Growth, Kubernetes, rocket launches, gender in tech, and more Luckin Coffee


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How to see another company’s growth tactics, and try them yourself

Growth marketer and founder of Julian Shapiro published his third article on Extra Crunch, exploring how to analyze your startup’s competitors to figure out their growth tactics. He explores how to see a company’s A/B tests, ad spend, keyword optimization and other areas for competitive analysis.

First, a warning: Your goal is not to repurpose another company’s hard work. That makes you a thief. Your goal is to identify other companies who face the same growth challenges as you, then to study their approaches for solutions to draw from.

As I walk through uncovering a competitor’s tactics, keep in mind which competitors are worth looking at: For instance, you should rarely over-analyze early-stage companies. They’re unlikely to be methodical at growth.

Meaning, if you blindly copy their site and their ads, it’s possible you’ll be copying tactics that are not actually responsible for their growth. Their success may instead be from network effects or other hidden factors.

Instead, it’s safest to get inspiration from companies who’ve sustained high growth rates for a long time, and who face the same growth challenges as you. They’re likely to have sophisticated growth operations worth studying deeply.

And in case you missed Julian’s first two articles:

Takeaways from KubeCon; the latest on Kubernetes and cloud native development

Speaking of growth, TechCrunch’s enterprising enterprise duo Frederic Lardinois and Ron Miller talked Kubernetes this week in our live conference call for Extra Crunch members. They called in from KubeCon in Barcelona, where the conference has exploded in popularity from last year, demonstrating that either more and more IT spend is focused on microservices and orchestration, or people really just love traveling to Spain in May.

We have the transcript of our call for those who missed it:

Frederic: Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an open-source project that took off quite like Kubernetes over the last five years. That’s important to remember. It’s only been five years since Kubernetes launched. There’s a whole ecosystem now of companies.

Let’s talk for a second about five years of Kubernetes because the Cloud Native Computing Foundation is making a big deal out of that. All the signage here is about the five year anniversary. I had a chance today to talk to some of the founders of the Kubernetes project at Google. Craig McLuckie who then left Google, founded Heptio and sold that to VMware. Tim Hawkins who’s still at Google, who is the technical brain behind the whole operation.

It’s interesting to remember that in many ways Kubernetes, as they tell it now — I don’t think Craig McLuckie was really able to tell that story at Google the same way as he’s able to tell it now — Kubernetes was more or less a reaction to the fact that AWS had won the virtual machine wars in the Cloud.

In many ways, Kubernetes was a reaction to that as Google tried to figure out how to make this work. It was never obvious that Kubernetes would become open source because Kubernetes is based on Google’s Borg. Borg just runs all of Google’s data centers. It’s more or less the same technology that makes all of Google’s services run. Five years of Kubernetes and very few of these projects have ever taken off this fast.

From launch to launch: Peter Beck on building an orbital business from scratch

The Space space is heating up (unlike space space, which is frigid). We wanted to get a better sense of the pitfalls of building in such a complicated market as well as the deep market opportunity, and so TechCrunch’s space reporter Devin Coldewey interviewed Peter Beck, the founder of Rocket Lab, which launches rockets for clients, to learn more about how he is building one of the defining space companies of this generation.

Devin: What were some of those challenges? Go ahead and get specific.

Peter: The biggest transition was going from being a purely R&D company to a production company. When you’re doing your first flight, all you care about is having your rocket perform, and the performance of that one mission. When you transition into full commercial services, you’re no longer the center of the operation; it’s all about the customer.

That transition, while very obvious, is actually really one of the biggest challenges we had to overcome. And it happens so fast. Sunday you’re an R&D company, Monday you’re a commercial services company. But there’s so much that goes into that!

When you’ve got all the time in the world to produce one rocket… I mean that first flight, it took us two years to build that rocket. The second took a year, third one about 6 months, now we’re spitting them out once a month.

In order to achieve that, the volume of things like ERP systems, quality control… We only achieve our mission success through just insane levels of quality and inspection and diligence.

And that takes a lot of paperwork, we need to know where every single component came from, where the metal came from, right back to the mill. So you may have a valve made out of aluminum, the paperwork that goes with that valve may have more mass than the valve itself!

Any company that’s gone from prototype into full production faces this. The added challenge here is there’s no warranty call. You can’t bring it back from the field if there’s an issue.

Gender, race and social change in tech; Moira Weigel on the Internet of Women, Part Two

Our resident ethicist and humanist Greg Epstein concludes his interview with Moira Weigel, the co-founder of Logic magazine, which I’ve been a fan of since its debut (for a great starting essay, check out former TechCrunch writer Kim-Mai Cutler’s piece The Unicorn Hunters) Greg and Moira talk about gender and tech, and how advocacy can change the industry and our products for the better.

Greg: How is tech capitalism the same or different around these issues of sexism? I ask because my assumptions are, one, unfortunately there’s a lot of the same sexism in the tech industry; and two, when we talk about technology, we’re often talking about capitalism, but we don’t necessarily need to be because nobody is saying technology would vanish under policies that were a little more socialistic.

Moira: Yes. People love to say like, “Oh, you say you’re a socialist but you use an iPhone.” As if that is some sort of “gotcha.” As if only completely unrestrained contemporary capitalism could give us the innovation of these technologies.

As the brilliant economist, Maria Mazzucato shows in her book on the subject, every single part of the iPhone comes from publicly funded research and development. The fiction that only an incubator startup model will give us major tech innovation is crazy. We didn’t get lasers from a bunch of kids with a whiteboard with the Post-Its on it! Sorry. It’s also not why Silicon Valley and DC are freaking out about tech competition with China right now—but that’s another topic.

Indian PM Narendra Modi’s reelection spells more frustration for US tech giants

Our new India-based writer Manish Singh analyzes the world’s largest election, where incumbent prime minister Narendra Modi once again defeated the Congress Party and its allies to secure his second mandate. Modi has made indigenizing tech and protecting national tech champions a major component of his domestic policy agenda, with huge implications for companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple.

Executives at Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley companies have maintained a dialogue with the Indian government to participate in the making of these policies, but they have been frustrated and blindsided by abrupt moves from the Indian government and the outcomes of the policies.

Executives have also expressed deep disappointment at the efforts of lobbying groups that represent them, such as Nasscom and IAMAI, bringing into question whether they should maintain relationships, multiple sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. On the record, as one would expect, the international companies have largely insisted that they continue to have healthy discussions with various stakeholders.

But, unofficially, still reeling from the recent policy changes, key figures have expressed hope in recent months that India would elect the alternative political party, UPA, a coalition of Congress and its allies. That’s a group that, before losing to NDA, a coalition of BJP and its allies, maintained a better relationship with foreign companies.

Why Luckin’s ultimate enemy may not be Starbucks

Due to its insane growth, Luckin Coffee has been on our minds quite a bit these past few weeks at Extra Crunch. Now, our China-based writer Rita Liao gives us her first-person perspective on the company and its growth, finding reasons for for both optimism and pessimism as the company burns through hundreds of millions of dollars:

“When Starbucks customers buy a cup of coffee, they are paying for two types of services. There’s the coffee, and there’s the right they are buying to use the space, whether they are using it to meet friends or discuss work,” Huang Hai, principal at Chinese venture investment firm FreesFund, said to TechCrunch.

Nonetheless, there are a lot of regular coffee drinkers out there who “just want the caffeine without the space,” added Huang. “They are Luckin’s real target.”

Liu Lingyu is one. An accountant working in Shenzhen’s bustling high-tech hub, She rarely visits Starbucks because she drinks her cup at her desk, so it makes more economic sense to get the 10 yuan Americano from 7-Eleven downstairs.

CFIUS Cometh: What this Obscure Agency Does and Why It Matters to Your Fund or Startup

Meanwhile, concerns about Chinese investment in U.S. companies has continued to percolate in Washington DC circles. Entrepreneur Evan Zimmerman takes us on a crash course of the FIRMMA law, which was passed last year as a way to clamp down on Chinese venture capital and give the federal government more control over the sector.

This also creates a lot of complexity around limited partners. Limited partner agreements are usually structured to give LPs as little access to portfolio companies as possible. Expect this part to get tighter. You probably will even see the term “material nonpublic technical information” appear in LPAs, and you also might see the right to exclude particular LPs from certain briefings for CFIUS purposes.

Venture capital firms will also be careful in deciding who to put on their limited partner advisory committee, as anything that looks like it gives a foreigner control or influence over someone who does see any material nonpublic technical information could also be suspect even though the CFIUS guidance seems lax.

LP selection therefore is now more of a quandary. Good funds are already discerning with their LPs, so at first blush it might not seem like a great sacrifice to further filter for foreign exposure. But some of the biggest checks come from foreign institutions and foreign billionaires.

ICYMI: Earlier this week:


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