Hurricane Apple and Hurricane Travis, a tale of two storms

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This week: Hurricane Apple and Hurricane Travis, a tale of two storms

tim cook apple mark zuckerberg facebook

For nearly a year, internet companies have been bracing for Hurricane Apple. The imminent update to the iPhone’s software (technically, iOS 14.5) will require smartphone apps to get permission from users before tracking them and collecting data – a change that could devastate the highly targeted advertising business that social media companies rely on.

Maybe we’re just in a calm-before-the-storm moment, but, less than a week before the Apple update is expected, the internet companies in its path are remarkably calm.

  • Snapchat on Thursday forecast strong revenue growth of up to 85% for its current quarter, despite “anticipated disruptions” of the iPhone update. Snapchat also noted that it now has more Android users than iPhone users– something that should mitigate the impact of Apple’s privacy change.
  • Facebook, which has more to lose from the Apple upgrade than anyone, is busy talking about nifty new audio features to compete with Clubhouse.
  • But one not-so-widely noted development from Facebook this week was the rollout of new ways for marketers to aim ads at its audience of 2 billion viewers based on the types of videos being watched – sports, pet and animals, business, etc. That sounds a lot like old-fashioned “contextual” advertising, which doesn’t require collecting user data. Maybe Facebook’s future is a reversion to the past?

There’s another big development looming for tech companies: the post-pandemic reopening. And it’s already causing some hiccups.

  • Netflix reported first-quarter subscriber numbers that fell short of expectations. Netflix blamed last year’s “big Covid-19 pull forward” – basically, a surge of signups from homebound consumers that’s made it tougher to find new subscribers today. Netflix also cited the lack of fresh content, as lockdowns have made it harder to produce new movies and shows.
  • Uber and Lyft are having trouble finding drivers to operate their rideshare services as vaccinated people start going out again and demand picks up.

Perhaps one of the most interesting wildcards to watch as the pandemic fades will be what happens to the food delivery business that’s been booming during the lockdowns. The return to restaurants and in-person dining will affect not just the DoorDash and Gubhubs of the world, but also the so-called ghost kitchens – shared, delivery-only kitchen facilities where restaurant workers prepare food for online orders.

travis kalanick cloudkitchen nightmare 2x1 alternate

One of the pioneers of the ghost kitchen business is former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

Since his controversial exit from Uber, Kalanick has helmed a company called CloudKitchens that has expanded to dozens of cities. Insider’s Meghan Morris spent weeks reporting on CloudKitchens, and the result is fascinating look at Kalanick’s second act.

CloudKitchens’ employee ranks are made up of numerous Kalanick loyalists from the Uber days, and many of the company’s corporate values are literally the same catchphrases that became infamous at Uber including “always be hustlin'” and “super pumped.” While Kalanick’s methods may be controversial, there’s no denying that he was instrumental in making Uber the global juggernaut that it is. For better or for worse, history may be repeating itself

Read the full story here:

Travis Kalanick’s stealth $5 billion startup, CloudKitchens, is Uber all over again, ruled by a ‘temple of bros,’ insiders say

Quote of the week:

“The work got harder when everyone went remote, but life got harder, too. It’s been really stressful.”

Dustin Moskovitz Asana

– Asana cofounder Dustin Moskovitz discusses his company’s office-centric plan for employees after the pandemic ends, in an exclusive interview with Insider.

Snapshot: Amazon Salon

Amazon has gone from selling books online to delivering groceries to your doorstep, producing movies and building flying drones. So why not open a hair salon?

According to the company’s announcement, visitors to Amazon Salon will be able to do things like use augmented reality technology to experiment with different hair colors before deciding on a style and buying hair care products on Amazon Kindle tablets during their treatments.

Amazon Salon

There’s only one Amazon Salon and you’ll need to go to London’s Spitalfields neighborhood to try it.

Don’t expect Amazon employees to get hands-on with your hair – a team of professional stylists from the city’s Neville Hair & Beauty Salon will handle that part. Still, given Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ thing for robots, it doesn’t take a big leap of imagination to envision future haircuts that don’t involve human hands at all.

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Startup founders, VCs, and lawyers open up about the dark world of dirty term sheets, where shrewd investors screw them over

Google’s college-alternative programs have already trained 50,000 people. Silicon Valley hiring needs to catch up.

22 companies Microsoft is most likely to acquire next

Not necessarily in tech:

HR was built on bias. Now it’s facing an evolution.

Thanks for reading, and if you like this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues they can sign up here to receive it.

– Alexei

Read the original article on Business Insider

Employees wear ‘no quinoa’ shirts at Travis Kalanick’s startup to stave off a coddled work culture

Travis Kalanick
Uber founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick. Reuters

  • The phrase “No Quinoa” is branded on T-shirts and laptop stickers at CloudKitchens.
  • The phrase comes from CloudKitchens CEO Travis Kalanick’s days at Uber.
  • Kalanick has mimicked some of the aspects of Uber’s work culture at the startup, Insider reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Uber founder Travis Kalanick once got upset at an employee for asking why the company’s cafeteria no longer served quinoa.

Kalanick, who was Uber’s CEO at the time, was annoyed that the employee would complain about quinoa in the midst of an all-hands meeting instead of focusing on work.

The story lingered for Kalanick, according to an exclusive report by Insider’s Meghan Morris. Now at his $5 billion startup CloudKitchens, the phrase “No Quinoa” is branded on some employees’ T-shirts and laptop stickers, sources told Morris. Some new hires are also told the “No Quinoa” tale as a warning to stay focused on the company’s mission.

The culture at Los Angeles-based CloudKitchens mimics that at Uber during Kalanick’s time at the ride-hailing company. CloudKitchens doesn’t offer many of the posh perks, like laundry service and nap pods, that have become common among other Silicon Valley companies. Kalanick wants employees’ focus to instead remain on company’s core work – a sentiment that is expressed in phrases like “no quinoa.”

Read more: Travis Kalanick’s stealth $5 billion startup, CloudKitchens, is Uber all over again, ruled by a ‘temple of bros,’ insiders say

CloudKitchens declined to comment on Insider’s investigation.

CloudKitchens, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, operates as a ghost kitchen company that rents commercial space and turns it into shared kitchens for restaurateurs.

In 2018, Kalanick invested in City Storage Systems, renamed it, and took over as CEO. Since then, it has expanded to at least 29 cities in the US and brought on customers including Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s.

Read more about the culture at CloudKitchens here.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Travis Kalanick’s startup refused to change ‘Happy Ending’ branding for an Asian restaurant menu item, saying it wouldn’t cave to woke culture, employees said

Travis Kalanick
Travis Kalanick, founder of CloudKitchens and former CEO of Uber, dismissed internal employee complaints over what they felt was racist branding, Insider reported.

  • Travis Kalanick ignored employee complaints over what they felt was racist branding, sources told Insider.
  • Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber, now leads commercial kitchen startup CloudKitchens.
  • Kalanick reportedly said the startup did not want to accommodate woke culture.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

CloudKitchens founder Travis Kalanick refused to change controversial customer branding, despite internal employee complaints over perceived racism and misogyny, sources told Insider.

Kalanick’s startup rents commercial kitchen space to restaurant brands that focus on food delivery and pickup. Through its Future Foods arm, the company also creates and licenses food brands to local entrepreneurs looking to get into the booming business of food delivery. Former employees told Insider that they spoke to Kalanick and others about their concerns over Future Foods branding, like “Happy Ending” for dessert at an Asian restaurant.

When employees complained, they said Kalanick’s response was that his startup did not seek to accommodate the press or woke culture.

Insider’s Meghan Morris reported the branding concerns as part of a larger investigation into CloudKitchens’ culture and recent employee departures.

Read more: Travis Kalanick’s stealth $5 billion startup CloudKitchens is Uber all over again, ruled by a ‘temple of bros’

CloudKitchens operates “ghost kitchens,” or commercial kitchen space focused on food delivery and pickup. The pandemic has helped the budding industry take off, as consumers cut back on restaurant dining and ordered more food for delivery.

In some CloudKitchens meetings, former employees told Insider that Kalanick lambasted headlines about himself. During an all-staff meeting in 2020, he called a report that he owns a $43 million mansion “fake news.” The CEO also apparently told employees not to trust people who trust the news.

More than 300 corporate executives have left the startup since the start of the year, Insider reported. CloudKitchens was not immediately available for comment for this story and declined to comment or to make executives at the company available for interviews for the larger investigation into CloudKitchens.

Read the full investigation: Travis Kalanick’s stealth $5 billion startup, CloudKitchens, is Uber all over again, ruled by a ‘temple of bros,’ insiders say

Read the original article on Business Insider

Twitter’s surprise counterattack to hold politicians accountable

Hello, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider Tech newsletter, where we break down the biggest news in tech.

Wait, this is Saturday, you say. Doesn’t this newsletter come out on Wednesdays? Not anymore. We’re changing things up and moving to weekends, so you can have more time to enjoy all the great articles with your morning coffee – including:

I’m your host Alexei Oreskovic. Hit me up with your thoughts, tips, rants and raves at

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Soundtrack: This week’s newsletter has been specially designed to be consumed while listening to William Onyeabor’s “Ride on baby”

Twitter’s surprise counterattack, or, when Big Tech tried to hold politicians accountable

jack dorsey

For more than a year now, tech companies have been America’s favorite political punching bags; attractive targets for politicians on the left and the right to blame for all manner of misdeeds, both real and imagined.

So what happened on Monday was both unexpected and ironic: Twitter sued Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Twitter alleges Paxton abused his power in launching an investigation into the social network’s decision to ban Donald Trump.

  • Paxton issued investigative demands to Twitter, Google, Facebook and others in January, stating that the seemingly coordinated de-platforming of Trump after the Capitol riots, were a violation of the First Amendment.
  • Twitter’s lawsuit against Paxton points out that the First Amendment does not proscribe private businesses from censoring undesirable speech, it prevents the government from controlling speech – as Paxton, a government official, appears to be doing by interfering in Twitter’s moderation policies.

Twitter’s riposte against the Texas AG follows a fusillade of lawsuits from voting machine companies in response to election rigging claims.

It’s an amusing turn of events in the wake of all the – often very legitimate – criticism of the tech industry’s role spreading falsehoods and misinformation. Who would have thought tech companies would now be the ones fighting to keep others in check about sticking to the facts?

Speaking of the MyPillow guy, it seems the mustachioed CEO is expanding into the tech market and launching his own social network. It will be called Vocl (not to be confused with Völkl, the famous German skis), and according to Lindell, will be a cross between Twitter and YouTube but also “not like anything you’ve ever seen.”

Stay tuned over the next few months as we witness the birth of a new breed of right-wing, personality driven social media networks.

Zuck’s Money Man – and Travis’ new urban warfare

travis kalanick chicago disruption 4x3

We’ve got two great reads for you to sink your teeth into this weekend. The first is a look at former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s latest venture into so-called ghost kitchens, the shared kitchen facilities focused exclusively on takeout and delivery orders. As Meghan Morris reports:

For Kalanick, who served as Uber’s CEO until 2017, CloudKitchens is a remarkable second act, cementing his reputation as someone with a unique understanding of how technology can transform business. It’s also already causing clashes with local politicians and other groups, who see a repeat of the controversial playbook that Uber used to succeed.

Read the full story here:

iconiq divesh makan connections 2x1

When Silicon Valley’s elite need someone to manage their money they go to Divesh Makan, the founder of Iconiq Capital. The secretive firm’s clients include everyone from Mark Zuckeberg and Sheryl Sandberg to Eddy Cue and Chamath Palihapitiya. Rob Price and Meghan Morris spent months reporting on Iconiq, looking at its expansion into venture capital and real estate, its vaunted list of clients, and its mysterious founder.

“He wants to be the most influential person in the world,” one former colleague said of Makan. “If you think ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ he wants to be the guy behind the curtain that nobody sees … the person controlling the pieces.”

You can read the full story here, including a list of Iconiq’s celebrity clients and internal documents detailing all of the startups it’s invested in:

Quote of the week:

“Our long-term investors are free to sell if they want. So we immediately launched into this very balanced market space.”

Roblox CEO David Baszucki

– Roblox CEO Dave Baszucki tells Insider why the firm chose to list its shares on the NYSE via a direct listing instead of by doing a traditional IPO.

Snapshot: This is not a banana

When you’re a video game console maker, everything looks like a controller.

That seems to be the case for PlayStation maker Sony, which recently was awarded a bizarre patent to turn bananas into game accessories.

Screenshot of Sony's patent

The patent envisions using a system of cameras to magically turn plantain into peripheral.

Why would you want to use a banana when your PlayStation comes with a perfectly good controller?

According to Sony: “A limited number of peripherals may limit a player’s ability to access all of a video game’s features (e.g. multiplayer, VR, etc.). Even if a player is in possession of multiple peripherals, each of these may need to be charged regularly in order to be usable.”

The solution is to grab a banana, or really, any nearby household object. The patent describes using a pair of oranges (one in each hand), and suggests that mugs and pens could also benefit from the technology.

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Thanks for reading, and if you like this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues they can sign up here to receive it.

– Alexei

Read the original article on Business Insider

We mapped out the locations of ghost kitchens run by ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s CloudKitchen and competitor REEF Technology. See where the fight for ghost kitchen dominance is heating up.

Aerial sunny parking lot warehouse
Ghost kitchen startups are scooping up empty warehouses and parking lots around the US.

  • Matt Newberg is the founder of HNGRY, a subscription media platform exploring the overlap of food and technology through trends like ghost kitchens, dark stores, and more.
  • Newberg writes that up-and-coming ghost kitchen startup CloudKitchens is spending spends hundreds of millions of dollars converting old industrial warehouses around the US into dozens of individual kitchen spaces. 
  • REEF Technology is another ghost kitchen startup that operates delivery-only restaurant kitchen trailers and deploys them in parking lots across the country.
  • “CloudKitchens is more like an Amazon fulfillment center, while REEF is more like a 7-Eleven,” explains Newberg. This difference allows REEF to access more locations by volume but gives CloudKitchen has an advantage in overall scale.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Over the past three years, Travis Kalanick, the ousted founder CEO of Uber, has been quietly purchasing real estate in major cities across the country while simultaneously investing in ghost kitchen business internationally for his ghost kitchen startup, CloudKitchens.

While CloudKitchens got an early start, in 2019 a startup called ParkJockey announced that it had raised money from the sovereign wealth fund of Dubai and Softbank to roll up the two largest parking operators in North America. This built the platform for what has been rebranded as REEF Technology, a startup that operates delivery-only kitchen trailers and other micro mobility applications on top of under-utilized parking spaces. 

Read more3 restaurant brands with ghost kitchens explain how they’ve kept operations running smoothly while staying competitive on delivery apps

REEF’s core bet is that as we move towards shared autonomous vehicles, the demand for parking will plummet.

With $1 billion in newly raised capital, $300 million of which is dedicated to purchasing real estate, REEF is looking to transform parking lots into what it calls a “proximity platform” that supports the on-demand economy through applications like ghost kitchens, micro-fulfillment, and COVID-19 testing sites. 

According to PitchBook, CloudKitchens has raised $700 million in equity and has a debt facility of $200 million from Goldman Sachs to support its real estate acquisitions and build-outs according to a deed of trust document discovered by HNGRY.

Despite the fact that both companies have raised large sums of capital to repurpose distressed real estate, they are quick to distinguish themselves from one another. CloudKitchens is more like an Amazon fulfillment center, while REEF is more like a 7-Eleven. 

Read more: A San Francisco pizzeria transformed into a ghost kitchen when the pandemic hit. Here’s how they pivoted quickly and boosted sales by more than $1 million in the process.

CloudKitchens spends millions of dollars converting industrial warehouses into 30 to 40 individual kitchen spaces, while REEF purchases and deploys a single kitchen trailer per parking lot that it either owns or manages. 

For example, CloudKitchens owns two properties in Miami: a 58,500-square foot warehouse in Wynwood and a 16,441-square foot former Brazilian restaurant in South Beach. By contrast, REEF has blanketed the city with a dozen trailers across six zip codes, each of which can prepare as many as seven different delivery concepts. While these trailers aren’t as mobile as food trucks, they can be quickly removed or deployed from any permitted site. 

CloudKitchens leases its kitchens to large QSRs like WingStop, Chick-fil-A, and Panda Express while REEF operates delivery-only franchises on behalf of mostly smaller brands like Fuku, Umami Burger, and Wow Bao.

By and large, both teams are focused on the same markets, with a high concentration of overlap in LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Austin, Houston, and Philadelphia. 

While REEF’s modular form factor lends itself to more locations per city, both companies share a similar number of locations in cities like Chicago and LA. Unlike its stealth rival CloudKitchens, REEF has made noticeable attempts brand its trailers and give them the appearance of a neighborhood-friendly destination – despite the fact that its trailers’ sole purpose is to fulfill delivery orders. 

In some cases, REEF lays out astro turf and picnic benches outside of its trailers as a welcome mat despite the fact that all orders must be placed via a delivery app. 

At the other end of the spectrum, CloudKitchens’ facilities go out of their way to disassociate themselves from their parent company, opting to brand each property as a “Food Center,” “Food Nest,” “Food Hall,” “Food Hub,” or “Food Junction” instead. 

The front-of-house areas are primarily designed as waiting rooms for delivery drivers with waiting benches, order screens, and bathrooms. Interior renderings of newer locations depict food lockers for customers to order ahead and pick up as well as ordering tablets for walk-up orders.

Read more: 6 tips for starting a ghost kitchen from entrepreneurs who’ve successfully launched the delivery-only model

REEF has the ability to deploy a greater number of locations by volume in a shorter time span than CloudKitchens, while CloudKitchen has a distinct advantage in scale.

With their current footprints, CloudKitchens can support nearly 10 times the number of brands in a single location than REEF, because the average Cloud Kitchen facility houses 30 individual kitchens that can list themselves as four different concepts, for a total of 120 brands from one CloudKitchen location. REEF, meanwhile, can host just 7. 

On top of this, CloudKitchens is expanding into CloudRetail to add consumer items like ice cream, alcohol, and everyday household essentials to consumers’ food delivery baskets. 

There are glimpses of the grander ambitions CloudKitchens has, beyond just delivering takeout and groceries: Last April, the company briefly tipped its hand by launching the “Internet Food Court,” a virtual food hall that allowed consumers to order across all of its concepts in a single batched order from its second facility in Koreatown, Los Angeles before being mysteriously deleted from the internet a day later. 

Matt Newberg is the founder of HNGRY, a subscription media platform exploring the cutting edge of food and technology through trends like ghost kitchens, dark stores, fungi-based meat, and personalized nutrition. Subscribe to the free weekly newsletter here or try a premium subscription for $5 with promo code INSIDER5.

Read the original article on Business Insider