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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How Zhihu’s become one of China’s biggest hubs for experts – gpgmail


Zhihu may not be as well known outside of China as WeChat or ByteDance’s Douyin, but over the past eight years, it has cultivated a reputation for being one of the country’s most trustworthy social media platforms. Originally launched as a question-and-answer site similar to Quora, Zhihu has grown to be a central hub for professional knowledge, allowing users to interact with experts and companies in a wide range of industries.

Headquartered in Beijing, Zhihu recently raised a $434 million Series F, its biggest round since 2011. The funding also brought Zhihu two important new partners: video and live-streaming app Beijing Kuaishou, which led the round, and Baidu, owner of China’s largest search engine (other participants in the round included Tencent and CapitalToday).

Launched in 2011, Zhihu (the name means “do you know”) is most frequently compared to Quora and Yahoo Answers. While it resembled those Q&A platforms at first, it has grown in scope. Now it would be more accurate to say that the platform is like a combination of Quora, LinkedIn and Medium’s subscription program.

For example, Zhihu has an invitation-only blogging platform for verified experts and since launching official accounts, it has become a channel for companies and organizations to communicate with users. A representative for Zhihu told gpgmail that the platform had 220 million users and 30,000 official accounts as of January 2019 (for context, there are currently about 800 million Internet users in China), who have posted a total of 130 million answers so far.

The company’s growth will be closely watched since Zhihu is reportedly preparing for an initial public offering. Last November, the company hired its first chief financial officer, Sun Wei, heightening speculation. A representative for the company told gpgmail the position was created because of Zhihu’s business development needs and that there is currently no timeline for a public listing.

At the same time, the company has also dealt with reports that its growth has slowed.


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China’s largest Q&A platform, Zhihu, raises $434 million from investors including Kuaishou, Baidu and Tencent – gpgmail


Zhihu, the largest question and answer platform in China, has raised a $434 million Series F. This is not only the company’s biggest round since it launched in 2011, but also one of the largest secured over the past two years by a Chinese Internet culture and entertainment company, said China Renaissance, which served as the funding’s financial advisor.

The Series F was led by Beijing Kuaishou, the video and live-streaming app, with participation from Baidu . Existing investors Tencent and CapitalToday also returned for the round, which Zhihu will use for technology and product development. Baidu told Bloomberg that it will add 100 million Zhihu posts to its main app.

While Zhihu has downplayed reports that it is planning an IPO, it embarked on plans to hire a CFO and restructure last year.

Zhihu users tend to be educated with relatively high incomes and the platform has developed a reputation for hosting experts and organizations that are knowledgeable in tech, marketing and professional services like education. Like Quora and other Q&A platforms, Zhihu lets users post and answer text-based questions. But it also has other features, including discussion forums, a publishing platform and live videos for brands and companies to answer questions in real-time. Instead of making its streaming video feature, called Zhihu Live, open to all users, it is available to only to experts and organizations, differentiating it from other streaming apps like Douyin, the domestic version of TikTok (ByteDance is an investor in Zhihu but did not participate in this round).

In a post about the round on his Zhihu page, founder and CEO Victor Zhou wrote the company plans to keep up with rapid changes in China’s media and Internet landscape. “Over the past 8 years, users have gone from expecting simple entertainment to using the Internet to deal with real-life and work problems. The focus of competition has also shifted from traffic to traffic + quality.”

 


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