to a source at GM.

Trump’s tweets attacking Barra and GM — as well as calling for the automaker to start production at an Ohio factory that the automaker no longer owns — lies in stark contrast from public comments the president made earlier in the week when he touted efforts by companies to mobilize their resources to help alleviate a shortage of medical supplies such as face masks and ventilators.

Trump has repeatedly said he does not need to use the Defense Production Act to compel companies to help in the effort to manufacture needed supplies. But that changed Friday when he said he would use it because of the GM ventilator purchase order.

The cost of ventilators

As COVID-19 spread and health and government officials grew increasingly concerned about a shortage of ventilators and personal protective equipment, a number of manufacturers announced plans to ramp up production capacity or donate any existing supplies. GM was among that group.

On March 20, GM and Ventec announced plans to work to increase production of respiratory care products, a partnership that grew out of  StopTheSpread.org, a coordinated effort of private companies to respond to COVID-19.

Before that announcement was made, GM investigated the feasibility of sourcing the more than 700 components needed to build up to 200,000 of Ventec’s critical care ventilators called VOCSN. Ventec describes these VOCSN devices as multi-function ventilators that were cleared in 2017 by the FDA.

GM identified the Indiana plant as the likely location and determined it would need to build a new clean room within the factory that was large enough to produce the ventilators, according to the source. GM estimated it would cost about $750 million, a price that included retrofitting a portion of the engine plant, purchasing materials to make the ventilators and paying the 1,000 workers needed to scale up production, the source said. The remaining $250,000 of estimated costs came from Ventec.

GM estimated that it could ramp up production in time to deliver ventilators by mid-April, a time when states are expected to be dealing with a surge of COVID-19 cases. The companies said they are poised to deliver the first ventilators next month and ramp up to a capacity of more than 10,000 critical care ventilators per month with the infrastructure and capability to scale further.

We’ve come full rectangle: Polaroid is reborn out of The Impossible Project

More than a decade after announcing that it would keep Polaroid’s abandoned instant film alive, The Impossible Project has done the… improbable: It has officially become the brand it set out to save. And to commemorate the occasion, there’s a new camera, the Polaroid Now.

The convergence of the two brands has been in the works for years, and in fact Impossible Project products were already Polaroid-branded. But this marks a final and satisfying shift in one of the stranger relationships in startups or photography.

I first wrote about The Impossible Project in early 2009 (and apparently thought it was a good idea to Photoshop a Bionic Commando screenshot as the lead image), when the company announced its acquisition of some Polaroid instant film manufacturing assets.

Polaroid at the time was little more than a shell. Having declined since the ’80s and more or less shuttered in 2001, the company was relaunched as a digital brand and film sales were phased out. This was unsuccessful, and in 2008 Polaroid was filing for bankruptcy again.

This time, however, it was getting rid of its film production factories, and a handful of Dutch entrepreneurs and Polaroid experts took over the lease as The Impossible Project. But although the machinery was there, the patents and other IP for the famed Polaroid instant film were not. So they basically had to reinvent the process from scratch — and the early results were pretty rough.

But they persevered, aided by a passionate community of Polaroid owners, continuously augmented by the film-curious who want something more than a Fujifilm Instax but less than a 35mm SLR. In time the process matured and Impossible developed new films and distribution partners, growing more successful even as Polaroid continued applying its brand to random, never particularly good photography-adjacent products. They even hired Lady Gaga as “Creative Director,” but the devices she hyped at CES never really materialized.

Gaga was extremely late to the announcement, but seeing the GL30 prototype was worth it

In 2017, the student became the master as Impossible’s CEO purchased the Polaroid brand name and IP. They relaunched Impossible as “Polaroid Originals” and released the OneStep 2 camera using a new “i-Type” film process that more closely resembled old Polaroids (while avoiding the expensive cartridge battery).

Polaroid continued releasing new products in the meantime — presumably projects that were under contract or in development under the brand before its acquisition. While the quality has increased from the early days of rebranded point-and-shoots, none of the products has ever really caught on, and digital instant printing (Polaroid’s last redoubt) has been eclipsed by a wave of nostalgia for real film, Instax Mini in particular.

But at last the merger dance is complete and Polaroid, Polaroid Originals and The Impossible Project are finally one and the same. All devices and film will be released under the Polaroid name, though there may be new sub-brands like i-Type and the new Polaroid Now camera.

Speaking of which, the Now is not a complete reinvention of the camera by far — it’s a “friendlier” redesign that takes after the popular OneStep but adds improved autofocus, a flash-adjusting light sensor, better battery and a few other nips and tucks. At $100 it’s not too hard on the wallet, but remember that film is going to run you about $2 per shot. That’s how they get you.

It’s been a long, strange trip to watch, but ultimately a satisfying one: Impossible made a bet on the fundamental value of instant film photography, while a series of owners bet on the Polaroid brand name to sell anything they put it on. The riskier long-term play won out in the end (though many got rich running Polaroid into the ground over and over), and now with a little luck the brand that started it all will continue its success.

Attorney Sophie Alcorn answers readers’ immigration questions

We had a great time hosting noted immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn on a live conference call with Extra Crunch members earlier this week.

Sophie writes our “Dear Sophie” column, where she answers questions about immigration status, particularly for founders and others in the tech ecosystem who want to work in the United States.

In our conference call, we talked about the changes happening to H-1B visas, what COVID-19 is doing to the immigration system and some of the top concerns of founders in these perilous times. Below the jump, you’ll find an edited transcript, or you can listen to the call in its entirety.

As with all legal advice, always speak with your own retained attorney about specific details regarding your own cases as illustrative examples may or may not apply to your own unique situation.

The FDA just okayed multiple 15-minute blood tests to screen for coronavirus, but there are caveats

On Thursday, the FDA amended their emergency policy around diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Following on a change made March 16, the agency opened the door for a number of specific private entities and labs to develop and distribute tests that can provide results on the spot in as little as 15 minutes — but there are some pretty big caveats to keep in mind as you hear about more of these coming to market.

The tests, which are “serological,” meaning they identify the presence of antibodies in a person’s blood, differ considerably from the molecular testing that is currently in use under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by FDA-approved labs and drive-through testing sites. The serological tests show that a person has developed antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, which means they very likely came into contact with it (and either have it, or have already recovered from having it). The molecular tests actually detect the presence of viral DNA in the blood stream, which is a much more definitive indicator that they currently have an active infection (at least at the time the swab was taken).

Serological tests have still been used widely in countries where the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been shown to be effective, including in China, Taiwan and Singapore. They’ve also been used in different communities in the U.S., based on earlier guidelines around private lab diagnostics. But on March 26, the FDA named 29 entities that provided notification to the agency as required and are now therefore able to distribute their tests.

It’s important to note that these tests have not been reviewed or validated by the FDA, unlike those molecular tests that are included in the organization’s emergency use category. Instead, the FDA “does not intend to object to the development and distribution by commercial manufacturers” of these tests, provided they meet a number of criteria, including qualifying the results of their reported test results with the following information:

  • This test has not been reviewed by the FDA.
  • Negative results do not rule out SARS-CoV-2 infection, particularly in those who have been in contact with the virus. Follow-up testing with a molecular diagnostic should be considered to rule out infection in these individuals.
  • Results from antibody testing should not be used as the sole basis to diagnose or exclude SARS-CoV-2 infection or to inform infection status.
  • Positive results may be due to past or present infection with non-SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus strains, such as coronavirus HKU1, NL63, OC43, or 229E.

The FDA specifically notes in its emergency use FAQ that these entities have reported their own validation of these tests, and that they won’t be pursuing Emergency Use Authorization. That said, there’s now nothing stopping the entities on this list from distributing their tests, which means they will be able to be put to use in testing Americans and painting a larger picture of the potential spread of the novel coronavirus — with the caveat noted above that the FDA doesn’t consider these tests used alone to be positive confirmation of a definite SARS-CoV-2 case, or conversely, a sure indicator that someone doesn’t have the virus.

Still, in the absence of better options like expanded availability of the tests that are approved under the EUA, these serological tests (many of which can provide on-site results with just a pinprick of blood) will be useful in painting a more accurate picture of the overall spread and reach of the coronavirus, especially for smaller clinics, GP clinics and local labs that don’t have priority access to the equipment and supplies needed for the molecular testing efforts.

For instance, one test on this list, the Healgen Scientific COVID-19 IgG/IgM (Whole Blood/Serum/Plasma) Rapid Test Device, requires no instrumentation and can provide results in just 15 minutes. Distributor Ideal Rehab Care is working with its legal representation Fox Rothschild to begin importing the tests from Singapore for use “as soon as possible.”

The FDA updating its website with Healgen as one of the entities that have notified it of intent to use its serological test is what unlocked the ability for the company to begin distribution: It’s still illegal for anyone not on this list to do so, and the FDA still also specifically prohibits the use of at-home serological tests on its official guidelines.

It looks like Brandon Middaugh is heading up the $1B Microsoft climate fund

Earlier this year, Microsoft made waves in the corporate community by coming out with one of the most ambitious and wide-ranging strategies to reduce carbon emissions from the company’s operations.

Part of that plan was a $1 billion fund that would invest in climate change mitigation technologies — specifically focused on decarbonization. At the time, details were scarce, but it looks like the strategy is becoming a little more clear, with details beginning to emerge about who will be running the show.

According to sources — and a LinkedIn profile search — it appears that Brandon Middaugh is taking point on the investment fund.

Middaugh has been at Microsoft for more than four years and worked as one of the architects of the company’s climate strategy during her tenure at the company. In her previous role as part of the company’s Cloud Energy and Sustainability team, Middaugh led the distributed energy strategy and was a part of the partnership Microsoft initiated with the East Coast regional transmission organization, the PJM — which manages the power grid for a large swath of the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.

It appears that Middaugh is going to be taking point on the deployment of that $1 billion fund Microsoft announced in January, according to people who have discussed the company’s investments.

At the January event, Microsoft committed to going “carbon negative” by 2030 and said that it would remove by 2050 the equivalent of all the carbon it had emitted into the atmosphere since its founding in 1975. Those commitments are far more aggressive than any made by any other corporation in any industry.

Part of the plan involves expanding the carbon fee the company has imposed internally on its direct emission across its supply and value chains. The $1 billion fund is part of that effort to reduce emissions from suppliers and customers by financing projects and technologies that can reduce emissions with new generation or efficiency technologies, or capture and remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Equity and debt investments have to meet four criteria, including: the ability to drive meaningful decarbonization, climate resilience or other sustainability-related goals; have additional market impacts for future climate solutions; can address Microsoft’s own climate debt; and have implications for the unequal distribution of climate impacts.

Late last year, Amazon committed that it would move to 100% renewable energy powering its operations by 2030 and that it would achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040. Meanwhile, Alphabet has been developing renewable energy projects under its moonshot division and has long been an investor in climate mitigation technologies, including the use of renewables to power its operations.

All of these efforts will need to be met by additional work from corporations and financial institutions across every industry if the world is to reduce the most dire effects of dramatic climate change. Already forest fires, flooding and other climate-related catastrophes have led financial investors and insurers to push for better mitigation strategies and to bring climate impacts front and center within corporate strategies.

Microsoft had not replied to a request for comment by the time of publication.

When is it time to stop fundraising?

Russ Heddleston
Contributor

Russ is the co-founder and CEO of DocSend. He was previously a product manager at Facebook, where he arrived via the acquisition of his startup Pursuit.com, and has held roles at Dropbox, Greystripe, and Trulia. Follow him here: @rheddleston and @docsend

No one wants to prepare for their fundraising round to fail. Many founders spend months (or even years) getting their businesses to a point where they’re ready to pitch investors. But there are times when, no matter how hard you try, you’re just not going to be able to close a deal.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the entire VC community is in a state of uncertainty, and there is no clear answer when it comes to the question, “can I still raise funds for my company?” However, there’s hope for early-stage startups. We used the 2020 DocSend Startup Index to track Pitch Deck Interest among investors and found that last week, despite seismic changes across the country, pitch deck interest has only been 11.6% lower than the same week in 2019 so far.

We will be monitoring the Pitch Deck Interest Metric in the coming weeks, but if you’re an early-stage startup and you were planning to raise, there is still opportunity to come away with a term sheet. But if things don’t go as planned, how do you know if it’s time to give up or if you just need to push through?

According to recent DocSend data, you’ll know pretty quickly if it’s time to call it quits. While the average founder who was successful in fundraising contacted 63 investors during their process, startups that weren’t able to raise funds stopped at 27. Why stop? Because the founder listened to the feedback they were getting. If you hear the same concern or piece of feedback twice you should take it to heart, but if you hear it three times you probably need to stop and rethink things.

time spent reading pitch decks

The Pitch Deck Interest Metric declined 11.6% compared to the same week in 2019

According to our study on the fundraising process of pre-seed startups, founders who were unsuccessful in raising had just nine meetings. That should give you enough feedback to know if you have a deal breaker in your deck.

But negative feedback doesn’t mean all is lost. In fact, of startups studied in the 2020 DocSend Startup Index, 86% reported that they were going to try to fundraise again after addressing the feedback they’d received.

Now might be the perfect time to rethink your fundraising approach

Russ Heddleston
Contributor

Russ is the co-founder and CEO of DocSend. He was previously a product manager at Facebook, where he arrived via the acquisition of his startup Pursuit.com, and has held roles at Dropbox, Greystripe, and Trulia. Follow him here: @rheddleston and @docsend

Many founders will have kicked off the new year with a new fundraising round. According to the data we shared last year, March, October and November were the months when VCs were reviewing the most decks.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has ground to a halt many industries, and there are even warnings that this will affect the next two quarters in regards to fundraising.

We’ve reviewed the data in our 2020 DocSend Startup Index and we’ve begun tracking the Pitch Deck Interest Metric. With San Francisco under a shelter-in-place order and many VCs scrambling to adjust their processes to an all-remote world, we saw pitch deck interest drop 11.6% when compared to the same week in 2019. While there has been a drop in interest so far, there is still a lot of activity, and VCs seem to still be reading pitch decks.

We will be monitoring the Pitch Deck Interest Metric in the coming weeks, but if you’re an early-stage startup and are in the middle of your fundraise, or are about to fundraise, there are some things you can do to help insure your startup is ready for funding before you meet with any (more) investors.

time spent reading pitch decks

The Pitch Deck Interest Metric declined 11.6% compared to the same week in 2019

Expectations have shifted and will continue to do so

If you were about to kick off a fundraising round, you should have been prepared to contact 50 or more investors, have 20-30 meetings and spend somewhere around 20 weeks before you signed your term sheet. That’s a lot of time and energy to invest, especially when the economy is poised for a downturn and you’re most likely needed in other parts of your business.

If you’ve already started your round and are wondering if you should push through, I’ve written a piece on knowing when to quit and recalibrate versus when to push through (Extra Crunch membership required).

Many factors play into navigating a successful fundraising round, and the expectations of investors are constantly changing — specifically when it comes to the pre-seed round.

Investors are now looking for market-ready products and want to see pitch decks that feature the content they’re expecting. We expect to see this focus intensify over the coming months as VCs have more time to spend not just to review pitch decks, but on due diligence for companies in which they plan to invest. Our new report outlines advice for pre-seed startups that are looking to adjust their fundraising strategy.

Focus on an MVP, not just a great PowerPoint

Our analysis reveals a shift in the level of readiness required by institutional investment to receive pre-seed funding. In the past, pre-seed startups could get by with just an MVPP (Minimum Viable PowerPoint). But now, investors are placing their bets on pre-seed startups that have already entered the market and developed an alpha, beta or shipping product.

In fact, 92% of companies with successful pitch decks had either an alpha, beta or shipping product, where only 68% of companies with unsuccessful pitch decks presented the same type of product readiness.

stage of product development mvp vs mvpp

As the economy moves closer to a downturn we can expect VCs to be more cautious with their investments. The current data already shows a preference for companies that have live products; it’s worth the time and effort to be product-ready coming into a pre-seed round or if you’re a startup ready to tackle the round again with a fresh perspective.

Rethink your deck

That said, even if you do have an MVP, rethinking your pitch deck may be something else to consider. Here’s a good test. Using your pitch deck, spend three to four minutes (that’s all the time you’ll get from a VC) to pitch your business to a friend or family member who knows nothing about your business. Afterward, ask them for a one-sentence description of your company. If they’re not clearly describing what your company does and the problem it’s trying to solve, you probably need to rethink your pitch deck.

According to our recent report, a “less is more” attitude toward creating a compelling pitch deck for meetings could mean more success in pre-seed fundraising.

Your pitch deck will be your main calling card right now. As community events are being replaced with online gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can expect to see less one-to-one engagement at these events. So pitching a VC in person is not likely to happen anytime soon. Whether you’re sending them a cold email, or getting a warm intro from a portfolio company, you’re going to need to lead with your pitch deck.

Despite the product taking a more prominent role in the fundraising round, the pitch deck is still a focal point and should be tailored to tell your story in the most effective way, as investors are spending less time evaluating them. On average, investors are spending just 3 minutes and 21 seconds on the pitch deck and the average deck is just 20 slides.

If you are in the process of reevaluating your pitch deck, it could be helpful to make sure your slides feature the right content in the right order. Investors spend nearly 50% more time on the product slides in successful pitch decks and over 18% longer on the business model in unsuccessful pitch decks. Additionally, investors spent more time on solution slides in successful decks than unsuccessful decks.

time spent on successful decks

It’s a numbers game… to a certain extent

Another area that could benefit from reevaluation is the number of investors contacted, meetings held and the number of weeks spent in a funding round. Generally speaking, the average amount of investors contacted for successful fundraising rounds is 56, resulting in 26 meetings. On average, successful pre-seed startups will spend 20.5 weeks on fundraising.

When it comes to fundraising, there are diminishing returns for investor outreach. You shouldn’t need to send your deck to more than 60-70 investors and have more than 20-30 meetings. If you’re doing more than that, the ROI on your time just isn’t worth it. Because the current crisis is affecting VCs’ willingness to invest, you’re better off finding a small list of investors who are active and targeting your pitch to them. If you’ve reached out to more than 70 investors, but you’re still faced with a wall of “nos” you’re better off pausing your fundraising and addressing the feedback you’ve received so far. For more on when you should quit and reevaluate versus push through you can read my article here (Extra Crunch membership required).

how long does a pre seed round take

Another area pre-seed startups should evaluate is the number of founders of a company. Our data shows investors still prefer teams of two-three founders, though our data shows that being a solo founder is preferable to having too many founders. For teams of five founders, they averaged earning $195,085 while founding teams of three garnered $511,522.

This may be the right time to find a co-founder. With many people working from home or out of work, this could be the opportunity to take your idea and bring on the technical founder you need. There are online groups and events popping up everywhere in response to social distancing. If you’re worried being a solo founder is going to hold you back, you may want to invest time in those new communities.

meetings and amount raised

Get some perspective

For many startups, especially if you are not in Silicon Valley where a substantial amount of funding happens, the process of fundraising can be very opaque. DocSend’s purpose in analyzing this data is to bring some transparency to the process. This in turn provides perspective.

But what founders should do, if they haven’t done so already, is to get some additional perspective. Talk to experts outside your immediate circle of influence. Don’t have a mentor or advisors? Find them. Get a different take on your product idea or the market conditions. Especially now that community events are going virtual, location doesn’t have to hold you back from joining the startup community and finding people to offer feedback on your product or company.

Fundraising is both an art and science. Combining the insights from our data with the benefit of your own community can help you get back on your feet and pitching your company with hopefully a better outcome.

SpaceX to deliver cargo to NASA’s lunar Gateway station using a new ‘Dragon XL’ spacecraft

NASA has tapped SpaceX as the first provider of space-based logistics to deliver experiment materials, cargo and supplies to its lunar Gateway, the agency announced on Friday. This means SpaceX will be among the companies that NASA can turn to when it needs things shuttled via spaceship between Earth and this forthcoming platform, which will orbit the Moon and provide a staging ground for future crewed Moon missions.

The contract means that SpaceX will play a key role in not only NASA’s forthcoming Artemis Moon missions, which will eventually seek to establish a permanent scientific human lunar presence, but that it also will be involved as NASA begins to work toward extending its reach to Mars, as well. NASA plans to launch multiple cargo supply missions to the Gateway, which has yet to be constructed, with spacecraft designed to go to the station and remain there for between six and 12 months at a time.

The total value of these contracts will top out at a maximum of $7 billion for the entire contract, with a guaranteed minimum of two missions per provider. Other providers will likely be selected, but SpaceX is the first company to be signed by NASA under the agreement. SpaceX is already contracted by NASA to deliver regular supply runs to the International Space Station in Earth orbit using its Dragon cargo spacecraft.

SpaceX is going to be launching a new variant of its Dragon spacecraft called the “Dragon XL” in order to support these missions, and they will be able to carry more than five metric tons to the Moon-orbiting station. They’ll use SpaceX’s existing Falcon Heavy craft to launch from Earth for the trip.

In terms of timing, we’ll likely have to wait a while for the first of these missions to actually take off: While the current plan is to launch the first module for the station as early as 2022, it’ll likely only be a few years after that that the station is in any shape to receive regular cargo runs.

Daily Crunch: Clearstep’s chatbot offers in-depth COVID-19 screening

We look at an in-depth screener app for COVID-19, U.S. stocks take another tumble and Apple extends its free trial for Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro. Here’s your Daily Crunch for March 27, 2020.

Stay safe and socially distanced this weekend!

1. Clearstep’s COVID-19 chat-based screener goes in-depth to preserve healthcare resources

There are a growing number of symptom checker and screening tools that you can use at home if you suspect you might have contracted the new coronavirus that is causing the global COVID-19 pandemic. Most of these are relatively simple, including three or four questions that cover the top reported symptoms experienced by anyone who has confirmed to have had the disease.

In contrast, chatbot-based symptom checking software startup Clearstep has created its own COVID-19 screener, which goes more in-depth to combine symptom checking with screening for potential exposure to the virus.

2. Stocks fall sharply Friday morning as the mid-week recovery falls short

The major American stock market indices are down sharply this morning at the open, with stocks falling after a multi-day rally helped shave some losses off their calendar-year results.

3. Apple extends free trials for its pro creative apps

Apple announced today that they are temporarily extending the free trials on Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X from 30 days to 90 days, giving potential customers stuck at home a longer window of time to try out the software. With this announcement, Apple joins a number of other software companies extending the free trials of their products in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

4. Yelp pauses GoFundMe Covid-19 fundraising after opt-out outcry

A fundraising program that Yelp and GoFundMe put in place this week to help local businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic has been paused after public outcry over how it was rolled out — specifically, controversy over how the two provided no easy and quick way to opt out of the fundraising.

5. Smart telescope startups vie to fix astronomy’s satellite challenge

The stakes involved are high, with projects like Starlink (the satellite branch of SpaceX) potentially being central to the future of global internet coverage, especially as new infrastructure implements 5G and edge computing. At the same time, satellite clusters — whether from Starlink or national militaries — could threaten the foundations of astronomical research. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. Notarize to add 1,000 online notaries to address demand for remote transactions

The startup is partnering with the National Notary Association to verify notaries have been screened and have the necessary insurance or bonding. The service is available to Americans in all 50 states or abroad, but notaries must be physically located in Florida, Nevada, Texas or Virginia to join the platform.

7. Social Bluebook was hacked, exposing 217,000 influencers’ accounts

Social Bluebook, a Los Angeles-based company, allows advertisers to pay social media “influencers” for posts that promote their products and services. The company claims it has some 300,000 influencers on its books, but in October 2019, its entire backend database was stolen in a data breach.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.