Top EC articles in August, Apple privacy woes, autonomous delivery robotics Starship, and Zhihu – gpgmail


Top Articles in August

We are back from Labor Day (which an ironically somewhat unkind Canadian EC subscriber noted also takes place up north). August was the most successful month for Extra Crunch since our launch about six months ago — so thank you to the thousands of new and continuing members that help us sustain quality journalism and analysis.

For those who took extended vacations last month, here are the top five most popular articles among EC members we published last month:

Y Combinator Demo Day: We picked our favorites from day one and day two and our venture capital reporter Kate Clark wrote an analysis of what the 160+ startups in the batch seemed to indicate about YC’s investment theses these days. YC remains as popular as ever if EC members’ curiosity with these articles is any indication.

How a Swedish saxophonist built Kobalt, the world’s next music unicorn: Our Extra Crunch media columnist Eric Peckham traveled to Europe to report out this deep dive into Kobalt, which is upending traditional music rights management, and is closing in on unicorn status as well. This origin story here was one of my favorites, since it showed how tenacity against incredible adversity can lead to success in the long run. I am editing Eric’s next two parts of this EC-1 as I write this, so expect those shortly.

How Dropbox, Nike, Salesforce, MailChimp, Google and Pepsi welcome their new hires: This was a bit of a surprise one for me. Our guest writer Vladimir Polo has been collecting welcome kits from different companies for years, and he compiled all of them for this piece on how different companies think about welcoming employees.

WeWork’s S-1 misses these three key points: WeWork is the most polarizing startup I have seen in sometime. So I read through the S-1 (yes, all 200-300 pages of the damn thing) to find a couple of nuggets I thought the company was missing from the filing (which, in itself, was a follow up of my EC analysis of what we should expect to see in the S-1 in the first place).

How should B2B startups think about growth? Not like B2C: Finally, we had our guest writers Kevin Barry and Tyler Elliston discuss the differences between marketing and growing a B2B startup and how that compares with B2C startups. They give a detailed guide on the ways to think about growth in B2B and the tactical tools that these startups can use.

Apple still has work to do on privacy

Over the long weekend, our privacy and policy writer Natasha Lomas wrote an insightful analysis of what we know about Apple’s privacy promises given the news that the company was offering Siri recordings to contractors for grading. Lomas sees Apple’s privacy promises as quite cynical given the context, but also sees an opportunity for the company to right its past wrongs.


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Starship Technologies CEO Lex Bayer on focus and opportunity in autonomous delivery – gpgmail


Starship Technologies is fresh off a recent $40 million funding round, and the robotics startup finds itself in a much-changed market compared to when it got its start in 2014. Founded by software industry veterans including Skype and Rdio co-founder Janis Friis, Starship’s focus is entirely on building and commercialization fleets of autonomous sidewalk delivery robots.

Starship invented this category when it debuted, but five years later it’s one of a number of companies looking to deploy what essentially amounts to wheeled, self-driven coolers that can carry small packages and everyday freight including fresh food to waiting customers. CEO Lex Bayer, a former sales leader from Airbnb, took over the top spot at Starship last year and is eager to focus the company’s efforts in a drive to take full advantage of its technology and experience lead.

The result is transforming what looked, to all external observers, like a long tail technology play into a thriving commercial enterprise.

“We want to do 100 universities in the next 24 months, and we’ll do about 25 to 50 robots in each campus,” Bayer said in an interview about his company’s plans for the future.


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Postmates lands permit to test its Serve autonomous delivery robots in SF – gpgmail


Postmates has officially received the green light from the city of San Francisco to begin testing its Serve wheeled delivery robot on city streets, as first reported by the SF Chronicle and confirmed with Postmates by gpgmail. The on-demand delivery company told us last week that it expected the issuance of the permit to come through shortly after a conditional approval, and that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday this week.

The permit doesn’t cover the entire city — just a designated area of a number of blocks in and around Potrero Hill and the Inner Mission, but it will allow Postmates to begin testing up to three autonomous delivery robots at once, at speeds of up to 3 mph. Deliveries can only take place between 8 AM and 6:30 PM on weekdays, and a human has to be on hand within 30 feet of the vehicles while they’re operating. Still, it’s a start — and from a city regulatory environment that has had a somewhat rocky start with some less collaborative early pilots from other companies.

Autonomous delivery bot company Marble also has a permit application pending with the city’s Public Works department, and will look to test its own four-wheeled, sensor-equipped rolling delivery bots within the city soon, should it be granted similar testing approval.

Postmates revealed Serve last December, taking a more anthropomorphic approach to the vehicle’s overall design. Like many short-distance delivery robots of its ilk, it includes a lockable cargo container and screen-based user interface for eventual autonomous deliveries to customers. The competitive field for autonomous rolling delivery bots is growing continuously, with companies like Starship Technologies, Amazon and many more throwing their hats in the ring.


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