Featured Article

‘Thinking out loud’ with TechCrunch senior editor Alex Wilhelm

His daily column is ‘designed to help people who want to be more on the inside’


Image Credits: Jolyugon (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Extra Crunch is now past its first birthday. Over the past year, we’ve learned a lot, made some changes and generally found our groove.

Toward the end of 2019, former TechCrunch writer Alex Wilhelm returned to the publication to help grow Extra Crunch, though he still writes for the main site as well. His daily columns dig into the financial side of the startup world and have resonated deeply with our audience, so I wanted to talk to him about what he’s doing and why more people might want to read his work.

Normally, we’d run a Q&A like this on Extra Crunch, but we’ve removed the paywall so everyone can learn a bit about how we approach our work at TechCrunch so we can better serve our audience of founders, operators, tech fans and investors.

Read on for an unvarnished look at our process, from two of our own. Cheers!

Senior Editor Alex Wilhelm

Chatting with Alex

Walter Thompson: I’d like to introduce you to readers. What is your daily column about?

Alex Wilhelm: I’m always trying to figure out what’s going on and why. And I think that one thing that the news media does traditionally quite well, is to present everyone with a set of facts.

But one thing that the news has always been hesitant to do is tell people why they might care or why things are happening, because they don’t want to lose their journalistic status. I don’t share that perspective. And so my morning column is essentially me thinking out loud about markets, trends and news events that I’m trying to piece together into themes and narratives to help explain the world around me on topics that I find interesting. It’s really just a process of thinking out loud, trying to learn, and put the LEGOs together to make something a bit larger than the parts themselves.

Who should be reading your daily column? Is it just for Silicon Valley insiders?

It’s designed to help people who want to be more on the inside. I’m writing for the people in the world of technology, and the financial world that encompasses startups, to better understand where they work and how their jobs function inside the context of business.

If you work for a startup — you know, seed through late-stage — it probably is something that you might want to read, because you’ll better understand who’s doing well, and business models, where money is going, how exits are happening, what your options might be worth and maybe we’ll talk about the company you work for. So if you’re in that area, I would read it, but if you’re not, it’s probably wildly esoteric and not tailored for you.

Do you think your column could help someone become a better founder, or are you offering more specialized knowledge?

If founders wanted to understand more about the world around them, it is a useful read.

You can certainly build a company with blinders on and just run straight forward. And if everything goes well, you’ll look like a genius. But if you did want to kind of maybe look around a bit more — I cover transportation, fintech and venture trends, and you know, the Chinese market and stock market trades — I try to bring all this stuff in to explain what’s going on. If you wanted a broader view, I hope that my column will help. If it doesn’t, I’m failing.

Any interest in using what you’ve learned writing about startups to found your own company?

I worked for a bunch of startups. I worked for a startup in Chicago during college. Then I also worked for a startup in Portland and I founded a company with some friends called Contenture. TechCrunch covered us back in the day when I was in college, and the dissolution of that startup got me into writing. So I guess I rephrase your question, “am I willing to go back into building companies?” And the answer is no.

I love what I do. And I’m very, very lucky to get to do it. And this is the job that I want. So at least today, no. Maybe down the road as my perspectives, you know, change maybe, but I love writing. I get to write about stuff that I find fascinating.

Use discount code ALEX at checkout to save 25% off the price of an annual or two-year Extra Crunch subscription.

If you’re a founder who’s looking at the novel coronavirus, a possible recession, real uncertainty in public markets and more VCs who are demanding profitability, is this a good time to launch a startup? Or is this a bad time? Or is it just as dodgy as it ever was?

It’s a really good question. I’ve been talking with many people about this, in particular, Elizabeth Yin, who was breaking down the two-tiered founder world — how some people can raise infinite money and some people are kind of starving.

I think it’s a pretty good time to found a company because even if the fundraising market does change and become a bit more stiff and strict, it will be nothing compared to how bad it was in 2008. And nothing as bad as it was 2000 and 2001. So there’s going to be more capital and more risk tolerance. And sure, maybe you won’t be quite as fantastic, but it’ll still be good.

And that means that you have the fuel to build whatever it is that you think is going to change the world if it’s a good idea. I would get out there and go do it. “Good companies are born in bad times” as a theme isn’t wrong. They’re also founded in good times. But if you’ve got a really good idea and a solid team in mind, I don’t think the macro conditions should change the way you think about building a business.

Hustle Fund’s Elizabeth Yin discusses 2020’s fundraising landscape

Is there anything you wanted to add before we wrap up? We’re doing this interview for readers who aren’t already Extra Crunch subscribers. Why do you think they should sign up?

Extra Crunch is a grand experiment, and one that’s been a real pleasure to get to be a small part of. I want to thank everyone who’s come along for the ride so far. And if you haven’t yet, come over to try it.

TechCrunch as an organization is now doing three things at once. We’ve always done news and events. And now we’re doing something a little bit different at the same time. So thank you for everyone who’s taking this up with us. And we’re going to earn everyone else’s support and time as soon as we can.

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo