Original Content podcast: Apple’s ‘Little America’ chooses uplift over anger

“Little America,” a new anthology series on Apple TV+, has been widely described as the best show on the fledging streaming service.

Here on the Original Content podcast, we aren’t ready to go quite that far, particularly since a couple of us are big fans of “See.” But we were pretty impressed.

The series, which counts “The Big Sick” writers Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani among its executive producers, tells eight separate stories (all based on real-life profiles in Epic Magazine) about immigrants to the United States. For example, the first episode focuses on a young boy whose parents end up returning to India in the face of deportation, leaving him as the de facto manager of their motel in Utah.

At a time when immigration remains a hot-button issue on the national stage, this might sound like the setup for a righteously angry and political show. Instead, “Little America” largely eschews overt politics, aside from its insistence in depicting as immigrants from all over the world as individuals with their own idiosyncrasies and ambitions — in short, as real human beings.

This makes for a funny, engaging show that never gets particularly dark or depressing. Perhaps that’s our only real criticism — that the stories seem so carefully chosen to emphasize uplift over anger that they can start to feel a bit formulaic.

In addition to our review (which includes some mild spoilers for early episodes), this episode takes us all over the place, covering everything from Netflix’s new method for reporting audience size to a lawsuit alleging that M. Night Shyamalan stole the idea for his TV+ series “Servant.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:

0:00 Intro
0:27 Netflix audience metrics
15:52 “Little America” review (mild spoilers)
45:59 M. Night Shyamalan lawsuit discussion
56:31 “Encore” discussion
1:02:07 “Bachelor” discussion


Source: Tech Crunch

Sundance: In Miss Americana, Taylor Swift demotes the Internet

In nearly a decade of attending Sundance, I’ve never seen a scene like the premiere of the documentary Miss Americana, detailing the last year and a half or so of Taylor Swift’s life. The crowd before letting into the theater was huge, blistering with rumors about whether or not there was so many guests and press that there wouldn’t be room for ticketed attendees and whispers about which door Swift would use when arriving.

A large crowd of hopeful waitlister fans, largely young women (not extremely common for Sundance) sang Swift songs in the 30 degree chill. When Swift did arrive, the cheers were off the charts for a normally relatively reserved crowd used to seeing celebrities.

All of this buildup, of course, served to underscore the major themes of Lana Wilson’s intimate and focused profile of Swift during a period of her life that typified a major shift in her attitude towards her public and private life.

If you’re like most people, your feelings about what kind of person Swift might be are decided by crowd-sourced panel of the top few percent of the most vocal Internet users. Among those, of course, are the media.

We’re far enough now into the Internet’s third age where it’s not represented as some sort of holistic and separate entity. Instead it’s woven like a tapestry into the daily life of Swift and her camp. Tweets, Instagram posts and articles on sites like this one are presented as a third conversant in any conversation, both between Swift and Wilson and between Swift and her family.

Basically, Swift is like most of us in that regard, we have all begun to treat the collective output of the internet as an entity with a right to wedge itself into any two beings attempts to reason.

But Miss Americana is not just about Taylor vs. The Internet, it’s also reflection on how that same panel lowers its gavel differently for women, especially young women, than it does men.

The closest parallel for me is probably Lady Gaga’s 2018 documentary Five Feet Two. There are similar segments that show the teardown of the modern pop song-making process.

Swift says that those were her most nerve wracking to film because of the messy way songs sometimes come together. But they were fascinating to me, and are some of the most fun bits. Swift and her collaborators often write and sing words right off of their iPhones (I saw no Android devices at all) as they work through a track. Songs that come to have intense meaning for fans are often snapshots of Swift’s life quickly jotted down in the notes app.

About that oddity, and pretty much every other way that the public perceives her, Swift proves to be firmly and calmly self-aware. She even acknowledges that this very awareness of how she is perceived often comes across as calculation or manipulation on her part.

While Swift gets all of this criticism powered by attention economy jet fuel, her self-awareness is not unique. I see it on TikTok and other young platforms, as teens and young people come to grips with and analyze how they are manipulated and judged by those very platforms. Swift may represent a sort of prime exemplar, but the attitude is generational, imo.

The Kids are just more capable of awareness of the systems at work on them than any previous generation.

The aforementioned Gaga doc, for me, worked very well when it showcased the real physical and psychological toll of a pop career. Miss Americana does this as well, even though Gaga has focused on her ability to challenge and provoke, while Swift has — as she herself admits in the doc — held onto the concept of being a ‘good girl’, liked by everyone as her guiding principle.

Swift’s realization of the completely impossible task of pleasing the networked apparatus of fickle outrage machines that pass as the deciding body of public opinion now is the core pivot point for the doc.

That’s typified by a scene where she is faced by a panel of people, all men, who are telling her all of the reasons taking a public political stance would be dangerous, costly to her brand and damaging to her financially. The impetus is Swift’s opposition to Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn’s re-election. Swift’s experience with her sexual assault trial and Blackburn’s opposition to the Violence Against Women Act are the tipping point that pushes her to take a public political stance for the first time. Provoking her team to have a conversation that takes the rough shape of an intervention.

There are sincere elements of concern for Swift — her father gets all of her death threats and arranges for security, she said after the screening. But the comments from her staff and team included by Wilson are telling — “what is the most effective way we could ensure that half as many people come to a Taylor Swift show?”

What you won’t find in this doc is some sort of lurking personal demon. Instead the demon is the way that internet culture reduces anyone with a modicum of fame to slivers of projected personality. And, by extension, becomes the most potent engine of self doubt ever invented.

By demoting the Internet to a tool vs. a deciding force in her well being, Swift is showing fans and viewers a healthier path forward.

The two major themes explored include Swift’s desire to please an ever-demanding audience, and the endemic separation between the way creative men are judged and the way creative women are judged in the public sphere.

Both are addressed cleverly, if not in a wholly (and perhaps impossibly) satisfying way.

Wilson has executed the prime directive of a documentary film with Miss Americana. If you were of a slightly negative opinion of Swift going in, based on casual impressions generated for you by vocal minorities amplified via algorithm you will find yourself coming away with more empathy, understanding and likely respect for the Swift presented here. A portrait of a powerful woman in control coming to grips with the current costs of that command.

People on the other side of the love/hate coin are unlikely to be converted. But given that one of the through lines of the doc is Swift’s increasing ability to separate opinion from directive, it’s not likely that it will bother her — as much.

Image: Sundance


Source: Tech Crunch

Startups Weekly: Tech layoffs spread (a bit)

Are January layoffs just a few post-WeWork jitters?

TechCrunch has found itself writing about layoffs at a few notable tech companies this week — and not just Softbank-backed ones. The focus is very much profits, as Alex Wilhelm summed up on Thursday, especially after the failed WeWork IPO and subsequent valuation and headcount decimation. We’ll be digging into the topic more soon but there does seem to be a certain consumery thread here. And perhaps some fears of negative macro trends bubbling up?

23andMe cut 16% or 100 people, citing slowing sales for DNA tests. Quora reduced an undisclosed number to focus on revenue. 

Plenty of tech investors have criticized Softbank’s approach to writing large check for large valuations, but they can’t avoid the same fears these days. So does Mozilla, which had to cut 70 people this month after struggling to build revenue products.

It still all seems sort of normal given the very high valuations and recent reconsiderations, at least so far. Layoffs may very well continue this year in a way that is necessary and even healthy in the long run.

More on TechCrunch, from Alex:

23andMe  and Mozilla are not alone, however. Playful Studios cut staff just this week, 2019 itself saw more than 300% more tech layoffs than in the preceding year and TechCrunch has covered a litany of layoffs at Vision Fund-backed companies over the past few months, including:

Scooter unicorns Lime and Bird have also reduced staff this year. The for-profit drive is firing on all cylinders in the wake of the failed WeWork IPO attempt. WeWork was an outlier in terms of how bad its financial results were, but the fear it introduced to the market appears pretty damn mainstream by this point. (Forsake hope, alle ye whoe require a Series H.)

Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

2019 venture data had soft spots, maybe

Fresh data sets are in on last year from Crunchbase, as well as PitchBook and the NVCA. Alex identified a few key takeaways: slightly lower early-stage fundings, a big global year overall, and some of the above WeWork-attributed drops already surfacing in the Q4 data over on TechCrunch.

I have to wonder what we really know right now, though. These are the best publicly-accessible funding databases out there, but many companies have stopped filing Form Ds with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in recent years, as Danny Crichton has been covering in this ongoing series. That was a main data source, especially about early-stage stealth companies.

The Crunchbase report goes over the global trend for the year, and that’s another confounding factor, actually — how trackable are startup funding dollars across borders these days? And how do you account for remote teams in that mix? And how do you account for crypto…?

If you are building a company now at any stage, the financial signs out now are not in my humble opinion ones to have any fear over. Especially relative to the other problems that are almost certainly in front of you.

There is a lot of money in VC now regardless of anything else, as the Pitchbook-NVCA report notes, and there will be for a long time.

How to handle a recession

As if on cue, we had a couple guest columnists provide articles about capital efficiency and recession-proofing your company. Shin Kim has a two-parter on TechCrunch and Extra Crunch, where he breaks down why most tech IPOs are not WeWork (in a good way) and how to pace your own fundraising regardless of anything else going on

Schwark Satyavolu, meanwhile, digs into the best practices for startups in the next recession for Extra Crunch, starting with this brutal real-life intro:

I founded my first startup, Yodlee,  in a strong economy with almost 20 competitors. Ten years and a painful recession later, we were the only game in town. Critical to our success was acquiring our largest competitor, something we never could have done in a strong economy because they never would have been willing to sell. The recession made it untenable for them to fundraise, enabling us not only to buy them, but to do so without cash in an all-equity deal.

A proclamation about board diversity

Board representation is a hot topic for companies of all sizes and none other than Goldman Sachs said this week that it would only take companies public that had at least one underrepresented board member.

CEO David Solomon said that companies that had gone public in the last four years with at least one female board member did significantly better than those without, but Megan Dickey notes for Extra Crunch that’s not quite all the way towards the goal:

But the lack of people of color on boards is perhaps a more urgent issue. Late last year, a Crunchbase study found that 60% of the most funded VC-backed startups don’t have a single woman on their board of directors. But there are even fewer black people, let alone black women, on boards. A 2018 Deloitte study found that of the Fortune 100 companies, white men held 61.4% of board seats, white women held 19.1%, men of color had 13.7% of board seats and women of color had just 5.8% of board seats.

Connie Loizos, meanwhile, writes for TechCrunch that boards themselves are not all of the way towards the goal:

Let’s be real here. Directors of public companies typically meet just four times a year to review quarterly results. It’s important and necessary, sure. But beyond ensuring that strategic objectives are being met and hopefully making useful introductions to the company, these roles are assigned more importance by industry watchers than they should. (They often pay ludicrous amounts given the work involved, too.)

Even pledging that Goldman is only going to take public companies that give back — say 1% of future profits to the NAACP, as one idea — would instantly put the bank in pole position for those founders and investors who truly want to be progressive. Goldman might miss out on a lot of business in the immediate term, we realize, but we’re guessing it’s a gamble that would pay off over time.

Around the horn

Lame LPs, founder referenceability and the future of VC signaling (TC)

Why is everyone making OKR software? (EC)

Should tech giants slam the encryption door on the government? (TC)

Where top VCs are investing in adtech and martech (EC)

US mobile app subscription revenue jumped 21% in 2019 to $4.6B across the top 100 apps (TC)

Relativity Space could change the economics of private space launches (EC)

Can a time machine offer us the meaning of life? (TC)

#EquityPod

Alex and Danny are back on Equity this week, here’s a menu before you listen to the episode here (and if you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that here).

  • Why Front’s latest investment (a $59 million Series C) is a pretty big deal. Not because of how much money it has raised — the firm has raised more in a single, preceding round — but because of who put the capital to work.

  • On the venture capital front, Danny and Alex also chewed over signaling risk in venture, and why bigger funds are writing earlier and earlier checks.

  • Also on the docket was the latest from Lambda School, which our former co-host and friend Kate Clark wrote. The gist is that regardless of how you feel about the company, your views are probably a bit too negative, or a bit too positive. (More on the company’s ilk from Extra Crunch here, and here.)

  • And three media deals, including The Athletic’s latest investment ($50 million), who might buy the company behind the hit podcast “Serial” and why Spotify might buy The Ringer. Which is about sports, it turns out.

    Want Startups Weekly in your inbox each week? You can sign up for this and TechCrunch’s other newsletters here.


Source: Tech Crunch

This Week in Apps: Apple antitrust issues come to Congress, subscription apps boom, Tencent takes on TikTok

Welcome back to ThisWeek in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever with a record 204 billion downloads in 2019 and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s recently released “State of Mobile” annual report. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, there was a ton of app news. We’re digging into the latest with Apple’s antitrust issues, Tencent’s plan to leverage WeChat to fend off the TikTok threat, AppsFlyer’s massive new round, the booming subscription economy, Disney’s mobile game studio sale, Pokémon GO’s boost to tourism, Match Group’s latest investment and much more. And did you see the app that lets you use your phone from within a paper envelope? Or the new AR social network? It’s Weird App Week, apparently.

Headlines


Source: Tech Crunch

Samasource CEO Leila Janah passes away at 37

The startup community has lost another moral leader today.

Leila Janah, a serial entrepreneur who was the CEO and founder of machine learning training data company Samasource, passed away at the age of 37 due to complications from Epithelioid Sarcoma, a form of cancer, according to a statement from the company.

She focused her career on social and ethical entrepreneurship with the goal of ending global poverty, founding three distinct organizations over her career spanning the for-profit and non-profit worlds. She was most well-known for Samasource, which was founded a little more than a decade ago to help machine learning specialists develop better ML models through more complete and ethical training data-sets.

The company is distinct for delivering AI-driven services to Fortune 100 companies with a global workforce of data specialists, a large number of whom are located in East Africa.

Janah and her company were well ahead of their time, as issues related to bias in ML models have become top-of-mind for many product leaders in Silicon Valley today.

My TechCrunch colleague Jake Bright had just interviewed Janah several weeks ago, after Samasource raised more than $15 million in venture capital, according to Crunchbase.

In that interview Janah spoke of what inspired her to form an AI company in Africa. “I saw huge opportunity for tapping into the incredible depth of … talent in East Africa in the tech world,” she said of Samasource’s origins.

Michael Stewart/WireImage

The company has a global staff of 2,900 and is the largest AI and data annotation employer in East Africa, Janah told TechCrunch.

She discussed taking Samasource, and its largely African workforce, from non-profit to for-profit status. “As a CEO I need to make it clear to investors that this is an investible entity,” she said. Janah shared her view that providing for-profit AI training data to global companies can be done while improving lives in East Africa. “I strongly believe you can combine the highest quality of service with the core mission of altruism,” she said.

“A big part of our values is offering living wages and creating dignified technology work for people. We hire people from low-income backgrounds and offer them training in AI and machine learning. And our teams achieve above the industry standard.”

In an unpublished segment of her last TechCrunch interview, Janah underscored her commitment to gender diversity in tech. “We are probably the only firm in our space that has a female CEO, a female COO … and over 60% of our management and are women. That’s highly unusual in the tech world,” she said.

In a statement on Janah’s passing, Samasource said:

We are all committed to continuing Leila’s work, and to ensuring her legacy and vision is carried out for years to come. To accomplish this, Wendy Gonzalez, longtime business partner and friend to Leila, will take the helm as interim CEO of Samasource. Previously the organization’s COO, Wendy has spent the past five years working alongside Leila to craft Samasource’s vision and strategy.

In addition to Samasource, Janah founded SF-based Samaschool, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to helping low-income workers learn critical freelancing skills by helping them negotiate the changing dynamics in the freelance economy. The organization has built partnerships with groups like Goodwill to empower them to offer additional curricular resources within their own existing programs and initiatives.

Photo by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Watermark Conference for Women 2016

Janah also founded LXMI, a skin-care brand that emphasized organic and fair-trade ingredients, with a focus on sourcing from low-income women’s cooperatives in East Africa. Founded three years ago, the company raised a seed round from the likes of NEA, Sherpa, and Reid Hoffman according to Crunchbase.

Across all of her initiatives, Janah consistently put the concerns of under-represented people at the forefront, and designed organizations to empower such people in their daily lives. Her entrepreneurial spirit, commitment, and integrity will be sorely missed in the startup community.

TechCrunch editor-at-large Josh Constine had this to say of Janah’s impact:

Leila was propulsive. Being around her, you’d swear there were suddenly more hours in the day just based on how much she could accomplish. Yet rather than conjuring that energy through ruthless efficiency, she carried on with grace and boundless empathy. Whether for her closest friends or a village of strangers on the other side of the world, she embraced others’ challenges as her own. Leila turned vulnerability into an advantage, making people feel so comfortable in her presence that they could unwind their personal and professional puzzles. Leila is the kind of founder we need more of, and she’ll remain an example of how to do business with heart.

Janah’s legacy will continue through the AI data-training specialists the company she founded, Samasource, trains and employs. As part of its latest Series A, Samasource increased staff in Uganda to 90 people with plans to grow that by 150% in 2020, she told TechCrunch in late 2019.

Updated January 25, 2019 to include additional quotes from TechCrunch editor-at-large Josh Constine and additional material from TechCrunch reporter Jake Bright’s recent interview with Janah from November.


Source: Tech Crunch

Clayton Christensen, author of “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” has passed away at age 67

Clayton Christensen, a longtime professor at Harvard Business School who became famous worldwide after authoring the best-selling business book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail,” passed away last night.

The Deseret News reported earlier today that the cause tied to complications from leukemia treatments that Christensen was receiving in Boston. He was 67 years old.

Clayton had suffered from ill health for years, always battling his way back. By the age of 58, Clayton — who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 30 — had already suffered a heart attack, cancer, and a stroke, telling Forbes in 2011 that he tried to view such setbacks as opportunities, even, apparently, when they involved intensive speech therapy, which he was undergoing at the time.

Clayton created opportunities for himself and others throughout his career. The business world came to know Christensen after Intel cofounder Andy Grove brought him into the company as an advisor, then announced to the world that “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” published in 1997, was the best book he’d read in 10 years. (This was saying something, given Grove’s own considerable writing skills.) Yet Christensen came from modest means.

According to a 2012 profile in New Yorker magazine, he grew up on the “wrong side of the tracks” in Salt Lake City, in a Mormon household, collecting paper tray liners from fast food restaurants, and stuffing his 6′ 8″ frame into a 1986 Chevy Nova that he drove around town.

According to the profile, Christensen, an excellent student and a popular one (he was student body president), “wanted to go to Harvard or Yale, and got into both, but his mother wanted him to go to Brigham Young. Not knowing what to do, he fasted and prayed, and he discovered that God agreed with his mother. That wasn’t the answer he was looking for, so he fasted and prayed some more, just to make sure he hadn’t misheard or something, but he hadn’t, so he went to Brigham Young.”

There, he studied economics before and after a two-year leave of absence to serve as a volunteer full-time missionary for the LDS Church. Then it was off to Oxford, where he earned a master’s as a Rhodes Scholar, then Harvard Business School. After receiving his MBA, he landed at Boston Consulting Group, and after a few years in the working world, headed back to Harvard for a PhD so he could teach.

Over the ensuing years, Christensen would write 10 books, though none were as ubiquitous as “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” which was timed perfectly in retrospect. It put forth a theory why people buy products that are often cheaper and easier to use than their more sophisticated and more expensive predecessors, and resonated widely as one incumbent after another — Xerox, U.S. Steel, Digital Equipment Corp. — stumbled while other companies began rising in their dust: think Amazon, Google, Apple.

Interestingly, according to the New Yorker, one of Christensen’s rare, bad calls was his prediction that the Apple iPhone wouldn’t be widely adopted because it was too fancy.

Apple cofounder Steve Jobs was a fan nevertheless. According to the Walter Isaacson biography of Jobs, published just weeks after Jobs’s death in October 2011, “The Innovator’s Dilemma” “deeply influenced” him.

If you’re interested in learning more about Christensen’s views, you might enjoy this conversation between Christensen and investor-entrepreneur Marc Andreessen; it took place in 2016 at the Startup Grind series.


Source: Tech Crunch

Vine reboot Byte officially launches

Two years after Vine’s co-founder Dom Hofmann announced he was building a successor to the short-form video app, today Byte makes its debut on iOS and Android. Byte lets you shoot or upload and then share six-second videos. The tiny time limit necessitates no-filler content that’s denser than the maximum 1-minute clips on TikTok.

Byte comes equipped with standard social features like a feed, Explore page, notifications, and profiles. For now, though Byte lacks the remixability, augmented reality filters, transition effects, and other bonus features you’ll find in apps like TikTok .

What Hofmann hopes will differentiate Byte is an early focus on helping content creators make money — something TikTok, and other micro-entertainment apps largely don’t offer. The app plans to soon launch a pilot of its partner program for offering monetization options to people proving popular on Byte. When asked if Byte would offer ad revenue sharing, tipping, or other options to partners, Hofmann told me that “We’re looking at all of those, but we’ll be starting with a revenue share + supplementing with our own funds. We’ll have more details about exactly how the pilot program will work soon.”

Many creators who’ve grown popular on apps like TikTok and Snapchat that lack direct monetization have tried to pull their audiences over to YouTube where they can earn a steady ad-share. By getting started paying early, Byte might lure some of those dancers, comedians, and pranksters over to its app and be able to retain them long-term. Former Vine stars turned TikTok stars like Chris Melberger. Joshdarnit, and Lance Stewart are already on Byte.

Staying connected with Byte’s most loyal users is another way Hofmann hopes to set his app apart. He’s been actively running a beta tester forum since the initial Byte announcement in early 2018, and sees it as a way to find out what features to build next. “It’s always a bummer when the people behind online services and the people that actually use them are disconnected from one another, so we’re trying out these forums to see if we can do a better job at that” Hofmann writes.

Byte founder Dom Hofmann

Byte is a long time coming. To rewind all the way, Hofmann co-founded Vine in June 2012 with Colin Kroll and Rus Yusupov, but it was acquired by Twitter before its launch in January 2013. By that fall, Hofmann had left the company. But 2014 and 2015 saw Vine’s popularity grow thanks to rapid-fire comedy skits and the creativity unlocked by its looping effect. Vine reached over 200 million active users. Then the unthinkable happened. Desperate to cut costs, Twitter shut down Vine’s sharing feed in late 2016 so it wouldn’t have to host any more video content. The creative web mourned.

By then, Hofmann had already built the first version of Byte, which offered more free-form creation. You could pull together photos, GIFs, drawings and more into little shareable creations. But this prototype never gained steam. Hofmann gave Vine fans hope when he announced plans to build a successor called V2 in early 2018, but cancelled it a few months later. Hofmann got more serious about the project by then end of 2018, announcing the name Byte and then beginning beta testing in April 2019.

Now the big question will be whether Byte can take off despite its late start. Between TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and more, do people need another short-form video app? Winning here will require seducing high quality creators who can get bigger view counts elsewhere. Considering there’s already a pile of TikTok competitors like Dubsmash, Triller, Firework, and Facebook’s Lasso available in the US, creators seeking stardom on a less competitive network already have plenty of apps to try. Hofmann may have to rely on the soft spot for Vine in people’s memories to get enough activity on Byte to recreate its predecessor’s magic.


Source: Tech Crunch

A founder’s guide to recession planning for startups

We are living through one of the nation’s longest periods of economic growth. Unfortunately, the good times can’t last forever. A recession is likely on the horizon, even if we can’t pinpoint exactly when. Founders can’t afford to wait until the midst of a downturn to figure out their game plans; that would be like initiating swim lessons only after getting dumped in the open ocean.

When recession inevitably strikes, it will be many founders’ — and even many VCs’ — first experiences navigating a downturn. Every startup executive needs a recession playbook. The time to start building it is now.

While recessions make running any business tough, they don’t necessitate doom. I co-founded two separate startups just before downturns struck, yet I successfully navigated one through the 2000 dot-com bust and the second through the 2008 financial crisis. Both companies not only survived but thrived. One went public and the second was acquired by Mastercard.

I hope my lessons learned prove helpful to building your own recession game plan.


Source: Tech Crunch

Daily Crunch: Goldman Sachs calls for diverse boards

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.

1. Goldman Sachs says it won’t take startups public without at least one ‘diverse’ director; it should go further

CEO David Solomon told CNBC that beginning this year, Goldman will no longer take companies public if they don’t have at least one “diverse” member on its board of directors.

Some will, perhaps rightly, see the announcement as little more than marketing. After all, it’s already widely viewed as unacceptable for a company to go public without at least one female board member and preferably far more diversity than that.

2. London’s Met Police switches on live facial recognition, flying in face of human rights concerns

The deployment comes after a multi-year period of trials by the Met and police in South Wales. The Met says its use of the controversial technology will be targeted to “specific locations … where intelligence suggests we are most likely to locate serious offenders.”

3. Sonos clarifies how unsupported devices will be treated

If you use a Zone Player, Connect, first-generation Play:5, CR200, Bridge or pre-2015 Connect:Amp, Sonos is still going to drop support for those devices. But at least the company is backing away from its initial decision that your entire ecosystem of Sonos devices would stop receiving updates, as well.

4. Meet the B2B videoconferencing startup that’s gone crazy for online dating

Eyeson’s website touts “no downloads, no lag, no hassle” video calls. But when TechCrunch came across founder Andreas Kröpfl last December, pitching hard in Startup Alley at Disrupt Berlin, he was most keen to talk about something else entirely: video dating.

5. Layoffs hit Q&A startup Quora

Quora, the 10-year-old question-and-answer company based in Mountain View, is laying off staff in its Bay Area and New York offices. CEO Adam D’Angelo did not disclose the scale of the layoffs.

6. As SaaS stocks set new records, Atlassian’s earnings show there’s still room to grow

Atlassian reported earnings after-hours yesterday and the market quickly pushed its shares up by more than 10%. Alex Wilhelm explores why. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

7. Wikipedia now has more than 6 million articles in English

The feat, which comes roughly 19 years after the website was founded, is a testament of “what humans can do together,” said Ryan Merkley, chief of staff at Wikimedia, the nonprofit organization that operates the online encyclopedia.


Source: Tech Crunch

Los Angeles-based CREXi raises $29 million for its online real estate marketplace

Los Angeles is one of the most desirable locations for commercial real estate in the United States, so it’s little wonder that there’s something of a boom in investments in technology companies servicing the market coming from the region.

It’s one of the reasons that CREXi, the commercial real estate marketplace, was able to establish a strong presence for its digital marketplace and toolkit for buyers, sellers, and investors.

Since the company raised its last institutional round in 2018, it has added over 300,000 properties for sale or lease across the U.S. and increased its user base to 6 million customers, according to a statement.

It has now raised $29 million in new financing from new investors including Mitsubishi Estate Company (“MEC”), Industry Ventures, and Prudence Holdings . Previous investors Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Jackson Square Ventures also participated in the financing.

CREXi makes money in three ways. There’s a subscription service for brokers looking to sell or lease property; an auction service where CREXi will earn a fee upon the close of a transaction; and a data and analytics service that allows users to get a view into the latest trends in commercial real estate based on the vast collection of properties on offer through the company’s services.

The company touts its service as the only technology offering that can take a property from marketing to the close of a sale or lease without having to leave the platform.

According to chief executive, Mike DiGiorgio, the company is also recession proof thanks to its auction services. “As more distressed properties hit the market the best way to sell them is through an online auction,” DiGiorgio says.

So far, the company has seen $700 billion of transactions flow through the platform and roughly 40% of those deals were exclusive to the company.

“The CRE industry is evolving, and market players, especially younger, digitally native generations are seeking out platforms that provide free and open access to information,” said Gavin Myers, General Partner at Prudence Holdings, in a statement. “CREXi directly addresses this market need, providing fair access to a range of CRE information. As CREXi continues to build out its stable of services, features, and functionality, we’re thrilled to partner with them and support the company’s continued momentum.”

CREXi joins the ranks of startups based in Los Angeles that have raised money to reshape the real estate industry. Estimates from Built in LA count roughly 127 companies, which have raised in excess of $2.4 billion, active in the real estate industry in Los Angeles. These companies range from providers of short-term commercial office space, like Knotel, or co-working companies like WeWork, to companies focused on servicing the real estate industry like Luxury Presence, which raised a $5 million round earlier in the year.


Source: Tech Crunch