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Hi there, and welcome to another Daily Crunch, this time for Tuesday June 7, 2022. The past 24 hours have had a lot of Apple news in them, and we’ve got comprehensive coverage on that front — but we also have a veritable cornucopia of other news from across the startup-o-sphere, so let’s get right into it! — Haje and Christine
The TechCrunch Top 3
- Oracle’s done deal: Oracle quietly wrapped up its acquisition of Cerner, which goes into effect Wednesday. Electronic health records is big business, and while this merger gives Oracle a major seat at the table, it is not yet known how these companies will mesh or whether Cerner will be lucrative for Oracle. Whatever happens, can this be a step closer to enabling medical records to be more easily accessible and transferrable for patients?
- One thing to rule them all, one thing to find them, one thing in the darkness to charge them: As fans of climate and the environment, and as people with an infinite number of chargers in drawers, we’re all for EU’s new rules that dictate that most devices need to be able to use the USB-C charging standard. We’re curious how this will affect startups in particular; different chargers and giving users the option not to receive a charger with their device is going to make supply chains and SKUs a lot more complex.
- Grab the Wite-Out: Alex and Anna look at venture capital activity in Latin America and sense that a decline is in the cards for the second quarter, alluding to a possible correction.
Startups and VC
Best known for its open source microcontrollers that have been wildly embraced by the developer community, Arduino now has its sights firmly set on the enterprise world, Brian reports. Specifically, the company believes it’s well positioned to gain a foothold among Gen Z and millennial engineers in the workforce.
Let’s check out what else there is:
- Ain’t but a number: It’s often wrong to think of silver tech as being just for the aging. Primeline Partners wants to flip than on its head and refocus on quality of life instead, Catherine reports.
- Fly like a butterfly, sting like a taxi: Volocopter’s drone taxi is one step closer to entering service. The German firm has revealed that its four-seat electric VTOL aircraft, the VoloConnect, completed its first flight in May, reports Jon.
- Don’t call us; we’ll call you: Kyle reports that Take Blip, an online messaging platform for businesses, today announced that it raised $70 million.
- Not today, neighbor: Haje covered how Ergeon enables anyone to order construction projects like fences, driveways and more.
- Whoa, it’s like I’m right there, man: Haje also wrote about Looking Glass’s brand-new 65-inch holographic screen.
- Yeah, but what about second breakfast: As many millennials struggle to come up with the cash to buy their first home, plenty of other folks are looking to buy their second. Summer is squarely aimed at the latter group, Jordan reports.
The guide to great metrics: Product-led principles
Imagine a world where founders boasted about how much growth they’ve driven, as opposed to their fundraising prowess.
The ability to raise capital is less impressive than finding sustainable ways to build a growing base of paying customers. The right coaching and a strong network can help many founders land a sizable seed round, but that money reflects investor confidence, not market demand.
In a post for TC+, Curtis Townshend, senior director of growth at OpenView, shares 11 product-led growth tactics that foster “customer acquisition, retention and expansion.”
After surveying 14 public B2B software companies, Townshend says firms that built for discoverability and deployed usage-based pricing had a median growth rate of 141%, compared to 21% for traditional SaaS.
These companies were also much more efficient with regard to the Rule of 40 and retaining revenue. “Across the board, the variance in metrics is stark,” says Townshend.
(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
With WWDC in full swing, let’s take a bite out of some Apple news first, shall we? Some interesting new security features for macOS 13 Ventura (or as we dubbed it “Mace Ventura”) are coming down the pipeline here; for example, when you plug a device into the USB-C port, it will automatically be blocked until you give it the green light. Apple is also fixing an annoying “tapback” problem when an iPhone user dares to text with an Android user. Some developers are probably rejoicing, too, as some restrictions are being loosened on what can be published on the App Store. Meanwhile, iOS 16 brings with it some redesigned and reimagined features, like better photo-sharing abilities and editing tools.
Next, we reported on a little shake-up happening over at Peloton, which tapped Amazon Web Services executive Liz Coddington as its new chief financial officer, effective next week. She takes over for Jill Woodworth, Peloton’s first CFO, who is leaving the company. As you might recall, earnings were not so good, which has the company “pedaling” to manage its supply-and-demand issues.
In money news, PayPal took a hint from its crypto-enthused users and unveiled a way for them to move their cryptocurrency from PayPal to other users, wallets or exchanges.
Here is some more news to gobble up:
- Two heads are better than one: Waymo Via, aka Alphabet’s self-driving unit, and Uber Freight, aka Uber’s logistic spinout, are calling shotgun. Rebecca writes that the partnership involves a few phases, including Waymo Via’s technology going into Uber Freight’s network. Speaking of Uber and moving things, the company has a new service that will deliver specialty food items from certain merchants in New York, Miami and Los Angeles across the U.S. Sorry, Alaska and Hawaii, not to you.
- For the ’gram: Instagram users can now pin up to three posts on their profile. This was something the Meta-owned unit was testing, so go forth and pin!
- To hear you better, my dear: Devin gives a review of the new Sonos Ray soundbar.
- Finance me, please: Luxury electric vehicle maker Lucid Group joined with Bank of America to offer financing to customers.
- Polestar does some teasing: The company released images of its first battery-electric SUV, the Polestar 3, expected to come out in October.
Uber to sunset free loyalty program in favor of subscription membership
Ride-hailing giant Uber is shutting down its free loyalty program, Uber Rewards, so it can focus on its subscription-based Uber One membership.
Uber first launched the rewards program in 2018 as a sort of frequent flyer scheme that allowed riders to earn points for every dollar spent on rides or Uber Eats deliveries. Those points could then be used to get discounts on future rides or deliveries. In November 2021, Uber began introducing Uber One, which, for $9.99 per month or $99.99 annually, allows members perks like 5% off certain rides or delivery orders and unlimited $0 delivery fees on food orders of over $15 and grocery orders of over $30.
In an email sent to customers that was picked up by The Verge, Uber said users can still earn points via the legacy rewards program until the end of August, and that they can redeem those points until October 31. Uber Rewards will officially shut down on November 1, 2022, according to an update posted by the company.
The Uber Rewards program allowed users to earn 1x point for every Uber Pool dollar spent, 2x for every UberX dollar spent and 3x for every $1 spent on Premium. The number of points accumulated would put members into different castes of loyalty, from Blue to Gold to Platinum to Diamond, the latter of which comes with benefits like access to highly rated drivers, free delivery on three Uber Eats orders, access to better customer service and free upgrades.
While phone support will continue for Diamond users, now the only way to get additional perks with Uber will be to shell out for a subscription. Existing Rewards members will get a free one-month subscription to Uber One, but then will be charged for access. If you’re someone who orders Uber Eats more than twice a month, you can easily break even with the Uber One subscription, but plenty of users might not see the money saving benefits in the switch.
Uber did not respond immediately for clarity as to why it is shutting down the Rewards program in favor of the Uber One membership. Perhaps the company did not see the returns and user loyalty that it would have expected from the program and thinks a subscription offering will provide better returns.
Twilio gets hacked, teens ditch Facebook, and SpaceX takes South Korea to the moon
Is Facebook for old people? If you’ve got a teenager around the house, you’ve probably heard them say as much. The most read story this week is on a Pew study that suggests this generation of teens has largely abandoned the platform in favor of Instagram/YouTube/TikTok/etc.; whereas in 2014 around 71% of teens used Facebook, the study says in 2022 that number has dropped down to 32%.
Mark Cuban sued over crypto platform promotion: “A group of Voyager Digital customers filed a class-action suit in Florida federal court against Cuban, as well as the basketball team he owns, the Dallas Mavericks,” writes Anita, “alleging their promotion of the crypto platform resulted in more than 3.5 million investors losing $5 billion collectively.”
A troubling layoff trend: While tech layoffs might, maybe, hopefully be showing signs of slowing, Natasha M points out a troubling trend: some companies are announcing layoffs only to announce another round of layoffs just weeks or months later.
SpaceX launches South Korea’s first moon mission: South Korea has launched its first-ever lunar mission — a lunar orbiter “launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket” ahead of plans to land on the surface some time in 2030.
Twilio gets hacked: While it’s unclear exactly what data was taken, Twilio says the data of at least 125 customers was accessed after some of its employees were tricked “into handing over their corporate login credentials” by an intense SMS phishing attack.
Amazon’s bizarre new show: Think “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” but made up of user-submitted footage from Ring security cameras. By now most people probably realize their every step is recorded on a security camera or three — but doesn’t embracing it as Entertainment™ like this feel kind of…icky?
Haus hits hard times: Haus, a company that ships specialized low-alcohol drinks direct to consumers, is looking for a buyer after a major investor backed out of its Series A. The challenge? Investor diligence for an alcohol company can take months, and Haus just doesn’t “have the cash to support continued operations at this time.”
How clean is the air you breathe every day? Aclima co-founder Davida Herzl wants everyone to be able to answer that question, and sat down with Jordan and Darrell on this week’s Found podcast to explain her mission. Meanwhile on Chain Reaction, Jacquelyn and Anita explain the U.S. gov’s crackdown of the cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash, and the Equity crew spent Wednesday’s show discussing whether the turbulent market conditions of late will mean we see fewer early-stage endeavors in the months ahead.
What lies behind the paywall? A lot of really good stuff! Here’s what TechCrunch+ subscribers were reading most this week…
Building an MVP when you can’t code: Got a great idea but can’t code? You can still get the ball rolling. Magnus Grimeland, founder of the early-stage VC firm Antler, lays out some of the key principles to keep in mind.
Are SaaS valuations staging a recovery?: “…the good news for software startup founders,” writes Alex, “is that the period when the deck was being increasingly stacked against them may now be behind us.”
VCs and AI-powered investment tools: Do VCs want AI-powered tools to help them figure out where to put their money? Kyle Wiggers takes a look at the concept, and why not all VCs are on board with it.
After the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago, online threats quickly turn into real-world violence
Threats of violence reached a fever pitch — reminiscent of the days leading up to the Capitol attack — following the news that the FBI raided Trump’s Florida beach club to retrieve classified documents the former president may have unlawfully taken there.
After Trump himself confirmed Monday’s raid at Mar-a-Lago, pro-Trump pundits and politicians rallied around declarations of “war,” and Trump’s ever-fervent supporters called for everything from dismantling the federal law enforcement agency to committing acts of violence against its agents. The situation escalated from there in record time, with online rhetoric boiling over quickly into real-world violence.
By Thursday, an armed man identified as Ricky Shiffer attempted to force his way into an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio, brandishing a rifle before fleeing. Law enforcement pursued Shiffer and he was fatally shot during the ensuing standoff with police.
Analysts with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a nonprofit that researches extremism and disinformation, found evidence that Shiffer was driven to commit violence by “conspiratorial beliefs related to former President Trump and the 2020 election…interest in killing federal law enforcement, and the recent search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago earlier this week.” He was also reportedly present at the January 6 attack — another echo between this week’s escalating online threats and the tensions that culminated in political violence at the Capitol that day.
Shiffer appears to have been active on both Twitter and Truth Social, the platform from Trump’s media company that hosts the former president and his supporters. As Thursday’s attack unfolded, Shiffer appeared to post to Truth Social about how his plan to infiltrate the FBI office by breaking through a ballistic glass barrier with a nail gun had gone awry. “Well, I thought I had a way through bullet proof glass, and I didn’t,” the account posted Thursday morning. “If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I., and it’ll mean either I was taken off the internet, the F.B.I. got me, or they sent the regular cops…”
In posts on Truth Social, the account implored others to “be ready to kill the enemy” and “kill the FBI on sight” in light of Monday’s raid at Mar-a-Lago. It also urged followers to heed a “call to arms” to arm themselves and prepare for combat. “If you know of any protests or attacks, please post here,” the account declared earlier this week.
By Friday, that account was removed from the platform and a search of Shiffer’s name mostly surfaced content denouncing his actions. “Why did you censor #rickyshiffer‘s profile? So much for #truth and #transparency,” one Truth Social user posted on Friday. Still, online conspiracies around the week’s events remain in wide circulation on Truth Social and elsewhere, blaming antifa for the attack on the Ohio FBI office, accusing the agency of planting documents at Mar-a-Lago and sowing unfounded fears that well-armed IRS agents will descend on Americans in light of Friday’s House passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.
“‘Violence against law enforcement is not the answer no matter what anybody is upset about or who they’re upset with,’ FBI director Christopher Wray said in light of emerging threats of violence this week. Trump appointed Wray to the role in 2017 after infamously ousting former FBI director James Comey.”
Friday is also the five-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally, which saw white nationalists clad in Nazi imagery marching openly through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. The ensuing events left 32-year-old protester Heather Heyer dead and sent political shockwaves through a nation that had largely grown complacent about the simmering threat of white supremacist violence.
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