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Today — September 19th 2019Your RSS feeds

California Governor Gavin Newsom signs gig worker bill AB-5 into law

By Megan Rose Dickey

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed into law gig worker protections bill AB-5. This comes shortly after AB-5 passed in the California State Assembly and Senate.

“Today, we are disrupting the status quo and taking a bold step forward to rebuild our middle class and reshape the future of workers as we know it,” bill author and Assemblyperson Lorena Gonzalez said in a statement. “As one of the strongest economies in the world, California is now setting the global standard for worker protections for other states and countries to follow.”

AB-5 will help to ensure gig economy workers are entitled to minimum wage, workers’ compensation and other benefits by requiring employers to apply the ABC test. The bill, first introduced in December 2018, aims to codify the ruling established in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v Superior Court of Los Angeles. In that case, the court applied the ABC test and decided Dynamex wrongfully classified its workers as independent contractors.

According to the ABC test, in order for a hiring entity to legally classify a worker as an independent contractor, it must prove the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity, performs work outside the scope of the entity’s business and is regularly engaged in work of some independently established trade or other similar business.

“We agree with Gov. Newsom that California still has an opportunity to support the overwhelming majority of rideshare drivers who want a thoughtful solution that balances flexibility with earnings guarantees and protections,” Lyft spokesperson Adrian Durbin said in a statement to TechCrunch. “We are confident that with his leadership we can reach a historic agreement, but if necessary we are prepared to take this issue to the voters to preserve the freedom and access drivers and passengers want.”

Last week, Uber made it clear it plans to do whatever it takes to keep its drivers independent contractors.

“We will continue to advocate for a compromise agreement,” Uber Chief Legal Officer Tony West said on a press call last week.

As Uber outlined last month, the company is pushing for a framework that would establish a guaranteed earnings minimum while on a trip, offer portable benefits and enable drivers to “have a collective voice.”

He went on to say that Uber is continuing to explore several legal and political options to lay the groundwork for a statewide ballot initiative in 2020. Uber and Lyft announced a $60 million joint initiative last month, and now West is saying Uber is open to investing even more money in that committee account.

“This is not our first choice,” West said. “At the same time, we need to make sure we are exploring all options and all alternatives to put forward a framework that works for the 21st-century economy, and we believe we have a framework that does that.”

Despite opposition from Uber and other gig economy companies, the law will go into effect January 1, 2020.

Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

Startups Weekly: Part & Parcel plans plus-sized fashion empire

By Kate Clark

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups and venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I wrote about Stripe’s grand plans. Before that, I noted Peloton’s secret weapons

Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you don’t subscribe to Startups Weekly yet, you can do that here.

Startup spotlight

The best companies are built by people who have personally experienced the problem they’re attempting to solve. Lauren Jonas, the founder and chief executive officer of Part & Parcel, is intimately familiar with the struggles faced by the women she’s building for.

San Francisco-based Part & Parcel is a plus-sized clothing and shoe startup providing dimensional sizing to women across the U.S. The company operates a bit differently than your standard direct-to-consumer business by seeking to include the women who wear and evangelize the Part & Parcel designs by giving them a cut of their sales.

Here’s how it works: Ambassadors sign up to receive signature styles from Part & Parcel, which they then share and sell to women in their network. Ultimately, the sellers are eligible to receive up to 30% of the profit per sale. The out-of-the-box model, which might remind you somewhat of Mary Kay or Tupperware’s business strategy, is meant to encourage a sense of community and usher in a new era in which plus-sized women can facilitate other plus-sized women’s access to great clothes. 

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“I bought a brown men’s polyester suit and wore it to an interview,” Jonas, an early employee at Poshmark and the long-time author of the popular blog, ‘The Pear Shape,’ tells TechCrunch. “I was that kid wearing a men’s suit.”

Clothing tailored to plus-sized women has long been missing from the retail market. Increasingly, however, new brands are building thriving businesses by catering precisely to the historically forgotten demographic. Dia&Co., for example, raised another $70 million in venture capital funding last fall from Sequoia and USV. And Walmart recently acquired another brand in the space, ELOQUII, for an undisclosed amount. Part & Parcel, for its part, has raised $4 million in seed funding in a round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Jeremy Liew.

The startup launched earlier this year in Anchorage, “a clothing desert,” and has since grown its network to include women in several other underserved markets. Given her own history struggling to find a fitted woman’s suit, Jonas launched her line with structured pieces, including suits and blouses — though the startup’s biggest success yet, she says, has been its boots, which come in three different calf width options.

“Seventy percent of women in this country are plus-sized,” Jonas said. “I’m bringing plus out of the dark corner of the department store.”

This week in VC

sex tech 1

Image: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Must read

TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey published a highly anticipated deep dive on the state of sex tech this week. The piece provides new data on funding in sex tech and wellness companies, analysis on sex tech startup’s battle for public advertising and responses from industry leaders on how we can destigmatize sex with technology. Here’s a short passage from the story:

Cindy Gallop sees a market opportunity in every type of business obstacle she encounters. That’s why All The Sky will also seek to invest in startups that tackle the infrastructural tools needed to fuel sextech, like payments, hosting providers and e-commerce sites.

“I want to fund the sextech ecosystem to maintain and sustain a portfolio for All the Skies, to create a bloody huge sextech ecosystem and three, to monopolistically build out the ecosystem to be a multi-trillion-dollar market,” Gallop says.

On my radar

I swung by Contrary Capital‘s Demo Day this week, in which a number of startups gave a 4- to 5-minute pitch. Next on my list is Alchemist‘s Demo Day in Menlo Park. The accelerator welcomes enterprise startups for a six-month program focused on early customer adoption, company development and mentorship.

Also on my radar is Females To The Front. The event began this week in Palm Springs and if I were based in SoCal, I would have swung by. Led by Amy Margolis, the event is said to be the largest gathering of female cannabis founders and funders to date. Here’s how the group describes the event: “Females to the Front Retreat will mix immersive and hands-on workshops, pitch training, investment deck preparation and business skill set education with investor meetings and plenty of shared meals, pool time, yoga, connections, rest and rejuvenation. Every workshop is built to directly engage attendees instead of powerpoint and panels. Be prepared to return home inspired, engaged and with so many more tools in your toolbox.”

For the record, I don’t advertise events in my newsletter just wanted to give props to this one because it’s a great development for the cannabis tech ecosystem.

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Time to Disrupt

We are just weeks away from our flagship conference, TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco. We have dozens of amazing speakers lined up. In addition to taking in the great line-up of speakers, ticket holders can roam around Startup Alley to catch the more than 1,000 companies showcasing their products and technologies. And, of course, you’ll get the opportunity to watch the Startup Battlefield competition live. Past competitors include Dropbox, Cloudflare and Mint… You never know which future unicorn will compete next.

You can take a look at the full agenda here. And if you still need convincing, here’s five reasons to attend this year’s conference from our COO himself.

And finally… #EquityPod

This week, the lovely Alex Wilhelm, editor-in-chief of Crunchbase News, and I gathered to discuss a number of topics including WeWork’s IPO and Uber’s attempts to bypass a new law meant to protect gig workers. Listen here.

JUMP pulled its bikes from a number of markets in the last few months

By Megan Rose Dickey

Uber -owned JUMP pulled its bikes and scooters from a handful of markets over the last few months. The latest city affected is San Diego, where JUMP’s bikes and scooters will no longer be available as of September 19, with the exception of two naval bases in the city.

“We understand this may have a huge impact on your day-to-day commuting and we regret the fact that we can no longer provide this service to you,” JUMP wrote in an email to its San Diego customers.

The decision was in light of San Diego councilperson Barbara Bry calling for a moratorium on scooters in the city until it could figure out a fiscally responsible and thoughtful plan.

“We agree with local elected officials in San Diego who’ve said current micromobility regulations foster an unsustainable operating environment, which is why we’re ending our operations as of today,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We look forward to working with the city to develop more sensible regulations.”

Earlier this week, JUMP removed its bikes from Providence following acts of vandalism and misuse. This month, JUMP is also removing its bikes from Atlanta after operating in the city for just nine months. Its scooters, however, will remain.

“We are winding down our current JUMP e-bike operations in Atlanta,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We will continue to offer JUMP scooters and look forward to continuing conversations with city leaders on how we can work together to expand transportation options.”

That decision came after Atlanta halted its permitting process for dockless vehicles and implemented a nighttime curfew for them. Meanwhile, JUMP also pulled its bikes from Dallas and San Antonio, with no real explanation. In Staten Island, regulatory hurdles forced JUMP to remove its bikes. Since June, JUMP has pulled its bikes from at least six markets.

“Our goal is to make JUMP electric bikes and scooters a sustainable part of the transportation ecosystem,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We currently have JUMP products in over 25 cities worldwide and we make operational decisions on a case by case basis.”

It’s likely those case-by-case decisions are at least partially fueled by unit economics — looking at everything from ridership to vandalism to theft.

Meanwhile, San Francisco seems to remain a solid market for JUMP bikes. In August, JUMP hit one million rides in San Francisco since launching in January 2018 with a total fleet size of 500 bikes. Earlier this year, JUMP touted its high utilization rates in the city compared to docked bike providers.

Uber’s JUMP, of course, is not the only company facing issues with its micromobility operations. In July, Lyft had to pull its e-bikes from San Francisco following apparent battery fires. Then, in August, a Lime bike caught on fire in Seattle. On the positive side for Uber, at least there have not been any reports of its bikes or scooters catching on fire.

This is all to say micromobility is not an easy business. Between regulatory hurdles, potential vandalism and faulty batteries, there are a number of factors that can stand in the way of success.

Voyage raises $31 million to bring driverless taxis to communities

By Kirsten Korosec

Voyage, the autonomous vehicle startup that spun out of Udacity, announced Thursday it has raised $31 million in a round led by Franklin Templeton.

Khosla Ventures, Jaguar Land Rover’s InMotion Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures also participated in the round. The company, which operates a ride-hailing service in retirement communities using self-driving cars supported by human safety drivers, has raised a total of $52 million since launching in 2017. The new funding includes a $3 million convertible note.

Voyage CEO Oliver Cameron has big plans for the fresh injection of capital, including hiring and expanding its fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans, which always have a human safety driver behind the wheel.

Ultimately, the expanded G2 fleet and staff are just the means toward Cameron’s grander mission to turn Voyage into a truly driverless and profitable ride-hailing company.

“It’s not just about solving self-driving technology,” Cameron told TechCrunch in a recent interview, explaining that a cost-effective vehicle designed to be driverless is the essential piece required to make this a profitable business.

The company is in the midst of a hiring campaign that Cameron hopes will take its 55-person staff to more than 150 over the next year. Voyage has had some success attracting high-profile people to fill executive-level positions, including CTO Drew Gray, who previously worked at Uber ATG, Otto, Cruise and Tesla, as well as former NIO and Tesla employee Davide Bacchet as director of autonomy.

Funds will also be used to increase its fleet of second-generation self-driving cars (called G2) that are currently being used in a 4,000-resident retirement community in San Jose, Calif., as well as The Villages, a 40-square-mile, 125,000-resident retirement city in Florida. Voyage’s G2 fleet has 12 vehicles. Cameron didn’t provide details on how many vehicles it will add to its G2 fleet, only describing it as a “nice jump that will allow us to serve consumers.”

Voyage used the G2 vehicles to create a template of sorts for its eventual driverless vehicle. This driverless product — a term Cameron has used in a previous post on Medium — will initially be limited to 25 miles per hour, which is the driving speed within the two retirement communities in which Voyage currently tests and operates. The vehicle might operate at a low speed, but they are capable of handling complex traffic interactions, he wrote.

“It won’t be the most cost-effective vehicle ever made because the industry still is in its infancy, but it will be a huge, huge, huge improvement over our G2 vehicle in terms of being be able to scale out a commercial service and make money on each ride,” Cameron said. 

Voyage initially used modified Ford Fusion vehicles to test its autonomous vehicle technology, then introduced in July 2018 Chrysler Pacifica minivans, its second generation of autonomous vehicles. But the end goal has always been a driverless product.

Voyage engineers Alan Mond and Trung Dung Vu

TechCrunch previously reported that the company has partnered with an automaker to provide this next-generation vehicle that has been designed specifically for autonomous driving. Cameron wouldn’t name the automaker. The vehicle will be electric and it won’t be a retrofit like the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid vehicles Voyage currently uses or its first-generation vehicle, a Ford Fusion.

Most importantly, and a detail Cameron did share with TechCrunch, is that the vehicle it uses for its driverless service will have redundancies and safety-critical applications built into it.

Voyage also has deals in place with Enterprise rental cars and Intact insurance company to help it scale.

“You can imagine leasing is much more optimal than purchasing and owning vehicles on your balance sheet,” Cameron said. “We have those deals in place that will allow us to not only get the vehicle costs down, but other aspects of the vehicle into the right place as well.”

Daily Crunch: Uber resists California gig worker bill

By Anthony Ha

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. Uber plans to keep defending independent contractor model for drivers

Despite California lawmakers passing a bill designed to turn gig workers into regular employees, Uber has made it clear it plans to do whatever it takes to keep classifying its drivers as independent contractors.

“We will continue to advocate for a compromise agreement,” Uber Chief Legal Officer Tony West said. That agreement might include a guaranteed earnings minimum while on a trip, portable benefits and a “collective voice” for drivers.

2. Spotify acquires SoundBetter, a music production marketplace, for an undisclosed sum

This looks like another step for Spotify to diversify its business model.

3. Simbe raises a $26M Series A for its retail inventory robot

Simbe has been showcasing its inventory robot Tally since 2015. And earlier this year, U.S. supermarket chain Giant Eagle announced plans to begin a pilot program, deploying Tally in select stores.

4. Loot boxes in games are gambling and should be banned for kids, say UK MPs

U.K. MPs have called for the government to regulate the games industry’s use of loot boxes. They’re urging a blanket ban on the sale of loot boxes to players who are children, suggesting that kids should instead be able to earn in-game credits to unlock these boxes.

5. How Kobalt is simplifying the killer complexities of the music industry

The second part of our in-depth look at Kobalt focuses on the complex way royalties flow through the industry, and how Kobalt is restructuring that process. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. Yelp adds predictive wait times and a new way for restaurants to share updates

With Yelp Connect, restaurants will be able to post updates about things like recent additions to the menu, happy hour specials and upcoming events. These updates are then shown on the Yelp homepage, in a weekly email and on the restaurant’s profile page.

7. 5 reasons to attend Disrupt SF this October 2-4

If you haven’t bought a ticket to Disrupt yet, you’re probably a bad person who’s making bad decisions.

IBM brings Cloud Foundry and Red Hat OpenShift together

By Frederic Lardinois

At the Cloud Foundry Summit in The Hague, IBM today showcased its Cloud Foundry Enterprise Environment on Red Hat’s OpenShift container platform.

For the longest time, the open-source Cloud Foundry Platform-as-a-Service ecosystem and Red Hat’s Kubernetes-centric OpenShift were mostly seen as competitors, with both tools vying for enterprise customers who want to modernize their application development and delivery platforms. But a lot of things have changed in recent times. On the technical side, Cloud Foundry started adopting Kubernetes as an option for application deployments and as a way of containerizing and running Cloud Foundry itself.

On the business side, IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat has brought along some change, too. IBM long backed Cloud Foundry as a top-level foundation member, while Red Hat bet on its own platform instead. Now that the acquisition has closed, it’s maybe no surprise that IBM is working on bringing Cloud Foundry to Red Hat’s platform.

For now, this work is still officially still a technology experiment, but our understanding is that IBM plans to turn this into a fully supported project that will give Cloud Foundry users the option to deploy their application right to OpenShift, while OpenShift customers will be able to offer their developers the Cloud Foundry experience.

“It’s another proof point that these things really work well together,” Cloud Foundry Foundation CTO Chip Childers told me ahead of today’s announcement. “That’s the developer experience that the CF community brings and in the case of IBM, that’s a great commercialization story for them.”

While Cloud Foundry isn’t seeing the same hype as in some of its earlier years, it remains one of the most widely used development platforms in large enterprises. According to the Cloud Foundry Foundation’s latest user survey, the companies that are already using it continue to move more of their development work onto the platform and the according to the code analysis from source{d}, the project continues to see over 50,000 commits per month.

“As businesses navigate digital transformation and developers drive innovation across cloud native environments, one thing is very clear: they are turning to Cloud Foundry as a proven, agile, and flexible platform — not to mention fast — for building into the future,” said Abby Kearns, executive director at the Cloud Foundry Foundation. “The survey also underscores the anchor Cloud Foundry provides across the enterprise, enabling developers to build, support, and maximize emerging technologies.”image024

Also at this week’s Summit, Pivotal (which is in the process of being acquired by VMware) is launching the alpha version of the Pivotal Application Service (PAS) on Kubernetes, while Swisscom, an early Cloud Foundry backer, is launching a major update to its Cloud Foundry-based Application Cloud.

Uber plans to keep defending independent contractor model for drivers

By Megan Rose Dickey

In light of gig worker protections bill AB5 passing in the California State Senate last night, and amendments to AB5 passing in the Assembly this morning, Uber has made it clear it plans to do whatever it takes to keep its drivers independent contractors.

“We will continue to advocate for a compromise agreement,” Uber Chief Legal Officer Tony West said on a press call today.

As Uber outlined last month, the company is pushing for a framework that would establish a guaranteed earnings minimum while on a trip, offer portable benefits and enable drivers to “have a collective voice.”

He went on to say that Uber is continuing to explore several legal and political options to lay the groundwork for a statewide ballot initiative in 2020. Uber and Lyft announced a $60 million joint initiative last month, and now, West is saying Uber is open to investing even more money in that committee account.

“This is not our first choice,” West said. “At the same time, we need to make sure we are exploring all options and all alternatives to put forward a framework that works for the 21st-century economy and we believe we have a framework that does that.”

AB5 would help to ensure gig economy workers are entitled to minimum wage, workers’ compensation and other benefits by requiring employers to apply the ABC test. The bill, first introduced in December 2018, aims to codfiy the ruling established in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v Superior Court of Los Angeles. In that case, the court applied the ABC test and decided Dynamex wrongfully classified its workers as independent contractors.

According to the ABC test, in order for a hiring entity to legally classify a worker as an independent contractor, it must prove the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity, performs work outside the scope of the entity’s business and is regularly engaged in an “independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.”

If Uber were to fail this test, drivers would not be able to determine when, where and how often they work, nor would they be able to work for more than one platform at a time, West said.

“I do think there would be significant changes in the experience drivers would have,” West said.

But West believes Uber would not fail this test. While it will be required to pass this test in the likely event AB5 gets signed into law, West pointed out “we have been successful in arguing under this ABC test in the past that drivers are independent and independent contractors,” West said. “We believe that to be true.”

There would surely be a financial impact if Uber fails the test, but West declined to comment on just what that fiscal impact would be. Industry analysts, however, have estimated it could result in up to a 30% cost increase.

As noted earlier, the bill is expected to pass, as Gov. Gavin Newsom has previously expressed his support for the measure. Though, Newsom said earlier today, he’s still in negotiations with both Uber and Lyft.

“The governor has been pretty clear he is fully committed to a negotiated solution here,” West said. “He’s been clear to us on that message in private and has publicly stated that now.”

Following the bill’s passing in the Senate, Lyft said the state missed an opportunity to support the majority of rideshare drivers who want a solution that balances flexibility with earnings standard and benefits.

“The fact that there were more than 50 industries carved out of AB5 is very telling,” a Lyft spokesperson said. “We are fully prepared to take this issue to the voters of California to preserve the freedom and access drivers and riders want and need.”

Earlier today, Lyft sent out an email to drivers regarding AB5 and how if it’s signed into law, drivers “may soon be required to drive specific shifts, stick to specific areas, and drive for only a single platform (such as Lyft, Uber, Doordash, or others).”

Email from Lyft. If the proposed changes to #AB5 don't go through my rideshare days will be over and I will be in search for something else in the #GigEconomy ✌🏾pic.twitter.com/6RmVt52yvj

— Ja'Mar (@Maaaaaaster_J) September 11, 2019

Despite what Uber and Lyft are saying, there are a number of drivers who have fought long and hard to ensure the bill passes. Two of the main organizations behind the actions in support of AB5 are Gig Workers Rising and Mobile Workers Alliance. In addition to urging legislators to pass AB5, Uber and Lyft drivers organizing with Gig Workers Rising also want the right to form a union.

“AB 5 is only the beginning,” Edan Alva, a driver with Gig Workers Rising, said in a statement. “I talk daily to other drivers who want a change but they are scared. They don’t want to lose their only source of income. But just because someone really needs to work does not mean that their rights as a worker should be stepped all over. That is why a union is critical. It simply won’t work without it.”

Despite Brexit, UK startups can compete with Silicon Valley to win tech talent

By Arman Tabatabai
Mehul Patel Contributor
Mehul Patel is the CEO of Hired , the marketplace that matches tech talent with the world's most innovative companies.

Brexit has taken over discourse in the UK and beyond. In the UK alone, it is mentioned over 500 million times a day, in 92 million conversations — and for good reason. While the UK has yet to leave the EU, the impact of Brexit has already rippled through industries all over the world. The UK’s technology sector is no exception. While innovation endures in the midst of Brexit, data reveals that innovative companies are losing the ability to attract people from all over the world and are suffering from a substantial talent leak. 

It is no secret that the UK was already experiencing a talent shortage, even without the added pressure created by today’s political landscape. Technology is developing rapidly and demand for tech workers continues to outpace supply, creating a fiercely competitive hiring landscape.

The shortage of available tech talent has already created a deficit that could cost the UK £141 billion in GDP growth by 2028, stifling innovation. Now, with Brexit threatening the UK’s cosmopolitan tech landscape — and the economy at large — we may soon see international tech talent moving elsewhere; in fact, 60% of London businesses think they’ll lose access to tech talent once the UK leaves the EU.

So, how can UK-based companies proactively attract and retain top tech talent to prevent a Brexit brain drain? UK businesses must ensure that their hiring funnels are a top priority and focus on understanding what matters most to tech talent beyond salary, so that they don’t lose out to US tech hubs. 

Brexit aside, why is San Francisco more appealing than the UK?

Kubernetes co-founder Craig McLuckie is as tired of talking about Kubernetes as you are

By Frederic Lardinois

“I’m so tired of talking about Kubernetes . I want to talk about something else,” joked Kubernetes co-founder and VP of R&D at VMware Craig McLuckie during a keynote interview at this week’s Cloud Foundry Summit in The Hague. “I feel like that 80s band that had like one hit song — Cherry Pie.”

He doesn’t quite mean it that way, of course (though it makes for a good headline, see above), but the underlying theme of the conversation he had with Cloud Foundry executive director Abby Kearns was that infrastructure should be boring and fade into the background, while enabling developers to do their best work.

“We still have a lot of work to do as an industry to make the infrastructure technology fade into the background and bring forwards the technologies that developers interface with, that enable them to develop the code that drives the business, etc. […] Let’s make that infrastructure technology really, really boring.”

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What McLuckie wants to talk about is developer experience and with VMware’s intent to acquire Pivotal, it’s placing a strong bet on Cloud Foundry as one of the premiere development platforms for cloud native applications. For the longest time, the Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes ecosystem, which both share an organizational parent in the Linux Foundation, have been getting closer, but that move has accelerated in recent months as the Cloud Foundry ecosystem has finished work on some of its Kubernetes integrations.

McLuckie argues that the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, the home of Kubernetes and other cloud-native, open-source projects, was always meant to be a kind of open-ended organization that focuses on driving innovation. And that created a large set of technologies that vendors can choose from.

“But when you start to assemble that, I tend to think about you building up this cake which is your development stack, you discover that some of those layers of the cake, like Kubernetes, have a really good bake. They are done to perfection,” said McLuckie, who is clearly a fan of the Great British Baking show. “And other layers, you look at it and you think, wow, that could use a little more bake, it’s not quite ready yet. […] And we haven’t done a great job of pulling it all together and providing a recipe that delivers an entirely consumable experience for everyday developers.”

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He argues that Cloud Foundry, on the other hand, has always focused on building that highly opinionated, consistent developer experience. “Bringing those two communities together, I think, is going to have incredibly powerful results for both communities as we start to bring these technologies together,” he said.

With the Pivotal acquisition still in the works, McLuckie didn’t really comment on what exactly this means for the path forward for Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes (which he still talked about with a lot of energy, despite being tired of it). But it’s clear that he’s looking to Cloud Foundry to enable that developer experience on top of Kubernetes that abstracts all of the infrastructure away for developers and makes deploying an application a matter of a single CLI command.

Bonus: Cherry Pie.

Uber lays off 435 people across engineering and product teams

By Megan Rose Dickey

Uber has laid off 435 employees across its product and engineering teams, the company announced today. Combined, the layoffs represent about 8% of the organization, with 170 people leaving the product team and 265 people leaving the engineering team.

The layoffs had no effect on Eats, which is one of Uber’s top-performing products, and Freight, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Meanwhile, the company is lifting the hiring freeze on the product and engineering teams that has been in effect since early August, according to the source.

“Our hope with these changes is to reset and improve how we work day to day — ruthlessly prioritizing, and always holding ourselves accountable to a high bar of performance and agility,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch. “While certainly painful in the moment, especially for those directly affected, we believe that this will result in a much stronger technical organization, which going forward will continue to hire some of the very best talent around the world.”

Of those laid off, more than 85% are based in the U.S.; 10% are in Asia-Pacific and 5% are in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, according to the source.

The layoffs came after Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi asked every member of his executive leadership team if they were to start from scratch, would their respective organizations look the way they do today?

“After careful consideration, our Engineering and Product leaders concluded the answer to this question in many respects was ‘no,’ ” the spokesperson said.

Those leaders are Chief Product Officer Manik Gupta and CTO Thuan Pham. They looked at team size, identified duplicate roles and overlapping work, as well as individual performance to determine who would be laid off, the source said. That’s how they landed on focusing more on the design and research teams from the product side.

“Previously, to meet the demands of a hyper-growth startup, we hired rapidly and in a decentralized way,” the spokesperson said. “While this worked for Uber in the past, now that we have over 27,000 full-time employees in cities around the world, we need to shift how we design our organizations: lean, exceptionally high-performing teams, with clear mandates and the ability to execute faster than our competitors.”

These layoffs come shortly after Uber laid off 400 people from its marketing team. In Q2 2019, Uber lost more than $5 billion — its biggest quarterly revenue loss to date — though a chunk of its losses were a result of stock-based compensation expenses for employees following the company’s IPO in May. While it may seem these layoffs are in response to those quarterly losses, Uber says the conversations have been ongoing.

As Uber lays off its W-2 employees, it’s simultaneously investing in ensuring its 1099 independent contractors remain classified in that way. In light of gig worker protection bill AB-5 advancing through the California legislature, Uber, along with Lyft and DoorDash, put $30 million toward a 2020 ballot initiative that would enable them to keep their drivers as independent contractors. If AB-5 passes, Uber would see a significant uptick in costs.

Uber is currently trading at $33.14 per share, well below its IPO pricing of $45.

Here’s Uber’s full statement:

Our CEO has asked everyone on our management team a simple but important question: if we started from scratch, would we design our organizations as they stand today? After careful consideration, our Engineering and Product leaders concluded the answer to this question in many respects was no. Previously, to meet the demands of a hyper-growth startup, we hired rapidly and in a decentralized way.

While this worked for Uber in the past, now that we have over 27,000 full-time employees in cities around the world, we need to shift how we design our organizations: lean, exceptionally high-performing teams, with clear mandates and the ability to execute faster than our competitors.

Today, we’re making some changes to get us back on track, which include reducing the size of some teams to ensure we are staffed appropriately against our top priorities. These were incredibly difficult calls as it means some of our employees no longer have a role, specifically around 170 people in our Product group and 265 people in Engineering, which is roughly 8 percent of those two orgs.

Our hope with these changes is to reset and improve how we work day to day—ruthlessly prioritizing, and always holding ourselves accountable to a high bar of performance and agility. While certainly painful in the moment, especially for those directly affected, we believe that this will result in a much stronger technical organization, which going forward will continue to hire some of the very best talent around the world.

Google brings Cloud Dataproc to Kubernetes

By Frederic Lardinois

Cloud Dataproc is probably one of the lesser-known products in Google Cloud’s portfolio, but it’s a powerful tool for data wranglers who are looking for a fully managed cloud service that lets them run Apache Spark and Hadoop clusters without having to worry about managing the underlying infrastructure. Today. Google announced that it is launching the alpha of Cloud Dataproc to Kubernetes — and while that, too, may not sound all that interesting at first, it’s an important step for Google Cloud as it works to adapt more of its products to a hybrid cloud model.

The general idea here is to give enterprise customers (and make no mistake, enterprise customers are the main focus of Google Cloud these days) the ability to run Apache Spark jobs on Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) clusters. With products like Anthos now making GKE available virtually anywhere, this means customers can now also take Cloud Dataproc to their own data centers. Right now, the service only supports Apache Spark, but Google plans to support other open-source projects, too.

“Enterprises are increasingly looking for products and services that support data processing across multiple locations and platforms,” said Matt Aslett, Research Vice President at 451 Research. “The launch of Cloud Dataproc on Kubernetes is significant in that it provides customers with a single control plane for deploying and managing Apache Spark jobs on Google Kubernetes Engine in both public cloud and on-premises environments.”

Typically, Spark applications run on Hadoop YARN clusters. Google notes that the Cloud Dataproc on Kubernetes will free users from having to use two cluster management systems and will give them a single view across both YARN and Kubernetes clusters. “Supporting both YARN and Kubernetes can bring your enterprise the needed flexibility to modernize certain hybrid workloads while continuing to monitor YARN-based workloads,” the company writes in today’s announcement.

The new service is now available as an alpha. If you want to give it a try, you’ll have to apply for access by emailing Google.

Work Life Ventures raises $5M for debut enterprise SaaS seed fund

By Kate Clark

Brianne Kimmel had no trouble transitioning from angel investor to general partner.

Initially setting out to garner $3 million in capital commitments, Kimmel, in just two weeks’ time, closed on $5 million for her debut venture capital fund Work Life Ventures. The enterprise SaaS-focused vehicle boasts an impressive roster of limited partners, too, including the likes of Zoom chief executive officer Eric Yuan, InVision CEO Clark Valberg, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, Cameo CEO Steven Galanis, Andreessen Horowitz general partners’ Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon, Initialized Capital GP Garry Tan and fund-of-funds Slow Ventures, Felicis Ventures and NFX.

At the helm of the new fund, Kimmel joins a small group of solo female general partners. Dream Machine’s Alexia Bonatsos is targeting $25 million for her first fund. Day One Ventures’ Masha Drokova raised an undisclosed amount for her debut effort last year. Sarah Cone launched Social Impact Capital, a fund specializing in impact investing, in 2016, among others.

Meanwhile, venture capital fundraising is poised to reach all-time highs in 2019. In the first half of the year, a total of $20.6 billion in new capital was introduced to the startup market across more than 100 funds.

For most, the process of raising a successful venture fund can be daunting and difficult. For well-connected and established investors in the Bay Area, like Kimmel, raising a fund can be relatively seamless. Given the speed and ease of fund one in Kimmel’s case, she plans to raise her second fund with a $25 million target in as little as 12 months.

“The desire for the fund is to take a step back and imagine how do we build great consumer experiences in the workplace,” Kimmel tells TechCrunch.

Kimmel has been an active angel investor for years, sourcing top enterprise deals via SaaS School, an invite-only workshop she created to educate early-stage SaaS founders on SaaS growth, monetization, sales and customer success. Prior to launching SaaS School, which will continue to run twice a year, Kimmel led go-to-market strategy at Zendesk, where she built the Zendesk for Startups program.

 

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“You start by advising, then you start with very small angel checks,” Kimmel explains. “I reached this inflection point and it felt like a great moment to raise my own fund. I had friends like Ryan Hoover, who started Weekend Fund focused on consumer, and Alexia is one of my friends as well and I saw what she was doing with Dream Machine, which is also consumer. It felt like it was the right time to come out with a SaaS-focused fund.”

Emerging from stealth today, Work Life Ventures will invest up to $150,000 per company. To date, Kimmel has backed three companies with capital from the fund: Tandem, Dover and Command E. The first, Tandem, was amongst the most coveted deals in Y Combinator’s latest batch of companies. The startup graduated from the accelerator with millions from Andreessen Horowitz at a valuation north of $30 million.

Dover, another recent YC alum, provides recruitment software and is said to be backed by Founders Fund in addition to Work Life. Command E, currently in beta, is a tool that facilities search across multiple desktop applications. Kimmel is also an angel investor in Webflow, Girlboss, TechCrunch Disrupt 2018 Startup Battlefield winner Forethought, Voyage and others.

Work Life is betting on the consumerization of the enterprise, or the idea that the next best companies for modern workers will be consumer-friendly tools. In her pitch deck to LPs, she cites the success of Superhuman and Notion, a well-designed email tool and a note-taking app, respectively, as examples of the heightened demand for digestible, easy-to-use B2B products.

“The next generation of applications for the workplace sees people spinning out of Uber, Coinbase and Airbnb,” Kimmel said. “They’ve faced these challenges inside their highly efficient tech company so we are seeing more consumer product builders deeply passionate about the enterprise space.”

But Kimmel doesn’t want to bury her thesis in jargon, she says, so you won’t find any B2B lingo on Work Life’s website or Instagram.

She’s focusing her efforts on a more important issue often vacant from conversations surrounding investment in the future of work: diversity & inclusion.

Kimmel meets with every new female hire of her portfolio companies. Though it’s “increasingly non-scalable,” she admits, it’s part of a greater effort to ensure her companies are thoughtful about D&I from the beginning: “Because I have a very focused fund, it’s about maintaining this community and ensuring that people feel like their voices are heard,” she said.

“I want to be mindful that I am a female GP and I feel honored to have that title.”

With its Kubernetes bet paying off, Cloud Foundry doubles down on developer experience

By Frederic Lardinois

More than 50% of the Fortune 500 companies are now using the open-source Cloud Foundry Platform-as-a-Service project — either directly or through vendors like Pivotal — to build, test and deploy their applications. Like so many other projects, including the likes of OpenStack, Cloud Foundry went through a bit of a transition in recent years as more and more developers started looking to containers — and especially the Kubernetes project — as a platform on which to develop. Now, however, the project is ready to focus on what always differentiated it from its closed- and open-source competitors: the developer experience.

Long before Docker popularized containers for application deployment, though, Cloud Foundry had already bet on containers and written its own orchestration service, for example. With all of the momentum behind Kubernetes, though, it’s no surprise that many in the Cloud Foundry started to look at this new project to replace the existing container technology.

Uber commits $200 million to Uber Freight expansion in bet on trucking and Chicago

By Kirsten Korosec

Uber Freight is establishing its headquarters in Chicago as part of Uber’s broader plan to invest more than $200 million annually in the region, including hiring hundreds of workers.

Uber said Monday it will hire 2,000 new employees in the region over the next three years; most will be dedicated to Uber Freight .

Uber Freight, which helps truck drivers connect with shipping companies, has become an important piece to Uber’s larger business strategy to generate revenue from all forms of transportation, including logistics for packages. The announcement comes on the heels of a disappointing quarter for Uber that included a stunning $5.2 billion loss.

Since launching in May 2017, Uber Freight has grown from from limited regional operations in Texas to the rest of the continental U.S. and to Europe.

Uber made Uber Freight a separate business unit in August 2018. Since then, the company has redesigned the app, adding new navigation features that make searching for and filtering loads easier to customize and more intuitive, as well as other features, including an updated map view and a search bar across the top of the screen.

It has also made some key hires, one of which intimated the company’s global ambitions. The company hired Andrew Smith, one of Box’s early employees, to head up global sales at Uber Freight, and Bar Ifrach, formerly of Airbnb, to lead its marketplace team.

With signs of some success, Uber is doubling down on the trucking business.

Uber Freight has more than 400,000 drivers in its carrier network and 1,000-plus shippers as customers, including AB Inbev, Niagara Bottling and Land O’Lakes, according to the company. Uber Freight also has more than 50,000 carriers on the platform.

“I believe this makes Uber Freight  the biggest virtual fleet in the United States,” Lior Ron, head of Uber Freight, told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

The company has been relatively quiet as it has scaled up, Ron said, noting that this announcement marks a turning point for Uber Freight.

“This is really a graduation moment for us and where we can share that because the business is doing so well we are doubling down on our investment,” he said.

The new Uber office located in The Old Main Post Office in the historic Chicago River area will serve as Uber Freight headquarters and its first engineering hub outside of San Francisco.

“Trucking represents an enormous opportunity for Uber, and this milestone is a testament to our long-term commitment to our Freight business,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement. “Chicago is the heart of America’s transportation and logistics industry, and there is no better place to open our dedicated Freight HQ. Uber has long recognized the incredible history, innovation, and talent that Chicago has to offer, and we’re excited about the thousands of new jobs our Freight business will help bring as we become one of the city’s largest technology employers.”

As part of its new investments in the region, Uber is collaborating with the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (CCWP) to help with workplace diversity. Uber will start onboarding new employees in 2020 and will work with CCWP to develop a process for identifying potential candidates through their system.

Africa Roundup: Goldman backs Kobo360, Rwanda commits to EVs, Interswitch IPO update

By Jake Bright

Nigerian freight logistics startup Kobo360 raised a $20 million Series A round led by Goldman Sachs and $10 million in working capital financing from Nigerian commercial banks.

The company — with an Uber-like app that connects truckers and companies to delivery services — will use the funds to upgrade its platform and expand to 10 new countries beyond current operating markets of Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Kenya.

Kobo360 looks to grow beyond its Nigeria roots to become a truly Pan-African company, co-founder Obi Ozor told TechCrunch .  He co-founded the venture in 2017 with fellow Nigerian Ife Oyedele II.

Since its launch in Lagos, the startup has continued to grow its product offerings, VC backing and customer base. Kobo360 claims a fleet of more than 10,000 drivers and trucks operating on its app. Top clients include Honeywell, Olam, Unilever, Dangote and DHL.

Kobo360’s latest round is also notable for Goldman Sachs’ involvement. Goldman’s participation tracks a growing list of African venture investments made by the U.S. based finance firm.

Chinese mobile-phone and device maker Transsion will list in an IPO on Shanghai’s STAR Market, Transsion confirmed to TechCrunch.

The company — which has a robust Africa sales network — could raise up to 3 billion yuan (or $426 million).

Transsion’s IPO prospectus is downloadable (in Chinese) and its STAR Market listing application available on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s website.

STAR is the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s new Nasdaq-style board for tech stocks that also went live in July with some 25 companies going public.

Headquartered in Shenzhen — where African e-commerce unicorn Jumia also has a logistics supply-chain facility — Transsion is a top-seller of smartphones in Africa under its Tecno brand.

The company has a manufacturing facility in Ethiopia and recently expanded its presence in India.

Transsion plans to spend the bulk of its STAR Market raise (1.6 billion yuan or $227 million) on building more phone assembly hubs and around 430 million yuan ($62 million) on research and development, including a mobile phone R&D center in Shanghai, a company spokesperson said.

The government of Rwanda will soon issue national policy guidelines to eliminate gas motorcycles in its taxi sector in favor of e-motos, according to a preview of the plan by President Paul Kagame at a public-rally

The director general for the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority, Patrick Nyirishema, confirmed Kagame’s comments were ahead of a national e-mobility plan in the works for the East African nation.

“The president’s announcement is exactly the policy direction we’re in…it’s about converting to electric motos…The policy is prepared, it’s yet to be passed…and is going through the approval process,” Nyirishema told TechCrunch on a call from Kigali.

Motorcycle taxis in Rwanda are a common mode of transit, with estimates of 20 to 30 thousand operating in the capital of Kigali.

Nyirishema explained that converting to e-motorcycles is part of a national strategy to move Rwanda’s entire mobility space to electric. The country will start with public transit operators, such as moto-taxis, and move to buses and automobiles.

Ampersand Africa e motorcycle

Ampersand, a Kigali-based e-moto startup, has already begun to pilot EVs and charging systems in Rwanda and will work with the country’s government on the moto-taxi conversion.

In an ExtraCrunch feature, TechCrunch delved into tech talent accelerator Andela — one of the most recognized and well funded startups operating in Africa.

In a byte, Andela is Series D stage startup ― backed by $180 million in VC ― that trains and connects African software developers to global companies for a fee.

CEO Jeremy Johnson dished on the company’s strategy toward profitability and responded to some of the criticism it receives ― namely a claim the startup is creating a second brain-drain when software developers leave Andela and Africa, to take positions with global companies.

Today Andela has offices in New York and five African countries: Nigeria, Kenya,  Rwanda, Uganda, and Egypt ― which largely align with the continent’s top tech VC markets.

Across this network the company recruits software developers, builds software engineers, and deploys teams of software engineers.

Johnson disclosed numbers on Andela’s expected new hires for the year, current developer staff, how many departures the company expects, and how many of those will likely leave their home countries―which actually amounts to a fairly small percentage.

TechCrunch checked in with Nigerian fintech company Interswitch for the latest on its anticipated dual-listing London and Lagos stock exchanges.

A Bloomberg News story (based on background sourcing) revived speculation the IPO could happen this year for the company — which provides much of Nigeria’s digital banking infrastructure and has expanded its operations presence and payments products across Africa and globally.

Reports that Interswitch could be one of the earliest big tech companies out of Africa to go public trace back to 2016, when CEO and founder Mitchell Elegbe told TechCrunch the company was considering a listing before the end of that year.

Last month, an Interswitch spokesperson would neither confirm or deny a pending IPO, per a TechCrunch inquiry. So, it’s still tough to say if or when the company could list. But there are still several reasons why the business (and its possible IPO) are worth keeping an eye on, which we detailed in the update story.

 

One could be an eventual increase in venture funding to African startups, that could come from Interswitch. Another could be an Interswitch IPO adding another benchmark for global investors to gauge Africa’s tech sector beyond Jumia — the e-commerce company that became the first big tech firm operating in Africa to launch on a major exchange, the NYSE in April.

More Africa-related stories @TechCrunch

African tech around the ‘net

 

Didi Chuxing to launch self-driving rides in Shanghai and expand them beyond China by 2021

By Darrell Etherington

Didi Chuxing will begin picking up ride-hailing passengers with self-driving cars in Shanghai in just a few months, according to company CTO Zhang Bo (via Reuters). The plan is to roll out autonomous pick-ups in Shanghai first, starting in one district of the city, and then expand the program from there — finally culminating in the deployment of self-driving vehicles outside of China by 2021.

Like Uber’s autonomous test vehicles, Didi’s cars will be staffed with a human driver on board during the initial launch period, which awaits a few remaining licenses before it can actually begin serving human passengers. Self-driving rides will be free for customers, and Zhang said that more than 30 different vehicles will be offered for self-driving trips as part of the pilot.

After its initial pilot launch in Shanghai, Didi will look to expand its offerings to Beijing and Shenzhen as well, with hopes to be live in all three cities by 2020.

Didi is the largest ride-hailing company in China, and beat out an attempt by Uber to establish a presence in the market, resulting in Uber selling its Chinese business to Didi and exiting the market in 2016 (in exchange for a minority stake). We spoke to Didi’s CTO (who asked to be identified as “Bob” at the time, hence the lower-third in the video below) later that same year about why the company believes it has an advantage when it comes to data-driven technology development relative to Uber and other ride-hailing companies.

Aside from a general sense in the industry that autonomy is a likely, if not inevitable end goal for ride-hailing and other mobility services with a technological focus, Didi is also likely motivated by a need for drivers to meet demand — and drivers who can provide a safe and secure experience for passengers. The company revealed in July that it had proved more than 300,000 drivers didn’t meet its safety standards after overhauling those standards last year.

Earlier this month, Didi also announced that it was spinning out its autonomous driving unit as a separate company, with Zhang as CEO. It’ll look to develop tech for its own fleet, and work in partnership with automakers, including Toyota, in pursuit of commercializing and deploying autonomous driving.

Uber and Lyft are putting $60 million toward keeping drivers independent contractors

By Megan Rose Dickey

In light of gig worker protection legislation Assembly Bill 5 making its way through California’s legislature, Uber and Lyft are amping up their efforts to do whatever they can to prevent it from happening. And in the event that the bill does pass, which would force Uber and Lyft to make their drivers W-2 employees, both companies are each putting in $30 million to fund a 2020 ballot initiative that would enable them to keep their drivers as independent contractors, The New York Times first reported.

Right now, it’s just Uber and Lyft on board, but there are talks of other companies joining. The ballot initiative, while not set in stone, would enable companies to provide workers benefits, establish wage commitments and guarantees, offer flexibility and establish that drivers are not employees, an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch.

“We are working on a solution that provides drivers with strong protections that include an earnings guarantee, a system of worker-directed portable benefits, and first-of-its kind industry-wide sectoral bargaining, without jeopardizing the flexibility drivers tell us they value so much,” a Lyft spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We remain focused on reaching a deal, and are confident about bringing this issue to the voters if necessary.”

The formation of the campaign committee comes shortly after Uber and Lyft urged drivers and passengers to contact their legislators. In Uber’s email, the company advocated for a policy that would offer drivers a minimum of $21 per hour while on a trip, paid time off, sick leave and compensation if they are injured while driving, as well as a collective voice and “the ability to influence decisions about their work.”

Similarly, Lyft is proposing a minimum of $21 per booked hour, meaning while either driving to pick someone up or dropping them off. Called a Rideshare Drivers Benefit Fund, Lyft says that could include injured worker protections for all drivers across California, paid sick leave and paid family leave for drivers who spend 20 hours or more per week in booked rides.

Gig Workers Rising, one of the organizations responsible for bringing drivers together to support AB-5 and demand the right to unionize, said it’s no coincidence that on the last day of a statewide action demanding AB-5 and a union that Uber and Lyft would begin circulating these messages to drivers and passengers.

“Everything that Uber and Lyft are offering is insulting to drivers,” Lauren Casey of Gig Workers Rising told TechCrunch earlier today regarding the messages Uber and Lyft sent out yesterday. “This is nothing new. All they’ve done since AB-5 was introduced is spread misinformation and fear. This shows us that Uber and Lyft are worried. Drivers have been organizing and fighting hard for AB-5 for months, and, it’s working.”

AB-5 seeks to codify the ruling established in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v Superior Court of Los Angeles. In that case, the court applied the ABC test and decided Dynamex wrongfully classified its workers as independent contractors based on the presumption that “a worker who performs services for a hirer is an employee for purposes of claims for wages and benefits…”

According to the ABC test, in order for a hiring entity to legally classify a worker as an independent contractor, it must prove the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity, performs work outside the scope of the entity’s business and is regularly engaged in an “independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.”

In short, AB-5, which has already passed in the California State Assembly, would ensure gig economy workers are entitled to minimum wage, workers’ compensation and other benefits. That would mean major changes in both Uber and Lyft’s business models and bottom lines.

Former Google X exec Mo Gawdat wants to reinvent consumerism

By Frederic Lardinois

Mo Gawdat, the former Google and Google X executive, is probably best known for his book Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy. He left Google X last year. Quite a bit has been written about the events that led to him leaving Google, including the tragic death of his son. While happiness is still very much at the forefront of what he’s doing, he’s also now thinking about his next startup: T0day.

To talk about T0day, I sat down with the Egypt-born Gawdat at the Digital Frontrunners event in Copenhagen, where he gave one of the keynote presentations. Gawdat is currently based in London. He has adopted a minimalist lifestyle, with no more than a suitcase and a carry-on full of things. Unlike many of the Silicon Valley elite that have recently adopted a kind of performative aestheticism, Gawdat’s commitment to minimalism feels genuine — and it also informs his new startup.

07 28 19 Frontrunner 38“In my current business, I’m building a startup that is all about reinventing consumerism,” he told me. “The problem with retail and consumerism is it’s never been disrupted. E-commerce, even though we think is a massive revolution, it’s just an evolution and it’s still tiny as a fraction of all we buy. It was built for the Silicon Valley mentality of disruption, if you want, while actually, what you need is cooperation. There are so many successful players out there, so many efficient supply chains. We want the traditional retailers to be successful and continue to make money — even make more money.”

What T0day wants to be is a platform that integrates all of the players in the retail ecosystem. That kind of platform, Gawdat argues, never existed before, “because there was never a platform player.”

That sounds like an efficient marketplace for moving goods, but in Gawdat’s imagination, it is also a way to do good for the planet. Most of the fuel burned today isn’t for moving people, he argues, but goods. A lot of the food we buy goes to waste (together with all of the resources it took to grow and ship it) and single-use plastic remains a scourge.

How does T0day fix that? Gawdat argues that today’s e-commerce is nothing but a digital rendering of the same window shopping people have done for ages. “You have to reimagine what it’s like to consume,” he said.

The reimagined way to consume is essentially just-in-time shipping for food and other consumer goods, based on efficient supply chains that outsmart today’s hub and spoke distribution centers and can deliver anything to you in half an hour. If everything you need to cook a meal arrives 15 minutes before you want to start cooking, you only need to order the items you need at that given time and instead of a plastic container, it could come a paper bag. “If I have the right robotics and the right autonomous movements — not just self-driving cars, because self-driving cars are a bit far away — but the right autonomous movements within the enterprise space of the warehouse, I could literally give it to you with the predictability of five minutes within half an hour,” he explained. “If you get everything you need within half an hour, why would you need to buy seven apples? You would buy three.”

Some companies, including the likes of Uber, are obviously building some of the logistics networks that will enable this kind of immediate drop shipping, but Gawdat doesn’t think Uber is the right company for this. “This is going to sound a little spiritual. There is what you do and there is the intention behind why you do it,” he said. “You can do the exact same thing with a different intention and get a very different result.”

That’s an ambitious project, but Gawdat argues that it can be done without using massive amounts of resources. Indeed, he argues that one of the problems with Google X, and especially big moonshot projects like Loon and self-driving cars, was that they weren’t really resource-constrained. “Some things took longer than they should have,” he said. “But I don’t criticize what they did at all. Take the example of Loon and Facebook. Loon took longer than it should have. In my view, it was basically because of an abundance of resources and sometimes innovation requires a shoestring. That’s my only criticism.”

T0day, which Gawdat hasn’t really talked about publicly in the past, is currently self-funded. A lot of people are advising him to raise money for it. “We’re getting a lot of advice that we shouldn’t self-fund,” he said, but he also believes that the company will need some strategic powerhouses on its side, maybe retailers or companies that have already invested in other components of the overall platform.

T0day’s ambitions are massive, but Gawdat thinks that his team can get the basic elements right, be that the fulfillment center design or the routing algorithms and the optimization engines that power it all. He isn’t ready to talk about those, though. What he does think is that T0day won’t be the interface for these services. It’ll be the back end and allow others to build on top. And because his previous jobs have allowed him to live a comfortable life, he isn’t all that worried about margins either, and would actually be happy if others adopted his idea, thereby reducing waste.

‘The Operators’: Finance in startups with Duda CFO Stephanie Hsiung and Zeus Living’s Head of Finance Mark Kang

By Arman Tabatabai
Tim Hsia & Neil Devani Contributor
Tim Hsia is the CEO of Media Mobilize and a Venture Partner at Digital Garage. Neil Devani is an angel investor and venture capitalist focused on companies solving hard problems.

Welcome to this transcribed edition of The Operators. The Operators features insiders from companies like Airbnb, Brex, Calm, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Slack, Uber, WeWork, and Zeus Living sharing their stories and tips on how to break into fields like marketing and product management. They also share best practices for entrepreneurs on how to hire and manage experts from domains outside their own.

This week’s edition features two finance experts with experience from Calm, AdRoll, Morgan Stanley, Change.org, Zeus Living, and Duda. Listen in as they unpack how to build a career in finance at a tech startup and how founders should be thinking about hiring and managing this function.

Stephanie Hsiung is the CFO of Duda, a new and exciting enterprise website builder. Prior to taking the CFO role at Duda, Stephanie served as the VP of Finance at Calm, the leading meditation and mental wellness app and recent unicorn. She was also previously the VP of Finance at Change.org, and was at AdRoll before that.

Mark Kang is the Head of Finance at Zeus Living, which is one of the fastest-growing providers of furnished housing for business travelers. He brings experience from venture capital, banking at Morgan Stanley, where he managed IPOs, and also spent time at Barclays.

image1 6

Mark Kang, Neil Devanie, Stephanie Hsiung. Image via The Operators

Neil Devani and Tim Hsia created The Operators after seeing and hearing too many heady, philosophical podcasts about the future of tech, and not enough attention on the practical day-to-day work that makes it all happen.

Tim is the CEO & Founder of Media Mobilize, a media company and ad network, and a Venture Partner at Digital Garage. Tim is an early-stage investor in Workflow (acquired by Apple), Lime, FabFitFun, Oh My Green, Morning Brew, Girls Night In, The Hustle, Bright Cellars, and others.

Neil is an early-stage investor based in San Francisco with a focus on companies building stuff people need, solutions to very hard problems. Companies he’s invested in include Andela, Clearbit, Kudi, Recursion Pharmaceuticals, Solugen, and Vicarious Surgical.

If you’re interested in starting or accelerating your marketing career, or how to hire and manage this function, you can’t miss this episode!

The show:

The Operators features insiders from companies like Airbnb, Brex, Calm, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Slack, Uber, WeWork, and Zeus Living sharing their stories and tips on how to break into fields like marketing and product management. They also share best practices for entrepreneurs on how to hire and manage experts from domains outside their own.

In this episode:

In Episode 6, we’re talking about finance. Neil interviews Stephanie Hsiung, the CFO of Duda, a new and exciting enterprise website builder, and Mark Kang, the Head of Finance at Zeus Living, one of the fastest-growing providers of furnished housing for business travelers.

Neil Devani: Hello and welcome to the Operators, where we talk to entrepreneurs and executives from leading technology companies like Google, Facebook, Airbnb, and Calm about how to break into a new field, how to build a successful career, and how to hire and manage talent beyond your own expertise.

We skip over the lofty prognostications from venture capitalists and storytime with founders to dig into the nuts and bolts of how it all works. Hear from the people doing the real day to day work, the people who make it all happen, the people who know what it really takes… The Operators.

Today we’re talking to two finance experts with experience in investment banking and billion-dollar tech startups. I’m your host, Neil Devani and we’re coming to you from Digital Garage here in downtown San Francisco.

Joining me today is Stephanie Hsiung, CFO of Duda, an enterprise website builder, and formerly the VP of finance at Calm, the leading meditation and mental wellness app. She was also the VP of Finance at Change.org and AdRoll before that.

Also joining us is Mark Kang, Head of Finance at Zeus Living, a rising provider of furnished housing for business travels. They have 1400 homes under management in four major metro areas. Mark has experience as a venture capitalist as well and was previously a banker at Morgan Stanley and Barclays. Stephanie and Mark, thank you for joining us.

Stephanie Hsiung: Thank you for having us.

Mark Kang: Yes, thanks for having us.

VMware is bringing VMs and containers together, taking advantage of Heptio acquisition

By Ron Miller

At VMworld today in San Francisco, VMware introduced a new set of services for managing virtual machines and containers in a single view called Tanzu. The product takes advantage of the knowledge the company gained when it acquired Heptio last year.

As companies face an increasingly fragmented landscape of maintaining traditional virtual machines, alongside a more modern containerized Kubernetes environment, managing the two together has created its own set of management challenges for IT. This is further complicated by trying to manage resources across multiple clouds, as well as the in-house data centers. Finally, companies need to manage legacy applications, while looking to build newer containerized applications.

VMware’s Craig McLuckie and fellow Heptio co-founder, Joe Beda, were part of the original Kubernetes development team They came to VMware via last year’s acquisition. McLuckie believes that Tanzu can help with all of this by applying the power of Kubernetes across this complex management landscape.

“The intent is to construct a portfolio that has a set of assets that cover every one of these areas, a robust set of capabilities that bring the Kubernetes substrate everywhere — a control plane that enables organizations to start to think about [and view] these highly fragmented deployments with Kubernetes [as the] common lens, and then the technologies you need to be able to bring existing applications forward and to build new application and to support third party vendors bringing their applications into [this],” McLuckie explained.

It’s an ambitious vision that involves bringing together not only VMware’s traditional VM management tooling and Kubernetes, but also open source pieces and other recent acquisitions including Bitnami and Cloud Health along with Wavefront, which it acquired in 2017. Although the vision was defined long before the acquisition of Pivotal last week, it will also play a role in this. Originally that was as a partner, but now it will be as part of VMware.

The idea is to eventually cover the entire gamut of building, running and managing applications in the enterprise. Among the key pieces introduced today as technology previews are the Tanzu Mission Control, a tool for managing Kubernetes clusters wherever the live and Project Pacific, which embeds Kubernetes natively into VSphere, the company’s virtualization platform, bringing together virtual machines and containers.

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VMware Tanzu. Slide: VMware

McLuckie sees bringing virtual machine and Kubernetes together in this fashion provides a couple of key advantages. “One is being able to bring a robust, modern API-driven way of thinking about accessing resources. And it turns out that there is this really good technology for that. It’s called Kubernetes. So being able to bring a Kubernetes control plane to Vsphere is creating a new set of experiences for traditional VMware customers that is moving much closer to a kind of cloud-like agile infrastructure type of experience. At the same time, Vsphere is bringing a whole bunch of capabilities to Kubernetes that’s creating more efficient isolation capabilities,” he said.

When you think about the cloud native vision, it has always been about enabling companies to manage resources wherever they live through a single lens, and this is what this set of capabilities that VMware has brought together under Tanzu, is intended to do. “Kubernetes is a way of bringing a control metaphor to modern IT processes. You provide an expression of what you want to have happen, and then Kubernetes takes that and interprets it and drives the world into that desired state,” McLuckie explained.

If VMware can take all of the pieces in the Tanzu vision and make this happen, it will be as powerful as McLuckie believes it to be. It’s certainly an interesting attempt to bring all of a company’s application and infrastructure creation and management under one roof using Kubernetes as the glue, and with Heptio co-founders McLuckie and Beda involved, it certainly has the expertise in place to drive the vision.

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