Original Content podcast: ‘I Think You Should Leave’ brings deranged laughs to Netflix

A sketch on Netflix’s “I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson” doesn’t just settle for one funny idea. As soon as you start to get comfortable and assume that you know where things are going, there’s usually a wild left turn, and sometimes a third and fourth for good measure.

We review the new comedy series on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, highlighting our favorite sketches and the ones that didn’t work for us — sometimes things stretch out for too long, or the idea can seem more bizarre than funny.

Still, the hit rate feels remarkably high, provoking frequent, disbelieving laughter, with co-creator and star Robinson continually mining new shades of deranged behavior. It helps that there are only six episodes of around 20 minutes each, so “I Think You Should Leave” definitely doesn’t wear out its welcome.

In addition to our review, we follow-up last week’s discussion of “When They See Us” by noting that the show has supposedly been viewed by more than 23 million Netflix accounts.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

If you want to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:40 When They See Us follow-up
8:53 I Think You Should Leave review
17:44 I Think You Should Leave spoilers

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Startups at the speed of light: Lidar CEOs put their industry in perspective

As autonomous cars and robots loom over the landscapes of cities and jobs alike, the technologies that empower them are forming sub-industries of their own. One of those is lidar, which has become an indispensable tool to autonomy, spawning dozens of companies and attracting hundreds of millions in venture funding.

But like all industries built on top of fast-moving technologies, lidar and the sensing business is by definition built somewhat upon a foundation of shifting sands. New research appears weekly advancing the art, and no less frequently are new partnerships minted, as car manufacturers like Audi and BMW scramble to keep ahead of their peers in the emerging autonomy economy.

To compete in the lidar industry means not just to create and follow through on difficult research and engineering, but to be prepared to react with agility as the market shifts in response to trends, regulations, and disasters.

I talked with several CEOs and investors in the lidar space to find out how the industry is changing, how they plan to compete, and what the next few years have in store.

Their opinions and predictions sometimes synced up and at other times diverged completely. For some, the future lies manifestly in partnerships they have already established and hope to nurture, while others feel that it’s too early for automakers to commit, and they’re stringing startups along one non-exclusive contract at a time.

All agreed that the technology itself is obviously important, but not so important that investors will wait forever for engineers to get it out of the lab.

And while some felt a sensor company has no business building a full-stack autonomy solution, others suggested that’s the only way to attract customers navigating a strange new market.

It’s a flourishing market but one, they all agreed, that will experience a major consolidation in the next year. In short, it’s a wild west of ideas, plentiful money, and a bright future — for some.

The evolution of lidar

I’ve previously written an introduction to lidar, but in short, lidar units project lasers out into the world and measure how they are reflected, producing a 3D picture of the environment around them.

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With a single wiretap, prosecutors collected 9.2 million text messages

For four months in 2018, U.S. prosecutors in Texas collected more than 9.2 million messages under a single court-authorized wiretap order, newly released figures show.

The wiretap, granted by a federal judge in the Southern District of Texas, was granted as part of a narcotics investigation and became the federal wiretap with the most intercepts in 2018, according to the government’s annual wiretap report.

Little is known about the case, except that 149 individuals involved in the case were targeted by the wiretap.  The wiretap expired last year, allowing the judiciary to disclose the case.

To date, no arrests have been made

Trailing behind it was another narcotics investigation in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania saw police obtain a three-month wiretap that collected 9.1 million text message from 45 individuals. No arrests were made either.

The two cases represent the largest wiretap cases seen in years.

Wiretaps are some of the most invasive kinds of lawful surveillance in the hands of U.S. prosecutors outside of the federal intelligence community. Where pen registers and trap-and-trace devices allow authorities to see when a call is placed and to whom, wiretaps grant police real-time access to phone conversations and text messages. Given the privacy-invasive nature of real-time listening capabilities, the bar to obtain a court-ordered wiretap is far higher than other surveillance measures.

But the overall number of wiretaps authorized and subsequent convictions “fell sharply” in 2018, the U.S. Courts said in its annual transparency report.

A total of 2,937 wiretaps were authorized in 2018, down 22% on the year prior. The report also said that number of wiretaps using encryption went up, rendering the wiretap ineffective.

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BMW’s EV concept gets Blade Runner-style sound

BMW Vision M NEXT, the electric vehicle concept that had its world debut June 25, won’t be in showrooms anytime soon, if ever. But let’s hope the sound of the vehicle, which was created by famous film score composer Hans Zimmer and Renzo Vitale, an acoustic engineer and sound designer at the BMW Group, makes into the automaker’s next line of vehicles.

Sure, electric vehicles are silent. They don’t need to sound like a vehicle with an internal combustion engine. And this concept doesn’t. But it could be a fun add-on feature that drivers could opt to turn on or off.

Earlier this month, BMW promoted Zimmer’s role in shaping the sound for the Vision M NEXT concept and possibly its next-generation of electric vehicles. It wasn’t clear what the concept sounded like because the video released at the time made it difficult to pick out the noise of electric vehicle against the background music.

Now, BMW has added a webpage where visitors can get a closer look into the futuristic car. People can 3D print a smaller version of the vehicle thanks to a free STL file. They can download wallpaper. Or they can listen to the sound that Zimmer created for the Vision M NEXT.

The video file below plays a recording of what the BMW Vision M NEXT sounds like when it accelerates in “Boost+ Mode.”

The beginning of the track sounds a lot like the THX opener that plays in movie theaters right before a film and then transitions to a pop — that’s the boost — and continues to build into a high pitch that evokes a feeling of speed.

It’s reminiscent of Blade Runner — and that’s a good thing.

The vehicle, which debuted at the NEXTGen event in Munich, is meant to should show where the automaker is headed in terms of design, electric vehicle plans and technology like its next generation adaptive cruise control system, which will be able to detect and automatically stop at red lights.

BMW customers can expect the next generation of electric vehicles to come with special acoustics meant to mimic the feeling a driver might get when they’re behind an M5 or other BMW with an internal combustion engine. And it appears BMW’s next slate of electric vehicles could arrive sooner than originally planned.

The automaker announced at the NEXTGen event that it’s running ahead of schedule in its efforts to produce least 25 electrified vehicles. BMW, which was aiming for 2025, now says that it will offer these 25 vehicles by 2023.

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Unregulated facial recognition technology presents unique risks for the LGBTQ+ community

It seems consumers today are granted ever-dwindling opportunities to consider the safety and civil liberties implications of a new technology before it becomes widely adopted. Facial recognition technology is no exception. The well-documented potential for abuse and misuse of these tools built by giant and influential companies as well as government and law enforcement agencies should give serious pause to anyone who values their privacy – especially members of communities that have been historically marginalized and discriminated against.

The cavalier attitude toward unregulated surveillance tools demonstrated by some law enforcement and other local, state, and federal government entities seem to reinforce the notion that forfeiting your personal data and privacy for greater convenience, efficiency, and safety is a fair trade. For vulnerable communities this could not be further from the truth. Without proper oversight, facial recognition technology has the potential to exacerbate existing inequalities and make daily life challenging and dangerous for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Biometric data can provide a uniquely intimate picture of a person’s digital life. Skilled and persistent hackers seeking to exploit access to an individual’s messages on social media, financial records, or location data would view the information collected by facial recognition software as a particularly valuable and worthwhile target, especially as biometric data has become increasingly popular as a form of authentication.

Without proper privacy protections in place, data breaches that target facial recognition data may become far more likely. In the wrong hands, a person’s previously undisclosed sexual orientation or gender identity can become a tool for discrimination, harassment, or harm to their life or livelihood.

The risks to transgender, nonbinary, or gender non-conforming individuals is even more acute.  Most facial recognition algorithms are trained on data sets designed to sort individuals into two groups – often male or female. The extent of the misgendering problem was highlighted in a recent report that found that over the last three decades of facial recognition researchers used a binary construct of gender over 90 percent of the time and understood gender to be a solely physiological construct over 80 percent of the time.

Consider the challenge – not to mention emotional toil – for a transgender individual trying to catch a flight who is now subject to routine stops and additional security screening all because the facial recognition systems expected to be used in all airports by 2020 are not built to be able to reconcile their true gender identity with their government issued ID.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community cannot shoulder the burden of lax digital privacy standards without also assuming unnecessary risks to their safety online and offline. Our vibrant communities deserve comprehensive, national privacy protections to fully participate in society and live without the fear that their data – biometric or otherwise – will be used to further entrench existing bias and prejudice.

Our communities face the challenge of trying to protect themselves from rules that neither they, or the people implementing them, fully understand. Congress must act to ensure that current and future applications for facial recognition are built, deployed, and governed with necessary protections in mind.

This is why LGBT Tech signed on to a letter by the ACLU, along with over 60 other privacy, civil liberties, civil rights, and investor and faith groups to urge Congress to put in place a federal moratorium on face recognition for law enforcement and immigration enforcement purposes until Congress fully debates what, if any, uses should be permitted.

Given the substantial concerns, which representatives on both sides of the aisle recognized at a recent hearing, prompt action is necessary to protect people from harm.  We should not move forward with the deployment of this technology until and unless our rights can be fully safeguarded.

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Rocket Lab successfully launches seventh Electron rocket for ‘Make It Rain’ mission

Private rocket launch startup Rocket Lab has succeeded in launching its ‘Make It Rain’ mission, which took off yesterday from the company’s private Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. On board Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket (its seventh to launch so far) were multiple satellites flow for various clients in a rideshare arrangement brokered by Rocket Lab client Spaceflight.

Payloads for the launch included a satellite for Spaceflight subsidiary BlackSky, which will join its existing orbital imaging constellation. There was also a CubeSat operated by the Melbourne Space Program, and two Prometheus satellites launched for the U.S. Special Operations Command.

Rocket Lab had to delay launch a couple of times earlier in the week owing to suboptimal launch conditions, but yesterday’s mission went off without a hitch at 12:30 AM EDT/4:30 PM NZST. After successfully lifting off and achieving orbit, Rocket Lab’s Electron also delayed all of its payloads to their target orbits as planned.

Later this year, Rocket Lab hopes to have a second privately owned launch complex fully constructed and operational, located in Virginia on Wallops Island. The company, founded by engineer Peter Beck, intends to be able to serve both U.S. government and commercial missions as frequently as monthly from this second launch site.

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Startups Weekly: What’s next for WeWork?

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups & venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I wrote about scooter companies struggling to raise cash. Before that, I noted my key takeaways from Recode + Vox’s Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you don’t subscribe to Startups Weekly yet, you can do that here.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the co-working behemoth WeWork at this point but if not, here’s a quick primer: The real estate business posing as a “tech startup” offers office spaces to individuals and companies across thousands of co-working spots scattered across the globe.

Led by an eclectic chief executive by the name of Adam Neumann, WeWork made headlines this week after announcing its acquisition of building access app Waltz. The deal represents WeWork’s third M&A transaction of 2019, following that of spatial analytics platform Euclid and office management system Managed By Q. As is often the case, WeWork didn’t disclose terms of the deal.

In the last few years, WeWork has acquired nearly a dozen startups, making it one of the most — if not the most — acquisitive unicorn in the valley. Those acquisitions, a revolving door of venture capital investment and an eventual IPO are all part of WeWork’s world domination plan.

Adam Neumann (WeWork) at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017

WeWork filed confidentially to go public this spring shortly after securing new capital from the SoftBank Vision Fund. Now, WeWork is preparing itself for Wall Street’s scrutiny by buying growth, investing in new technologies and doubling down on talented teams. As we’ve pointed out before, WeWork isn’t profitable nor anywhere near profitability. Rather, the company’s value (a laughably high $47 billion) is based on its potential future growth, not its current revenue. Making strategic investments to expand its revenue streams is good business.

WeWork could be a bit more choosy with its deals, though. I will never forget when it took a big stake in Wavegarden, a company that makes wave pools. Yes, really, that happened.

Now that WeWork has officially entered the pre-IPO stage, it must take a closer look at its leadership. The 9-year-old company has an all-male board, something Canvas Ventures’ Rebecca Lynn pointed out to me on this week’s episode of Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast. We were discussing a new lawsuit filed by former WeWork executives that alleges age and gender discrimination when she noted the troubling statistic.

For a company of that stature to not have appointed a woman to its board by now is mind-boggling. It may be one of the most highly-valued companies in the world on paper, but to succeed as a public company, it has more than one thing to figure out.

Anyways…

960x0

IPO Corner:
The Real Real: The marketplace for luxury consignment jumped 50% Friday in its Nasdaq IPO. The company, led by founder and CEO Julie Wainwright, raised $300 million in the process.

Livongo: The digital health business submitted paperwork for an IPO this week, joining a long line of companies opting to go public in 2019. Livongo posted $68.4 million in revenue last year.

Postmates: Google’s vice president of finance Kristin Reinke joined Postmates’ board of directors this week in what was the latest sign the on-demand food delivery startup is prepping for an imminent IPO.

Startup Capital:
SpaceX seeks $300M in fresh funding
Corporate travel platform TripActions secures $250M
Fungible gets $200M from the SoftBank Vision Fund
StockX raises $110M at $1B valuation
Cameo nabs $50M to deliver personalized messages from celebrities
Superhuman secures $33M Series B
SV Academy raises $9.5M to offer tuition-free training for tech jobs

Data!
Social Capital co-founder Chamath Palihapitiya is spinning out a company from his venture capital fund-turned-family-office, TechCrunch has learned. The new entity, temporarily dubbed CaaS (short for capital-as-a-service) Technologies, will focus on providing data-driven insights to VC firms. We’ve got the scoop here.

Theranos!

Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the now-defunct biotech unicorn Theranos, will face trial in federal court next summer with penalties of up to 20 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines. Jury selection will begin July 28, 2020, according to U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila, who announced the trial will commence in August 2020 in a San Jose federal court Friday morning.

Extra Crunch:
If you’ve been unsure whether to sign up for TechCrunch’s awesome new subscription service, now is the time. We’ve been publishing a lot of great content, here are my favorites this week:

#EquityPod:
If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, TechCrunch editor Connie Loizos, Canvas Ventures general partner Rebecca Lynn and I discuss Brandless’ current dilemma and big rounds for Cameo and StockX.

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Huawei can buy from US suppliers again — but things will never be the same

U.S. President Donald Trump has handed Huawei a lifeline after he said that U.S. companies are permitted to sell goods to the embattled Chinese tech firm following more than a month of uncertainty.

It’s been a pretty dismal past month for Huawei since the American government added it and 70 of its affiliates to an “entity list” which forbids U.S. companies from doing business with it. The ramifications of the move were huge across Huawei’s networking and consumer devices businesses. A range of chip companies reportedly forced to sever ties while Google, which provides Android for Huawei devices, also froze its relationship. Speaking this month.

All told, Huawei founder and chief executive Ren Zhengfei said recently that the ban would cost the Chinese tech firm — the world’s third-larger seller of smartphones — some $30 billion in lost revenue of the next two years.

Now, however, the Trump administration has provided a reprieve, at least based on the President’s comments following a meeting with Chinese premier Xi Jinping at the G20 summit this weekend.

“US companies can sell their equipment to Huawei. We’re talking about equipment where there’s no great national security problem with it,” the U.S. President said.

Those comments perhaps contradict some in the US administration who saw the Huawei blacklisting as a way to strangle the company and its global ambitions, which are deemed by some analysts to be a threat to America.

Despite the good news, any mutual trust has been broken and things are unlikely to be the same again.

America’s almost casual move to blacklist Huawei — the latest in a series of strategies in its ongoing trade battle with China — exemplifies just how dependent the company has become on the U.S. to simply function.

Huawei has taken steps to hedge its reliance on America, including the development of its own operating system to replace Android and its own backup chips, and you can expect that these projects will go into overdrive to ensure that Huawei doesn’t find itself in a similar position again in the future.

Of course, decoupling its supply chain from US partners is no easy task both in terms of software and components. It remains to be seen if Huawei could maintain its current business level — which included 59 million smartphones in the last quarter and total revenue of $107.4 billion in 2018 — with non-US components and software but this episode is a reminder that it must have a solid contingency policy in case it becomes a political chess piece again in the future.

Beyond aiding Huawei, Trump’s move will boost Google and other Huawei partners who invested significant time and resources into developing a relationship with Huawei to boost their own businesses through its business.

Indeed, speaking to press Trump, Trump admitted that US companies sell “a tremendous amount” of products to Huawei. Some “were not exactly happy that they couldn’t sell” to Huawei and it looks like that may have helped tipped this decision. But, then again, never say never — you’d imagine that the Huawei-Trump saga is far from over despite this latest twist.

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A rare glimpse into the sweeping — and potentially troubling — cloud kitchens trend

Independent restaurant owners may be doomed, and perhaps grocery stores, too.

Such is the conclusion of a growing chorus of observers who’ve been closely watching a new and powerful trend gain strength: that of cloud kitchens, or fully equipped shared spaces for restaurant owners, most of them quick-serve operations.

While viewed peripherally as an interesting and, for some companies, lucrative development, the movement may well transform our lives in ways that enrich a small set of companies while zapping jobs and otherwise taking a toll on our neighborhoods. Renowned VC Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital seemed to warn about this very thing in a Financial Times column that appeared last month, titled “The cloud kitchen brews a storm for local restaurants.”

Moritz begins by pointing to the runaway success of Deliveroo, the London-based delivery service that relies on low-paid, self-employed delivery riders who delivery local restaurant food to customers — including from shared kitchens that Deliveroo itself operates, including in London and Paris.

He believes that Amazon’s recent investment in the company “might just foreshadow the day when the company, once just known as the world’s largest bookseller, also becomes the world’s largest restaurant company.”

That’s bad news for people who run restaurants, he adds, writing, “For now the investment looks like a simple endorsement of Deliveroo. But proprietors of small, independent restaurants should tighten their apron strings. Amazon is now one step away from becoming a multi-brand restaurant company — and that could mean doomsday for many dining haunts.”

The good news . . . and the bad

He’s not exaggerating. While shared kitchens have so far been optimistically received as a potential pathway for food entrepreneurs to launch and grow their businesses — particularly as more people turn to take out —  there are many downsides  that may well outweigh the good, or certainly counteract it. Last year, for example, UBS wrote a note to its clients titled “Is the kitchen dead?” wherein it suggested the rise of food delivery apps like Deliveroo and Uber Eats could well prove ruinous for home cooks and as well as fresh food providers, including restaurants and supermarkets.

The economics are just too alluring, suggested the bank. Food is already inexpensive to have delivered because of cheap labor, and that will cost center will disappear entirely if delivery drones every take off. Meanwhile, food is becoming cheaper to make because of central kitchens, the kind that Deliveroo is opening and Uber is reportedly beginning move into, as well. (In March, Bloomberg reported that Uber is testing out a program in Paris where it’s renting out fully equipped, commercial-grade kitchens to serve businesses that selling food on delivery apps like Uber Eats.)

Yes, the businesses using the spaces are paying less than they would for traditional restaurant real estate, but the reality is also that most of the businesses moving into them right now aren’t small restaurateurs but quick service brands that aren’t particular known for emphasis on food quality but instead for churning out affordable food, fast.

As Eric Greenspan, an L.A.-based chef who has appeared on many Food Network shows and has opened and closed numerous restaurants over the course of his career, explains in a new, independent documentary about cloud kitchens: “Delivery is the fastest growing market in restaurants. What started out as 10 percent of your sales is now 30 percent of your sales, and [the industry predicts] it will be 50 to 60 percent of a quick-serve restaurant’s sales within the next three to five years. So you take that, plus the fact that quick-serve brands are kind of the key to getting a fat payout at the end of the day . . .”

During an age when fewer people frequent them traditional restaurants —  with their overhead and turnover and razor-thin margins — running one simply makes less and less sense, Greenspan continues.

“[Opening] up a brick-and-mortar restaurant these days is just like giving yourself a job. Now [with centralized kitchens], as long as the product is coming out strong, I don’t need to be there as a presence. I can quality control remotely now. I can go online and [sign out of a marketplace like Postmates or UberEats or Deliveroo] and not piss off any customers, because if I just decided to close the restaurant one day, and you drove over and it was closed, you’d be pissed. But if you’re looking for [one of my restaurants] in Uber Eats and you can’t find it because I turned it off, well, you’re not pissed. You just order something else.”

Big players only need apply . . .

The model works for now for Greenspan, who is running numerous restaurant “concepts” from one cloud kitchen in L.A. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that facility belongs in part to Uber cofounder Travis Kalanick, who was early to grok the opportunity that shared kitchens present. In fact, it was early last year that he announced he was investing $150 million in a startup called City Storage Systems that focused on repurposing distressed real estate assets and turning them into spaces for new industries, like food delivery.

That company owns CloudKitchens, which invites chains, as well as independent restaurant and food truck owners, to lease space in one of their facilities for a monthly fee, along with additional fees for data analytics meant to help the entrepreneurs boost their sales.

The pitch to restaurateurs is that CloudKitchens can reduce their overhead, but of course, the company is also amassing all kinds of data about its tenants in the process that one could seeing using over time. Little wonder that Amazon wants in or that these outfits have at least one serious competitor in China — Panda Selected — that is doing exactly the same thing and which raised $50 million led by Tiger Global Management earlier this year.

No one can fault these savvy entrepreneurs for seizing on what looks like a gigantic business opportunity. Still, the kitchens, which make all the sense in the world from an investment standpoint, should not be embraced so readily as a panacea, either.

Most obviously, they rely on the same people who drive Ubers and handle food deliveries — people who aren’t afforded health benefits and whose financial picture is forever precarious as a result. As with Uber drivers, Deliveroo employees tried to gain status as “workers” last year with better pay and paid but they were denied these rights because they have the option of asking other riders to take their deliveries. The EU Parliament more recently passed new rules to protect so-called gig economy workers, though the measures don’t go far.

Meanwhile, in the U.S, Uber and Lyft continue to fight legislation, including in California, that would turn their drivers and other gig workers into employees. In fact, though a bill passed the California assembly late last month that would give employee status to contract workers, Uber and Lyft are worried enough about its possible passage now in the state’s senate that the fierce rivals have teamed up to battle it.)

Ripple effects . . .

As Moritz suggests, shared kitchens stand to benefit some far more than others. While big chains, and renowned chefs like Greenberg, can take advantage of them given their brand recognition, smaller restaurants are more likely to be adversely impacted by them, and if they disappear, there are other ripple effects, including on housing markets.

Even Matt Newberg, a founder and foodie from New York, could see the writing on the wall when he recently toured CloudKitchen’s two L.A. facilities, along with the shared kitchens of two other companies: Kitchen United which last fall raised $10 million from GV, and and Fulton Kitchens, which offers commercial kitchens for rent on an annual basis.

Newberg is responsible for the aforementioned documentary (which you can also watch below), and he suggests that he most taken aback by the conditions of the first facility that CloudKitchens opened and operates, on West Washington Boulevard in South L.A. Though most restaurant kitchens are chaotic scenes, Newberg said that as “someone who loves food and sustainability” the easy-to-miss warehouse didn’t feel “very humane” to him. It’s windowless for one thing (it’s a warehouse). Newberg says that he also counted 27 kitchens packed into what are “maybe 250-square-feet to 300 square-foot spaces,” and a lot of people who appeared to be in panic mode. “Imagine lots of screaming, lots of sirens triggered when an order gets backed up, tablets everywhere.”

Adds Newberg, “When i walked in, I was like, holy shit, no one even knows this exists in L.A. It felt like Ground Zero. It felt like a military base. I mean, it seemed genius, but also crazy.”

Notably, Newberg says CloudKitchen’s second, newer location is far nicer, as are the facilities of Kitchen United and Fulton Kitchens. “That [second CloudKitchen warehouse] felt like a WeWork for kitchens. Super sleek. It was as quiet as a server farm. There were still no windows, but the kitchens are nicer and bigger.”

Growing pains . . .

Every startup has growing pains, naturally, and presumably, shared kitchen companies are not immune to these. Still, Moritz, the venture capitalist, recalls a telling story in that FT column. He says that in the early 2000s, his firm, Sequoia, invested in a chain of kebab restaurants called Faasos that planned to delivery meals to customers’ homes but was getting crushed by high rents and turnover among other things, so opened a centralized kitchen to sell kebobs. Now, he says, Fassos produces a wide variety of foods, including other Indian specialities but also Chinese and Italian dishes under separate brand names.

It’s the same playbook that Eric Greenspan is using, telling Food & WIne magazine last year that his goal was ultimately to have six delivery-only concepts running simultaneously, with two menus each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Greenberg, who is obviously media savvy, can probably pull it off, too, as has Fassos. But for restaurants that are not known franchises or have the star appeal of celebrity chef, the future might not look so bright.

Writes Moritz: “In some markets there is still an opportunity for hardened restaurant and kitchen operators — particularly if they are gifted in the use of social media to build a following and refashion themselves. But they need to move quickly before it becomes too expensive to compete with the larger, faster-moving companies. The mere prospect of Amazon using cloud kitchens to provide cuisine catering to every taste — and delivering these meals through services such as Deliveroo — should be enough to give any restaurateur heartburn.”

It should also worry people who care about their neighborhoods. Cloud kitchens may make it easier and cheaper than ever to order take-out, but there will be consequences, some of which most of us have yet to imagine.

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Google finance head joins Postmates board ahead of anticipated IPO

Google’s vice president of finance, has joined Postmates’ board of directors, the latest sign that the on-demand food delivery startup is prepping to take the company public.

Postmates announced Friday that Kristin Reinke, vice president of Finance at Google, will join the San Francisco startup as an independent director.

Reinke has been with Google since 2005. Prior to Google, Reinke was at Oracle for eight years. Reinke also serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Economic Advisory Council.

Her skill set will come in handy as Postmates creeps towards an IPO.

Earlier this year, the company lined up a $100 million pre-IPO financing that valued the business at $1.85 billion. Postmates is backed by Tiger Global, BlackRock, Spark Capital, Uncork Capital, Founders Fund, Slow Ventures and others. Spark Capital’s Nabeel Hyatt tweeted the news earlier Friday.

“Postmates has established itself as the market leader with a focus on innovation and route efficiency in the fast‐growing on‐demand delivery sector. Given their strong execution, accelerating growth, and financial discipline, they are well positioned for continued market growth across the U.S.,” said Reinke. “I’m thrilled to join the board.”

The startup has been beefing up its executive quiver, most recently hiring Apple veteran and author Ken Kocienda as a principal software engineer at Postmates X, the team building the food delivery company’s semi-autonomous sidewalk rover, Serve.

Kocienda, author of “Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s  Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs,” spent 15 years at Apple focused on human interface design, collaborating with engineers to develop the first iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.

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