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EC-exclusive interview with Tim Cook, Slacklash, and tech inclusion

Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Amazon Web Services, app developers, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Deezer, Geoff Cook, Google, Groupon, IBM, Kate Clark, kidbox, Matthew Panzarino, Microsoft, om malik, San Francisco, The Extra Crunch Daily, Tim Cook, Travis Kalanick, True Ventures, Uber, WeWork | 0 comments

An EC-exclusive interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook

TechCrunch editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino traveled to Florida this week to talk with Tim Cook about Apple’s developer education initiatives and also meet with high school developer Liam Rosenfeld of Lyman High School. Apple wants to attract the next set of app developers like Liam into the Xcode world, and the company is building a more ambitious strategy to do so going forward:

But that conversation with Liam does bring up some questions, and I ask Cook whether the thinks that there are more viable pathways to coding, especially for people with non-standard education or backgrounds.

“I don’t think a four year degree is necessary to be proficient at coding,” says Cook. “I think that’s an old, traditional view. What we found out is that if we can get coding in in the early grades and have a progression of difficulty over the tenure of somebody’s high school years, by the time you graduate kids like Liam, as an example of this, they’re already writing apps that could be put on the App Store.”

Against the Slacklash

TechCrunch columnist Jon Evans often writes on developer tools and productivity (see, for example, his Extra Crunch overview of the headless CMS space). Now, he sets his sights on Slack, and finds the product … much better and more productive than many would have you believe, and offers tips for maximizing its value:


Source: The Tech Crunch

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A brief history of Uber’s bumpy road to an IPO

Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Alphabet, Anthony Levandowski, Arizona, California, carsharing, Colorado, Commuting, driver, Emil Michael, equal employment opportunity commission, executive, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Trade Commission, Google, Lyft, pandodaily, Sarah Lacy, self-driving car, TC, transport, Travis Kalanick, Uber, Uber Startup, waymo | 0 comments

It’s been nine years since UberCab made its first appearance on the WordPress pages of this website. In the ensuing years, the startup has grown from an upstart looking to upend the taxi cab cartels, to a juggernaut that has its hands in every form of transportation and logistics service it can think of.

In the process, Uber has done some things that might give (and in fact has given) some shareholders pause.

From its first pitch deck to this historic public offering, TechCrunch has covered the über startup that has defined the post-financial-crisis era of consumer venture investing.

Here are some of the things that shouldn’t get swept into the dustbin of Uber’s history as the company makes its debut as a public company.

  • In 2014 Uber used a tool called “God View” to track the movements of passengers and shared those details publicly.At the time, the company was worth a cool $18.2 billion, and was already on the road to success (an almost pre-ordained journey given the company’s investors and capitalization), but even then, it could not get out of the way of its darker impulses.
  • A former executive of the company, Emil Michael, suggested that Uber should investigate journalists who were critical of the company and its business practices (including PandoDaily editor Sarah Lacy).
  • As it expanded internationally, Uber came under fire for lax hiring practices for its drivers. In India, the company was banned in New Delhi, after a convicted sex offender was arrested on suspicion of raping a female passenger.
  • Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission opened an investigation into the company for gender discrimination around hiring and salaries for women at the company. Uber’s problems with harassment were famously documented by former employee Susan Fowler in a blog post that helped spur a reckoning for the tech sector.
  • Uber has been forced to pay fines for its inability to keep passenger and driver information private. The company has agreed to 20 years of privacy audits and has paid a fine to settle a case that was opened by the Federal Trade Commission dating back to 2017.
  • While Uber was not found to be criminally liable in the death of an Arizona pedestrian that was struck and killed by a self-driving car from the company’s fleet, it remains the only company with an autonomous vehicle involved in the death of a pedestrian.
  • Beyond its problems with federal regulators, Uber has also had problems adhering to local laws. In Colorado, Uber was fined nearly $10 million for not adhering to the state’s requirements regarding background checks of its drivers.
  • Uber was also sued by other companies. Notably, it was involved in a lengthy and messy trade secret dispute with Alphabet’s onetime self-driving car unit, Waymo. That was for picking up former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski and some know-how that the former Alphabet exec allegedly acquired improperly before heading out the door.
  • Uber even had dueling lawsuits going between and among its executives and major shareholders. When Travis Kalanick was ousted by the Uber board, the decision reverberated through its boardroom. As part of that battle for control, Benchmark, an early investor in Uber sued the company’s founder and former chief executive,  Travis Kalanick for fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
  • Uber’s chief people officer, Liane Hornsey was forced to resign following a previously unreported investigation into her alleged systematic dismissals of racial discrimination complaints within Uber.
  • Lawsuits against the company not only dealt with its treatment of gender and race issues, but also for accessibility problems with the ride-hailing service. The company was sued for allegedly violating Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Disabled Persons Act.
  • The ride-hailing service also isn’t free from legal woes in international markets. Earlier this year, the company paid around $3 million to settle charges that Uber had violated local laws by operating in the country illegally.
  • Finally, the company’s lax driver screening policies have led to multiple reports of assault by drivers of Uber passengers. Uber recently ended the policy of forcing those women to engage in mandatory arbitration proceedings to adjudicate those claims.
  • Not even the drivers who form the core of Uber’s service are happy with the company. On the eve of its public offering, a strike in cities across the country brought their complaints squarely in front of the company’s executive team right before the public offering, which was set to make them millions.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Uber’s trading debut: who was (and wasn’t) at the opening bell

Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Apps, Automotive, carsharing, Dara Khosrowshahi, Exit, Expedia, Garrett Camp, Rachel Holt, Startups, thuan pham, Transportation, Travis Kalanick, Uber, Uber IPO, vmware | 0 comments

Uber finally made its debut Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, ending its decade-long journey from startup to publicly traded company.

So far, it’s been a ho-hum beginning, with shares opening at $42, down from the IPO price. The share price is hovering just under $44.

Thirteen people, including executives, early employees, drivers and customers, were on the balcony for the historic bell ringing that opened the markets Friday. Noticeable absentees were co-founder Garrett Camp and former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick, who was ousted from the company in June 2017 after a string of scandals around Uber’s business practices.

Kalanick, who still sits on the board and has an 8.6% stake in Uber, wasn’t part of the opening bell ceremony. However, Kalanick and Camp were both at the NYSE for the event.

Here is who participated in the opening bell ceremony.

The bell ringer

Austin Geidt, who rang the bell, was employee No. 4 when she started as an intern in 2010, and is one of Uber’s earliest employees.

Geidt joined Uber in 2010 and has since worked in numerous positions at the company. She led Uber’s expansion in hundreds of new cities and dozens of new countries. Geidt now heads up strategy for Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, the unit working on autonomous vehicles.

Executives

CEO Dara Khosrowshahi stood next to Geidt at the opening of the market Friday. Khosrowshahi joined Uber in 2017 after Kalanick resigned and the board launched an extensive search for an executive who could change the culture at the company and prepare it for an eventual IPO.

Khosrowshahi was the CEO of Expedia before joining Uber. Khosrowshahi gave a one-year update on his time at Uber during TechCrunch Disrupt in September 2018.

Uber CTO Thuan Pham has been with the company since 2013. Prior to coming to Uber, Pham was vice president of engineering at VMware.

Rachel Holt, vice president and head of New Mobility, was also on hand. Holt has worked at Uber since October 2011, when the company was live in just three cities. In May 2016, she became VP and regional general manager of Uber’s operations in the U.S. and Canada.

She was promoted to head up new mobility in June 2018. She’s responsible for the ramp-up and onboarding of additional mobility services, including public transit integration, scooters, car rentals and bikes.

Rachel Holt (Getty Images)

Other executives included Pierre-Dimitry Gore-Coty and Andrew MacDonald, both vice presidents and regional general managers at Uber, as well as Jason Droege, a vice president who heads up Uber Eats.

Droege, who joined Uber in 2014, has the official title of head of UberEverything. This is the team that created the food delivery service Uber Eats, which now operates in 35 countries.

Drivers

Uber had five drivers on hand for the opening bell, who represented different services and geographies.

Among the drivers were:

  • Jerry Bruner, a Los Angeles-based driver who is a military veteran and former professional golfer. Bruner has completed more than 30,000 Uber trips.
  • Tiffany Hanna, a military veteran, is based out of Springfield, Missouri. Hanna is a truck driver who uses the Uber Freight carrier app. 
  • Jonelle Bain, a New York-based driver. Uber, which shared the bios of the drivers, said Bain is taking coding classes and plans to become a software engineer.
  • Onur Kerey is a driver based out of London. Kerey is deaf. According to his bio, “He doesn’t let his disability get in the way of his passion for driving or connecting with others.”
  • J. Alexander Palacio Sanchez is based in Australia and has been driving with Uber since 2015. His true passion is acting, according to Uber, and at the urging of his riders, he auditioned for the role of Kevin in “The Heights” — and landed it.

Customers

One customer, Elise Wu, also participated in the opening bell. Wu owns Kampai, a family of restaurants in France that serves affordable cuisine made available for delivery through Uber Eats.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Singapore’s Grain, a profitable food delivery startup, pulls in $10M for expansion

Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Asia, bangkok, Cento Ventures, ceo, Deliveroo, Food, food delivery, Foodpanda, funding, Fundings & Exits, grain, Honestbee, Impossible foods, munchery, online food ordering, openspace ventures, Singapore, Southeast Asia, Spotify, Startup company, TC, Thailand, transport, Travis Kalanick, Uber, United States, websites, world wide web | 0 comments

Cloud kitchens are the big thing in food delivery, with ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s new business one contender in that space, with Asia, and particularly Southeast Asia, a major focus. Despite the newcomers, a more established startup from Singapore has raised a large bowl of cash to go after regional expansion.

Founded in 2014, Grain specializes in clean food while it takes a different approach to Kalanick’s CloudKitchens or food delivery services like Deliveroo, FoodPanda or GrabFood.

It adopted a cloud kitchen model — utilizing unwanted real estate as kitchens, with delivery services for output — but used it for its own operations. So while CloudKitchens and others rent their space to F&B companies as a cheaper way to make food for their on-demand delivery customers, Grain works with its own chefs, menu and delivery team. A so-called ‘full stack’ model if you can stand the cliched tech phrase.

Finally, Grain is also profitable. The new round has it shooting for growth — more on that below — but the startup was profitable last year, CEO and co-founder Yi Sung Yong told TechCrunch.

Now it is reaping the rewards of a model that keeps it in control of its product, unlike others that are complicated by a chain that includes the restaurant and a delivery person.

We previously wrote about Grain when it raised a $1.7 million Series A back in 2016 and today it announced a $10 million Series B which is led by Thailand’s Singha Ventures, the VC arm of the beer brand. A bevy of other investors took part, including Genesis Alternative Ventures, Sass Corp, K2 Global — run by serial investor Ozi Amanat who has backed Impossible Foods, Spotify and Uber among others — FoodXervices and Majuven. Existing investors Openspace Ventures, Raging Bull — from Thai Express founder Ivan Lee — and Cento Ventures participated.

The round includes venture debt, as well as equity, and it is worth noting that the family office of the owners of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf — Sassoon Investment Corporation — was involved.

Grain covers individual food as well as buffets in Singapore

Three years is a long gap between the two deals — Openspace and Cento have even rebranded during the intervening period — and the ride has been an eventful one. During those years, Sung said the business had come close to running out of capital before it doubled down on the fundamentals before the precarious runway capital ran out.

In fact, he said, the company — which now has over 100 staff — was fully prepared to self-sustain.

“We didn’t think of raising a Series B,” he explained in an interview. “Instead, we focused on the business and getting profitable… we thought that we can’t depend entirely on investors.”

And, ladies and gentleman, the irony of that is that VCs very much like a business that can self-sustain — it shows a model is proven — and investing in a startup that doesn’t need capital can be attractive.

Ultimately, though, profitability is seen as sexy today — particularly in the meal space where countless U.S. startups has shuttered including Munchery and Sprig — but the focus meant that Grain had to shelve its expansion plans. It then went through soul-searching times in 2017 when a spoilt curry saw 20 customers get food poisoning.

Sung declined to comment directly on that incident, but he said that company today has developed the “infrastructure” to scale its business across the board, and that very much includes quality control.

Grain co-founder and CEO Yi Sung Yong [Image via LinkedIn]

Grain currently delivers “thousands” of meals per day in Singapore, its sole market, with eight-figures in sales per year, he said. Last year, growth was 200 percent, Sung continued, and now is the time to look overseas. With Singha, the Grain CEO said the company has “everything we need to launch in Bangkok.”

Thailand — which Malaysia-based rival Dahamakan picked for its first expansion — is the only new launch on the table, but Sung said that could change.

“If things move faster, we’ll expand to more cities, maybe one per year,” he said. “But we need to get our brand, our food and our service right first.”

One part of that may be securing better deals for raw ingredients and food from suppliers. Grain is expanding its ‘hub’ kitchens — outposts placed strategically around town to serve customers faster — and growing its fleet of trucks, which are retrofitted with warmers and chillers for deliveries to customers.

Grain’s journey is proof that startups in the region will go through trials and tribulations, but being able to bolt down the fundamentals and reduce burn rate is crucial in the event that things go awry. Just look to grocery startup Honestbee, also based in Singapore, for evidence of what happens when costs are allowed to pile up.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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The next big bet for former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick may be cloud kitchens — in China

Posted by on Feb 1, 2019 in City Storage Systems, CloudKitchens, Food, Logistics, ofo, Real Estate, Startups, TC, Travis Kalanick | 0 comments

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick may have been nudged out of one of the world’s most highly valuable private companies by investors frustrated over its troubled culture, but his moves remain of great interest given how far he’d driven the rideshare giant.

One such move, according to a new report in the South China Morning Post, looks to be to help foster the growing concept of cloud kitchens to China.

We’ve reached out to Kalanick for more information, but per the SCMP’s report, Kalanick is partnering with the former COO of the bike-sharing startup Ofo, Yanqi Zhang. Their apparent project involves Kalanick’s L.A.-based company, CloudKitchens, which enables restaurants to set up kitchens for the purposes of catering exclusively to customers ordering in, as that’s how many people are consuming restaurant food in increasing numbers. (More on the movement here.) The kitchens are established in underutilized real estate that Kalanick is snapping up through a holding company called City Storage Systems.

According to The Spoon, a food industry blog, the trend is beginning to gain momentum in particular regions, including India, where it says many restaurants struggle to afford the traditional restaurant model, which often involves paying top dollar for rent, as well covering wages for employees, from dishwashers to cooks to servers. Using so-called cloud kitchens enables these restaurateurs to share facilities with others, and to do away with much of their other overhead.

Some are even being promised more affordable equipment. For example, according to The Spoon, the restaurant review site Zomato, through its now two-year-old service called Zomato Infrastructure Services, aims to create kitchen “pods” that restaurants can rent, and it’s using data to identify recently closed restaurants that may be looking to offload their kitchen equipment for whatever they can get for it.

Shared kitchens have also been taking off in China, as notes the SCMP, which cites Beijing-based Panda Selected and Shanghai-based Jike Alliance as just two companies that Kalanick would be bumping up against.

Kalanick wasn’t the first here in the U.S. to spy the trend bubbling up, but he seems to be taking it as seriously as any entrepreneur. Last year, he spent $150 million to buy a controlling stake in City Storage Systems, the holding company of CloudKitchens, through a fund that he established around the same time, called the 10100 fund. The money was used to buy out most of the company’s earlier backers, including venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, according to a report last year by Recode.

That same report said that Kalanick now has a controlling interest in City Storage Systems. It also said that serial entrepreneur Sky Dayton — who previously founded EarthLink, co-founded eCompanies and founded Boingo — is a co-founder.

City Storage Systems isn’t interested in on-demand kitchens alone, reportedly. The idea behind it is to buy distressed real estate, including parking lots, and repurpose it for a number of online-focused ventures.

While the China twist looks like a new development, it wouldn’t be a wholly surprising move. Having had to back out of China with Uber in 2016, Kalanick may be of a mind to jump into the country faster this time around, and with a local partner with whom he has a relationship. Indeed, Zhang spent two years as a regional manager for Uber in China before co-founding Ofo, which has since run into problems of its own.

We’ve also reached to Zhang for this story and hope to update it when we learn more.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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