Author: Danny Crichton

How to read fiction to build a startup

TECHCRUNCH “The book itself is a curious artefact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were 15, it will tell it to you again when you’re...

Read More

Urban unicorn renewal

TECHCRUNCH Three cities, three dead urban unicorn renewal projects. In just the past few days, we’ve had Foxconn renege on Wisconsin, Amazon renege on NYC, and GE renege on Boston. Each followed the Anna Karenina principle that every unhappy economic development deal is unhappy in its own way: for Foxconn, it was trade tariffs and slowing iPhone sales; for Amazon, it was populist protests plus the usual NYC corruption; for GE, it was the reality of looking at a mirror and finding that you’re staring at a dumpster fire. Yet, there are eerie similarities, other than the fact that I have practically lived next door to every single one of these projects (if you call Wisconsin next door to the better-looking state of Minnesota). In each case, there was the perfect alchemy of the modern urban unicorn renewal plan. A well-known but sordid tech company paints a picture of revolutionizing a city’s economic base. They splash huge numbers on the board, or at least a coveted status symbol. Seeing their legacies secured, politicians latch on to these projects, negotiating with alacrity and without due process because — wow — the company with suicide nets or the company where employees pee in bottles (undercover!) is coming to town. I get it. And look, if these projects panned out, they would indeed be great for their home cities. As I wrote...

Read More

The infosec reckoning has arrived

TECHCRUNCH 2018 represented a record year for venture capital investment into information security, but this isn’t a positive trend – and it definitely doesn’t mean we’re more secure. An unwarranted percentage of solutions being funded are not solving the problems defenders face the most. And with high numbers of lackluster information security startups failing to meet the needs of their customers, you might expect downward pressure on valuations.  Instead, 2018 also saw record valuations, both because venture capital firms benefit from them, as will be explained in this article, and because so many investors are unfamiliar with the information...

Read More

The Patreon EC-1

TECHCRUNCH TechCrunch is launching a new format for Extra Crunch members, called the EC-1. Modeled after the Form S-1 filing that late-stage startups submit to the SEC as part of the IPO process, EC-1s are authoritative, deep analyses into growth-stage startups. Through extensive interviews and research, an EC-1 acts as a case study for entrepreneurs and startup executives to learn from a company’s journey as well as a thorough analysis for industry observers and public market investors eager to understand the next big companies. Patreon is the subject of our first EC-1, which is fitting given the startup’s focus...

Read More

Why no one really quits Google or Facebook

TECHCRUNCH Another week, another set of scandals at Facebook and Google. This past week, my colleagues reported that Facebook and Google had abused Apple enterprise developer certificates in order to distribute info-scraping research apps, at times from underage users in the case of Facebook. Apple responded by cutting off both companies from developer accounts, before shortly restoring them. The media went into overdrive over the scandals, as predictable as the companies’ statements that they truly care about users and their privacy. But will anything change? I think we know the answer to this question: no. And it is never going to change because the vast majority of users just don’t care one iota about privacy or these scandals. Privacy advocates will tell you that the lack of a wide boycott against Google and particularly Facebook is symptomatic of a lack of information: if people really understood what was happening with their data, they would galvanize immediately for other platforms. Indeed, this is the very foundation for the GDPR policy in Europe: users should have a choice about how their data is used, and be fully-informed on its uses in order to make the right decision for them. I don’t believe more information would help, and I reject the mentality behind it. It’s reminiscent of the political policy expert who says that if only voters had more information — if...

Read More

H1-B changes will simplify application process

TECHCRUNCH The federal government yesterday published the final rule for changes to the H1-B visa program, which is one of the primary conduits for technical talent to come and work in the United States. There are two key changes coming with the rule. First, the government will require applicants for an H1-B visa to electronically register with the immigration office for the H1-B lottery before they submit their applications or documentation. Due to hard caps imposed by Congress on the number of workers who can be admitted under the program, tens of thousands of people apply for a visa who ultimately do not attain it. Under the current process, applicants must submit their entire applications including supporting documentation in order to apply for a lottery run by USCIS, the immigration authority. Last year, roughly 190,000 applicants applied for 85,000 total slots. That means 105,000 people put together complete applications but lost out on the lottery. Under the new rule that will be in force for this year’s H1-B process, applicants will first register with USCIS electronically, which will process the lottery. If selected in the lottery, an applicant would then be invited to submit their application and supporting materials. The idea is that you only have to do all the work of applying when there is an actual slot available. The change is likely to cut into the revenue...

Read More

Foxconn is killing a second $9B factory

TECHCRUNCH Foxconn is even more aggressively cutting back its growth ambitions around the world than we previously thought. In addition to the news yesterday that Foxconn intends to scale back its plans for a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin, leaving that state in something of a lurch, we have now learned that the Taiwanese company intends to scale back a $9 billion factory in Guangzhou, according to the Nikkei Asian Review citing internal documents. It lists trade war fears and a macro slowdown as the cause. We talked about the lessons for economic development yesterday, but there is another angle around manufacturing flexibility that is critical to understanding this news. A few weeks ago, I interviewed Dave Evans, who is building a startup called Fictiv, which is a “a contract manufacturer that doesn’t own any machines.” He thinks about manufacturing “more like cloud computing” where you can “scale up and down production as you would with AWS or a load-balancing server.” In a world filled with fast-moving political eddies and fickle consumer demand, Evans ardently advocates for manufacturing flexibility. “No one is talking about how to build a supply chain that is agile enough to deal with different geopolitical climates,” he said. In today’s world, “supply chain planning is years or sometimes decades out” and yet, “if I look at policy or governments, or nascent trade agreements, that tends...

Read More

Foxconn pulls back on its $10 billion dollar factory commitment

TECHCRUNCH Well that didn’t last long. In 2017, Foxconn announced the largest investment of a foreign company in the United States when it selected Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin for a new manufacturing facility. Buttressed by huge economic development grants from Wisconsin, an endorsement from President Trump, and Foxconn CEO Terry Gou’s vision of a maker America, the plant was designed to turn a small town and its environs into the futuristic “Wisconn Valley.” Now, those dreams are coming apart faster than you can say “Made in America.” In an interview with Reuters, a special assistant to Gou says that those plans are being remarkably scaled back. Originally designed to be an advanced LCD factory, the new Foxconn facility will instead be a much more modest (but still needed!) research center for engineers. It’s a huge loss for Wisconsin, but the greater shock may be just how obvious all of this was. I wrote about the boondoggle just a few weeks ago, as had Bruce Murphy at The Verge a few weeks before that. Sruthi Pinnamaneni produced an excellent podcast on Reply All about how much the economic development of Mount Pleasant tore the small town asunder. The story in short: the economics of the factory never made sense, and economics was always going to win over the hopes and dreams of politicians like Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who championed the...

Read More

Right Now in Politics and Business